With my current work contract drawing to a close, and more hill time coming, I’ve been mulling over some potential Lakes trips for the next few months. Trips which are getting harder and harder to plan as I home in on completion of the Wainwrights, reducing my stock of new hills to bag. Living such a distance from the Lakes, I really struggle to justify a trip there that doesn’t involve reducing my Wainwright deficit, but I’m also aware that some of my best trips have been those where a very low number of new fells are claimed. The eternal battle between the list and ensuring a good amount of the things I like about the fells tends to rage large when planning my trips. The question is, and has been for some time, how to balance these competing forces out.
Most of this contemplation takes place while I’m walking to or from work, or on a lunchtime stroll – in the past most of my best ideas for walks have come to me this way. And so it was earlier this week that it came to me – the bridal hill formula.
Think about a bride on her wedding day – there are four things that she’s supposed to wear for good luck: something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. It didn’t take me many moments of thinking this through before I saw how it fits to my situation. Here’s how:
I’ve known for a long time that one way to improve my enjoyment of my trips to the Lakes, especially as I run out of so called “good” fells to do, is to include some old favourites. This builds in a guarantee of liking at least some of the fells on the trip. It also means there will be a portion of the route that I already know, increasing confidence and leading to better planning. It may also offer the opportunity to try a more challenging or interesting route on that old favourite – perhaps the first visit was as one of many tops on a ridge walk, and this may mean I can take an alternative route to the top, without the pressure to bag the neighbours. An old favourite could be a good spot for a wildcamp – somewhere I already know about the suitability, and a new way to enjoy a fell I’ve been to before.
This one’s obvious, given how hard I find it to justify a trip without increasing my Wainwright count, a trip needs to include one or more new Wainwrights. At worst I’d settle for redoing some of those which previously failed the rules of my Wainwright round (ie. no cars to be used). Whatever, to be considered successful, for me a trip needs to see me update my Wainwright list to show new fells ticked off, or moved from the “cheated” to “properly complete” column.
This one’s the one that people may see as a bit contrived, but bear with me on this. Sometimes inspiration comes to me from seeing blog posts or photos from others. Sometimes, seeing these posts simply reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to do. Sometimes, I even take inspiration from my own past walks. Often, just a picture of someone else’s camp is enough. The best trips seem to end up being those where I’ve applied some inspiration gained from other quarters.
By which I mean tarns. Whilst most fellwalkers enjoy a good tarn, I probably obsess about them more than most. A tarn helps break up the monotony of the hillside. In iffy weather, a tarn can be really atmospheric, magical or spooky. Tarns often provide decent spots to pitch a tent, albeit with increased chance that others will have the same idea. Tarns look good in photos. For a while now, I’ve made it a rule that each Lakes trip must include a visit to at least one serious tarn – that can be either a major tarn or simply a smaller one that is stunningly located. On a multi-day trip when wildcamping, it’s usual for me to spend at least one night at a tarn. Indeed, tarns were the venues for my first two nights wild camping.
So there you have it – my new formula for planning a decent trip: some new fells, some favourite fells, tarns and a dash of inspiration. Expect to see some upcoming trips planned with these rules in mind…