The Wonders of Mountains
11th December is International Mountain Day! The United Nations launched the annual event in 2003 to highlight the importance of mountains to the environment, economy and cultural diversity across the world.
A mountain is defined as a landmass that’s about 600m high. While their height makes it a little treacherous to embark on mountain climbing with kids over winter, it’s worth remembering their value to us all. And get planning for when the weather is more clement!
So here are some mountain facts to get us yearning for the summit, and some tips for an enjoyable mountain hike with little ones.
At home in the mountains: Across the world mountains are home to 915 million people. They account for nearly a quarter of the earth’s surface.
Water and energy suppliers: Mountains are a vital source of fresh water: they provide between 60-80% of the world’s supply. They also have a key role to play in the development of renewable energy sources, such as hydro, wind and solar power.
Beacons of sustainable farming: Mountains can provide crops such as berries, barley, apples and potatoes. Given the terrain, mountain farming is small-scale, low-impact and follows more sustainable practices than many larger-scale lowland farming businesses.
UK mountains: Scotland got the bumper harvest of UK mountains: two out of every three are Scottish. Ben Nevis is the UK’s tallest mountain, at 1,344m. In England, Scafell Pike in the highest, at 977m. Snowdon bags the Welsh crown at 1085m high, and in Northern Ireland you need to get to the top of Slieve Donard, at 852m.
So how can we make the most of mountain walks with children along? Here are some top tips for family hikes from experienced mountain walkers:
- Pick your mountain
If you have younger walkers with you, stick to smaller summits to focus that energy! Children can get surprisingly enthusiastic about clambering uphill, but you don’t want to wear them out or bore them with long distances. Here’s a selection of child-friendly mountain routes in the Lake District.
- Plan together
Children are more likely to be motivated if they’re involved from the start. Where possible, involve them in choosing the route and looking over maps. Make a list of the kit you’ll need, which will include sturdy footwear, layers, water and snacks (planning the snacks may be a highlight of the planning process!).
- Aim for good weather
No-one can guarantee the weather, but younger walkers are more likely to enjoy their first experiences on a mountain in fair weather, rather than battling wind and rain. So, while we always say there’s no such thing as bad weather, in this case, see if you can time your walk for milder conditions (at least for their first time!).
- Go slow
It’s not a race, so allow your children to set the pace as much as possible. Take your time and enjoy the view. Snacks, songs and games of I-Spy are all good tactics to keep legs moving when spirits flag.
Getting to the top of a peak is a big achievement, so mark it! Whether it’s with a flask of hot chocolate at the top, a family photo or just reminding each other that sometimes difficult things bring their own reward, make sure you celebrate your mountain adventure!
We hope that’s got you in a mountain-loving mood! Do share any pictures of your mountain adventures with younger walkers with us, we’d love to see them!