Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A 2013 Summary

The major achievement of the year was the completion of 4 hill lists.  This sounds more impressive than it actually is because 3 of them started and finished on the same summits.

Those lists were :

  • The Wainwrights
214 summits listed in Wainwright’s 7 Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells

  • The Fellrangers
227 summits listed in Mark Richards’ 8 Fellranger guidebooks

  • The FRCC244
244 summits listed in “The Lakeland Fells” published by the Fell & Rock Climbing Club

  • The Outlying Fells
116 summits featured (but not all named) in Wainwright’s guide to the Outlying Fells of Lakeland

Overall I :
            went on             18                                walks
            walked              111.9                            miles
            ascended          36,050                          feet
            walked for         76 hrs 46 mins              (including rest stops !)
            reached            45                                 individual summits that I hadn’t been to before
            reached            12                                 individual summits that I had been to before
            drove                2479                             miles on trips to and from walks

I don’t think that I did a lot in 2013 but the completion of the Wainwrights after 30 years makes up for a relatively quiet year.

Happy New Year and be safe on the hills in 2014!

Monday, 30 December 2013

A New Start

Because of my recent Lakeland-centric wanderings to complete the Wainwrights and Outlying Fells, it had been quite a few years since I had stayed at my climbing club’s hut in Llanberis.  The Christmas meet provided an ideal opportunity to bag a couple of Nuttalls – the list that I’ll be mostly concentrating on.

I have always been keen to walk up Mynydd Mawr, having been captivated by this picture by Ginger Cain.  A fellow Scouser, Ginger has produced some magnificent mountain art, and his Llanberis gallery of the same name is well worth a visit.

Six of us set off for Nant-y-Betws near Betws Garmon and a short road walk led to a bridge over Afon Gwyrfai to woodland where the climb started.  We emerged below Cwm Du and followed the path westwards to the base of the north-west ridge.  The path upwards was soon found and we followed it steadily to the mist-covered summit.  The lack of a view, combined with a breeze and rain made this a place not to linger so we headed down, along the top of the Craig y Bera cliffs.  One of our senior members entertained us with past stories of loose rock on the well-known Sentries Ridge as we gazed through the mist down the gullies to the narrow arĂȘtes.

The steep descent led to some shelter at the top of the forest where we stopped for lunch before finding the vegetated path at the bottom of the forest.  A quick road walk past the Snowdon Ranger led back to the cars and a quick refreshment visit to the Cwellyn Arms before driving back to the hut for an epic Christmas Dinner.

Following the previous night’s festivities, no firm plans were being made and nobody expressed any interest in joining me on a foray on to the most northern tops of the Carneddau.  Starting from the parking area below Bwlch y Ddeufaen, a path ran alongside the wall to the west ridge of Foel Lwyd and then followed the north side of the wall, slightly avoiding the true summit of this WASHIS classified hill.  By now the wind had gained quite some speed, making the climbing of the wall a little awkward.  The summit cairn was found easily as well as the alternative summit mound.  Once I’d found the throughstones in the wall, regaining the path was easier than leaving it.

I dropped down to the col and was quickly at the rebuilt trig pillar of the Nuttall summit of Tal y Fan.  The breeze helped with the decision to leave quickly and regaining the col led to the good path down to the road.

Now in my post-Wainwright existence, a couple of simple Nuttalls eased me into a new era.  I’m looking forward to some new mountainous areas to explore.

Monday, 21 October 2013

My Wainwright Round – Facts and Figures

It’s almost two months since I completed my rounds of the Wainwrights and Outlying Fells and my thoughts are turning to what next – but that’s for a future blog entry.

To put a seal on my Wainwright completions, I thought that compiling a few facts and figures wouldn’t go amiss.  This blog entry is mostly for my own enjoyment and while I recognise that there are some of you who love this type of stuff, I appreciate that many will find it too dry and ultimately, boring.  If that’s the case, it’s time to look at my blog index for something more appropriate.

A cautionary note !

All of the figures quoted relate to my first ascent of each of the Wainwrights and Outlying Fells.  Subsequent ascents play on a tiny part in what you are about to read.  Which is a shame because I had some good days out on my 4 extra trips to the summit of Pavey Ark !

How long did I take ?

