SCOTLAND Glencoe 2018

Glencoe, Scotland. June 2018

Stop Dearg – I was so excited to see this welcoming giant
Oddly, I was in Glencoe mainly to eat fish and to climb Ben Nevis (UK’s highest mountain: 1345 ms), which my firstborn daughter had said I should do before I die; in retrospect, neither of these feature in my memory much at all.

River Coupal
Two factors come into play here. The less important of the two was that I got bitten (inevitably? Considering exactly who I am, I think so) by the Munro bug. But the primary distracting factor was the scenery: I was far more enchanted by the captivating landscape, and by the joy of camping out in those particular mountains than I could have ever guessed in advance. My nights in B&Bs were endured merely for the showers they offered; they were a very poor alternative to being in the real mountains in my trusty tent, munching slowly on my cud and staring out at the prolonged sunsets, and the delightfully protracted sunrises.



Am Bodach
I particularly loved the area around the Buachailles, with Stob Dearg being my favourite. I became especially motivated to climb it when the ladies at my first B&B implied that it was too dangerous for me. That was a red rag to this “bullette”. I discussed my route in the local pub with the guy who brought me dinner, who knew all about the surrounding mountains. He told me the best route, and off I set as soon as possible next morning, having already climbed Am Bodach kind of opposite, and the other Buachaille, Etive Beag, with its Stob Dubh and Stob Coire Raineach, the day before.


Atop Stob Coire Reinach on Buachaille Etive Beag


Cooling off with a swim near Glencoe after climbing


Kilday Falls
Be that as it may, the Buachaille I wanted was Buachaille Etive Mor, subject of so many gorgeous photos (and, of course, I, too, had already photographed it, but I also needed to stand on top); the Stob of my quest was Stob Dearg. I suppose the ladies in the neat and tidy B&B were right, that the climb was dangerous in that it ascends steep, loose rock, but I was not the only person to ascend that day. A little doable danger adds spice to life. I am not reckless, but I do welcome a challenge, and if you don’t want me to do something, telling me it is impossible is definitely not the way to go about stopping me. I always ran my best races when someone told me I would not do well. I reached the top in mid-morning glare, which is hardly conducive to exciting photos. Next time, I need to lug my tent up and stay overnight. At least I got to surmount the challenge.

On the way up, a guy called Bruce caught me from behind, and chatted to me while we ascended together.  He then politely warned me not to be too close behind given the nature of the loose stones, and went on ahead. After maybe ten minutes, I caught him back, along with two other guys who had had a head start, but who were all now resting. As they saw me approach, they set off again. I saw their route, didn’t like it, chose my own, which was not directly underneath, and climbed.

Stob Dearg
I was eating at the summit when Bruce arrived. The other two never appeared. There are millions of guys who would not talk to a mere female who had done that, but Bruce is not one of them. I have to say, it was really weird for me, talking to a guy called Bruce so soon after my own Bruce has died, but I got over it, and he was very nice. We are still friends. He ate up there too, even though it wasn’t yet time to eat, and we both photographed some more, not because the photos were going to be any good in that light, but because you’re excited to be there, so you take photos to commemorate, and then we went up the next couple of mountains together. I was going to do more, so we parted, but then I decided he was wiser than I was. The day was exceedingly hot, so I turned back and climbed back down with him. I love meeting people in the mountains. They’re my kind of people.

Stob Dearg from my tent site
If you are not Scottish (and even if you are), you will have noticed that names are long, and also hard to pronounce, as the letters actually seem to bear little relationship to what you end up saying. Many animals are also, of course, different to what I know, and many terms mean nothing to me, so that when a guy I met near the summit of one of the unpronounceable mountains told me he had seen two goyals up there (pointing), and expected me to be interested, I didn’t have a clue what I was to look for. Was this a bird? A wild animal? A military special marker of some sort commemorating a battle? Was I expected to be watchful, pleased, full of wonder …? I didn’t have any idea, so, with a confused face, asked him what a goyal was. Now he was the nonplussed one, trying to seek out a way of clarifying this. Hesitantly, he said it was, well, a female. OK, so, a female wild animal? He kind of waved his arms about, lost for words. He told me it was like me. (Ah ha, then definitely a female wild animal). Eventually, the penny dropped. There were two more girls on the mountain. I chuckled as I progressed to the summit, hoping these wild females would get the joke when I told them the story. They did. We laughed as we descended together.

