Ben Nevis with a 7 Year Old

a child resting on his way up ben envis
I climbed Ben Nevis with my 7 year old child. Here's my take on climbing Ben Nevis via the mountain path with kids.

Contents

Can you hike Ben Nevis with children?

Yes. That’s the short answer. I had a relatively straightforward (albeit it tiring) hike with my 7 year old to the summit of Ben Nevis. Of course, there are plenty of variables and things to consider. But here’s how it went for us.

Child on summit of ben nevis-min

Hiking Ben Nevis with a 7 Year Old

child on ben nevis

My 7 year old hadn’t done loads of previous hiking. I’ve been bagging munros for a while and while we were on holiday in Scotland he wanted to hike his first.

Let me be clear. I wanted to talk him into something smaller first. I suggested:

  • The Cairnwell 3 (the elevated start at the Glenshee ski centre car park making those a much shorter ascent).
  • Ben Macdui. As this isn’t much smaller than Ben Nevis, I figured it might appeal to his desire to climb something high after he rejected to the Cairnwell three idea. You can park at the Cairn Gorm mountain ski centre car park at over 600m elevation again here, thus cutting the ascent significantly

On the other hand, the 8m elevation starting point for Ben Nevis with a 1,345m target does require a fairly long old slog.

But he was adamant that if he were going to put the effort in to climb a munro, he wanted it to be the UK’s highest mountain.

So off we went!

Which is the best route up Ben Nevis with kids?

views from ben nevis

The mountain path. That was a really easy decision for me. Having already done the CMD arête previously, I knew I didn’t want to take a 7 year old that way.

The mountain path was a no brainer for a hike with a child. It’s a clear and easy to follow path.

We parked at the Ben Nevis visitor centre car park in Glen Nevis and followed the mountain path up to the summit.
Here’s the route:

I thought it was great to have waterfall by the lochan as a “halfway” sort of point to aim for. But that’s definitely the easiest half. The zig zag paths that followed were as hard going down as they were up – long, laborious and with lots of loose rocks.

But the path, though tiring for little legs, was very straightforward to follow.

And our views were amazing all day.

Weather conditions

This is really important for me. I didn’t want him to not enjoy his first munro on the basis of being rained on all day. And even the simplest mountain path can become treacherous in poor weather. So we went on a day where the forecast was largely dry and with very, very low winds.

How long did it take?

He made it! And that was the main thing for him. Time wise, it took 4 hours 45 minutes to get up and 4 hours to get down.

My son took a lot of short rests and we also stopped for about 40 minutes on the summit for him to look around.

How much hiking had he previously done?

This was actually a real concern for me. He had hiked a few hills with me local to home. But all in the 400 to 500m range. So I was concerned that he didn’t have enough experience at long hikes requiring more endurance.

However, I did set his expectations that this would be a phenomenal slog. And he was utterly determined to make it.

It’s worth saying that, although he hadn’t previously done a lot of hiking, he does play a lot of football and is generally really active.

How did it go?

So, it went well. He got up and back down again with no major incidents. However, the last hour on the way down was a real slog for him. He was very, very tired when we got back to the car park.

I think the descent was probably more challenging for him than the ascent, potentially because he no longer had that big goal in mind of the summit once he’d summited.

The Good and the Bad

So here are a few things I think went well and a few things I’d probably change.

The GoodThe Would Change
I packed ridiculous amounts of food. As well as sandwiches, I took things like sweets and rains plus other sugary snacks and flapjack. He grazed much of the way upThe midgies were bad lower down Ben Nevis. We were covered in Smidge so he didn’t get any bites (I got plenty). But it was very annoying. Ideally if you have the choice, tackling this outside of peak midgie season may make the first couple of hours more pleasant
I packed a couple of small sugary drinks along with his water again just for an energy boostI’d spend more time fitting his hiking bag beforehand. We bought a hiking bag a few months ago for him from Decathlon and it has been great on shorter hikes. However, we ended up spending a bit of time on the way up messing around with the fit as it was uncomfortable a couple of hours in. In hindsight, we should’ve spent some time the day before having him carry it around with a bit of weight in to adjust it properly before
Taking the mountain path was absolutely the right call 
Only tackling this on a decent weather day was again the right call 
Setting off early enough that we didn’t need to worry about losing daylight was again the right call. It means he could take as long as he wanted really 
Tackling it on a week day meant it wasn’t as busy as a weekend, which was a positive 
Getting him a hydration bladder and having him carry his own water meant he was sipping as needed. Prevented dehydration and equally it meant he wasn’t chugging loads from bottles infrequently. 

ben nevis snacks kids

The bag of Haribo was, according to my son, “the best mountain snack.”

Would I do it again?

Honestly, I had no desire to repeat a single munro until I’d done them all. But my son wanted to climb Ben Nevis so I did!

He’s got his sights set on different mountains now and U’m not overly bothered about going back up Ben Nevis. So while the hike was fun in lots of ways, challenging and full of fantastic views, I’m not in rush to repeat the Ben.

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