For the Wainwrights, 10958 days which equates to 30 years.  Exactly !  That means, on average, I bagged a new Wainwright every 51 (-ish) days.

For the Outlying Fells, 8509 days which is 23 years and 108 days.  That means a new OF was bagged about every 74 days.

Direct ascents

For many Wainwright baggers, once they have completed the 214, their aim is to ascend the fells by a “direct ascent”, that is by a route that doesn’t pass over any other Wainwright summit on the way.  I’ve not seen any mention of this philosophy for the OFs but there are probably 1 or 2 odd souls out there who will be doing this.  Completion of 214 DAs is not a goal for me but I decided to look at my log, out of curiosity only you understand, to find out how many of my 214 had been reached by a DA.  It turned out to be 74.  (The actual total of DAs is 87 because of 13 repeated fells.)

Miles walked and height gained

Although reasonably comprehensive in the latter years of the round, my log does not have enough information about my early walks.  So to give these figures I would have to make some fairly big guesses.  And as I’m a fan of accurate data (it’s part of my job), guessing data goes against the grain !

The productivity of years

My round took exactly 30 years, but as I didn’t start it on 1st January, it was spread over 29 full years and 2 part years.

In 11 of those years I bagged no Wainwrights.  Of those 11 years I had a continuous gap of 7 years that were barren, being distracted by a combination of beer, women, snowboarding and rock-climbing.  In 8 of the active years I bagged 3 or fewer summits – not very active at all really.  I bagged double-figures in 7 of the years with my best year resulting in 41 new summits.

My round of the Outlying Fells had similar gaps.  Spread over 22 full years and 2 part years, there was a gap of 4 years and then another of 7 years with occasional bagging occurring before the list got the better of me and I bagged 81 summits over the last 5 years.  My best year resulted in 25 new summits.

Popular days

Wainwright bagging is a leisure activity and we all need time off work to pursue our hobbies.  So it comes a s no surprise that Saturday was the most popular day for bagging (72 summits) followed by Sunday (49 summits).  Oddly though, the next most popular day was Thursday (30 summits).  The least popular days were Monday and Tuesday (12 summits each).  Tuesday isn’t such a surprise but it’s now obvious that I didn’t take full advantage of bank holiday weekends !

On the Outlying Fells Sunday was the most popular day (38 summits) followed by Friday and Thursday (26 and 25 summits respectively) with no OFs being bagged on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.  Maybe they were just not attractive enough for me to make a midweek trip.

Popular months

The most popular months for Wainwright bagging turned out to be May, August, April and December (37, 32, 30 and 21 summits respectively).  It should come as no surprise that these are the months with the most bank holidays, allowing me to snatch at least one day out on a 3-day weekend.  June was the least popular month, probably because there was no itch to scratch following all of the activity in May !

March was the most popular month for bagging Outlying Fells (26 summits) which can be explained by taking advantage of lengthening hours of daylight but on some less challenging fells when the higher fells might still be under snow.  July (!) and December were the least popular months – if I was out on the hills I was taking advantage of long sunny days or playing out in the snow and ice !

Walks per book

Some of the books are bigger than others – in size, area covered and numbers of fells listed.  I’ve always thought that the Central Fells (book 3) was the smallest with either the Southern fells (book 4) or the Western Fells (book 7) being the biggest.  So I wondered how long it took me to complete each volume.

I was a bit surprised that the North-Western Fells (book 6) was completed in just 8 walks, but the many ridges allow a lot of fells to be quickly bagged on many horseshoe walks.  The Central Fells were completed in 9 walks.

Three volumes tied for the most walks – the Eastern Fells (book 1), the Far-Eastern Fells (book 2) and the Western Fells – all taking 13 walks to complete them.  The Southern Fells needed 12 walks.

The Outlying Fells volume is a bit different as the 116 summits aren’t listed individually but as 56 walks – possibly 57 if Newton Fell is split into two !  These were completed in 49 walks as there is opportunity to link neighbouring walks.

Overall, I completed the Wainwrights and Outlying Fells in 127 separate walks.

Days per book

Following on from the number of walks per book, how many days were needed to complete each book ?  As most walks lasted a full day, there was only one difference – the Eastern Fells – the explanation being that 3 walks were needed to tick Gowbarrow and the Mell Fells were tagged onto days containing other walks.

