The A to Z of Mountains and Malbec

No walking planned for a few weeks, so with a bit of a tail off in blog posts as a result, I thought I would nick an idea from a friend’s blog and do an A to Z of Mountains and Malbec. Though mine is a little less serious than theirs was!

A is for arse crampon. Well it has to be really doesn’t it. Otherwise known as five points of contact which I am well aware is not a recommended scrambling technique. But although he didn’t use the term Wainwright himself commented that a sturdy posterior was an excellent tool for a hill walker indeed only second to a good pair of feet. The downside to use of the arse crampon can be looking stupid but I would far rather look stupid than fall over.

B is for bad back. . As regular readers will know I suffered a spinal injury some years ago (broke a vertebra in my lower back) and my back still plays up from time to time. Often it doesn’t affect my hill walking but sometimes it does and I have to listen to what my body is trying to tell me and plan accordingly. Also B is for beer (a good thing) and bog (not a good thing, unless it’s frozen or by some miracle has dried out). Continue reading

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2017: a year in review

Wainwrights done in year: 21
Wainwright total at end of year: 82
Munros done in year: 0 😦
Other new classified hills done: 5 (3 Marilyns, an Outlying Wainwright and a Graham)
Repeats: 1 (Arthur’s Seat, for the umpteenth time)
Trips to Scotland: 4 (including for rugby)
Trips to the Lake District: 9 (of varying length)
Hungover walks: 2 (plus a couple more when slightly fuzzy around the edges)
Beer festivals attended: 4 (2 in the Lakes, 2 in Kent)
Transport debacles: Too many
Trouser debacles: Same
Glasses of wine drunk: Don’t ask.

With 2018 fast approaching, I thought it was time to reflect on how 2017 had gone.

Compared to 2016, it was a pretty good year for hill walking: in 2016 I managed 13 new hills and one repeat and numerically this year was a lot better. I managed to add a total of 26 hills to my ‘bag’ of which the vast majority were Wainwrights; I also managed to climb a classified hill of some description every month this year for the first time, although it did require a bit of creativity in a couple of months by way of slightly artificial bagging runs to a couple of South Eastern England Marilyns. However, it was the first year since I took up hill walking that I did no Munros; this was largely a consequence of it having become increasingly more expensive to get to Scotland compared to the Lakes, with the sleeper train having priced itself out of the market under its new ownership (which will most likely only get worse once the new deluxe trains are introduced next year) and flight times having become increasingly inconvenient with Easyjet cutting the late night Friday flight to Glasgow off its summer schedule making weekend mad dashes north of the Border basically impossible. I hope to get back on the Munros at some point in the future, but will have to see what happens. Continue reading

A weekend in the Lakes without the car: a Mountains and Malbec guide

As regular readers of my blog will know, I do a lot of my walking in the Lake District via public transport. This makes weekend jaunts possible without the need for a long and tiring drive – though some areas of the Lakes are a lot more difficult to get to without a car than others (Wasdale in particular springs to mind). However, doing things this way does require a fair bit of planning – with the inevitable possibility of things going hideously wrong! Which of course has happened on more than one occasion.  Continue reading

Brokeback mountains: hill walking with a spinal injury

 
This month I appeared in Trail magazine in an article about hill walking as a life changer or following a life changing event. It was a brief snippet with one of my usual terrible summit selfies to accompany it (on the summit of Barrow, with insomnia but thankfully not hungover).

As those of you that have read some of my older posts, or the ‘about me’ page on this blog, I took up hill walking in 2008, climbing my first Munro with Stuart 4 years to the day after an operation to insert 4 titanium screws and 2 plates in my lower back to stabilise my spine following a riding accident. I was extremely lucky that things hadn’t been worse – the doctors said I had been ‘a thumbnail away from a wheelchair’. As it was I needed 3 months in a back brace, physiotherapy and 6 months off work to convalesce.

Spinal injury or not, anyone who has ever had back problems – whatever the cause – will know that bad backs are tricky things. Personally I never really know how my back is going to behave on any given day. There are days when I can go for a long hill walk with plenty of ascent and cope absolutely fine – and be up for more of the same the day after. There are days when I go for a long hill walk and know coming off the hill there is no chance of same the day after. And there are days when I struggle with the walk to the bus stop and find myself moving at the pace of an arthritic tortoise. It doesn’t – thankfully – affect my day to day life but there are days when pain killers (by which I mean Paracetamol, not Malbec!) are very much required. Continue reading

Hamlet for hill walkers: to bag or not to bag?

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. Continue reading

Hill walking cliches – fact or fiction?

With my recent walking exploits now committed to the page and nothing else planned for a few weeks, I thought it was time for some further musings about the politics of hill walking: namely some of the hill walking/ mountaineering clichés that get trotted out from time to time. As we all know some clichés are clichés because they are true, but not all of them!

Caveat: this is my personal view, and not intended to be a criticism of anyone else’s views, whether expressed on hill walking forums, Facebook or anywhere else.

1. ’There is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing’

This one is particularly relevant after my recent soaking in the Lake District! Continue reading

Wainwright by Hunter Davies: a sort of book review

This is a bit of a different post for me. The walking – after getting off to a great start in the Lakes in January – has been on a bit of a hiatus – combo of no planned trips and a run of conferences at work. Various journeys did however allow me to catch up on my reading – specifically Hunter Davies’ biography of Wainwright. So this is – sort of – a book review.

It was rather daft I’d not read this before. I’ve read a lot of books about climbing hills or mountains but they’ve tended to be mountaineering epics where someone doesn’t come back with a full complement of digits. I have a feeling my dad suggested I read it when I first started hillwalking but for whatever reason I didn’t and when my parents had a clear out on moving from a large house into a small flat I ended up with their entire Wainwright collection (basically the pictorial stuff from the TV series) but the biography had mysteriously vanished. I finally acquired a copy at the tail end of my New Year trip to Ambleside. Continue reading