For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Sunday, 24 April 2011
Love's A Rocky Road
I have a confession to make. I've been having a passionate love affair for many years and it looks like continuing for a long time yet. What is more, I rather fear it's been going on with the full knowledge of my wife. Sometimes I hardly get to see the object of my desire from one year to the next; yet she's always tucked away somewhere in my heart. Though shapely and rounded, curvaceously bosomy even, she can also, at times, be rough, spiky and a wee bit dangerous. But mostly she welcomes you with open arms, and is as soft and playful as a spring lamb gambolling on new spring turf. I'm talking, of course, about the English Lake District and her fells.
These peaks have not the awe-inspiring height and grandeur and hazardousness of the Alps, or even the Pyrenees. They are friendlier and generally more accessible than the mountains of Scotland and Wales. In fact, never were hills more 'doable' and forgiving. Yet they must not be underestimated: each icy winter there's a toll of hillwalking injuries, even deaths; and there are certain loose gullies and steeply-inclined rakes which are interesting to say the least.
I was visiting Lakeland in my imagination long before I ever went there in person, and did this mainly through A Pictorial Guide To The Lakeland Fells: that immortal seven-volume work by the retiring English accountant, felllwalker, guidebook writer and curmudgeon, Alfred Wainwright, known affectionately by the fellwalking fraternity as simply 'AW'. AW worked on his painstakingly detailed manuscripts from the early 1950s until the mid 1960s, completing one page a night. These manuscripts were reproduced in book form just as he'd created them: pen and ink drawings of the fells and their paths, executed with outstanding draughtsmanship and accompanied by a quirkily beguiling text written in a tiny hand.
There are two hundred and fourteen fells lovingly listed, described and illustrated in AW's masterwork - all except one (Castle Crag in Borrowdale) over a thousand feet in height. These fells are now known eponymously as the 'Wainwrights', and it's the ambition of many high level ramblers to climb each and every one, myself included. Although I wouldn't call myself an assiduous peak bagger, I calculated the other day how many peaks I'd already bagged, and decided I would make it a lifetime goal to do the lot. My total so far is thirty-eight. By my reckoning that makes one hundred and seventy six to go. So, if I suddenly start writing starry-eyed and giddily romantic posts from Kendal or Keswick or Crummock Water in the near future, you'll know what I'm up to ...
(The first photo was taken a few years ago on Scafell - at 3163 ft the second highest fell in the Lake District. The second is of Pillar Rock, which lies just below the 2927 ft summit of Pillar. Pillar Rock is really a climbers-only ascent. It was far too scary for me to attempt.)