As many of the Outlying Fells are shorter walks, 2 or more can completed on the same day.  I took 33 days to complete these.

Overall, I completed the Wainwrights and Outlying Fells on 105 hill days.

Number of fells per walk

Obviously, with the number of walks taken to complete being less than 214, there must have been walks with more than 1 Wainwright being ticked.  Walks that I did varied from ticking 1 Wainwright (23 walks) up to 7 Wainwrights (1 walk).  A common tally was 5 Wainwrights, this occurring on 11 walks.

The majority of Outlying Fells walks ticked just 1 summit, but such is the nature of these fells.  But the OFs did give me my biggest tally for any walk – 9, on the Bannisdale Horseshoe.

Companions

Wainwright-bagging is ultimately a selfish pastime, with a lot of summits that are not usually popular, so it comes as no surprise that 158 of the 214 Wainwrights and 95 of the 116 Outlying Fells were done on my own.

But I did have some companions.  24 individuals accompanied me up the remaining 56 Wainwrights and 12 on the other 21 OFs.  As 2 people had been to the top of both Wainwrights and OFs, the actual number of people who bagged some summits with me were 32.

It’s interesting to note that of the 32, 23 of them were members of the mountaineering club l joined 13 years ago, showing that there is some value to being in a club when looking for like-minded souls.

Conclusion

I’m not sure there is one really.  There are some obvious outcomes within my round and some less so.  But what I’d like to do is thank every one of the 32 who I stood on the top of a Wainwright or Outlying Fell with, many of whom didn’t realise at the time that they were helping me fulfil my personal 30-year quest.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

My Final Wainwrights

30 years after my first Wainwright, the day had arrived to tick the final fell of the famous 214.

With some cunning planning I had engineered my previous walks to ensure that the final Wainwright would also be my final Fellranger and final FRCC 244 summit.  But before the final tick, I wanted to complete the Outlying Fells.

A restless night’s sleep wasn’t the best preparation for an early start.  I felt like a child on Christmas Eve and I think that nerves brought on by the imminent culmination of a life’s ambition got the better of me.  So, before breakfast, I drove to the top of the Eskdale-Wasdale road crossing the southern slopes of Irton Pike and set off for the summit.

I hadn’t expected the dew and after some bushwhacking through bracken my trousers were soaked.  I rethought my route and decided to follow some forest tracks rather than make a beeline for the summit.  I had the top to myself – not surprising before 8’o’clock – and enjoyed the hazy view up to the head of Wasdale and Great Gable.

So the Outlying Fells became the first major hill-list that I had completed.

I drove back to the Bower House Inn for a well-earned breakfast and then set off for Greendale to meet some mountaineering club friends to walk up and help me celebrate my final summit.

An abortive start (but that’s another story !) was followed by a second attempt and we followed the path up to just below Greendale Tarn.  We aimed roughly for the unseen summit and picked our own paths among the crags and bogs that make up Seatallan’s south-east slopes.  This last thousand feet felt hard in the heat of the early afternoon and I was soon left behind, although they waited for me at the start of the summit plateau.

I was given the honour of topping out at the trig point, even though the true summit was 60 yards to the north-east.  So we quickly bagged the true summit at the small cairn before returning to the pillar to set up the bar.

the Bar !

Quite a few bottles of Thwaites Wainwright had been brought up and the contents were soon shared amongst us.  Wainwright is a superb beer but drinking it on a summit on a hot summer’s day makes it taste even better !

the Beer !

As we were packing up, another walker approached saying “2 down, 3 to go” on his day’s walk but I told him I could do better than that – “214 down, none to go”.  He congratulated me and took a group summit photo before he continued on his big day out.

just to prove I was there

We descended a lot quicker than we ascended and reached the cars in about an hour, with my wife waiting for me with open arms.  Boots were taken off and we all drove to the Bower House Inn for a final celebratory pint.

It was a great day !

Monday, 19 August 2013

“Trainspotting with grass”

This was a club weekend and I was running the meet.  Although there were only a few attendees, there were enough of them to indulge my bagging objectives over a couple of days.

With August Bank Holiday Monday fast approaching, I wanted to get into the position where my final Wainwright and FRCC 244 would also be my final Fellranger.  So, two little known summits became the focus of my weekend.

