Wednesday 18 April 2018

Lake District Wainwrights and Outlying Fells

The Lake District is a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern England. Famous for its outstanding beauty, Lakes, Fells (mountains) and the writings of William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin among others.

In 1952 Alfred Wainwright began a 13 year project producing the famous “Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells”. In this seven volume series he identified 214 Fells which have become known as the Wainwrights. Many walkers like to climb all these Fells, called bagging, and that normally takes many years. A few hikers have been known to tackle all 214 Fells in one trip and a couple of Fell runners have done the same, only quicker. Lesser know is Alfred’s 8th book called the “Outlying Fells of Lakeland” which was written some 8 years later. These 116 additional Fells often aren’t as grand as the Wainwrights and are sometimes in the furthest corners of the park, and occasionally even outside the park. Being much less famous, and often miles away from anywhere, they aren’t bagged as often. Surprisingly, as far as I can tell, nobody has ever done a continuous hike of the Outlying Fells.

Wainwrights 8 books of the Lakeland Fells
The seed for me hiking the Wainwrights had been sewn many years ago when a friend of mine attempted them but unfortunately was unsuccessful. A few years later another friend watered that seed when they expressed their wish to hike them but for a number of reasons that hasn’t happened yet. While I don’t consider myself a bagger, though some would say I bag trails rather than mountains, something about the Wainwrights appealed and I’ve known for a while now it was only a matter of time before I’d give it a go. However, when I began planning it became apparent that this could be a far greater hike if you combined all the Wainwrights, and the Outlying Fells, into one super hike covering 330 Lakeland Fells. 

The Lake District covers 2362 square kilometres and with those 330 Fells crammed into such a small area planning is the key to a successful hike. It took many weeks of winter evenings studying maps and aerial photography to come up with a practical, and efficient, route linking all the Fells together that allowed reasonably easy resupply. I started with record breaker Steve Birkinshaw Fell running route, which he has very kindly posted online as a gpx file, and modified that. His route is very roughly planed and as a runner he seemed mainly interested in speed between peaks so this route wasn’t always the best for a backpacker. What his route did give me was a great starting point for efficiently linking the 214 Wainwrights that just needed some refining. To that basic route I then added spurs for the additional 116 Outlying Fells and resupply options.  

My route will also be available as a gpx file after the hike.

Planned Route
I plan to start hiking the route on the 23rd April covering 1061km (659mi) and will climb 330 Lakeland Fells with 56225m (184465ft) of elevation gain. I’m not sure how long this will take but I’ve estimated about 6 weeks, time however isn’t an issue.

I’ve put together a set of personal rules for this hike :

The hike must be continuous, and always on foot, with the exception of resupply when I may take a bus or train into town. Then, I will always return to the exact same spot and continue, on foot, to maintain the continuity of the hike.

I must visit the summit of all 330 Fells, where possible. Most Fells are on public, or access land, and there should be no issues  bagging those. Some are on private land which I have no legal right to access, however it appears most landowners tolerate walkers bagging those Fells. The exception to that is Williamson Monument where the landowner strictly refuses all public access. It’s also possible I may be refused access to other private Fells for a number of reasons (perhaps farming work).

With this in mind I will bag all Fells on public and access land and where possible bag those on private land. If access to private land is refused then I will get as near as I can legally to that Fell. I’m hopeful there will only be access issues with the one Fell already mentioned and I will decide what to do about that when the time arrives.