Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Wandering with AW

Rainbow over Martindale
As my regular reader will know I haven't been doing a lot of running lately. Actually I've just started again, which has now presented me with the interesting problem of how to make up for missing the best part of four weeks then fitting in a taper before the Highland Fling in two weeks time. Well. no-one said this game was supposed to be easy.

But in the meantime I felt I should get out a bit, and while any movement involving sudden deceleration (like a foot hitting the ground every running stride) brought with it some incentive not to try a repeat, I could walk more or less OK. My main adventure for this year is the Tor des Geants in September, which basically consists of walking up a lot of big hills, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to start early and get some uphill practice in the bag. But where to go? My biggest local hill is Snowdon and while it's a fine peak I feel I have some personal acquaintance with almost every rock on the main paths by now. No, I would go back to the Lakes, which apart from the Lakeland 100 route and the odd day Bob Graham wondering (no, not a typo) I know much less well.

Start walking in the Lakes and you immediately run up against AW. Not many folk are immediately recognised by their initials alone, but Alfred Wainwright's "Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells" must be known to anyone who ever pulled on a pair of boots. So much so that the 214 tops detailed in his series of hand written and illustrated books are now known simply as "The Wainwrights", a list to sit alongside the Munros, Corbetts, Nuttalls, and so on, and collecting the Wainwrights is a pastime to which many Lakeland wanderers devote a fair amount of time. Jan and I know several people with pieds a terre in Cumbria who are devotees, including one couple who having completed the set a time or two are now setting about revisiting them in alphabetical order; retirement affects us all in different ways.

Now I've never been one for ticking off lists but I guess you know what's coming. I decided the best way to get to know the Lakes better and do a bit of uphill training at the same time would be to have a tilt at the Wainwrights. To put the thing in perspective, this is not like setting out on the Munros. Joss Naylor once visited every top within a long, long week, but by any measure he was (and still is) a pretty handy performer and if you read the accounts he was a bit tired when he finished. A calendar year, or maybe a summer, might be a more sensible objective.

So I bought my "Wainwright Map" and got started. In five day trips so far I've clocked up 55 tops. The low hanging fruit is always the easiest of course and the thing will get harder, but the days are longer now and maybe I'll even get a bit fitter. And part of the fun is the evening spent before any trip trying to work out an interesting route over a reasonable number of hills. I was surprised to find when I started that over the years I had already climbed around 60, so I set a simple rule for this year. Any top that I have not visited before I would make sure that I did on a day when I could see the view, which left me this 60 "in reserve" for days of mist and low cloud.

Wainwright Map

What I've found already is a lot of pleasure in going to places I would never have considered. Sitting alone on the splendid summit of Cold Pike watching the crowds on the Crinkle Crags to Pike o' Blisco motorway; lunch on the warm springy grass on top of The Nab under a blue sky, and a dozen other memories already.

Will I see it through this summer? I hope and think so, once I've embarked on something I don't give up so easily. But I'll have to get back to a bit of proper running again now. Watch this space.


Ali Bryan-Jones said...

I can think of few better ways to spend the summer.

Anonymous said...

That sounds a great project, Andy. I'm currently on a similar mission with the 220 Corbetts (wee Munros) around Scotland which takes me to some fantastic areas that are rarely visited, but every bit as fineas the Munros.

But, notwithstanding all that, hopefully our paths will cross @ the H Fling!

Murdo tM