Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Loweswater Fells

“The lesser heights and foothills of Lakeland, especially those on the fringe, are too much neglected in favour of the greater mountains, yet many of these unsought and unfashionable little hills are completely charming.”

I have walked over and stood on many of these “lesser heights and foothills” in the past few years and Alfred Wainwright’s introduction to Low Fell describes them perfectly.  The terrain is generally quite benign but the views, stood apart from the clustered higher fells, are often superb.

Easy lanes led to the slopes of Darling Fell followed by the crossing of Crabtree Beck to the Wainwright summit of Low Fell.  The cairned viewpoint a short way to the south leads the eye past water and mere to the heart of the high western fells.

Buttermere valley from Low Fell

Low Fell is one of those fells of which Wainwright’s summit differs from the true highpoint.  He obviously picks a point that he thinks has more merit due to view or terrain, and I wonder how many walkers miss their tick because of an alternate summit.  Mellbreak and Whiteside are two more examples.

This ridge’s second Wainwright of Fellbarrow is easily reached by strolling over the Birkett tops of Sourfoot Fell and Smithy Fell.  The descent off Mosser Fell needs care to avoid a mauling by the gorse and lower down has some boggier ground to negotiate.

Knock Murton is another fell, neither a Wainwright nor an Outlying Fell, which offers an easy walk with superb views as a reward.  Such was the clarity of the air, details could be picked out on Criffel over the Solway and individual tops on the Isle of Man’s North Barrule ridge could be picked out.

Isle of Man from Knock Murton

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Three Chairs

I’ve long been a fan of Andy Goldsworthy.  His sculptures are masterpieces in the use of natural materials set in natural landscapes with his use of rock being excellent.

I stumbled upon the existence of “The Three Chairs” when researching a walk up to Clougha Pike, a TRAIL 100 summit on the edge of the Forest of Bowland that overlooks the Fylde peninsula and Lancaster.  It took a bit of digging to establish exactly where the sculpture was situated, but I stumbled across a GPS track that gave me a very good idea of where to look.

The Victoria Monument on the Quernmore-Abbeystead road has a spacious car park from where I set off.  The fence follows a straight line over some boggy ground to Grit Fell and then the hunt for the chairs was on.  Walking north-west over some very populated grouse moorland, the chairs soon came into view.

The Three Chairs
There is some debate as to the true name of the work with the internet suggesting “Clougha Pike” and “Clougha Pike Chambers”.  They look like three tissue boxes stood on their ends and can easily shelter one or two (or maybe three) people each.  They offer a superb photo-opportunity and I took full advantage of this.  They were the clear highlight of the walk.

Ingleborough
Like many lower hills, Clougha Pike has some good views too.  Ingleborough is the most prominent summit seen although the view to Lakeland was obscured by low lying cloud.  Blackpool Tower was clearly in view; its dark framework structure contrasting nicely with the brighter sky below the cloud level.

a distant Blackpool Tower
The summit of Clougha Pike is adorned with three shelters and a trig point and would be a pleasant spot to relax in good weather although the changeable conditions for this visit weren’t too bad.  But I am sure that it is not one of the UK’s best 100 hills, as deemed by its inclusion in Trail magazine’s list.

But if you want some art on your travails amongst the hills, there can’t be many better places with such a notable artist’s work featured.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Loweswater Fell

Loweswater Fell is an area of high land marked on Landranger 89 to the south of Loweswater.  My interest in it was due to there being five Wainwrights near to each other that I hadn’t previously climbed.  And as I only had ten left to tick, the prospect of knocking half of them off in one walk was too good to turn down.

This particular group of hills is bounded by Loweswater in the north, Floutern Pass in the south, Crummock Water in the east and the national park boundary in the west.  None of it reaches 1900 feet, let alone 2000 feet, so it should lend itself to an easy day out but don’t let that seemingly innocuous statistic lull you into a false sense of security.

