I’ve spent what little spare time I’ve had in the evenings over the last week staring at the map and my Lake District wallchart, trying to crack the puzzle that is the Far Eastern Fells. And I think I might finally be getting somewhere…
The octopus-like nature of the FE Fells makes for difficult planning when your objective is to pick off as many as possible without going over the same ground twice. And particularly so at the eastern end of the area where fells swoop down in a series of parallel valleys towards the A6. The solution is quite simple really, and consists of two parts.
To start with, my first go at a plan assumed that I would access the fells pretty much directly from either Penrith or Windermere, using buses that ply the A592 via Patterdale. Fair enough, but that doesn’t help me with the more remote fells. And as I expect to have some left over at the end of trip, and which are likely to be odds and sods, it would make sense to leave the more accessible ones – I can probably pick those off in conjunction with the 6 Eastern Fells I still have to do. So maybe I shouldn’t look at the obvious access strategy of the main Patterdale road and bus route.
That leaves two alternatives – strike up from the Oxenholme-Windermere railway, or from the A6. The former is certainly doable but is a relatively long walk-in before you get to any sensible fells. And this route pretty much wastes the Kentmere Horseshoe and doesn’t work well from the perspective of avoiding retracing steps.
The latter has more promise though. I won’t have a car with me (that’s against my rules), so what I really need is a bus that follows the A6. Well one does but only on the stretch between Penrith and Shap – after Shap it diverts further east through some other villages. But that might be ok. I could bus down to Shap and access the fells via Wasdale Pike and Great Yarlside. This would take me straight up to a problem tentacle and reduce some of the repeated ground. Maybe I’m on to something.
The second part of the solution is simply reminding myself how much I’ve enjoyed the Outlying Fells that I’ve already done, and that it’s no bad thing if I have to tramp over a few to get me to where I need to be. And I can be reasonably sure that I won’t be constantly bumping into people up there, as the crowds flock around the honeypots a bit further west. It sounds ideal, but I don’t want to get carried away and spend all of my time in the Outliers. So I’m going to allow myself the first night somewhere in the Outlying Fells and then head for my “local” Wainwright (by local I mean only 200 odd miles from home), Grey Crag.
There’s a further consideration too. One of the aims of this trip is to simulate what I’ll have to face in the Cheviots – specifically a possible 3 nights in the middle of nowhere – and I think the FE fells are the best place to do this in the Lakes. A read of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells book reveals that the FE outliers are more like the Pennines in some ways, being rolling hills with some hefty doses of peat hags every so often, and this too seems like good training for the C2C. By starting at the extreme eastern end, I hit the remote terrain early while I’m fresh and am more likely to be able to take 3 nights in one hit. My resolve tends to weaken as a trip progresses and so if I’m to do 3 remote nights in one go then it needs to be early in the trip.
Even with this apparent harmony starting to run through the plan, there’s not a good efficient way of knocking the fells off, as any student of graph theory would spot immediately. So, apart from the start, and my walk out at the end, I’m going to leave most of the walk to be made up on the spot, and let my fitness and motivation determine the pace and the extent to which I try to cover terrain. I’m going to set myself a rule of not leaving any isolated Wainwrights or Nuttalls that would be difficult to pick off on the inevitable mop up. But apart from that the plan is flexible.
I’m on 159 Wainwrights and 150 English Nuttalls and am hoping to add around 20 and 16 respectively to these totals. Maybe about 10 Outlying Fells too, adding to my 21 so far. But it’s not really about the stats, despite their usefulness as a tool.
Having been a bit ambivalent about the Far Eastern fells in the past, I’m really looking forward to the trip. I’m hopefully going to solve a puzzle that’s been bothering me for a couple of years, and hone my wild camping skills further. Just the small matter of 11 working days to go…