I know that I struck unusual weather in Scotland, and that the fact that I actually swam is totally epic, but that is the Scotland that is now firmly implanted in my memory, and the one I wish to return to. And then there is this little matter of over 270 Munros that have not yet been climbed. Oh dear. Life is way too short.


The obligatory climb up Ben Nevis
Ah yes, Ben Nevis. Sorry, but I found it possibly the most boring mountain I have ever climbed. For a start, that was a B&B day, so I had to wait for the obligatory 8 a.m. B, thus missing the best part of the day. I didn’t get underway until about 10 a.m. One starts from near sea level, and climbs to 1345 ms, so there is the challenge. I strolled along the hugely wide dusty road, singing to keep myself occupied in this boring task, and was at the top in 2 hrs 30, having not taken a break, as breaks in such territory are not necessary. I took some photos, made friends with an American lawyer called Andrew with whom I seemed to have much in common, and strolled back down in a two-hour descent. It was a pretty good workout, but not much more. I’m glad I can tick it off the list ‘though. If I climb it again, I will go up one of the interesting narrow ridges that I eyed up. I think I’d prefer to tackle new mountains than do a repeat, however.

And soon enough, it was my final night in Scotland, and I had driven some of the way towards Edinburgh airport, as my flight next morning was frighteningly early, and I was nervous about getting there in time. I chose a town called Callander as my final resting place. I had done no research before getting there, but once I had arrived, I chose Ben A’an as the mountain I would climb after dinner as my farewell mountain. It was absolutely magic up there. I met others who’d decided to do the same; two couples had even pitched their tents to stay all night. Others, like me, had just popped up to witness sunset. We were a merry bunch of nature lovers. I was glad, however, to descend alone in the gloaming, thus able to soak myself in the mood of the evening, and in the bitter-sweet aspect of the joy of the night, yet the sorrow of leaving this place that had stamped itself in my heart.

SCOTLAND Isle of Skye 2018

SCOTLAND Isle of Skye 2018

What was I expecting as I drove over the bridge and onto the Isle of Skye: Isle of dreams and hopes? I had seen some wonderful and dramatic pictures, mostly taken of the Quiraing and Old Man Storr, as well as the red and black Cuillins, so I wasn’t totally without preconceptions, but I can’t say I had any concrete outlines to give shape to what lay in store for me – and no fixed plans either. I’d just go with the flow. I had some nights booked into accommodation, and some nights left to float free and either use my tent or find something last-minute, as conditions and weather dictated. The itinerary would be decided by opportunity and weather.

Sligachan bridge
I had held off booking for far too long; a friend had said she’d like to come too, so I kept waiting for her to firm things up. By the time I realised I needed to book, it seemed the entire island was booked out. Warning: Skye is very popular! Lucky, the best possible accommodation had space for me: the self-catering accommodation at Sligachan. Whew.  I managed to find it and check in.

First day. On my way up the mountain behind (with obligatory unpronounceable name – a name so long it is no use my repeating it). Photo number 1 had Glamaig in the background, which, being merely disyllabic, will score a mention. 
At last. Now, let the holiday begin. I decided it might as well start out the back door, at the mountain staring down at me (Benn Dearg Mheadhonach [in photo above]), so up I headed off into the gloomy mist, with wind that gathered in intensity with every step I took of a height-gaining variety. Despite the blast, I was enjoying the wild feeling that comes with walking in a storm, and strode purposefully towards my goal. I was, indeed, a bit nonplussed when I met two German guys descending, who said they hadn’t made it as the wind was too dangerous up there. In my hubris I told myself it was because they were Germans, but I would be fine. They were just tourists for sure.

This turned out to be one of only two mountains in my life where I have had to snake on my belly to touch the summit cairn. Even doing that, I was petrified. The wind was treating me like a silly plastic toy that should be discarded … now. Even crawling exposed too much surface area to its malignancy, so, belly it was. But having had two strapping guys in their late twenties also backing out of any more, I was not ashamed to come straight back down, and lay off my plans for the other two mountains I had intended for that afternoon. I learned a new respect for the winds of Skye that day.

On the next day, the wind was still raging, so I chose a tamer option. Yet even that was hazardous, and I had to defang some of my original intentions, and merely go over a pass and down to Glenn Bhreatail and return. I pleasant day’s outing,  but not the summit I wanted.