Easy tracks led to the screes of Mellbreak’s Raven Crag which petered out on the edge of an impressive precipice, dropping away into an other-worldly gully.  Further up on Dropping Crag were some super viewpoints looking up to the head of the Buttermere valley.

Fleetwith Pike and Buttermere
Two distinct cairns crowned the north top of Mellbreak but which marks was the true summit is open to debate.  Whichever it is, neither is the actual summit of the fell, that honour resting with a rather nondescript flat spot over half a mile away.  Although a little hazy, the views were good and hills as far away as Merrick could be seen across the Solway Firth.

Criffel

I dropped into Mosedale, reluctantly losing the height already gained and rested at the Mosedale Holly Tree – the only tree in the Lake District named on an OS map.  It flourishes in the midst of some very boggy terrain.  I soon gained the bridleway and crossed the footbridge leading towards Floutern Pass but it was hard to take even a single step on dry ground, with the morass being home to common lizards of which I disturbed a couple.  The next dry ground was found only on the south ridge of Hen Comb.  Dropping from the summit, again losing hard-won height, soon found me battling boggy ground again, this time on Whiteoak Moss which was the wettest ground of the day.  Another ascent, although smaller this time, led to the top of Gavel Fell.  At least the boggy ground was behind me now and only a little more ascent was needed as I traversed the tops of Blake Fell (the day’s highpoint), Carling Knott (not a Wainwright but on the FRCC 244 list) and finally Burnbank Fell.  The views were clearer in the early evening sunshine with Criffel defining the horizon.

Loweswater - Millennium Sculpture

Grasmoor

  The descent to Holme Wood and Loweswater
  gave good views of the west “face” of Grasmoor
  and the final plodding kilometre of roadwalking
  was only interrupted by a short diversion to the
  discretely impressive Millennium sculpture at
  Loweswater village hall.







Saturday, 8 September 2012

Olympic Legacy

As the golden glow of the spectacular London Olympics fades and the Paralympics draws to a close, the focus turns to “legacy”.

Apart from the infrastructure legacy of the world-class sporting venues in the form of stadia, most commentators and politicians are talking about legacy in the terms of future sporting success.  The glut of gold medals combined with the feelgood factor of a home Olympics has got us in the mood for more.  It appears that the level of legacy delivered will be judged by the number of sportsmen and sportswomen who will be successful in the future, particularly in Olympic sports.

But there are other views to be considered.

During the Olympics, whilst he was working for the BBC as a swimming pundit, Australian 5-time gold medal winner Ian Thorpe visited Tooting Bec Lido to give swimming lessons to local children.  When interviewed, he said that getting people active in sport was a legacy in itself, by keeping people healthy and reducing the need for (and cost of) future healthcare.

Although sporting competition amongst children should be encouraged to enable them to cope with the day-to-day competition in adult life, winning should not necessarily be the ultimate focus.  In any Olympic event, there can only be one winner and then only every 4 years.  It should be recognised that not everybody can be a gold medal Olympian, but all children should be exposed to sport to give them a chance to reach this sporting pinnacle.  Only a few will win medals, a few more will compete at a national level for a place on the Olympic team, even more will compete at a local level but most sportspeople will simply participate for the love of their sport.

As they grow older, some children will recognise that sporting competition will not become a significant aspect of their life.  But a true legacy ought to address this circumstance.

I enjoyed the Olympics, with its spectacle and the success of Team GB (& Northen Ireland !).  Although future gold medals represent an important part of the legacy of the games, surely the true legacy ought to be judged by the number of children (and adults) who try some new sport, Olympic or otherwise, competitive or recreational, and get off the sofa and away from televisions and games consoles.

And this is where our hills and mountains can play a part.

There is a huge amount of countryside out there – cheaper than a gym membership and much more inspiring – ready to exercise and inspire a future generation.

