When I was a kid, the Wainwrights were something that my parents and their middle-aged friends talked about whilst huddled around a map. Growing up on the fringes of the Lake District in the 80’s, I was more interested in my BMX or when Miami Vice was on TV.
My parents were big on their walking, climbing and running and I even vaguely remember being introduced to the mighty Alfred Wainwright in our suburban front room at some point. None of this impressed me in the slightest at the time asIT WAS BORING!
However, roll on 40 years (the majority of those being infatuated with bikes) and despite living so close to them, I’d never really set foot in the Lakeland hills; all my riding and racing was on roads/bridleways or in far flung flat places to ‘mountain’ bike race. Since my situation has changed and I cannot drive for 12 months (read 24 Hours of Awful) I decided to concentrate my efforts on completing the Bob Graham round this year. But knowing absolutely zero about the lakeland fells and knowing I was about to spend a huge amount of time training in them, I needed some guidance of where to go and what to do.
A shameful conversation with my parents followed (in the same front room in which I had met Mr Wainright) where I confessed that although I’d never previously had any interest in the hills, I now needed advice about where to go. They brought up the topic of the Wainwrights and here we are. So 2019 is the year that Katie (my wife) and I are going to try to run all the 214 hills of Alfred. Not all in one go I hasten to add - I’m no Steve Birkenshaw (who managed to complete them all in just 6 days and 13 hours).
We started on New Years Day and ticked off 10. This first foray went up Striding Edge in rare sunny Lakeland weather ticking off Helvelyn, Dollywagon Pike etc. This day was amazing and we hoped they would all be this sunny and quiet. I thought at this rate we’ll have them knocked off by Easter, however with jobs, training for the BG and the more usual Lake District weather, we didn't quite make the full list by the time Easter came around.We're still making good progress though, and at over half way with 108 ticked off, we're looking forward to some big Wainwright bagging days as the summer roles in.
What am I learning about the Lake District? Alfred had an odd choice in hills – I’m unsure why he picked certain ones and left others out. For instance, the ones around Longsleddle are hardly big hitters and seem to be surrounded in bog. But some of the routes and fells we have gone up have given me a huge appreciation of why my parents moved me here in the first place. I don’t hold it against them anymore, even if it isn’t the sunny skies of Miami.