Friday afternoon saw four of us setting off from the Dobgill car park on the western shore of Thirlmere, following the pitched path up to and past Harrop Tarn before gaining the main central fells ridge.  Bell Crags was the Fellranger summit that was the main objective of this walk and was easily reached, despite some boggy patches.  The walk so far hadn’t lasted very long so we set off for the Nuttall summit of Low Saddle and returned to the car trying to avoid getting our feet wet !

north from Low Saddle

The final view of the day was of a very bright International Space Station gliding silently overhead as we walked back to the hut.  Magnificent !

Showers greeted the next morning but had cleared by the time we had arrived at the Sticklebarn in Langdale,  Three of us headed into the Nuttall-rich territory to the west of Red Tarn with the minor summits of Cold Pike and as my bagging tendencies were being mocked I said that we were all guilty of “trainspotting with grass” as we traipsed untracked ground from top to top.

Little Stand was the summit of my penultimate Fellranger and it is a magnificent viewpoint and worthy of more visitors than it surely hosts.  We could see many walkers on the motorway-like path from Red Tarn to Crinkle Crags with hardly any of them deviating from the well-worn route and missing out on the superb vista from the Dodds ridge to Ingleborough and around to the Scafell massif.

Little Stand

We continued northwards along the Crinkles ridge, taking in the “Bad Step”, to Three Tarns and descended into Langdale to claim a welcome reward – the traditional post-walk pint !


the Scafells

Friday, 12 July 2013

A Lake District Road Trip

The eighth and final volume of Mark Richards’ Fellranger guidebooks has just been published by Cicerone with the majority of his 227 “Fellrangers” being either a Wainwright or an Outlying Fell.  But one of the few exceptions is the lowly Wallowbarrow Crag in the Duddon Valley.  I’ve climbed here on a few occasions but never stood on the summit despite a couple of top-outs being very close.  A simple hour’s walk gave me the “tick” and served as an easy warm-up for the day.

Harter Fell, BowFell & Crinkle Crags from Wallowbarrow Crag

On the hottest day of the year so far, I drove north over the Dunnerdale fells, through Coniston and Ambleside and via the western Thirlmere road to arrive at the Old Sawmill Tearoom at the bottom of Dodd.  I took advantage of the steadily rising forest road to quickly gain height, soon reaching the tree-line.  I had last been on Dodd in 1994 but that was in the days of complete conifer coverage.  More recent times have seen the top of the fell being cleared of trees leaving a clear view from the top – something previously not available for a person of average height !

Although I had ticked Dodd before, I just wanted to walk up it again in its new guise before completing my round of Wainwrights and it made a welcome distraction from my recent campaign of ticking previously unvisited summits.  I took the green track as recommended in the Fellranger guidebook which leads to a super viewpoint overlooking the Lake District’s only lake.  I heard a branch cracking in amongst the trees and edged my way to the track’s edge to spot a Roe deer, which decided to avoid my gaze by bounding off into the woods.


From the viewpoint, a clearly worn but narrow path winds its way amongst the stumps and felled tree trunks up the northwest ridge.  Although it was hazy, the summit afforded a magnificent southern view of many of Lakeland’s major peaks.  I took the more orthodox way down on a good path and then the forest roads to make a very quick descent.

Driving to Patterdale from the A66 is one of the great routes of the district, leading eventually to the Kirkstone Pass.  A busy car park (and pub !) greeted me at the start of the route up to Caudale Moor.  Almost 25 years had passed since I walked up here in less than ideal December conditions with my polytechnic room-mate Andy and although I have claimed the tick, a thought in the back of my mind had long been nagging me that we may not have visited the actual summit, despite there being no nearby ground above us.

Atkinson Memorial, John Bell's Banner

I soon passed the scramble up to St Raven’s Edge, chatting to a Geordie about the stifling heat and then a Scouser who was waiting for his friends to catch him up.  The wall led unerringly uphill and I cut across to the monument on John Bell’s Banner before reaching the minor summit of the moor.  A simple stroll past the tarn led to Stony Cove Pike and the summit cairn, stated as the summit by both wainwright and the Database of British and Irish Hills.

Froswick, Ill Bell & Yoke

Stony Cove Pike summit

At last, on this glorious summer’s day when Andy Murray became the first Briton to win the Wimbledon men’s singles championship for 77 years, I could lay my Caudale Moor doubts to rest !