It appears that parliament has started to do its bit following yesterday’s ascent of Snowdon by members of the All Party Parliamentary Mountaineering Group, accompanied by BMC and national mountain centre (Plas y Brenin) luminaries.  PyB is reporting an increase in the number of families booking on courses and a new campaign – “Britain on Foot” – is to be launched later in the year with the aim of promoting accessible walking for all.

That’s a small, but significant, start and now is the time for our schools, youth organisations, walking clubs, climbing clubs and national organisations such as the Ramblers and the British Mountaineering Council to grasp the opportunity that is legacy and carry it forward to light the beacon that is participation.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Yewbarrow to Steeple

The excellence of the weather was matched by the excellence of this high-level walk starting at Overbeck Bridge in Wasdale.

Height was gained quickly up the south ridge of Yewbarrow towards Bell Rib with plenty of other walkers having the same idea.  But most chose to follow the better path to the ridge, avoiding the interesting gully leading directly to Great Door.  Only the final few metres provided any sport of note, but the top-out is magnificent as it finishes on a narrow ridge with a precipitous drop on the Wasdale side.  Not a place to be recommended in high winds.

Slightly further along the ridge towards the summit, I had a conversation with a couple extolling the merits of the Wainwright guidebooks and they told me of their super week of walking so far – so much so that they were extending their stay.  I told them that today was forecast to have the last of the good weather but I suspect that it wasn’t going to put them off !

The summit ridge of Yewbarrow is an excellent vantage point for views of the surrounding fells.  Superb views of Red Pike, Pillar, Great Gable and the Scafell massif make a wonderful vista of some of the highest mountains in the country.  Add to that the scene of Wastwater and its screes, it is apparent why Wasdale is such a well-loved valley.

Wastwater and the Screes
The scramble down Stirrup Crag to Dore Head has been reported by a number of sources to be a little too challenging for a confident descent.  Those of a more timid nature drop off the ridge to wards Over Beck and then traverse to the col.  In reality the scramble is worn enough to be easy to follow and there is no significant exposure to be had.  The hardest part is probably the equivalent of descending Helvellyn’s “Bad Step” on Striding Edge – with care and sensible footwork it ought to hold no fear.

What I did notice was an older couple descending using their walking poles for aid when the use of their hands would have been much more productive.  I appreciate the need for poles for some walkers to limit wear and tear to the knees, but they appeared to not think that the poles were getting in the way an increasing the risk of a fall.

The south ridge of Red Pike is another excellent route with ever-improving views of the bigger fells.  And it has a bonus of one of the most unusual cairns I’ve ever seen in the mountains.  “The Chair” is 150 or more years old and is a wonderful example of man’s artistry; a comfortable stone armchair from which to view the highest fells in the land.  With my monocular I could easily make out walkers on Great Gable and the Scafells with all of these high summits proving popular in the good weather.

The Scafells
The summit of Red Pike is unusual as it is on the very edge of crags overlooking Mosedale.  I have read that walking around the summit cairn would be impossible – a challenge that I would have to agree with for the ordinary fell-walker.  I continued on to the Nuttall summit of Black Crag where the view down Ennerdale added to the already magnificent setting.  Scoat Fell was an easy tick from here – the summit cairn being rather more unusual than most !

For the previous hour or so, there was a steady stream of people on the summit of Steeple.  My luck was in and I had the summit to myself.  There aren’t too many summits in the Lake District that have ground in all directions falling away so quickly but this is one of those that can genuinely be regarded as a peak.  I took in the panorama before heading back to the Scoat Fell plateau (a marked difference from Steeple !) and then descending towards Scoat Fell and Nether Beck.  I had planned to walk out over the spur to Low Tarn but decided that any extra ascent wasn’t welcome.  Fuelled by jelly babies, I followed the path to Netherbeck Bridge before the final stretch of road-walking to the car.

Steeple

With only ten Wainwrights left to tick, this walk saw the last of those over 2500 feet bagged.  Only one (which will complete my round) of the ten to be ticked is over 2000 feet.

The end is in sight !

