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Walking the Wainwrights

A year ago today I completed a personal challenge I set myself to hike all 214 Wainwrights in one year.

Before memories of those forty walks get even hazier I'd like to share them in a series of posts: an online diary of sorts for me, but also in the hope I can provide some useful tips to others thinking of embarking on a similar challenge.

I’ll begin with where it all started, which was on the couch supping on a cup of tea...

The idea
It was in June 2014 that I decided I wanted to set myself something big to work towards, something that would give me a real sense of achievement. Unsurprisingly the first idea that came to me was running a marathon; it’s a classic challenge, but with a mere 5k being my longest run to date, a love for the sport has yet to find a place in my heart. The idea of pushing myself to run 26 miles in one single stretch just didn’t appeal in the slightest. Other than running a marathon I don’t remember any of the other ideas I stumbled upon, because as soon as the idea to walk the Wainwrights popped into my head I knew that was the one for me.

The challenge
The timing of this decision just so happened to come a month before the 9th anniversary of my dad passing away, and it was this coincidence that pushed my idea of walking the Wainwrights over the span of my lifetime into the challenge of completing them within just one year. His ashes were scattered on Loughrigg Fell which happens to be one of the 214 Wainwrights and as the idea gained momentum the decision was made that, to mark the tenth anniversary of missing him, I would summit Loughrigg Fell as my last, before I’d even embarked on my first.

What are the Wainwrights?
Before I go on I should probably pause briefly in case anybody’s stumbled upon this post and hasn’t heard of these ‘Wainwrights’ I keep mentioning. The Wainwrights is the collective name that has been given to the 214 hills and mountains mentioned by a chap named Alfred Wainwright in his seven guidebooks to the Lakeland Fells. I won’t talk too much of Wainwright in this post, but I will share a little something we have in common... we were both born and raised in the same town, and for those of you that know Blackburn it’s quite easy to understand how the Lake District could have made such an impression on us both!

214 Wainwrights Interactive Map
An interactive version of this map displaying the 214 Wainwrights can be found at Hilltracker.

My walking background
And for those that are wondering whether they need to be super fit to take on this challenge, let me assure you I wasn’t - not going into the challenge anyhow... I wouldn’t even say I was a keen walker before. Although my childhood was packed full of walking holidays they were only made bearable by singing & playing games with my dad, in conjunction with repeated promises of ice cream when we finished ‘just around the next corner’, which was always several miles worth of a lie.

I did love the camping part of those childhood holidays though, and this love has continued and deepened as I've grown older. In the recent past I’ve chosen destinations in the mountains simply because I love the scenery so much: given the choice of mountains & lakes over beaches & sea I will pick the mountains every single time. I’ll often go on hikes too because I’ve grown to enjoy them, but it wasn’t something I sought out as much back home, other than the annual trip up Loughrigg Fell for my dad, and the occasional walk up the local summit of Pendle Hill.

So where to start?
With the decision to walk the Wainwrights made I began to Google how to achieve it in the short space of a year. In doing so I came across a book called 'Walking the Wainwrights with Stuart Marshall', which condensed all 214 Wainwrights into just 36 walks. I promptly bought it, began planning, and within weeks began my challenge on the 26th July 2014. Which I’ll tell you all about in the next post...

Walking the Wainwrights Clothbound Pictorial Guides


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