Wednesday 8 January 2020

Wainwright's and Outlying Fells

*This is one of many trips that didn't get posted when I all but abandoned this blog back in 2015. It's now 2020 and I'm adding in that missing content in a more photo-based blog post, this trip was from 2018*

I wrote a piece for TGO magazine about this hike that I recommend reading, it's available as a back issue for £4.99.

For more info on the Wainwright's then look here and for the Outlying Fells here. For more info on bagging try here.

To be honest I didn't know a lot about the Wainwright's or even the man himself. My first long-distance hike was Wainwright's Coast to Coast and that was about the level of my knowledge at that point. Of course, I was aware of the 214 Wainwright's which are extremely popular peaks to bag, but I'd never even heard of his 116 additional Outlying Fells.

In fact, hiking the Wainwright's had been something I'd thought about ever since a friend attempted it around 8yrs earlier. That attempt wasn't successful but I liked the idea which surprised me as I'd never considered myself a bagger. Of course, I am a bagger but instead of bagging peaks, I've spent my life bagging trails. Trails or peaks, it's still bagging and I'm a bagger! In 2016 another friend mentioned they were thinking of hiking the Wainwright's and this time it really got my interest. 

The following winter I spent the dark evenings researching how best to link all those 214 Wainwright's together into a continuous hike when I stumbled across the Outlying Fells, instantly I knew I had add them. A continuous round of the Wainwright's has been many times but I couldn't find anybody that had hiked all the Outlying Fells and certainly, nobody had hiked a continuous round of all 330 Wainwright's and Outlying Fells. Challenge accepted!

Looking deeper the reason nobody had hiked the Outlying Fells is kind of self-explanatory. Outlying Fells are scattered around the Lake District and are often in the farthest corners, well away from the more popular peaks and hiking areas. Linking them together into a continuous round would mean long link sections just to sometimes bag 1 or 2 peaks. A continuous round didn't make sense. However, if you were already hiking the Wainwright's then the Outliers simply became an extension of what you were already doing, it made perfect sense and I was surprised nobody had already done this.

My route was based on Steve Birkinshaw's record-breaking fell running route for the Wainwright's but modified for hiking. I would need to resupply and sometimes the quickest route between fells isn't the best when hiking. To this modified route I added in additional spurs for the Outliers. 

Route Stats

You can download my route here

Distance 1116km*
Ascent 51452m*
Hiking days 42
Fells 330 (avg 8/day)

* recorded by Garmin GPS watch

What I really enjoyed about this hike was there was never a dull moment. On most hikes, there are sections that, frankly, are a bit dull. On all long hikes, you have link sections between areas of most interest and they might be on roads, 4*4 tracks or just not through particularly nice areas. It's part of every long hike and they can be fairly short (a day or 2) or much longer (sometimes weeks). This hike didn't really have that because it's contained within the beautiful and compact Lake District. Also when bagging, on average, 8 peaks/day I was never far from the next and always had something to aim for. Of course, there are some road sections and some of the Outliers are out of the way, and a bit remote, but those sections are short. I actually enjoyed the Outliers most because they got me into areas of the Lake District I would never have normally visited and given how quiet some of those areas were it's clear not many others do too.

I've been asked how the Outliers compare to the Wainwright's and mostly they are very different. Wainwright's are normally much grander and have a proper identifiable summit. It's very clear why Wainwright picked them. Outliers can sometimes be like that too, and a number of them could easily have made the Wainwright list, but others can be nothing more than a slight lump in the ground. Occasionally I had to spend time with the GPS to actually find the official top. Some Wainwright's and Outliers only look at their best if approached from a certain direction which will be as described in his guidebooks. Because of the way I linked them together I often didn't take the more normal routes so didn't get to appreciate them as Wainwright intended. This was particularly obvious with the first Outlier, just outside of Kendal, which is just a pile of stones on a patch of grass when bagged from that direction.

I started in Kendal on the 23 April, mainly for logistical reasons, but also Wainwright's original guidebooks were printed here so it felt right.

The first 2 weeks were very wet but from then on there was a heatwave and water became a real issue. There's not a lot of water up high at the best of times but what little there was soon dried up. The Lake District is, of course, full of lakes but that water was always 600+m meter down in the valleys and I didn't want to drop that height just for water. I did mostly find water but it was of variable quality. Of course in the heat, the bogs dried up beautifully and really helped with my hike.
Logistics and my planned timings

Kendal and the start of my hike
Old printworks in Kendal
 1st peak bagged, Cunswick Scar
Scout Scar 
1st-night bivi 
Gummer's How
Stony Cove Pike

Hartsop Dodd
High Hartsop Dodd
High Pike
Near Hart Crag
Great Rigg
Top o'Selside

Top o'Selside - Brock Barrow 
Wool Knot
Near Holme Fell
Near Black Fell 
Helm Cragg
Flooded camp Dow Bank
My tent was between those poles!
Pavey Ark

Hesk Fell
Stoupdale Head
Great Worm Crag
Near Seatallan
Flatt Fell
Crmmock Water
Great Borne
High Style
High Style
Fleetwith Pike
Kirk Fell to Great Gable
Near Great Gable
Seathwaite Fell
Allen Crags 
Rannerdale Knotts
Whin Benn
Hunting for water near Barf
Carl Side
Blencathra - Hallsfell Top
Blencathra - Hallsfell Top
Scales Tarn
Blencathra - Hallsfell Top
Grisedale Tarn
Arnison Crag

Stony Cove Pike
Hallin Fell
Kidsty Pike
Near Branstree
Hobgrumble Gill
Hugh's Laithes Pike
Grey Crag
Tarn crag
Hugill Fell
Final Fell - Sour Howes