That chasing of less adventurous options became a nasty habit, but at least it kept me alive, I guess. Next morning, I chose to visit the Fairy Pools before breakfast to beat the armies of tourists I’d witnessed the day before. Mission successful. I had this magic and delightful place mostly to myself, although I did meet a photographer from Melbourne who had similar designs to mine.

I decided that, as the winds were blasting from the west, I should climb things to the east, so chose Bealach Cumhang, just north of Portree, before moving my headquarters further north to the Quiraing area, and playing up there for a few days, climbing lots of fabulous peaks north and south of the main attractions (such as Meall na Suiramach, which looked down on all those lovely rock towers, and The Storr).



There was absolutely no accommodation to be had in this section of Skye, but, as I had my tent and could remain flexible, it didn’t matter. Food was more of a problem, as I found it really hard to find anywhere that would serve me dinner.

Back down near Sligachan for a brief second stopover, I managed to get up Glamaig – one of the mountains intended for my very first day. On no day so far had the wind been kind to me, and on every day, there was mist in abundance. This all changed when I moved in the direction for my final night, to sleep, I thought, at the bothy at Camasunary. Luckily, I went there nice and early, as the bothy was all locked up, which means it is not a bothy at all, and needs to change its name. I’m sure glad I didn’t arrive exhausted and near dinner time.

As it was, I retraced my steps, and chose a truly magnificent spot underneath Beann na Cro and other majestic Cuillins. There, I had the pleasure of meeting Huwel, who is still my friend. He was camped nearby, and I appreciated his company, feeling uncomfortable about being within sight of the road as I now was. The evening was mild; the day had been warm and wonderful. It was so lovely to eat outside by my tent, roam a bit, chat a bit, and just enjoy being alive in this wonderful place, on this brilliant eve.

On my last sad morning, I climbed Beann na Cro, with magnificent views, before heading off for my next adventure to mainland Scotland, and the area around Glencoe.
There are so many, many more beautiful photos of Skye that I could show you (I have culled it down to 440 images). I hope this small selection suffices.

ENGLAND Lake District 2017 Wainwrights 1

England. Lake District. On completion of the Wainwrights (English Fells). Essay 1. June 2017.

I am striding purposefully towards Sergeant’s Crag. When I reach the summit, I’ll only have three fells left before I have completed all the Wainwrights, and one of these three lies just fifteen minutes beyond the one I’m about to reach. I’ve left the easiest peaks until last. Right now, however, I’m having trouble seeing the ground properly – not because of thick mist (quite often the case up here) but this time because my wretched eyes have teared up. I realise I’m feeling quite emotional about this completion business. I have been on a beautiful journey getting to know these mountains, and I don’t want it to end. To reach the end is like seeing a magnificent flower you have watched and tended since it was a stunning bud reach its fulness, knowing that from here on, a growth in beauty will be impossible. It is fulfilment, but it is also sad, filled with its own poignancy.

In the previous saddle, reached just before this story begins, I crossed paths with some walkers in quite a big “tourist” group of maybe a dozen or more. They were huffing and puffing as they laboured up towards the saddle I was merrily descending into, reliant on their leaders to guide them on their way. That saddle would be the high point of their day. Now, there is nothing wrong with this, and there is, in fact, a great deal of merit. Their confreres are possibly on a couch watching television at home. Nonetheless, hearing the puffing, and seeing their reaction to the fact that I had dropped to them out of a trackless wasteland (you’d think I’d popped in from the moon) and that I was eying up a route where I might make my way under some very steep cliffs to another saddle beyond – tricky, but I thought it was worth a try – I realised another aspect of this journey I have been on whilst completing these Wainwrights: namely, that my voyage is integrally tied to my love of freedom to go on whatever route I want, determining entirely my own direction and speed, and that that freedom which is my delight is entirely dependent on my ability to navigate confidently, and on my strength (relative to my diminutive size) and general agility in the mountains. Were I less confident, my journey would not have been the solitary one it has been.