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

200 Wainwrights

A couple of months and about half a dozen summits ago I thought that there was a good chance of Haystacks becoming my 200th Wainwright.  But as I continued towards completion, the likelihood of my 200th having any specific meaning diminished.

For some people, their 200th Wainwright is a significant milestone as it is a nice round number and also quite close to the end of their Lake District quest – they may even pick a specific fell for the occasion.  Browsing walking websites will reveal a number of articles about Wainwright baggers’ days out to tick their double-century.

I had no particular desire to tick any particular fell as my 200th – I’ve already picked my 214th and it will have far more significance.  As I planned my remaining walks, it looked like Wasdale’s Red Pike (on a Yewbarrow to Steeple ridge route) would mark this milestone, but a Tweet from Eric Robson (of Wainwright television fame) said that the Wasdale fell race was to take place on the day in question.  This would probably add to the traffic in the valley already boosted by 3 peaks challengers.  As I feared that parking spaces would be at a premium, I quickly changed my plans to link an ascent of Kirk Fell with Haystacks.

Starting from Honister Pass car park I soon reached Drum House before turning onto Moses’ Trod.  Is there a better path for views in the Lake District?  It traverses the slopes of Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable before reaching Beck Head and the view from the path subtly but constantly changes, having superb views of the giants of Great Gable and Pillar with the twin glacial troughs of Ennerdale and Buttermere commanding the vista to the north-west.

Ennerdale and Buttermere
One of the Beck Head tarns was almost dry, despite the recent rains, and the path up the eastern slopes of Kirk Fell led into the cloud.  Once on the summit plateau, visibility varied from 10 to 100 metres and it was easy to deviate from the track, making the twin summits just that bit more challenging to find.  The north-east top was ticked and the main (south-west) summit quickly followed.

Beckhead Tarns
As I rested at the top, a Lancaster couple with two dogs arrived.  They had taken the relentlessly direct ascent from Wasdale Head – an achievement that I couldn’t decide to envy or pity !  One of the dogs, Stanley, still had the energy to consider closer acquaintance with the sheep but was deterred by his master’s voice.

We parted company and I reversed my steps towards Beck Head but this time in much better visibility.  Napes Needle was clearly in view from Kirkfell Tarn and zooming in on a photo revealed climbers on and just below the summit.  There were a lot of fell runners descending from the plateau to the col and then starting the slog up Great Gable, obviously competitors on the Wasdale fell race, as well as a group attempting the Bob Graham round.  I was grateful for my lesser ambition and slower pace.

Napes Needle
On Haystacks – my 200th Wainwright – I took the obligatory photos of the profile of the perched boulder and strolled amongst the tors to reach Innominate Tarn.  I was expecting an isolated idyll but was a little disappointed upon discovering that it was so near to the main footpath.  At the summit there is a small ridge alongside a tarn, with a cairn at either end.  The northernmost is the accepted Wainwright summit but the highest point is not clear.

Innominate Tarn
On the way back to Honister I spoke to a group of young men at the top of Black Beck and it became clear that they still had big plans.  Having started at Buttermere, they walked up Red Pike and then along the ridge to Haystacks, their aim was to tackle Fleetwith Pike and continue to Dale Head before making Robinson their final summit.  I wished them luck but kept quiet about my doubts about them finishing in daylight!

As the sun continued to shine I finished this excellent walk and I would recommend as a good day out with super views.  My change of plan had worked out well.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Killing the Golden Goose

Search for “3 peaks” on JustGiving.com and hundreds of entries will be returned.  It’s likely that hundreds of thousands or maybe even millions of pounds are raised annually on such 3 peaks challenges, all for perfectly laudable charities.  Some of the more prominent charities that champion the fundraisers on their own websites are Cancer Research UK, Help for Heroes, Sport Relief and Oxfam with the help that they provide changing many lives for the better.

But what price charity?

Mid-summer weekends are primetime for the 3 peaks (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon) given the long daylight hours and (in theory) fairer weather.  But on Facebook yesterday the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team posted this –

Shocking amounts of litter, people creating new paths, the stink of urine and worse on the summit of Scafell Pike this morning.”

The Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team quickly followed up with this post –

There's no excuse for this.  If someone tells you they are taking part in such an event, then please make them aware of the problems that events like this can cause (sorry for getting political, but this is unforgivable).”

Consider the impact of those that take part.  Even if they live directly on the route between the 3 peaks, challengers will be making a 950 mile round-trip.  Add a few hundred more if the challengers live south of the midlands.  Obviously mini-buses lessen the amount of fuel used, but some organisers have convoys in double figures traveling up and down the country.

And with hundreds of walkers using the same paths in such a short time, footpath erosion is becoming a big problem.  Even the road leading to Wasdale Head struggles to take the impact of increased traffic.  There have long been tales of unacceptable noise (raised voices, slamming car doors, car alarms) in the wee small hours at Wasdale Head, as challengers prepare themselves for the ascent and celebrate the descent of Scafell Pike.

Even the national representative body for hillwalkers and mountaineers has expressed concerns about sustainability – http://www.thebmc.co.uk/three-peaks-challenge.

Charities may soon find themselves in an awkward position as so much money is raised but objections to the environmental impact incurred increase.  In my view, they ought to take a stance of expressing gratitude for the efforts made by well-meaning members of the public money but actively discourage such fund-raising events.

As if the 3 peaks aren’t enough for some people, I’ve seen adverts for the 6 peaks challenge with the addition of the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and Eire providing a more extreme fundraising experience.

Finally, I issue a plea to charities and fundraisers who use the 3 peaks to raise money …..

FIND ANOTHER CHALLENGE !

One that doesn’t use gallons of petrol.

One that doesn’t erode the landscape it takes place in.

One that doesn’t inconvenience local residents.

And one that doesn’t turn our wild places into public lavatories.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Some Western Wainwrights

Despite poor weather leading up to, and forecast for, the last weekend in June, 13 members of my mountaineering club converged on Beckstones, in the Duddon Valley, for a weekend of hillwalking, cycling, bouldering, rock-climbing, road-running and fell-running.  Although the range of activities was diverse, my sole aim was to bag a few more Wainwrights and inch nearer to next year’s planned completion.

Friday afternoon saw me on the far west of the national park, starting from Coldfell Gate and walking up to the summit of Cold Fell.  It’s a rather unremarkable lump, wet underfoot for a significant amount of the walk and having a rather nondescript summit.  It’s a hill to bag just because it’s on a ticklist with little else to give it any hillwalking merit.  But at least the rain held off!

A drive over to the Birker Fell road led to a more enjoyable walk.  At first glance Great Worm Crag doesn’t appear to offer much to inspire, but the walk was surprisingly pleasant and the summit offered good views of the bigger fells to the north, despite the cloud covering the high tops.  This is one to visit again in better weather.

Green Crag from Great Worm Crag
Saturday’s objective was the Mosedale horseshoe and thankfully Wasdale wasn’t too full with 3 Peaks challengers, allowing us to find a parking space quite quickly.  The path was good up to Gatherstone Head but we decided against following it to the Black Sail pass and made a bee-line for Looking Stead, finding a reasonable path slightly higher up the fellside.  With Looking Stead bagged and lunch eaten, it was time to ascend into the gloom which hid the summit of Pillar.

Rougher ground took us up the ridge to the summit shelter and trig point with a strong breeze blowing and no views to see.  One unusual thing I noticed was that the trig point didn’t have an Ordnance Survey benchmark plate and there wasn’t any sign of it ever having had one!

As conditions weren’t ideal we decided to cut short the route and after reaching Wind Gap, we descended the screes.  As this lesser route had sacrificed 3 Wainwrights I had a close look at our descent route to see how suitable it would be for an ascent for a future walk.  A word of warning – DON’T!  The screes are long and unstable and although possible, it would be a nightmare to gain the ridge by this route.  I’ll be finding another way to bag the rest of the horseshoe.

