The Wainwrights - looking back


It's mid-November 2020 and we're in lockdown 2 and travel is restricted so I'm walking locally, and am very lucky to have lots of countryside and many footpaths on my doorstep - the important thing right now is staying safe and staying home to help contain the virus in this global pandemic.


I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm day dreaming about when it'll be safe to travel again, though - it's ok to be grateful but also to look forward to better times again. Mostly my day dreams are of going to music gigs or of travelling up to Scotland or over to the Lake District to climb some hills. I love Northumberland's hills, and have a soft spot for big old boggy Cheviot, but am pining for something a bit more craggy and to being surrounded by mountain vistas. So I've dug out my Wainwrights books and maps again and am trying to remember which I've climbed and to decide where I shall head next.

My Wainwrights journey started in 2011, although I don't think I really knew much about Wainwright back then, but I certainly fell in love with the Lake District fells on that day and have never looked back. A friend and I headed over to Wastwater for a couple of days camping at the National Trust camp site - what a location, sleeping under the looming peaks of Great Gable, Scafell and Scafell Pike, with a fantastic Lakes pub just down the road, the Wasdale Head Inn. After a big dinner at the pub and a good night's sleep we hiked our first fell - handsome Great Gable - a superb climb to start us off, the climb up was fantastic. Gable characteristically had his head in the clouds so we had no views, but the quiet stillness of his rocky plateau summit made a lasting impression, an unforgettable day.


With our appetites well and truly whetted by Gable, we headed back a few weeks later to climb England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike. We headed up via the Mickledore route and what a route that was, for only the second time I'd been up a fell to say I was blown away would be an understatement! We had views most of the way to the top, it was a stunning day to be in the Lakes, only the last 100 metres or so were in the cloud but again that felt amazing - we'd climbed England's highest mountain and into the cloud! As we dropped down the summit towards Broad Crag and Great End the views opened up again and they were outstanding - we were elated and ran around the rocks whooping and hollering and posing for a few pics. Then we dropped down to Styhead Tarn and down the path along Gable's flank back down to the Wasdale Head Inn for one of their huge portion dinners, school dinner-style puddings and a pint or two - absolutely epic day and still one of the best days I've ever had in the Lakes!

And that was that for a few years. Fast forward to my 40th birthday and I decided that a great way to celebrate would be to climb 40 hills that year - starting off with Cheviot in Northumberland one superb snowy day in March 2013, then Hedgehope hill again in the snow, and then I headed over to the Lake District to continue climbing Wainwrights but this time knowing I was doing so having found out about Alfred Wainwright and bought a box set of his beautiful books.

Foolishly what I didn't do is keep a good journal of where I climbed and when, and, with having been working on the Northumberland guidebook for the past four years, it's been a while since I've properly been in the swing of exploring the Wainwrights so I've kind of forgotten everywhere I've been. There have been some unforgettable adventures, though, including a number of summit wild camps, and I'm really looking forward to starting again when it's safe to do so. I think I'm up to about 110 out of 214 - shall check through my photos and map to be sure.


My last venture over to the Lake District was before Covid struck, back in Feb 2020, when I headed over one icy weekend to climb Selside Pike and Branstree above Haweswater Reservoir, a wonderfully peaceful part of the Lake District. Conditions were stunning, with mackerel skies, a dusting of snow and barely another soul around - the fells were so quiet that a herd of red deer passed by while I sat and had lunch - a magical day to be up paying my respects to Wainwright and giving thanks to him for his beautiful books that encourage me and many others to explore the Lake District more intimately than we otherwise might.

A collection of images from other Wainwrights hill days.