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A Bagger’s Paradise

With only one Wainwright and one Outlying Fell left to tick, this trip to the Lake District was to mop up some of my remaining Nuttalls, Fellrangers and FRCC 244 summits.  The broad ridge from Bessyboot to Allen Crags contains a multitude of tops to be ticked.

Bessyboot was the day’s first summit and more obvious on the ground than it is on the map.  It is regarded by Wainwright as the summit of Rosthwaite Fell but a higher summit beyond Tarn at Leaves, Rosthwaite Cam, is another obvious summit.  This rocky prominence can provide some easy scrambling if you choose an appropriate route and offers a good view of the ground ahead which is largely untracked and as Wainwright remarked, “a path would improve matters”, adding “this is dangerous country in mist”.

Rosthwaite Cam

The next summit – actually twin summits – is Dovenest Top and is regarded as the summit of Rosthwaite Fell by the FRCC.  Both summits are of very similar height and I stood on the top of both to ensure the tick.  The next summits to be traversed are considered tops of Glaramara with the way ahead looking a lot steeper than it actually is.

Dovenest Top, Combe Door, Combe Head

Combe Door’s summit is obvious but the next top of Combe Head has two possible highpoints, both of which I reached.  They overlook the Combe Gill valley which contains Raven Crag with its classic route of “Corvus”.  Although the views were hazy, some fells were easily identified; Fleetwith Pike, Pike o’Stickle and Great Gable were obvious.

Fleetwith Pike

Pike o'Stickle

the Gables

The top of Glaramara has 3 obvious summits which was a surprise to me as I was only expecting two !  Not far beyond the 20-foot rock step is the Wainwright summit.  A little further away is the Nuttall summit which is higher and slightly beyond that is another top which looks almost as high – I ticked all three !

As Glaramara is almost the highpoint of the ridge, the route ahead looked quite obvious.  Looking Steads, a nuttall, was reached quickly with its boulder summit.  A significant dip in the ridge led to the next Nuttall – Red Beck Top which had four points with not much discernible difference in height between them.  I went to all four and thought about the Wainwright baggers who walk on the path between two of the outcrops, missing the Nuttall summit, and then at some point in the future realising that they had missed an easy tick and arranging to go back to collect it.  Well today, I am that bagger !

Wainwright's "perfect mountain tarn"

Just before High House Tarn Top is the “perfect mountain tarn”, at least in the eyes of Wainwright.  I stopped to take photos and ticked my last previously unvisited summit of the day.

Bowfell

I carried on with good views of Bowfell, Esk Pike and Great End to complete the ridge on Allen Crags before descending to Esk Hause and turning towards Angle Tarn with the pitched path proving unforgiving on the knees.  A few raindrops started to fall so I packed my electronic gadgets away and made my waterproof easily available before walking the length of Langstrath back to the car.  Although the valley is one of the most picturesque in the district, it wasn’t natural beauty that spurred on my weary legs to finish; it was the consumption of my emergency packet of jelly babies !

Monday, 17 June 2013

TRAIL criticism

Part 1

In an earlier blog I alluded to TRAIL magazine not paying enough attention to detail when publishing a list of Britain’s 1000 metre mountains.  I’m not the only one to criticise TRAIL but if you look at some internet forums, the criticism can be a little more vehement.

TRAIL’s “laddish” prose, repeated routes and articles (the High Stile ridge appears regularly) and sloppy factual mistakes all attract disgruntlement and negative reviews.  The publication of incorrect bearings from the summit of Ben Nevis a number of years ago was a significant mistake that has not been – and probably never will be – forgotten by the critics.

Despite its weaknesses, I have to admit to really liking TRAIL magazine and have bought every issue since its launch.  I enjoy reading about the unusual challenges – wild camping on Pillar summit has been added to my “to do” list – and its variety of routes over the years is impressive.

If only TRAIL had a decent proofreader !

Part 2

I had originally written part 1 as a standalone BLOG entry, but I’ve just bought the July 2013 issue of TRAIL and I’ve spotted a significant error  Here we go…

Part 3

In the June 2013 issue TRAIL published the first of a 6-part “Master Navigation” cut-out-and-keep series of articles which are being sponsored by the Ordnance Survey.  July’s part 2 has a page called “Understanding your OS map” which has a 1:50000 Landranger extract of the Scafell Pike area.  It’s a varied landscape and has a number of features labelled and explained.

