Wednesday, 1 November 2017


After 10 months of serious hiking on, Saturday we completed the 3rd part of the 50th year challenge on the top of Castle Crag, just South of Keswick, in the wonderful English Lakes.
This part of the challenge was to climb 50 Wainwright Peaks in the Lake District during the year. We started back on 22nd January climbing Ullock Pike and then up to last week we had managed to climb a further 45 peaks, leaving 4 to complete the 50 target. The issue was the weather was getting worse, and the days shorter, so we set off early Saturday morning with a daring plan to climb the last 4 Wainwright in one day, even though none of Victoria’s several weather apps showed favourable conditions.
The weather in the lakes looked not too bad at on the journey across but it was only when we parked at the foot of Cat Bells that we looked up and could see nothing but thick mist and no mountain tops. It was now Victoria said, and I quote “failure is not an option”, words she would later regret.
The one thing we have learned after many days in the lakes is you must be prepared for ever changing weather. Our standard kit includes food, water, hats, gloves, coats, map, compass, mobile phones and GPS. As we climbed steeply the weather worsened, the wind grew stronger, the rain started and visibility started to reduce. An hour later we reached our first Wainwright peak of the day – Cat Bells (1480ft)

Wainwright number 47 of 2017 - Cat Bells - slightly limited visibility
After Cat Bells, we set off for peak number 2, the weather continued to close in and if it wasn’t for the “failure is not an option” attitude, we would have headed straight for the pub, but onwards we went and eventually with the help of our trusty GPS we reached Wainwright number 2 of the day – Maiden Moor (1816ft)
Wainwright 48 of 2017 - Maiden Moor - starting to get wetter and less visibility
2 down and off we set for the 3rd peak of the day, the weather was now terrible, gale force winds, torrential rain and next to zero visibility, but onwards and upwards we climbed to reach the highest peak of the day – High Spy (2142ft). This is when my fundamental error and lack if preparation became apparent, our trusty GPS flashed up with the low battery sign, someone (i.e. me) had forgot to charge it. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem as being a boy scout a map and compass will navigate you to safety. The issue however was with zero visibility it is impossible to see any features to navigate by map and we were over 2000ft up a mountain.
Wainwright Number 49 of 2017 - High Spy - Now Soaked to the skin and can barely se a hand in front of us. (Even the dog looks sick)
Two options – retrace our steps and head back on the route we knew, but “Failure is not an option” so map in hand we headed off to try and find the last Wainwright peak, GPS now completely dead. The route required us to take a sharp left turn off the faint track we had been following for the last hour or so. The map showed a Tarn situated a short distance after the turn, we soon reached the tarn meaning one thing; we had missed the left turn. So, we retraced our steps and still could not find the route. “Failure could now very much be an option”. Reading the map, the Tarn had a stream flowing from it, which due to gravity will always head downhill, looking at the map a faint track followed the stream to the valley below. We decided for safety we needed to take the safe option and head down the mountain.
Victoria trying to put on a brave face
Downhearted we headed down to reach the valley floor and started the 4-mile trek around the mountains we had just climbed back to the car. 49 Wainwrights completed we would need to try and fit another one in, which would mean another trip to the Lakes. Then the conversation went something like this: What time did it get dark? What time had we arranged to be in the pub? Could we possibly? We needed to be in the car home by 5pm? Shall we go for it? Remember “failure is not an option”. So, the pace was increased, arriving back to the car (now complete with a bloody parking ticket). A 20-minute drive later we arrived at the opposite side of the mountains we had just come down from and set off on another more defined track back up the hills to try and complete the challenge of climbing 50 Wainwrights in a year. So, tired, windswept and soaked to the skin we reached the peak of Castle Crag. An eventful day, and an eventful challenge. A quick glass of Prosecco to celebrate, a speedy descent, in the car by 5:01pm, home 6:50pm, Pub at 7:25pm, bad head by Sunday morning.
50th Wainwright of the year - Castle Crag - A tough but enjoyable challenge
So for the record this year we have climbed: Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side, Dodd, Stoney Cove Pike, Hartsop Dodd, Thornwaite Crag, Gray Crag, Nab Scar, Heron Pike, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Pike, Low Pike, Tarn Crag, Sergeant Man, Sour Howes, Swallows, Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Troutbeck Tongue, Clough Head, Great Dodd, Arthur Pike, Bonscale Pike, Loadpot Hill, Whether Hill, Steel Knotts, Burnbank Fell, Blake Fell, Gavel Fell, Hen Comb, Barf, Lords Seat, Broom Fell, Graystones, Whinlatter, Dow Crag, Old Man of Conniston, Brimfell, Swirl How, Great Carrs, Grey Friar, Cat Bells, Maiden Moor, High Spy and Castle Crag in 2017.
66½ hours of walking over 14 days. Every possible weather from sun to hailstones, often all on the same day. 3 days when we started and had to turn back because the weather closed in – always be prepared and finally always charge your GPS

So, 1st November, now training changes to half marathon preparation. Final and biggest part of the challenge is 21km/13.1 miles of running in the middle of winter, 250 miles north of the arctic circle, in the dark, on ice at between -10 and -25 degrees.

Next update will be in January if and when I make it back from the extremes of the North, please remember this is all been done to raise valuable funds for the wonderful Willow Burn Hospice