As I headed towards Sergeant’s Crag on this “epiphany route”, a few more important observations brushed my consciousness:
(i) the extent to which this whole journey was not about “achieving” something, but rather about a relationship between me and these mountains. Moreover, every single one of them thus far had been done either solo or in the company of my husband with whom I am one (and who, being slower than I am, has followed me up when he’s been with me – maybe half the summits – giving me plenty of time to enjoy each top alone as I wait). This solo space at the heights has given me a special relationship to each mountain: it has been about a triad, viz., the mountain, Louise and infinite space; an experience of the sublime that is different for each mountain. I value each encounter.

(ii) the German phrase das Gehen ist das Ziel could be said to be a motto and description of my attitude to my journey. It is not about arriving, or completing; it is about the process and joy of getting there. I will soon have ticked all the boxes on a list, but I will not have completed my business with these mountains. My completion, such as it will be, will be like passing university entrance exams. I will have achieved the first phase in learning about these mountains, but by no means will that learning be complete. My knowledge of most is based on a single encounter. What sort of knowledge is that?

Every mountain you see in every photo of the Lakes District, I have climbed. You have no idea how satisfying that feels.
(iii) because the whole journey has been about a relationship and not about achieving something, but has been a celebration of my freedom and independence in the mountains, about delicious solitude and doing it myself, unaided, the very last thing I wanted to do, I realised suddenly, was to do my final mountain differently: that is, in the company of others. I wanted whatever emotion I experienced – and observation of my behaviour on this mountain suggested it would be teary rather than celebratory – to be mine alone and not shared with (very nice) strangers. It would be a spiritual time, and I wanted it to be quiet. Now, this was a problem, as, not knowing in advance how I would feel, I had responded positively to the suggestion by the fabulous David Purchase that I do the final climb with a group of special people he was gathering for the occasion. What an honour!! This seemed like such a lovely idea – it was. Only now did I see that my feelings had moved. I didn’t want chatter in my holy moment. I didn’t want other moods or expectations. I didn’t want to have to wait if these other people were slower, or, worse, be led up my own last mountain. I didn’t want my final fell to be any different from all the others.

And so, the most important thing I realised was that I was going to, intentionally, ruin my own party. I was going to do my final mountain today, two days earlier than expected. I would do it tonight, at sunset. I would have preferred dawn on the morrow, but already a forecast of several days’ heavy rain had been made (an excellent excuse for doing it early); today would be better. Then, if David would like, I could do a celebratory reenactment of the final climb with the others, or, if the rain performs as expected, we can skip the idea completely. I will be his servant, and most willingly.

That delicate red dot is Stephen Moore, who represented the UK in the World 100km championships several times, who holds the record for the most completed rounds of Wainwrights, and who came to my completion party. The two of us climbed High Spy together in a fabulous afternoon’s outing after my completion rather than reenacting my final climb. This was a more interesting option for both of us.
Believe it or not, I offer the final statistics:
214 summits. 211 summits experienced solo. 213 summits without rain on top – and I repeated that single erring summit, so can also say 214 without rain on the  summit (we won’t discuss the way up or down). I did have “grey-out” on a significant portion of tops; it’s hard to tell from the photos, but my guess would be at least half, if not more. I experienced very strong winds on several, but only one summit had me crawling to it (Hindscarth) and only one (Knott Rigg) had wind so strong that I had to snake my way on my belly for the final few metres for fear that I would otherwise find myself in the next county.


What do you do when THIS presents itself out the window during your celebration party? Do you leave your guests and be hideously rude and rush out with your camera, or stay demurely smiling, crying inside at the beauty you are not photographing? What I did (the rude option) is rather manifestly clear.

ENGLAND Lake District 2017 Wainwrights 2

England Lake District. 2017. On completion of the Wainwrights, Essay 2.


I have completed “climbing” all the Wainwrights: namely, fells, or what I mostly call mountains. What is  a Wainwright? The definition is operational: it is a fell or mountain that the late Alfred Wainwright immortalised in his wonderful series of ink drawings of what he considered to be the best Lakeland fells. There are 214 of them, published in seven delightful little books.


The Lake District is also, of course, about water as well as beautiful mounds.
I talk of “climbing” the Wainwrights. When I say this, do not picture me with a helmet, rope and carabiners, being belayed up or down a cliff. There were cliffs, indeed, and I chose that route for fun on several occasions, but never with fancy equipment. I use “climb” in the same sense that I say I climbed the stairs, or climbed a ladder to prune my trees. When Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music sang that we should climb every mountain, I don’t think she had ropes and helmets in mind (although, of course, I agree that we should).


