The rain is falling outside, but otherwise all is quiet as I have the house to myself. Soon the family will return from their afternoon out and in a few hours time the long Jubilee weekend will be over, and it will be time to head back to work. And it’s likely to be an intense and busy few weeks. My current client project really gets going in earnest this week and this starts to cast doubt on the feasibility of taking two weeks off at the start of July to do a coast to coast walk.
I’m not cancelling the walk, before you ask. Absolutely not. That walk has long been planned to be the climax of this year’s walking adventures, and even more so once I’d thrown wild camping into the mix, and thereby given myself major flexibility to really do the route and schedule I wanted. But my holiday plans were made when my client projects and commitments looked quite different and when timing wouldn’t matter. Having said that the nature of my current project is that although it is difficult to predict where the peaks and troughs will be, predicting when it will be over is more straightforward.
So I’ve decided to juggle my walking plans. Instead of two weeks in July to do the coast to coast, I’m going to do that in September (ish) when I can reasonably have expected to be done with my current client, or at least done to the extent where holiday timing wouldn’t be an issue. And in July I’m going to aim for a one week break and use it to make some inroads into the Lake District’s Far Eastern fells.
This plan has some advantages:
1. By only taking a week in July I can be more flexible about timing of it, and more likely fit it around project dates.
2. The way things have been going, I wouldn’t have been up to the level of hill fitness I would have wanted for the coast to coast.
3. It’s possible September may actually be better weather.
4. Doing the coast to coast at the end of the contract makes it a sort of reward.
5. Because of the one week trip being in the FE fells, wild camping is going to be firmly centre of stage which means less arrangements to make and hence more opportunity to sort it all out last minute.
Back to the Orient
Right back at the start of the year, I’d planned to spend a whole walking trip bagging FE fells. Because of the scarcity of accommodation in that area, this led to me looking into wild camping and ultimately into the growth of the idea of using it to do the coast to coast that I wanted rather than the one that was easiest logistically. That then pushed the FE trip itself to the back burner. It’s now time to bring it forwards and light the gas under it again.
The main objective of the trip is Wainwright-bagging, pure and simple. I’ve done one walk in the FE fells (if you ignore an early morning walk on Wansfell that bagged the Pike but not the main summit), and so have 29 out of the 36 fells still to do. Within these 29, there are 2 Trail 100s (Place Fell and High Street), and 17 are Nuttalls (with a further 3 Nuttalls that aren’t Wainwrights on offer).
The secondary objective is gaining further wild camping experience. With only two such camps under my belt, both with bail outs close to hand, and not having faced particularly testing weather conditions or site finding, more practice is needed before I rely on this approach for a long distance walk.
The tertiary objective is a recce. My coast to coast route has to pass through the far eastern fells unless I want a less interesting route through south Lakeland or to hit the Pennines so far north that I miss out key things I’d planned to do. So having a bit of a look in advance seems like a reasonable idea.
One of the reasons I’ve got so many FE fells left is that they are tricky to plan. You have to remember that I’m doing the Wainwrights without the use of a car. Not because I don’t drive, but having done only a small handful by car I have determined to complete the whole set without using the car, and intend to redo that small handful “properly”.
The far eastern fells have roads around the edge and penetrating some of the valleys. But there’s bugger all in those valleys and if you look in the centre of the group there’s also nothing – nowhere to stay, no public transport, nothing. If I’m omitting the car, I don’t think they can be done by day walks. More than any of the other groups of fells, they are strung out like the tentacles of an octopus, making efficient bagging without covering the same ground twice impossible. It’s with good reason that I refer to these as the most remote of Wainwright’s 7 fell groups, despite them technically being closest to home.
A further challenge arises as the ends of the easternmost tentacles continue on into outlying fells, totally around 35 of the 116 in Wainwright’s Outlying Fells book. Do I do each tentacle fully or stop and only focus on the “proper” Wainwrights, knowing I’ll have to come back and do the outlying fells anyway in the future ?
I’ve sat down several times to plan hypothetical multi-day routes through the far eastern fells in such a way as to avoid crossing the same ground twice. But it’s simply not possible. So I’m expecting planning an optimum route to keep me occupied on June evenings.
The other consideration is the fact that in a trip of about 5 nights length, which is what it’s likely to be, I don’t think I can pick off all 29 Wainwrights and 3 other Nuttalls, and so will be leaving some over. Clearly, the best thing to do is to plan it so as to leave a group of relatively accessible fells that can be picked up as part of mopping up the stragglers from each group. In practice this means leaving the fells closest to Patterdale for next time. But a pop into Patterdale half way through the trip would be a good idea for restocking on provisions.
A further thing to throw into the planning mix is that if I’m going to pass through on the coast to coast, that will give an opportunity to pick a fell or two off.
So I’m left with a jigsaw puzzle, and it’s one of those nasty ones where there’s a picture on both sides. How do I even begin to create an itinerary that picks off a decent number of fells, without re-crossing the same ground, gives a half-time re-provisioning opportunity and leaves both a sensible through path for my coast to coast walk and a coherent set of stragglers to finish off later? It’s all a bit of a headache.