Before I start I should say that Alfred Wainwright MBE was not a friend of mine in person, I never knew him. But he was/is the most prolific writer and illustrator about walking around the Lake district. So much so that his female hiking buddy, and indeed second wife Beth McNally, carried his ashes to the top of Innominate Tarn at the top of Haystacks. He planned and wrote seven volumes about the lakeland peaks, which took him 13 years to complete!
On a personal basis, I have re-discovered a love of hiking, long since disappeared since my Royal Air Force days… Ermmm; actually did I enjoy it back then as I was made to do it often under fairly arduous conditions!? But these days arduous or not, I am finding that hiking, especially with my equally ambitious and very much more talented and knowledgeable hiking buddy, Jennifer Lyon, to be rewarding on so many levels…
Yes, ok, ok, I look knackered! Unlike Jenny, (click on the pictures to expand!) who is also a talented fell runner (and puts me to shame!) and she’s an equally talented proofreader and editor for any authors out there needing assistance, I don’t ‘run’ up mountains… It’s more of a crawl! And she also keeps catching me eating chocolate and swigging coffee from my oversized flask on a fairly regular basis when hitting the slopes. LOL.
However, stressed as I have been of late, the one place I find solace is up the top of a mountain, in great company, and that is exactly what we did once again yesterday!
Over seven hours of hiking up and down mountains, some 20 kilometers of fairly arduous terrain… yes, we got a little lost too (probably shouldn’t admit that) and I don’t take that danger lightly. But my gosh, what a day and an adventure we had and it ended well with tea and cakes in good old military fashion!
The weather was absolutely awesome. At the peaks we hit a few clouds, some rather windy areas and a spot of light rain. But I can imagine Alfred Wainwright up there with his sketch pad. The views were incredible!
I had originally arranged to carry up the bergen with tent and camp out on a peak… My feelings on that are both one of disappointment and relief. That bergen is simply too heavy for the terrain we went through…and for my current level of fitness and the speed we ascended at! But, hmmm… we downsized our daysack probably a little too much for the task at hand!
We initially headed up to a place called The Knott and then even higher… the views were incredible! I always said I had friends in high places and here she was, alongside me, at the highest peak in the area, or was it? Ok, not huge in worldwide terms, but at over 800 meters don’t knock it! I even thought I saw an old school buddy and prolific climber up there… turns out he was also up a mountain yesterday too but in Snowdonia!
Anyway, so we kept heading up and to a place called High Street… a very long ridge, no chocolate shops in this High Street though so was very happy to have brought our own… and then the adventure really began as to be honest the legs were waning a little following the initial climb… got to slow down!
We met a lovely chap, as smiley as you could imagine, and stopped to have a chat about the terrain, the weather and the fact he was pitching his bivvy overnight. Alfred Wainwright would have been proud… Perhaps he had known him? This gentleman certainly knew every peak in visible range like the back of his hand. You meet some really interesting and friendly people mountainside!
Then as we descended slightly we came across a very distressed sheep. It’s horns stuck in fencing wire… How Jen managed to calm that sheep was quite astounding, ermmm yes please? LOL. Seriously, I was fairly astonished at how she wrestled this sheep until it calmed down and then very carefully assisted it to gain its freedom. Again, I was put to shame… Actually, I think I wanted to be that sheep! But I doubt I would have run off once freed.. ha ha..
Things took an interesting turn as we saw people appearing from nowhere… Lots of people… It turned out there was also a 100km fell run taking place. These people had already made it around 60km *Ouch*. Maybe one for the future!
Ermmm, then I think it really happened. Tired and a tad low on provisions we are on the wrong side of the mountain. Actually, two, as we have to descend one, ascend another (one or two) before finding another descent path… Oh bottom! It was really quite warm too and dripping sweat and sun lotion into the eyes wasn’t really helpful. So, we hunted out our potential descent route. No, we didn’t. We found a fern filled mountain descent. That’s not easy to walk down… So we looked for an alternative and found what I can only describe as a naturally formed winter time dried river bed running down the side of the mountain, through trees, rocks and nettles, with perhaps a bit of scree thrown in… Let the acrobatics commence! THAT SO HURT!
I suppose given the arduous nature of the descent it should be heralded a success. Legs were now jelly and I couldn’t help thinking that water might be nice… We found it. In fact got very wet going across it and then of course there’s the thought that the car is on the other side of the mountain I’m now looking up at!
Possibly, my worst thought of the day… No water; well, no purification tabs anyway! Hot, BIG hill and still a long way to go… But you know sometimes that’s what it’s all about! If it was easy everybody would do it… right Alfred?
It was a heck of a climb, but to be fair taken at pace with several stops along the way… Only thing was when reaching yet another summit from ground level it seemed like one heck of a sheer drop down to the car park, which dammit was in sight! Lol…
After a lot of map consultation we had to head some way back away from that lovely area now in view, where the car was, traversing across a few peaks until we reached some people on the known bridleway… We found the way down and the relief at getting to the car was gleeful! I’ve never been a fan of pure water but my goodness did I drink some last night…
Home now, and you know what, if it wasn’t for the fact that 24 hours later there are a few twinges going on in the upper legs, I would do it all again tomorrow… and will do something similar soon!
The 214 fells described in the Pictorial Guides are now generally known as the Wainwrights, and visiting them all is a common form of peak bagging. The Long Distance Walkers Association maintains a register of walkers who have completed the Wainwrights; as of 2013 there were 674 people on the list, of whom 40 had completed more than once. Dave Hewitt estimates that the total number of completers could be over 50% higher than the LDWA’s figure. The Ramblers Association reported in 2008 that a boy of six years, four months and 27 days had become the youngest person to complete the Wainwrights. In April 2009 a boy aged five completed the round and became the third member of his family to do so after his older sisters held the ‘Youngest 214 Completer’ previously. Wainwrights On The Air is a scheme whereby amateur radio enthusiasts aim to make contact with or from the Wainwright summits. (Wiki 2015). Now wouldn’t that be something!?
Here are the two warriors at the highest peak of the day… The great news is whilst as usual, even whilst massively exhausted, I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night, I also didn’t spend a single moment thinking about the PTSD issues I have been incurring this year. Just so darned invigourating. Thank you so much Jennifer Lyon for being such great company!
Simon Duringer is an award winning blogger, interviewer and author. He is the presenter of the Chorley 102.8 FM Arts and Lifestyle Show and member of The Lancashire Authors Association. His books can be found on Amazon by clicking any of the following icons…