I get asked a lot about how I go about taking my kids to the top of the Brecon Beacons in the winter. I’m not a mountain leader or expert in the mountains, but I have picked up a lot of helpful tips over the last few years from taking my kids to the mountains.
So here goes!
- Weather conditions. Knowing what to expect of the weather conditions before you head out is essential, and being prepared to turn around if it turns nasty is key. I take the kids up in the snow and sometimes cold conditions, but I’m always watching the weather. If heavy rain or high winds are predicted, I just don’t go and would always postpone to a clear day. Kids suffer with harsh weather very quickly.
- Clothing. This is crucial. Layering clothing is important, make sure they are wearing: a base layer, t-shirt or long sleeve t-shirt, fleece and a warm and waterproof coat. On the bottom half, warm trousers, possibly thermal leggings if they tend to feel the cold, thick socks, boots/walking boots, gloves, scarf and hat. Another great tip, take some spare gloves, socks and and an extra layer of clothing for them just in case. My son quickly got his first pair of gloves wet from throwing snow balls at me, and needed a dry pair in the windchill. However warm you think it is, those extra layers could save the day if it is colder than expected or their clothes get wet. Sunglasses in wintry conditions really help to as driving snow showers can sting the eyes.
- Know your mountain. When I take the kids up in wintery conditions, I take them to mountains I know very well. This makes a huge difference as you can drop down out of the wind in to areas you know are safe. If there was ever a problem you need to know different escape routes quickly.
- Fuel. Kids need food and drink at an alarming rate when climbing mountains, so if you want a happy child, take snacks and drinks! On a cold day, hot chocolate is gonna be a winner.
- Involve them. I find by letting my kids do the map reading, choose the route, take pictures along the way and let them have a say in the trip, often makes things flow a lot better. You do have to take over with some directions, but in general they forget about being tired and concentrate more on their role. I think they get more satisfaction from it too. Make it about having fun on the journey and not just about the end point.
- Have fun. The great thing about taking kids to somewhere with snow for example is you act like a kid too. Snowball fights, snow angels and building snowmen are things that are back on the agenda. Keeping the trips fun and not to much of a stretch for them will keep them enthused for future trips.
Personally, I believe the confidence and skills that kids can learn in the mountains during winter conditions far outweighs the risks, as long as you get the basics right as discussed above. And the memories will last a lifetime!