Dawn from the Langdale Pikes (Harrison Stickle here). I was so excited to be in the Lakes (and in Europe) I got up at 4.10 on my first morning and climbed 6 mountains before breakfast.
And why do I refer to fells as mountains? Just because I’m Australian, and that is the name we automatically give to a terrestrial lump of a certain size. These English humps are no more or less mountains than Mt Amos, Mt Dove or many other shapes called mountain in my homeland. They are not as high as Mt Kosciusko, but the height difference between nearby base and top is actually, in many cases, more. The shape is also far more impressive. You would have real trouble trying to die on Kosciusko, but unfortunately, it has been proven to be more than possible to fall to your death on the fells. The cliffs have monster drops if you choose that approach. Things are as difficult or as easy as we choose to make them. I hope my choice of language doesn’t confuse. I am writing about England, but I write as an Australian. My relationship to the fells is necessarily tinctured by my own background. As Kant would tell you if you read his first Kritik, knowledge is gained in relationship to existing knowledge; stimuli received within the context of what our brain already contains.

And how do I feel about completion? Please forgive the circularity and intentional banality, but I feel very complete. Every peak on the list has been climbed. There is something beautifully neat and tidy about that (funny, as I am not, with regard, say, to my house, obsessively neat and tidy, but when it has to do with lists, I am). At university, I always read every book on a reading list; here in the mountains, I find there is something satisfying about having a tick beside the name of every mountain. Yes, I know there are nasty words for this “disease”, but it is actually quite a handy one to have. It wins you scholarships and prizes. More important to me than the ticks is the fact that every mountain is in some way “known”; every one, albeit briefly, befriended.

I have fond memories of almost all 214 mountains. As I see each, I remember happy incidents that occurred whilst climbing. I recall my interaction with its shape and surface. My satisfaction has nothing to do with any putative “achievement’, but with something a little harder to pin down. To help me explain, let me recall for you a moment on this trip as I drove into Paterdale on day three to climb the two remaining fells there (neither of which was visible from the car).

As I drove, my peripheral vision had the mesmerising treat of the louring silhouettes of all the surrounding mountains. They seemed so rich in shape, so alluring in their half-caught forms as I still, partially at least, concentrated on the road; so impressive and mysterious. I was in love with each one of them. I couldn’t actually name any of them whilst driving, not without contextualising them in relation to each other, but they all called to me of a world of wonder. It was with a sense of awe and humility that I realised I had climbed every single one. I became teary as I drove and realised this was going to be quite an emotional journey. If I refer to the feeling of knowing I had climbed each one as “satisfaction”, you will see that the chosen word has nothing to do with “achievement”, but something far deeper.


 En route to Tarn Crag for another dawn sunrise
My physical abilities, sure, enable what I was feeling, but they were no end in themselves. I simply love to go upwards, and have a keen sense of, and attachment to, place. In the Lakes, I love both ridges and summits, I love the sheep that inhabit the high places, the wind in my face and time to think. I love the independence of self-propelled navigation. I love the complexity of the bumpy, glaciated terrain that makes it so interesting and casts so many wonderful shadows, the numerous shades of green on a single mountain, and the fabulous moody clouds that so often accompany my efforts.


Stickle Tarn, pre-dawn.
I also love the way you can be out on a truly foul day, minding your own business in a pea-soup fog, and out of the gloom a shape might appear that turns out to be a human form. I don’t regard this as an intrusion on my solitude (especially as I have been lucky enough to have these encounters in saddles rather than on summits). I love connecting with other people who are obviously as mad as I am. Other times, the shapes are just sheep; I greet them too.

Sourmilk Gill. Grey Knotts behind. Taken while climbing Base Brown.
At lunch or in the evenings, in the pubs over soup or steak pie, conversations begin easily with strangers whose kindred spirit to mine is signalled by their boots, or the pile of maps beside them on the table, or a fine specimen of a camera. I enjoy the camaraderie. We compare routes or destinations, or discuss the merits of ViewRanger.

Pavey Ark from Stickle Tarn.
I have now completed all the Wainwrights, but am all too aware that my relationship to these wonderful mountains is only “party deep”. We have met once, over cocktails. I don’t know them with the kind of intimacy that comes with a longer, less superficial relationship. As a result, I have already started on round 2 of the Wainwrights. Old friends are good friends. I am enjoying deepening my acquaintance. Some fells I climbed first with my husband when we were little university students. I have forgotten many details. It is great to be reminded of my first encounter.


