Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Glaramara–Simpson Conundrum

After completing the Wainwrights my attention turned to new objectives, particularly but not exclusively the Nuttalls.  Online research led me to the Harold Street website where I stumbled upon the Simpsons, an older list of Lake District 2000ft summits.  FHF Simpson had published an article in the 1937 Wayfarers’ Club journal and as I was (and still am) a member of the Wayfarers’ I decided to add the Simpsons to my own To Do list.  I had already climbed many of the Simpson summits and I worked out which ones I hadn’t climbed using the Harold Street list.

Of those I hadn’t logged as climbed was Glaramara North Top which appeared to be the only summit on the Glaramara – Allen Crags ridge that I had not ticked.  It wasn’t until sometime later that I became uncomfortable with the fact that I hadn’t ticked the north top, particularly as I walked the length of the ridge in 2013 to tick all of the numerous Nuttalls that I had previously missed; so I did some research.

The Harold Street website gives a grid reference that places the north top at the north-east side of the summit dome.  The grid reference that it gives for Glaramara places that summit approximately 200 metres south-west of the north top.  This makes it clear where the north top is, but doesn’t describe what it is.

At this point, I started reading various guides to work out the topography of the summit area.

Database of British and Irish Hills (DoBIH), Glaramara (entry 2389), Observations:
“Nuttall summit; Wainwright summit (cairn) 160m NE at NY 24722 10561 and cairn 55m W are lower”
Although rather perfunctory, this description states that the summit of Glaramara is a Nuttall but the cairn that Wainwright regarded as the summit does not coincide with the high point and is lower.  As the Wainwright summit is described as north-east of the summit, the north top is probably the Wainwright summit.  There is no separate DoBIH entry for the Wainwright summit.

A Wainwright – A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, Book 4, The Southern Fells, Glaramara, The Summit:
“Twin summits of rock rise from a surrounding ocean of grass, each within its own circle of crags.  They are much alike, and of similar elevation, but indisputably the finer is that to the north-east...”
Wainwright makes it clear that there are two summits and he regards the north-east summit as the true summit.

Mark Richards – Lakeland Fellranger, The Mid-Western Fells, Glaramara, The Summit:
“The name Glaramara belongs to the summit.  Which summit you ask?  Well the more northerly.”
Richards agrees with Wainwright which is not surprising as he was friends with the original chronicler of the Lakeland fells.

John and Anne Nuttall – The Mountains of England and Wales, Volume 2: England, Walk 5.4:
“Descend to a grassy col and follow the main path to the west top of the twin summits.  Wainwright prefers the east top for its better position and view, but the west one is the higher of the two.  The highest point is the cairn set a little back from the edge, though another cairn on the edge itself marks a better vantage point.”
The Nuttalls also agree that there are twin summits and acknowledge Wainwright’s opinion although they stick to the convention that the highest point is the true summit, reinforcing the DoBIH position that the (south-)westerly is the actual summit.

Bill Birkett – Complete Lakeland Fells, walk BOR2:
“Next to be ascended and lying dead ahead is the middle top of Glaramara – Looking Steads.  Two rocky points rise above the summit; the north easterly of these is the Glaramara summit.”
Birkett also acknowledged the twin summits of Glaramara and agrees with Wainwright and Richards that the north-eastern summit should be regarded as the true top.

It is obvious that the summit area of Glaramara has two distinct tops and that Wainwright, Richards and Birkett take an opposing view to the Nuttalls and the DoBIH as to which should be considered the true summit.  As the DoBIH is a data-based source and not swayed by opinion, the south-western top should be regarded as the true summit.  It is unfortunate that the DoBIH does not have a separate entry for the north-eastern top as such an entry would have prevented my confusion.

At this point, the summits had been identified, but had I actually climbed the North Top?

As Wainwright regards it as the summit, surely I must have done as I’ve completed the Wainwrights!  But it wouldn’t do any harm to double-check.  Reading my blog entry for the day that I walked the length of the ridge, I found this:
“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!”

And that’s about as conclusive as it gets; I have ticked both tops and now I can remove Glaramara North Top from my list of unclimbed Simpsons.

It’s not often that I find a summit that I can tick as a result of some detective work rather than putting on my boots, which means that, almost inevitably, I have joined the ranks of Armchair Mountaineers!