Some Reflections on Peakbagging

A temporary aberation or a permanent affliction ?

Readers of this blog recently, may have noticed that it seems to gone a bit anal at times, particularly in relation to peakbagging lists. I’d like to reassure you that I’ve not gone completely over to the dark side. But with all of this time on my hands recently, and moreover time which for one reason or another I wasn’t able to spend actually on hills, I’ve been doing some housekeeping on my hill data, maps, charts etc, and this has had a few side effects.

Firstly, with more time to plan trips in detail, I’ve gone on them (particularly the trip to Snowdonia in May and the Lake District trip a couple of weeks ago) equipped with thorough lists of what peaks to visit and bag, including all of the minor lumps of rock that fall naturally close to the planned routes.

This was really all prompted by getting an update of the Database of British Hills (DoBH), and the more easy identification of the Birketts. So for the first time when I went to the Lakes this time, I went not just with a list of Wainwrights and Nuttalls to “acquire” but also details of all of the Birketts in the vicinity, and with routes pre-planned to knock these off. And when I went to Snowdonia with thorough details, that was as much due to lack of familiarity with the area, and hence more planning effort invested.

Secondly, I’ve updated my master planning chart of the Lake District and which now shows over 600 hills, including the 500+ Birketts. And staring at this chart and the OS maps to get them positioned and joined up into ridgelines has made me a lot more familiar with them.

Through doing this update, I’ve also become painfully aware of some of the Birketts that I’ve missed over the years through not being aware of them. Now I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not trying to bag all of the Birketts, just to get those that fall naturally within the scope of the walks to claim the Wainwrights and Nuttalls.

Thirdly, there’s that semi-argument I had with that guy on Birkhouse Moore about hill lists.

Fourthly, I’ve given my completion dates a good review, found a few minor Birketts that I’ve actually done and not recorded, and also challenged myself on some that I have recorded to be sure that I have actually got them. And now I’m worried.

A Possible Miscarriage of Justice ?

I’m worried that I may have celebrated my halfway through the Wainwrights early, albeit only by a couple of hours. But I made a big thing about reaching halfway on Rossett Pike last year, and I may have to accept that my true halfway fell may actually have been Great Gable – which wouldn’t be a bad fell to have as the halfway point, especially as it also represents a fell I failed at the first time I tried to climb it.

The reason for this concern: Silver How. On the last day of my June 2008 trip, I climbed Helm Crag then worked my way round Far Easedale taking in Gibson Knott, Calf Crag, Tarn Crag, Codale Head, Sergeant Man, Blea Rigg and, Silver How. But Silver How is a strange one. The actual summit, which I definitely visited, is not the Wainwright “summit”. And even having pored over the maps today, I’m starting to question whether I did make it all the way to the Wainwright summit before striking down for a path to Grasmere. Back then I didn’t have my altimeter, which now renders such issues trivial.

Now, I’m not going to cut my nose off to spite my face and knock it off my done list, at least not yet – after all I did actually summit the fell – but I do feel that I now have to revisit Silver How to make sure that I visited both the real summit and the Wainwright summit.

Now that’s not the end of the world either, as I have a missed Birkett and several tarns up there too, plus I quite like that part of the Lakes. But having to go back and redo “work” that I thought I probably wouldn’t go back to is a bit irritating.

So, it’s already decided that the next trip to the Lakes will include visits to any fells over which there is any doubt whatsoever. This will also give me the chance to pick up a few tarns that I might not otherwise consider worth a dedicated walk. Luckily Silver How is the only major fell (by which I mean a Wainwright or Nuttall) that I have doubts over, and I really couldn’t care less about the Birketts (indeed I think I’ve actually been too strict with recording them!). But why is it that that corner of the Lakes causes me so much trouble!?

And now this brings me nicely to the real question. Do I consider myself a true peakbagger, or just someone who uses the lists as an aid to planning walks? How seriously should I take ticking off the summits ? Certainly, I’ll admit to working on bagging the Wainwrights and the Nuttalls (at least those in the Lakes), and also to wanting to know how much of each category of peak I’ve actually done. But I can sense the danger of being sucked in and ending up setting myself impossible targets through sheer greed, as at the moment I’m tracking how many Trail 100, Munros, Hewitts, Nuttalls, Deweys, Marilyns, HuMPs, Birketts, Wainwrights, and Wainwright Outlying Fells I’ve done. And now I’ve started tracking the Lakeland tarns more seriously too.

There is one huge positive I have gained from using the lists – they’ve made me more aware of what’s out there and forced me to explore further afield than I might otherwise have done. And targeting some of the more obscure tops has got me hills to myself, which is also a bonus – after all why else would anyone visit Cold Pike Far West Top, or turn aside from the Corridor Route to summit Round How or Middleboot Knotts ? And it’s conceivable that without the lists, my interest in hillwalking could have withered and died once I’d done the well-known stuff, and got it all out of my system. So the lists have certainly helped me maintain my interest, particularly in the off-season when I’m not really walking.

So I suppose I’ve probably answered my own question, and if nothing else, this post proves that I really do need to get out more, especially now that I’ve done tinkering with my data and now can focus on using it as a tool, and nothing more.