Mosedale from the screes
Once we had dropped out of the cloud, a bonus was being able to see all of the route still to do – including the pub.  Walking seems so much easier when you know there’s a pint waiting for you at the end.  Ritson’s Bar didn’t disappoint and neither did the Yewbarrow dark mild – I’d thoroughly recommended it!

Although Sunday had the best forecast, it didn’t really turn out to be any better than the previous two days – it was still breezy and the clouds were even lower.  Muncaster Castle was the start of our circular walk on Muncaster Fell, following Wainwright’s Outlying Fells route.  The walk was leisurely and the bogs and mud didn’t exactly add to the enjoyment but I’m sure that it would be a super walk after a dry spell and on a sunny day.  Having said that, the view to the west was superb with the Isle of Man standing out very clearly on the horizon.

A word of warning though – on the main road is a house that had a handsome Airedale terrier who obviously regards the garden as its territory.  Don’t try and make friends with it – it bites!

Friday, 6 July 2012

After the Wainwrights

I inadvertently started bagging Wainwrights in 1983 but it was in 1988 that I considered that bagging them all would be a goal worth pursuing.  Since then I have had long periods of abstinence from the hills interspersed with times of focussed bagging.

But as I approach the end of the Wainwrights my thoughts have turned to other ticklists.  When I decided to concentrate on the Wainwrights I wanted to include the Outlying Fells in my round.  I didn’t want some smart alec asking me if I’d completed book 8 once I’d finished the 214.  Over time I think that I might have turned into that smart alec as having spent a lot of time on the Outliers, they feel like a logical extension of those fells listed in the 7 Pictorial Guides and they definitely give a greater appreciation of the geography of the Lake District.  My plan is to finish the Outlying Fells and the “regular” Wainwrights on the same day.  But once that day has passed, what next ?

Although some earlier attempts had been made to compile lists of the Scottish 3000-foot mountains, arguably the first ticklist was the Munros, published in 1891.  Since then there have been many other lists compiled – so many that I’m expecting somebody to publish a ticklist of ticklists!  I did toy with the idea of graduating to Munros but, to be blunt, the biggest barrier to completing them is the cost of petrol.  I’ll still visit Scotland and climb the odd Munro or two, but as a whole they are too numerous and too far from home to make “compleation” a realistic goal.

So what lists could be realistic?  The Fell & Rock Climbing Club published “The Lakeland Fells” in 1996 listing 244 fells; the list becoming known as the FRCC 244.  If I complete the Wainwrights and the Outliers, there are only 8 of the 244 that would not have been climbed – not exactly the biggest challenge.  Because of the huge overlap between Wainwrights and the FRCC 244 I have incorporated bagging those extra 8 into plans to finish my Wainwright round.


Bill Birkett wrote “Complete Lakeland Fells”, listing 541 tops with a height of over 1000 feet.  During my Wainwright round so far I’ve walked to the top of a few of these, but many are fairly insignificant bumps.  Ullister Hill near Lord’s Seat is one of the most unrewarding tops I’ve ever visited (even on a sunny day!) and Thirdgill Head Man near Wandope looks very impressive from the ridge below but as it only has a reascent of 2 metres, it’s a very minor bump on a ridge.  And Lad Hows on the south flank of Grasmoor was hardly noticeable!  To complete the Birketts would mean aiming for uninspiring summits – my time on the hills can be far better spent.


I’ve come to the conclusion that once I’ve climbed the Wainwrights, Outliers and FRCC 244, the Nuttalls will become the active ticklist to follow.  Nuttalls are mountains in England & Wales with a height of 2000 feet or more, with a reascent of 50 feet (15 metres).  I’ve already bagged quite a few and I want to spend some time in areas that I’m not too familiar with – I’m not looking forward to some of the rounded Pennines but the Brecon Beacons look like some wonderful peaks to aim for.  And this new quest will not fully take me away from the Lake District as there are a few Nuttalls that I need to reach the top of, the Glaramara ridge and the area south of Crinkle Crags being two areas rich in unclimbed summits.