One entry is –

            Footpath
            Broken lines made up of short pink or green dashes are public footpaths, which the public
            have a legally protected right to travel on by foot.

Well, not quite.  Pink or green dashes indicate rights-of way (which have the legal protection) but do not always correspond to paths on the ground.  But I regard this as minor error.

There is a much bigger error with this entry –

            Boundary
            Broken black lines represent boundary markers – such as national, county and civil parish –
            and shouldn’t be confused with footpaths.

Exactly right – but the feature on the map extract is a footpath that traverses the Glaramara ridge !  The nearest such boundary line is a couple of kilometres away at Esk Hause.

It is admirable that TRAIL has taken the effort to educate newcomers to navigation but to make mistakes on the topic is careless which could lead to confusion and possibly danger for those learning the art of map-reading.

It’s also a bit disappointing that the Ordnance Survey has lent its name to this series as it is an organisation that produces excellent maps and should be held in the highest regard.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Wainwrights and other lists

I’ve been bagging Wainwrights for almost 30 years and for most of that time I’ve been aware of the existence of “book 8” – the Outlying Fells.  Most Wainwright baggers are satisfied to complete all of the 214 fells listed in the classic seven books, but I’ve always felt that by including the Outlying Fells, the round is “more” complete.

So for the last few years I’ve been working my way through book 8 and am now at a point where I only have one “regular” Wainwright and one Outlying Fell to tick.  I’ll be completing both lists on the same day later in the year; the Outlying Fells in the morning and the Wainwrights in the afternoon.

There are also a couple of lesser known lists that have a lot of summits in common with the Wainwrights.

The FRCC 244 are the fells contained in the Fell & Rock Climbing Club’s “The Lakeland Fells”, published in 1996.  It’s not a surprise that there are 244 of them !

Another list is the “Fellrangers”.  I’ve attributed this name to the fells listed in Mark Richards’ 8 volumes of Lakeland Fellranger guidebooks published by Cicerone.  There are 227 of these, 228 if The Nab is included as a separate fell.

Because of the overlap across the lists, anybody who is close to the end of their Wainwright round will be close to the end of the FRCC 244 and the Fellrangers – particularly if the Outlying Fells have been getting ticked along the way.  My final Wainwright is also a FRCC 244 and a Fellranger, so, with a bit of judicious planning I can complete three lists on one fell.  Which is exactly what I will do.

There are a couple of non-Wainwright summits that I need to tick this summer to enable this and I’m looking forward to walking over some new terrain and some areas I haven’t been to in a long time.

Focussed bagging doesn’t really allow for time to revisit old favourites !  I’m looking forward to completing so that I can try some new routes on some old favourites like the Scafell, Great Gable and the Dodds.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

TRAIL 1000 metre peaks

The June 2013 issue of TRAIL magazine sees the publication of a new tick list;

“THE 1000m PEAKS OF THE BRITISH ISLES”

It’s a challenging list, containing the very highest summits of the British Isles.  What TRAIL hasn’t done is publish a specific definition of the criteria for inclusion.  So I did a bit of digging.

Using the Database of British and Irish Hills for reference, I compared the TRAIL list to the 1000 metre summits on DoBIH.  The list contains, broadly speaking, the Munros and Furths that are at least 1000 metres high.

But there are a few possible omissions.

The most obvious are two Furth summits in Ireland, Beenkeragh and Caher, which makes me wonder whether the inclusion of Carrauntoohill was an afterthought, perhaps to allow the inclusion of summits from Wales and Ireland.

Also published in the June 2013 issue is an article about a winter traverse of the Scottish 1000 metre peaks by Mike Cawthorne.  Mike quotes 135 peaks which points to the reason TRAIL has included only 135 out of the 137 Munros that are at least 1000 metres high.  The two peaks “missing” from the TRAIL list are the lower Munros of An Teallach (Sgurr Fiona) and Liathach (Mullach an Rathain).

