To paraphrase Hamlet – to bag or not to bag, that is the question…
A question that comes up from time to time on hill walking forums and related social media is the question of bagging. Specifically, whether people are or are not trying to complete a list and the rights and wrongs of whether you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ try to. It’s a question I’ve been mulling over, sparked by seeing a couple of things on social media which generated a lot of debate – and finally decided to get out of my drafts folder on a packed train back from Penrith.
The ‘purist’ version of bagging seems to be that once you have started working through a list you should try and see it through to the end. In its worst form this can be another example of ‘hillier than thou’ behaviour i.e. if you decide you are not going to finish a list once you have started it you are a quitter/ lazy/ not a proper hill walker and so on (jibes I’ve been on the receiving end of on occasion).
Other extreme views I have seen online are (a) that you have to start the hill at sea level for it to count (bonkers as to make this work in the Cairngorms you would have to start the walk in Aberdeen) or (b) seen in the context of Wainwrights, that you should really do each hill separately as AW wrote a chapter on each (fine if you want to but given there are tons of good ridge routes seems an awful lot of effort).
However the vast majority of people with the bagging bug are perfectly nice and reasonable just happen to enjoy the challenge of working their way through a list. There are many positive benefits of hill bagging not least getting to see lots of different areas of Scotland/ the Lakes/ wherever and getting fitter (though I’ve failed spectacularly on the latter point).
The purist version of not bagging also seems to exist – I have seen some comments on social media along the lines of ‘why bother bagging surely you should just enjoy the hill’. I’ve even heard of people deliberately not going to the very top of the hill as some sort of anti bagging statement. Again nothing wrong with any of that but looking down on people who do bag seems just as wrong to me as looking down on people that don’t.
Where I fit in is somewhere in between. I tick hills off on an app, two websites and a big spreadsheet and would generally rather do a new hill than a repeat. But I’m not convinced I will finish any of the lists. In the case of the Munros it’s a combination of factors: firstly that my dislike of exposure and total uselessness at rock climbing means that unless the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye falls down my chances of ever finishing the Cuillin are zero, and secondly that given my old back injury I probably have about 10 more decent years of walking in me which won’t be enough time. I’m very much enjoying the Wainwrights, but again doubt I will finish, in this case less to do with any technical difficulty than that some of them (hello Armboth Fell and Mungrisdale Common) just don’t inspire. But we’ll see where we end up!
The whole thing seems to me to be a matter of personal choice. As I’ve said in previous posts the main thing is getting out there and enjoying the hills in whatever way suits you. If you want to bag great, if you don’t that’s great too but respect each others’ choice to enjoy the hills in their own way. And have fun!