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.