As TRAIL published just a list and not specific criteria, in practice, there are no omissions.  The publication of the list will have baggers checking their ascents against it and no doubt some will aim to complete it.  I just think that it’s a shame that TRAIL doesn’t appear to have been paying attention to detail, presumably choosing to align itself with an individual’s interpretation of 1000 metre peaks rather than a specifically defined selection from the SMC’s Munro’s Tables.

I haven’t read Mike Cawthorne’s book (“Hell of a Journey”) about his traverse but I intend to get a copy soon to see if he gives any reason for excluding two summits and whether they are the two that I think they are.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A Greendale Variation and Eskdale Fell

When ticking a hill list, it’s probable that as you near completion, the remaining summits are likely to be clustered in less accessible areas.  As I’ve been getting ever nearer to completing the Wainwrights and Outlying Fells, the summits that I’ve been ticking have been predominantly in the west of the Lake District.  Today was no different.

Greendale is an ideal starting point for Wainwrights of west Wasdale with paths leading uphill alongside Greendale Gill.  Middle Fell was the day’s first summit and is an excellent viewpoint for the Scafell massif which dominates the view.

Scafell Massif

I walked north to the Seatallan col, just above Greendale Tarn, with the summit of what is to be my final Wainwright looming tantalisingly close.  But that one is for another day.  An easy traverse in the sun led to the elegant cairn built by Wasdale's fellrunning legend - Joss Naylor.  It’s not an obvious viewpoint, although the views are quite good, but the slender cairn is deceptively solid.  Buckbarrow’s summit was only a short stroll away.

The recognised summit of Buckbarrow is set back from the cliffs that drop down towards Greendale.  But a walk to the top of Bull Crag reveals a superb view of the Wastwater screes that tumble into the lake from Illgill Head and Whin Rigg.  Also in stark view is the gully that descends between Bull Crag and Pike Crag.

Wastwater Screes

For a bit of adventure I decided to descend the gully.  It is steep and loose and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a way up.

Buckbarrow descent gully

A quick drive into neighbouring Eskdale led me to the Dalegarth railway station car park.  I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I last walked in this valley (possibly 25 years !) but the sunshine accentuated its grandeur and it deserves some future visits.

I walked past the Boot Inn and up the track towards Gill Bank, passing an impressively solitary scots pine.  There was no clearly defined path on to Whinscales or even further towards Great How.  The flank of Scafell and the white summit of Slight Side dominated the walk ahead and the vista towards Harter Fell, over Stony Tarn and Eel Tarn, lent an air of wilderness.  For isolation that is easily accessed, there aren’t many better places in the district.

I descended to and crossed Lambford Bridge over Whillan Beck leading to my final summit of the day, Boat How.  The walk from the bridge was easy with the top being an unusual viewpoint for Kirk Fell and Great Gable to the north.

Kirk Fell and Great Gable

The early evening walk back to Boot was as pleasant as any I’ve done in the last few years.  Probably enhanced by the knowledge that this day had brought me to within one easy day of completing the Wainwrights and the Outlying Fells with only one of each left

Roll on August Bank Holiday Monday !

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Ticklist planning

For 25 years my hillwalking ambition has been to complete the Wainwrights and Outlying Fells and as I near the end of two ticklists my thoughts are turning towards the next collections of mountains.  The Nuttalls will become the priority, but there will be an occasional foray in to the realm of the TRAIL 100.

But as the Wainwrights come to a close and the final planning has slotted into place, taking any chance to include Nuttalls in a Wainwright bagging walk has been too good to ignore.

A general guideline for me is to avoid going over old ground when bagging summits.  It’s only a guideline as there are too many factors that come into play to make it an absolute rule – bad weather and fatigue cutting planned routes short are the most obvious.  So if I have a chance to include a Nuttall that is not a Wainwright, it gets included.

This type of planning is indicative of what may be seen by some as an all-consuming obsession.  Some see this as the dark side of hillwalking.  Rest assured that when I’m in the hills I don’t aim to bag as many summits in a day as I possibly can – I’m not as fit as I was 20 years ago and I’m more than prepared to cut a route short if the weather makes chasing the next summit an unenjoyable slog.

The planning, and solving the problems it presents, is about keeping the mind active.  The hillwalking keeps the body active.

A balance between the two can be struck – I just hope that I’m somewhere near it.

