Climbing to Scarth Gap

A Day of Judgement

The title’s probably a touch dramatic, but in my post New Year’s zombie-like state of mind, it seemed to do the trick.  Of course, if you believe the Mayans we’ve just had our last New Year’s Eve parties (no loss there really) as the world is due to end sometime this year.


Video by CGP Grey.

Today was also a day of judgement in another sense – this evening I sat down and applied myself to a nagging problem that has been weighing on my mind for some time now.  I’ve now notched up 158 of the 214 Wainwrights and can look forward to the day when I finish.  But I want the home straight to be special, which means that I have to make some decisions now if I want to reserve some decent fells for that run-in to the finish line.

I chose my final Wainwright way back in 2008 when I cut short a planned walk from Honister to Buttermere via Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks and simply descended from the summit of Fleetwith directly to Buttermere – which incidentally was one of the most frightening descents ever due to the strong wind and the amount of falling over that occurred as a result. I sat in the pub and reflected on my aborted day’s walk, and it came to me that it was no bad thing that I hadn’t managed Haystacks that day.  Wainwright finished his fellwalking on Haystacks – quite literally as what’s left of him is still there – and it seemed fitting for that to be the last one of my round.  So it was decided and nothing has altered this plan, or I suspect is likely to.

What hasn’t been decided yet is the rest of the last dozen or so, and that day in the pub in Buttermere was far too early to begin thinking seriously about it, having just bagged only my 82nd Wainwright.  But a lot’s happened since then – I’ve done more Outlying Fells, and discovered some firm favourites amongst the less glamorous fells – places such as Eagle Crag, Binsey and Seathwaite Fell.  So even if I had chosen my final few then, I would probably change them.

But I can’t put it off much longer.  Of the 56 I have left, 29 are Far Eastern Fells and the rest are odds and ends in the North (6), East (6), South (5) and West (10).  With a likely annual bag of 20-30, that equates crudely to one big trip in  the Far East, and one mopping up the others, before the final stretch.  So decisions need to be made now.

I’ve thought of a number of approaches to choosing the final few, including:

  • letting nature takes its course and see what happens.
  • pick them based on some criteria of height or importance.  For me that doesn’t really work, having already bagged the highest of the lot.
  • pick a deliberately modest set reflecting my love of the less frequented fells.
  • pick a set that represents the 214 in some way.

In the end, my only criterion was that I want it to feel special.  So I sat down to analyse what’s left to see if a pattern would emerge.  Here’s what I came up with:

  1. I took all of the 56 remaining fells and broke them into groups representing individual walks.
  2. I did the same with the 7 fells that I want to repeat so that all 214 are achieved without use of a car.
  3. I added in the remaining Nuttalls, since I’m doing these alongside the Wainwrights, albeit at lower priority.
  4. Finally I mixed in a selection of my favourite fells and tarns, as I want to include some of these in my final trip.
  5. I then sat in front of my Lake District wallchart and put together a logical itinerary that would put me in Buttermere for the final day’s walk on Haystacks.  And since I don’t know how long this trip will be, I tried to make it so that I could cut it in several places.

The main issue I encountered was Blencathra – although not firmly committed to, I had pretty much thought I’d do this in the last few as I’ve gone this long without setting foot on the mountain (100m of Mungrisdale Common doesn’t count!).  But as I worked through the permutations and couldn’t come up with a sensible one that fitted, I realised that it wasn’t that important.  So I just let Blencathra land wherever it fell in the sequence.  It worked out as numbers 198 to 201, including Mungrisdale Common, Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell too.

The provisional run-in has me walking in to Patterdale over the Mell Fell set (202-204), then over High Hartsop Dodd (205) and Red Screes to Ambleside.  Then a day doing Wansfell and Troutbeck Tongue (206-207) which echoes the two days back in 2006 when I failed to bag both Wansfell and Red Screes.  I finally got my revenge for Red Screes in 2010 and it was a really lovely walk, even with the rain and mist.  Choosing this route out to Ambleside appropriate somehow.

The walk up the Red Screes ridge from Ambleside
The walk up the Red Screes ridge from Ambleside

Next I get a bus into Langdale and bag Lingmoor Fell (208) which I keep toying with doing, but decided tonight to leave it.  I’ve long admired the view of this fell.

Lingmoor Fell
Lingmoor Fell

My plan then is to spend a couple of days laying ghosts in Langdale – firstly by picking up a couple of non-Wainwrights in the form of Little Stand and Great Knott, then redoing Bowfell and Esk Pike and dropping down into Wasdale.  Then numbers 209 and 210 should be Whin Rigg and Illgill Head, followed by Buckbarrow, Seatallan and Middle Fell taking me to 213.  I’ll then redo Scafell Pike and Great End and drop down into Borrowdale from where I’ll bus to Buttermere for the final fell.

Climbing to Scarth Gap
Climbing to Scarth Gap

Of course, this walk won’t actually take place until 2013, or more likely 2014, and a lot could change in that time.  But I’m sitting here looking at this plan, and it seems to meet all my requirements:

  • It finishes on Haystacks.
  • I complete my redo of all of the bad-style fells, with Scafell Pike being one of the last fells before number 214.
  • I revisit a couple of walks I enjoyed.
  • I revisit fells that have defeated me before.
  • I complete some fells I’ve left specially to the end.
  • It fits the itinerant nature of my walks, where I typically spend a couple of nights in one place before moving on.

I’ll review the plan again after this year’s walking season – for which the intention is to focus on the Far Eastern fells.  But just the exercise of working out this plan tonight has got me excited about the final set of walks, and should motivate me to get moving towards the day where I get a chance to put it into practice.

2 thoughts on “A Day of Judgement

  1. unbelieveably well organised there in terms of planning the run in! I guess once you start Wainright bagging it becomes a grail to chase down. I could never be a) so organised b) so dedicated and c) allowed out to do them all!

    Good luck with the plan (its always best to have a plan, you can always change it later) and here’s to seeing you accomplish the whole 214

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s