We are occasionally asked why events have different age restrictions on our trips, so below is an explanation.
Hillwalking and mountaineering activities require a certain amount of fitness, some specific equipment, a level of self-awareness and certain life skills. It is impossible for the club to know every applicant and how well they may cope with the activity or what equipment and skills they may have. The only way is to generalise and make assumptions based upon a person's age, since the older they are, the more experience they are likely to have. There can of course be situations where a 14 year old is more competent and better prepared than an 18 year old but the chances are that the opposite is true.
General assumptions like this are not ideal but it's the best system that we have. That said, if someone is below an event's age restriction but is known to the organisers to be suitably competent then their application will be considered. The reason that we ask for a Leader's signature on the application form is so that they can offer us some guidance about an applicant's previous skills and experience.
For instance, many of our trips involve camping and self-catering. The organiser needs to be assured that an unknown applicant has the ability to pitch their own tent (usually in the dark) and cook their own food. This would also involve the applicant actually having (access to) a tent and cooking facilities in the first place! Naturally Hill walking leaders on the trip are willing to help people back at camp but they are not there to teach people to camp or to cook, these skills need to have been learned before coming on the trip.
If an applicant's leader or their older sibling is also coming on the trip and is prepared to look after them, then this will also have an effect on how the organiser considers an application from someone below the advertised age limit.
Similarly, decent equipment is essential for the hill: suitable boots, a big enough rucksack and sufficiently robust waterproofs are all considered essential for successful time in the hills. In winter good quality kit is even more vital, especially when it comes to footwear. The problem is that all this kit can be quite an investment, especially for youngsters who are still growing and may need completely new set every two years! The cost of tents, stoves, pans, torches and sleeping bags also adds up and what if having tried it, they decide that they don't like the activity and never want to do it again? Generally the older an applicant is, the more likely they are to have acquired more suitable kit through other scouting activities.
There is no definitive answer to why we have age limits but we hope that this goes some way to explaining. If you have any further questions or would like to discuss things further please use the general enquiry contact from