Some of the first of my round two list were Maiden Moor, High Spy and Dale Head. I repeatedly ran up these for training in the early 1990s, fabulous inclines to make me fit for the approaching World Championships, my focus at that time. Now I walked up carrying my full-frame DSLR and tripod. For the first time, I photographed them. For the first time, I took in their detailed structure. In the nineties, of course I noticed the fabulous views over the edge that they offered, but this time I had more time to appreciate it. No World Championships were pressurising my horizons this time.

I can’t wait to repeat old friends like Fairfield, Robinson, Great and Green Gable, Haystacks – all fells that I did a long, long time ago, and many of which I didn’t even photograph, as photos were exorbitantly expensive back then in film days, and on a student budget. I am excited. Completion is a new beginning, not an end.

ENGLAND Lake District 2016

England, Lake District, 2016

We’d been travelling for forty hours, which included the couple-of-hours’ drive from Manchester to the Lakes. After an alfresco pub dinner, I needed to stretch my legs, so climbed the first mountain that night: Troutbeck Tongue.
Fells Walking in the Lake District, 2016 version. Wainwrights.
We first visited the Lake District BC (Before Children), influenced in our choice by the English Romantic poets we’d studied at Uni. We came straight from Switzerland, but the height difference didn’t bother me at all and neither did the lack of a jagged, diamond-shaped summit.
Scene out our window at Maggs Howe, Kentmere  our first base this year  a lovely B&B with a huge “sun” room for reading, and magnificent breakfasts. We loved our veggie lasagne dinner too.
What impressed me far more was the intricacy of the glaciated lumps and bumps that produced interesting shadows and changes in the theme of green. The stone walls and sheep, quaint villages and lakes all added their charm. It was like drinking pinot grigio instead of cordial; I enjoy subtler flavours. The only boring bit was that the wretched people spoke English, but I guess they can’t be abused for that.
Setting out for the first peak on the Kentmere Seven: Shipman Knotts. It’s lovely when the people who run your B&B know the fells too. I had laid out the map on the breakfast table before setting out, showing Christine (Magg’s Howe) my intended route. She nodded her approval. Richard at Scales Farm did the same, and loved talking maps and routes with me in the evening. The English actually navigate their fells: they don’t just go baa behind a leader. I like it. 

We climbed many peaks that first trip; I climbed more later as an athlete training and competing in the area (not many more, actually: I was like a record stuck in the groove of running from Derwent Water up Cat Bells to Dale Head each day. I couldn’t get enough of that particular view. It seemed the perfect workout). Meanwhile, we had fallen in love with the sensitivity to nature and the sense of humour of a guy called Alfred Wainwright whose Coast to Coast and The Penine Way books we’d chucklingly devoured when we did those walks, so we now bought the whole of his collection on the English peaks, called after him, the Wainwrights. A Wainwright is, quite simply, a mountain that has made it into his books. It seems that a lot more people than just us liked this guy’s taste when it came to beauty.

Haweswater

After I bought the books (2012), I began ticking in the index at the back the ones I’d climbed. Uh oh. You guessed. I decided I wanted no black spaces in those indexes. I became a collector of Wainwrights. 2014 was the first trip where I actually began systematically to mop up spare mountains lying, accidentally neglected, about the place. I continued my cleaning operations last year and again this year, managing around 35 or so new mountains each eight-day visit. 

 Steel Knotts

A wonderful aspect of this completing game, both in Tasmania and England, is that it propels you to climb peaks that you might otherwise dismiss as being too easy, too foreboding, too boring or too far away. They must all be climbed, and ultimately, each one, however dull it may seem before you get to meet it properly, has a story which is worth knowing. So, in 2014 I found myself climbing mountains that had looked formidably steep or high from face on. Both abroad and at home, I have had to have a massive redefinition of “can’t do”. With map and compass I go out in any weather; after all, clouds are interesting, and mist is wonderfully moody. There’s a Wuthering Heights-type wildness up there alone in the windswept tops by yourself. 

Beginning my final peak for this morning: Hallin Fell, looking back at Beda Fell, which I would climb the next day (for the second time) before breakfast.

