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Everyday Outdoor Heroes: Emily Schlereth

14 March 2021
Everyday Outdoor Heroes: Emily Schlereth

Photo credit: Andy Schlereth

This month, in honour of International Women's Day and Mothering Sunday, we have decided to put the spotlight on everyday women who have, in some way, become outdoor heroes.

Each one of the four ladies we got to chat to, found through the Love Her Wild community, has managed to think outside the box to overcome their circumstances. They have become an inspiring example for thousands of others who have similar circumstances without even realising it; just by being their everyday amazing selves.

Next up in the series, we have Emily, a mountaineering mum of one, who has been ticking off the Welsh Nuttalls with her toddler since the first lockdown ended last summer.

Emily moved to North Wales with her husband five years ago to be closer to the mountains. Both keen climbers, they spent all of their free time up mountains or on crags in Snowdonia. The pair particularly enjoyed long multi-pitch climbs and ridge scrambles, two activities that aren’t easy to do with a baby.

When their son came along, Emily knew she wanted to continue enjoying the outdoors in a way that was fun and safe for the youngest member of her family too. After recovering from giving birth, she decided to start hiking with her baby to get herself some much-needed time in nature. At first, Emily carried her son on her front, and once he was old enough, she switched to a backpack carrier that provided additional comfort allowing them to stay out for longer.

Although Emily tends to leave the climbing ropes at home these days, her personal relationship with the outdoors hasn’t changed. If anything, the joy of being on the mountain has multiplied now that she can see her little one enjoy it too.


Emily Schlereth with her son

Photo credit: Andy Schlereth

Once Emily and her son were both used to the logistics of hill walking together, she wanted to set a long-term project of ticking off all of the 189 Welsh Nuttalls (mountains above 2,000ft). Because the pandemic imposed certain limitations on exploration, she was excited to have a focus and a list of new less-trodden places to visit. They have now completed 50 of the Nuttalls, some as a pair, some as a family of three, and some with friends when the restrictions allowed. Quite an impressive number of summits for someone who has only just turned two years old, and that's not even including the other peaks the little one has been to outside of Wales!

However, when you explore the mountains with a baby or a toddler, things don’t always go to plan. Regardless of whether you’re an experienced mountaineer like Emily, sometimes bringing the little ones along can pose an extra challenge.

“When you’re walking with a toddler you never really know how far you’ll get or how the day will go, some days don’t go to plan. And then there are the days when you are packed up and out the house before sunrise and drive to the other side of Snowdonia, only to find you’ve forgotten his shoes! Or it’s so hot that you only manage to get to the lake for a wild swim.”

But the biggest challenge of them all when hiking with little ones is the elements. Babies and toddlers can’t be in the sun, wind, and rain all day like us, so Emily always recommends packing for all weather scenarios to ensure a safe and enjoyable day on the mountain. “This has been a bit of trial and error and what you need changes as the baby grows. Be prepared and avoid days where there will be strong winds and the possibility of wind chill - that’s the biggest concern really”, Emily advises.


Emily Schlereth & son

Photo credit: Andy Schlereth

Another top tip from Emily is to pack a portable shelter of some sort to shield from the elements during breaks: “When he was a baby I would carry a small, packable fishing shelter, so I could set it up for breaks, feed stops (which were many), and nappy changes when it was really sunny or raining - you don’t really want a baby in the carrier all the time. It’s good to let them have time out when they’re awake and nice for me to have a break too. Nowadays I just take a mountain survival shelter just in case - I have only used it a couple of times for picnic and play stops when the weather has turned foul.”

On the bright side, the large number of successful summits that Emily and her son have been able to conquer together shows that it is possible to prepare for the obstacles that may arise when hiking with your baby or toddler. The last couple of years have taught Emily that besides packing the appropriate kit, some of the best ways to combat these challenges include a flexible schedule and ensuring that you have multiple plans and routes ready for the day.

“I always have a plan B, or even a plan C when planning mountain days with my baby or toddler. You’re not always going to be able to leave the house at the time you wanted, and you’re not always going to be able to achieve what you’d planned. The logistics of packing the carrier with all the extra kit, clothes, snacks, and then dressing my boy and getting him in the car, changing nappies and getting him in his many layers when we arrive at the car park and usually a snack before the walk...this all takes time! I have had to change the route, and sometimes even change the mountain if I think what’s planned is not achievable in the time I have.”

Next on the horizon for Emily and her mini mountaineer is to continue completing the Welsh Nuttalls together, but as the pair have now done about 25% of them, she reckons it will take them a few more summers to finish the project. However, by the time the list is all ticked off, it’s possible that the little one may be able to summit one under his own steam.


Emily with her son in the carrier

Photo credit: Andy Schlereth

Here are Emily’s top tips for all mountaineering parents out there:

  • Be aware of your capabilities and experience - Days should be comfortable, safe and enjoyable! It’ll be far too stressful if you start feeling out of your comfort zone or pushing yourself.
  • Make the most of the good weather days - Always check the local mountain weather, pack accordingly and still pack extra layers and spares in case the weather changes (or if there is a nappy failure)!
  • Prepare and plan your route, and don’t forget about backup plans - Make sure you have your map, compass and GPS. Always take a first aid kit.
  • Start the day early - This way you’ll have plenty of time, and you don’t want to worry about losing light.
  • Make sure you have the appropriate kit - It’s not much use if you’re kitted out with your best base layers and waterproofs if your little one is in shorts, a t-shirt and wellies! Get the kit they need, and they’ll be far more comfortable and happy, meaning that you’ll be able to spend more time outside.
  • Pack plenty of water and enough snacks to feed a small army - You’ll be stopping more for snacks with a toddler, and you’ll be burning more energy carrying them, plus its thirsty work! Look into insulated water bottles if your little one prefers their water cold.
  • Take a couple of lightweight toys if you can - Sometimes, the terrain isn’t great for them to be out walking, so keeping them in the carrier a little longer than you would’ve hoped might be the only option. A toy you know they’ll love will help keep both of you happy until you locate a better place to stop.
  • Try not to forget about packing your own things - You’ve probably packed everything you need for your little one, plus spares, but as a mother, it’s quite easy to get caught up thinking about their needs and forget your own!
  • Lastly, don’t be surprised if you feel like a packhorse!


Emily Schlereth and son

Photo credit: Andy Schlereth

About the Author:

Iida Ruokojärvi - Outdoor Expert

Iida grew up in Finland where she was introduced to the outdoors at a very young age. Snowboarding has become second nature to her despite now living in a less snowy part of the world. Since moving to the UK, she rediscovered her love for hiking and continues to explore the British mountains and beyond.

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