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Kentmere View

The most south-easterly fells in the Lake District are little over an hour’s drive from home, so a period of good weather combined with longer daylight hours tempted me to make an after work dash to Kentmere to tick a couple of Outlying Fells.

Green Quarter sits a little above Kentmere and has easy access to Hollow Moor.  The track leads to open fellside which had a number of recently dug channels, presumably to drain some of the boggy ground.  Wainwright’s unnamed lower summit of Green Quarter Fell is reached easily, if you have long enough legs to negotiate the barbed wire fence !

It is from the felltop that the view of upper Kentmere and its horseshoe draw the eye, making you wish you were amongst the tops of the higher fells.  Quite often the best views of the high fells are from the lesser heights, of which this vista is a superb example.  The view south towards Morecambe Bay, with Heysham power station sat in an island of sunlight this evening, adds to the enjoyment of the deserted summit.

Heyhsam nuclear power station

The linking ridge to the higher Hollow Moor summit made for an excellent evening promenade.  The views to upper Kentmere remained and continued to draw the eye, as did the old triangular stone gatepost which ostensibly marked the summit.  This was beyond the 426 metre spot height and just beyond a mound that I felt was very slightly higher.  With my untrained eye, I was unsure where the summit lies exactly, but I visited all three points so I’m confident that I stood on the actual summit.

Upper Kentmere from Hollow Moor

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Who “owns” hill lists ?

For baggers of British and Irish hills who take their hobby seriously, there is a very useful database of summit data on the website www.hills-database.co.uk – the Database of British and Irish Hills (DoBIH).  It lists data for over 9000 summits, including which hill lists that summit belongs to.

But who “owns” the lists ?

Increasingly accurate GPS technology has enabled recent surveys to determine summit heights to within a few centimetres, leading to the reclassification of a number of hills.  One of which, Beinn a’Chlaidheimh, caused a bit of a stir following a 2011 survey.

It is generally accepted that the Scottish Mountaineering Club is the “owner”/”guardian” of the list known as Munro’s Tables, as it was originally compiled from within the SMC and the club has published a number of updated lists over the years.  Also, the SMC has never made clear what the definition of a Munro is; they are Scottish hills with a height of at least 3000 feet but no prominence (or drop) measurement has been specified, leading to debate about apparent inconsistencies.

But, it is clear that that if a hill is under 3000 feet high, it can’t be a Munro.

Most, if not all, of the recent surveys have been carried out by a team of keen amateurs who submit their findings to the Ordnance Survey for verification. If the OS has any doubt about the method or accuracy, it will recommend that the survey be carried out again with suggestions about the method to be employed.  Ultimately, the OS is the arbiter of height data within Great Britain.

The survey of Beinn a’Chlaidheimh, confirmed by the OS, measured its height at 2999 feet; close to but below the Munro threshold.  But it took the SMC over a year to remove it from Munro’s Tables.

Despite the length of time taken, what happened wasn’t out of the ordinary:
                      i.        a hill is surveyed,
                     ii.        the measurement is confirmed by the Ordnance Survey,
                    iii.        the measurement indicates that a particular hill list needs to be updated,
                    iv.        the owner of the hill list is notified,
                     v.        the required change to the hill list is made.

This is the generally accepted way of maintaining hill lists, but some disagree.  I’m with the dissenters.

When a person compiles a list, they define the criteria for inclusion.  They “own” the criteria, not the list.

The DoBIH appears to have become, or is becoming, the single accepted repository of hill data.  So when it comes to light that an attribute of a hill (e.g. height or prominence) changes, the database will be updated and the appropriate hill lists can also be updated.

But updating hill lists should only occur if the amended data within the definition criteria is absolute.

For instance, it is easy to say whether a hill is a Nuttall or not as both the height and prominence criteria are specifically defined.  It is also easy to say which hills are not Munros but not quite as easy to say which are, as the definition is not clear.

Although a number of hill lists are “owned” by organisations such as the SMC, many are the product of individuals.  In the case of a list compiler dying, who then “owns” the list ?  Can a list be bequeathed ?  Whose permission does a surveyor have to get for a hill to be added to or removed from a list ?

Once the criteria of a hill list have been defined, the hills contained within the list will be subject to change, based on ever increasingly accurate surveys, but nobody “owns” the list.  Only cold hard data will determine whether a hill belongs on a list or not.