Moving it up a level

With vague plans forming in the latter part of last year to do a coast to coast walk (note “a” not “the”) and for my main trip to the Lake District in 2012 to be the Far Eastern fells, it’s become clear that 2012 could see me step up a level in my walking.  In several ways…

First, although I completed a continuous long distance walk in 2011 (the Cumbria Way, or my version of it to be more accurate!), it didn’t push my boundaries by much.  Sure, the weather was challenging at times – several days had less than ideal conditions.  Climbing Holme Fell in the clag and then fighting my way into the wind and rain much of the length of Langdale made for particularly wearing days 3 and 4.   I got hailed upon so hard that I had to get my storm shelter out Back o’ Skidda, and the hail made me abandon a day walk up onto Blencathra.  And on day 9 I had a fight to get over High Pike. And I used camping barns for the first time, which were a great success.  I did walk for 10 days, and haven’t done that long before, but I’d paced myself reasonably well and had balanced out the longer and shorter days.  So that wasn’t much of a problem.  In hindsight, almost everything on the walk was something I’d experienced before, and all that was different was putting it all together.

In 2012, I’m looking at a walk of 200 miles, maybe more depending on route, through some wild and remote terrain.  As I only seem to be able to do a flat equivalent distance of about 15 miles a day, when doing it day after day, that makes the walk a two-weeker – before I even add on the ascent.  So that’s going to take a bit of doing.   And early plans are actually looking like the best part of three weeks to complete the walk to take in all of the places I want to go.  I’m going to need to need to work on upping my average daily distance that I can do consistently over several days.

Most of my Lake District walking has been planned in such a way that there’s a way out if things start looking ugly.  Usually there’s a bus route or a hostel for instance.  Indeed the hostel at Skiddaw House was ideally placed to enable me to have a refuge in the middle of the fells without a long walk out to Keswick.   And it proved its worth the day that wind and hail turned me around 10 minutes into the walk up onto Mungrisdale Common.

Escape to Skiddaw House
Escape to Skiddaw House

But what if I walked somewhere that bail out options back to civilisation were much reduced ?

Take the Far Eastern fells for instance.  “Civilisation” is much less in evidence there and to bag the fells without long walkouts each day means finding somewhere to stay in close proximity to the fells.  Which basically means wild camping.  Which I’ve never done before.  I knew I’d do it someday, but have always taken the easier options.  This year I’m going to have to face up to this one.  And I’m sure that if I’m sensible about what conditions I do it in, it’ll be fine.  Still, it’s a step up as the closest I’ve got is having an entire camp site to myself.

Tonight's accommodation
Tonight's accommodation

There’s another looming matter too.  As I start to home in on the end of my Wainwright round, thoughts are turning to what happens after.  Do I simply switch my attention to the Nuttalls ?  That will mean shifting most of my walking away from the Lake District, and do I really want to do that ?  Then there’s the Wainwright Outlying Fells.  I’m 21 into the 116 so it would be obvious to finish them off.  Which I do want to do, but aren’t bothered by how long it takes.  And does this mean that I forget about the Wainwrights ?  Most of them have only had one visit and I’m sure that’s not enough to really appreciate them.  So another round, and if so shall I spice things up a bit ?  Or maybe I’ll just revisit the ones I liked.  Plenty of questions remain unanswered but I feel like I’m looking for something to nudge my hill walking up a notch.  That might be walking all year round, which my recently altered work situation may now allow me to do.  Or it might be that having tried wild camping in order to knock off the FE Fells, that will become a big element in my walking, as it is for so many of the people I engage with on Twitter.

Clearly, I don’t have all of the answers yet, but it sort of feels like 2012 is going to be a step forward of some kind.

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