In January 2013 we made our first visit to the Lake District, which was to celebrate a very special event – our baptism at our church in London. We instantly fell in love with its natural beauty. On 31 January, after climbing Loughrigg, we learned this was one of 214 fells known as the Wainwrights. From that moment on, we were hooked, making it our mission to complete all of them, spending every bit of annual leave and holiday to head for the fells.
We had bought ourselves a Wainwright aerial map, with its tick-list to keep a record of which fells we had climbed and to work out where we needed to stay in order to be close to the ones we had still to do. Over the next six and a half years our trekking equipment grew from standard rucksacks and one trekking pole to top-of-the-range rucksacks, four trekking poles, ice axes, crampons, gaiters, several jackets, anti-blister socks, trousers with zip-off options, hats for when it was cold and hats for when it was really cold, regular gloves, snow gloves, foil blankets, flares … the list goes on and will no doubt continue to grow!
Whilst one of us (Sherrie) had the same pair of trusty boots from start to end, the other (Gary) went through four pairs of different boots before finally finding the right ones, by which time we had less than thirty Wainwrights left to climb! Also, our bookcase quickly filled with all the original and revised versions of Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides, OS maps for all of the fells, not to mention our trusty little Satmap GPS.
Our experiences whilst completing the Wainwrights have varied, with each fell having something different to offer. Some days have been more enjoyable than others – we definitely have fells we like and fells we don’t much! The great thing is you can make your day as long or short as you like or can manage. Our daily time out on the fells has varied from eleven and a half hours to just four. The most mileage we’ve trekked in one day is twenty-one miles, when we were over by Dean (four miles south-west of Cockermouth) climbing the western fells, which is one of our favourite areas.
For our trip in June last year, to complete our 214, we were joined by our best friends Matt and Suzanne who have accompanied us on many a Lake District holiday. As we were driving up through the Wrynose and Hardknott Passes, one of us made a passing comment at how unfortunate it would be to break down on this steep road. When we parked at the top of the pass to climb Hard Knott, Harter Fell and Cold Pike, we discovered that we had a flat tyre! Gary must have driven the route on only three functioning tyres. Gary and Matt changed the tyre and we proceeded to climb our three planned fells. We said it would make a great title for a book – Three Fells and a Tyre Change.
We’ve also experienced our fair share of every kind of weather imaginable, but it never took away our excitement to get out onto the fells and, as has been said: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.’ However, on 22 June 2018, the day of our 214th fell, we had blue sky and sunshine. It was a hot day and we carried more water than normal. We parked at Honister Slate Mine and made our way up towards Fleetwith Pike, our first of three final fells, from which we had a fantastic view. Our next fell was Kirk Fell, which we had been putting off for a while due to its steep ascent from the Wasdale side. We had chosen it for our penultimate fell as it is close to Haystacks, which we wanted to be our 214th fell since it was Wainwright’s favourite fell and where, by Innominate Tarn, his ashes are scattered.
The walk out from Fleetwith Pike to Kirk Fell and back over to Haystacks made it a very long day, but it was certainly one of the best days we’ve had on the fells. We walked right by Green Gable and one of our favourite fells, Great Gable. In November 2016, we attended the Remembrance Service – an event that was wonderful to be part of and one we would really recommend. With Kirk Fell finally conquered, we started to make our way towards Haystacks, the culmination of our six-and-a-half-year journey. As we approached Haystacks, we had mixed feelings – of excitement, of course, but also of sadness. This had been our focus and mission for so long and in a very short time it would all be at an end. We walked hand-in-hand to the summit. Matt and Suzanne took photographs of us holding small printed signs celebrating our journey together. We finished the day sitting by Innominate Tarn with our friends, drinks in hand and with our feet in the water … what else?
Now that our Wainwright journey has come to an end, people ask what our next challenge will be. We have climbed five of the fifteen Welsh 3,000-footers and plan to climb the rest, but we’re not finished with the Lake District and its stunning fells – we’ll be back to help Matt and Suzanne finish their Wainwrights and will definitely climb our favourite fells again.
The Lake District has such a special place in our hearts and is at the centre of many great memories. It’s our place to escape from the stresses of everyday life. Even though some of the fells offer little more than an arduous slog to the top, there is no finer moment than to make it to a summit cairn, rest there and eat a hard-earned lunch whilst looking out at what you’ve achieved in the natural beauty that surrounds you – that is, The Lake District.
Sherrie & Gary Farnsworth