As well as the Nuttalls I’ve got an eye on the TRAIL 100, a list published in TRAIL magazine in April 2007 listing, in their own view, the best 100 summits in the UK.  There are quite a few in Scotland, but the numbers are more manageable than the Munros.

So with the Nuttalls and the TRAIL 100 to come into focus soon, and maybe adding the Irish 3000s and Scottish 4000s to my targets, I reckon that the next 10 years or so of hillwalking is already accounted for.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Introduction to the Wainwrights

I’ve got a copy of most of Wainwright’s books which shows that perhaps I’m a bit too much of a collector but I couldn’t resist buying a copy of the new “Wainwright Family Walks” earlier this week to add to my library.

For those experienced or novice fellwalkers with either younger or older family members, this book details 20 walks of differing distances and difficulties, but includes none of the highest tops or most challenging routes, in order to keep within the theme.  Editor Tom Holman has labelled this as “Volume One: The Southern Fells” but there is no indication about how many volumes will be in the series.  From the map that displays the location of the walks, I assume there will only be one more volume which will cover the northern half of Lakeland.  This volume does not correspond with Wainwright’s Southern Fells which is of course his book 4.

From Wainwright’s pictorial guides, of the 20 walks, 12 are outlying fells, 3 are central fells, 3 are southern fells with 1 each of the eastern and far eastern fells.  The relevant chapter has been reproduced from the Chris Jesty updates of the original guides.  The editor has added an introduction, walk directions and other relevant information to make the undertaking of each walk as simple as possible.


I like this book.  It may not be aimed at the Wainwright purist but its extra information and paperback format makes it a practical guide for those unfamiliar with the fells.  The car parking information given for each walk is particularly useful.  There are some obvious popular favourites (Orrest Head & Gummer’s How) and some less so (Silver How & Wansfell).  Eskdale’s Harter Fell and Black Combe add some more challenging routes to the list.  And I’m glad to see a particular favourite of mine has been included – Stickle Pike.

For those who want to escape the crowded honeypots of Ambleside and Bowness and experience the real Lake District, I’d recommend this book.  It might just lead to a lifetime of enjoyment on the fells.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Constancy of Wainwrights

The beauty of the Wainwrights as a ticklist is that their classification will never change.

With the advance of GPS technology, surveys have been undertaken in recent years to determine the status of a number of prominent hills, fells and mountains.  Should Foinavon be promoted to Munro status?  Is Tryfan really a Welsh 3000er?  These questions, which have been posed for a number of years, have finally been answered.  (No and Yes, in case you’re wondering.)

When Wainwright compiled his list of mountains for inclusion in his seven Pictorial Guides, he inadvertently made them technology-proof.  Other than, in his own words, his “arbitrary” definition of boundaries of Lakeland and the areas within, he made no specific definition of what criteria should be met for any particular fell to be included in the guides – no minimum height and no minimum prominence / relative height / drop.  He simply made a choice and stuck to it.

Of course, this doesn’t stop the discussion of the merits of inclusion or exclusion of particular fells.  Whether Mungrisdale Common deserved its own chapter has had many a bagger scratching their head, particularly on a windswept and misty trudge down the broad ridge from Blencathra.  Some have said that Iron Crag deserves greater status than just being a label on a map in the Caw Fell chapter.

From my own experience of Wainwright-bagging, I would question the inclusion of Stone Arthur and argue that the Southern Fells boundary should be extended beyond the Walna Scar road towards Caw.  At least Wainwright addressed some of the exclusions in his Outlying Fells volume – the unofficial book 8 in the series.

But despite the debates that we can have, none of it matters because the list has been fixed within the covers of seven volumes of handwritten genius.  So when I complete my round, which will have taken me 30 years, I don’t have to worry that a future GPS survey will add another fell to my To Do list.