I am now in the endgame of this mission. This 2016 trip was carefully planned, and next year’s trip is mapped out already. I know the order in which I’ll climb my remaining peaks, and the particular base I’ll use for each cluster.

Setting out for Beda Fell as the sun peeps around the corner. Ullswater below.
You have to be systematic in the endgame, as accidentally leaving one mountain out could require an extra trip to the UK – a rather expensive omission – or, even if you’ve allowed enough additional days for error, if you’ve planned for and booked the next base, you might be geographically stuck. Also, of course, it’s unnecessary to pay for fourteen days when you can get the job finished in nine. I have treated the whole matter as a quasi rogaining exercise, and I believe I’ve grouped the residue mountains in the best way. Had I known I would end up collecting Wainwrights, I would have been a lot less random and haphazard at the start, when I just chose the shapes that pleased and went up them.
On Beda Fell
I’ve really enjoyed being challenged to climb mountains that didn’t initially appeal. Life and nature are full of variety, and it’s not good to only do our single favourite activity, or eat our most preferred dinner each night – or to only mix with a single kind of person. We become narrow and unhealthy in several ways. Fresh elements are required in any system to keep it functioning well, Climbing mountains that I thought were too dull is part of imbibing life’s variety. Sometimes these “ugly ducklings” offered an unexpected surprise; they were always an experience to be valued as enriching my life with their tiny dose of added complexity. As Niklas Luhmann correctly says, there is nothing with absolutely no meaning: even “meaningless” has a meaning.
The moody lower slopes of Blencathra, stage lit on the ridge with a single shaft of light.

 My favourite mountain this year was Blencathra, full of drama and mystique, shrouded in thick cloud. A popular mountain due to its height and bulk, I had it all to myself that day (as long as you don’t count sheep). The monster drop over the sharp edge of the summit ridge, should you get careless and accidentally step off the mountain, would be every bit as deadly as falling off the Matterhorn (I am not actually sure how people manage to accidentally step off a mountain, even in thick mist, but I have a friend who died that way, so it is possible, even if beyond my comprehension). 

This is not the steep drop to which I was referring, but you can see that even the “gentle” slopes of Blencathra are pretty steep.

My two favourite routes were the Kentmere Seven (in which I climbed eight, so I’m not sure which one gets kicked out of the in-group), and a route I did above Ullswater that took in Arthurs Pike, Bonscale Pike, Loadpot Hill, Wether Hill, (Brownthwaite Crag), Steel Knotts and Hallin Fell (starting from Sharrow Bay), with brilliant vistas nearly the whole way. For all routes, I was back at base for lunch with my husband who had left home so stressed that not even the beauty of England and removal from his work could help him regain his composure. Sadly, he only climbed three of my thirty-seven mountains, and spent many days sleeping. He was anxious and uncomfortable away from home, and wanted to return, so I arranged for him to go back early. It is with huge sadness that I realise this was probably our last attempt at travelling together. He was always an intrepid adventurer, but now his illness is catching up with him. Thank goodness we did so very much together while we could.

Across the road from our accommodation at Bassenthwaite
On the first day in England, I met my counterpart, David Purchase, who keeps records of the completers of the Wainwrights, who had helped me as I researched information for my recent article in Wild magazine (issue 153 if you’d like to get a copy). It was fun to meet him in the flesh after writing emails for half a year. When I complete the Wainwrights next visit, I will be the first non-European to do so, and David will climb my final mountain with me. That will be fun.
The scenery on my final cluster of three mountains for this visit, and my husband is with me. 
And here he is at the summit of his third and final mountain for the trip. He then went back to the car while I continued to do more.
If you’re planning on being in England June next year, maybe you’d like to join us on top to celebrate. I’ve chosen a nice doable mountain for the final one, just in case Bruce decides he can cope with Europe, just in case … whatever.

Post script. I have realised, a week after publishing this, that I have not expressed my gratitude to a person I have never met, but to whom I am greatly indebted in this venture: David Hall of http://www.davidhalllakedistrictwalks.co.uk. The old name for his site was walkthefells. David publishes his various routes up each fell (with times and distances), and gives advice on parking. Not knowing the area, I find his parking hints to be indispensable, and his routes always make interesting (map) reading. I love staring at maps, imagining myself walking along the route indicated by the colourful line crossing its features. His pictures are wonderful. The site makes great browsing, even if you don’t ever want to visit the Lakes.