Favourite Fells Reflections

Now that my readers have had a few minutes to get over the shock from my last post, and the announcement that Eagle Crag is my favourite fell, it’s time to close this thread of posts out.  I’m sure that some readers were hanging on to the last post hoping that I would also love their own favourite fell most of all too, and I’m sure there are several who are barely containing their rage that their favourite wasn’t even mentioned.  So a few words of explanation are needed to bring closure to all of us.

Firstly, I only included fells that I’ve actually completed or attempted – a total of 159 out of the 214, and I only included Wainwrights.  There are some important fells I’ve not done yet, and which were, therefore, not eligible for the list.  These include Blencathra, High Street and Haystacks.  And I’m sure that there will also be some unexpected favourites emerge from the mass too.

Second, although I’ve made a few allowances, how a fell did depended on the conditions when I walked.  So many have only been done once and if a bad day, or even just poor visibility, they’ve generally underperformed.  But to rate them otherwise wouldn’t have been fair to those I had great days on.  There are a few fells like this that I know deep down must be better than I’ve rated them, and they are prioritised for a return visit, which may see them rise.  Examples are Grasmoor, Glaramara, Pillar, to name just a few.  I had poor visibility on Grasmoor and the other two I didn’t get to explore properly because I was pushed for time at the end of the day (and on both days I started with a fell that became a top favourite).  It’s also worth mentioning that the first time I do a fell it’s often not the most interesting or challenging route – so often my first visit to a fell is via a convenient high level route from another fell, meaning I often miss the great ascents first time around.  Generally, these rise up the list when I return and do the exciting routes.  Pavey Ark is a prime example of this.

Thirdly, what makes a favourite fell for me may well differ from what floats your own particular boat.  Anyone who’s been reading the posts has probably got a fair sense of what I like in a fell – tarns, a bit of light scrambling and having the place to myself. Chuck in some good looks and good views and we’re done.  These factors have seen some fells do really well, when some might not have expected them to – for example, High Rigg, Mellbreak, Holme Fell, Green Crag to name just a few.  Lack of crowds is a massive factor for me.  I work in London and the countryside around where I live is pretty poor stuff, so it’s really important to get space in the hills where I see no one, or as few people as possible.  I have a number of favourite spots for lunch where I know I’m unlikely to see anyone (Cold Pike Far West Top anyone ?), and even on Scafell I had my corner of it on Symond’s Knott to myself the day I was up there.  So less popular fells do really well in my list.  Otherwise, there’s no way Binsey would have made the top 20 for instance.

Fourthly, some of the big name fells that many people love fell only just outside the top 20 that I’ve blogged individually.  So they didn’t do badly at all.  For example, Crinkle Crags at 21 so nearly made it, and has to be a strong contender to move up the list on a revisit.  Few would protest at its promotion I reckon.

Great Gable at 22 and Skiddaw at 23 are fells I can’t get excited about.  Both are a slog by the main routes, both are excessively popular, but they do have good views – well sometimes.  Clearly they place reasonably highly so they’re not that bad, but there are plenty more I prefer.  And I expect them to slip down the list as I suspect there are fells to come that will leapfrog them.

Numbers 24 to 30 are a selection of higher fells – Haycock, High Stile, Catstye Cam, Red Pike (Buttermere), Pillar, Kirk Fell and St Sunday Crag.  All perfectly good fells, with views being the best point about them.

The Disappointments

And although the focus has been on what makes a good fell, I have encountered some along the way that I don’t like.  Mungrisdale Common sits at 159 (out of 159) on my list and I expect it to remain pretty much at the foot of the list once the other 55 make it on.  Similarly, Armboth Fell was just a bog when I approached it from High Tove.  I might feel different if I climbed it directly from Wythburn, but whether I will consider that worth doing I don’t know.  Sail is one I don’t like much.  Stuck in between Crag Hill and Causey Pike, it’s just a slog getting in the way or an otherwise good walk.  Clearly I’ll visit again because of those other good parts of the walk, so will have to wait and see whether my opinion improves.

Looking Forward

Of course I only considered Wainwrights when compiling my favourites list.  But there are plenty of other fells in the Lake District that aren’t Wainwrights.  Some of them must be good too ?  Well chief amongst these are the Wainwright Outlying Fells, of which I’ve done 21.  Black Combe I rate highly and it would have made the top 20 if it had been a Wainwright (which it really should have been in the first place in my view).  And I quite like Beacon Fell too, probably because of the tarn, although it wouldn’t quite make the top of the list in its own right.

As I draw towards the end of my Wainwright round, routes over new ground are becoming harder to put together, and I’m revisiting old fells more, so some of them will probably rise up the list a bit as a result.  And that’s a good thing as it doesn’t feel that safe a list when so many entries are based on a single visit.  And 2012 is the year I begin wild camping which will give a whole new way to enjoy the fells, and my existing and future favourites in particular.  Indeed, my next trip to the Lakes in April, which is all about wild camping will be based heavily around my favourite fells – whether that be actual overnight sites or just routes to get to them.  I’ve promised myself at least one night must be spent on one of the favourites I’ve blogged about over the course of this series of posts.  But which one, or maybe even more than one, it will be, I don’t know yet as I’m trying to keep it as loose and flexible as possible.

I also plan to revisit some of the Trail 100s that I’ve perhaps not been quite so overwhelmed by.  I’ve generally found the Trail 100 list to be a reliable indicator of a good fell, so am assuming that any I’ve not rated highly are probably simply a reflection of the day itself rather than the inherent quality of the fell.  But you never know.

It’s been a great experience writing this series of posts, and it’s really made me want to revisit some of these places again.  Normally my focus is on picking off new fells as I work my way through the Wainwrights, Nuttalls etc.  But writing this series has further reminded me that it’s not about targets, it’s about enjoying the hills, and where better place to do this than on fells I’ve already identified as places I like?  And when I complete my 2012 programme of walks, I plan to sit down again and reassess the new and revisited fells from this year against the current list.  And so the list will be updated, and the individual posts will be too, and I’ll have myself a living breathing favourites list that I can carry forward through the years and which will serve as an ongoing reminder of what’s great about the Lake District.

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