Route Planning

So go on then, how do you plan to “bag” 214 separate summits in the Lake District? In an ideal world you would set off on a walk and not finnish it until all 214 summits lay behind you, one walk, 214 summits, no problem!
Meanwhile back in the real world there are considerations such as the location, the weather, the number of daylight hours, the fitness and stamina of the group, anything on the planned route that we might take time to look around, or at, and of course any unforeseen eventuality. And I used to think it was just a case of putting on a pair of boots and going for a walk!I will list the various points that I take into account when I plan a walk and how I do it, and more to the point why I do it! They are not necessarily in any particular order, one may depend on another, or not as the case may be, sometimes, if it works!
The Location
Wainwright split the Lake District up into 7 distinct areas. The Northern Fells, The North Western Fells, The Western Fells The Southern Fells, The Central Fells, The Eastern Fells and finally the Far Eastern Fells. I am not sure what criteria he used to split up the areas, by chance, or was it good planing, the number of fells within each area are quite similar, ranging from 24 in The Northern Fells to 36 in The Far Eastern Fells. He used natural geographical boundaries such as lakes, rivers or valleys. This makes sense, but unfortunately for the modern day walker with a car and who likes to ponder over things might question some of these. For example some of the Southern Fells that you can walk to from Wasdale Head or Eskdale such as Whin Rigg or Illgill Head and of course Slight Side, Scafell, and Scafell Pike mean a car journey in from the coast, ie, the WEST side of the Lake District. Again Longsleddale is the starting point for walks in the Far Eastern Fells such as Tarn Crag and Grey Crag, but to get into Longsleddale you approach from the SOUTH! Again certain of the Eastern Fells such as Great Mell Fell most people would consider to be in the NORTH.
So as not to be left with all of the Western Fells to finish off I try to split the walks into different areas as defined by Wainwright. I can think of nothing worse than to have to drive home along the coast road south after a long day on the fells! Imagine having to do it weekend after weekend, no thanks! Again due to the distance involved in driving to and from certain areas I have tried to leave the hard to get to places (for us) such as Wasdale Head, Ennerdale and Buttermere for the longer days in the summer. During the shorter days in winter the easier to get to places (for us again) seem to be visited more often. As well as these considerations I also seem to think about how easy a place is to reach from the M6. Hence Keswick, being easy to reach along the A66 is also used as a starting point for some plans. I guess this makes a mockery of everything that I have said before but I know what I mean!
The Weather
The weather should be one of the most important things to consider when planning a walk. I generally start looking at the BBC weather forecasts for towns such as Keswick, Kendal, Penrith and Workington about 5 days before a walk is planned. This will give me a general feel for what is happening. If there is rain forecast I will do one of two things. During the early walks with lots of fells to have a go at I would plan a walk in the area that is opposite to where the weather is coming from. If the weather is coming in from the Atlantic in the west I would consider doing a walk in the Eastern or Far Eastern area. If the bad weather is coming up from the south I would consider going to the northern fells. There is science behind this, phrases like “Orographic rainfall” and “Rain shadow” mean that if there is high ground between you and the weather you might stay dry, unfortunately this being the Lake District it does not always work out that way! Then again I always have a plan B and sometimes a C,D and E! This usually entails a lower fell. This does not mean that we will not get wet, it means that we will not get wet for as long as we would on a longer, higher fell! Also bear in mind that if the cloud level is at 2000′ feet you would not get much of a view anyway, so what would be the point of going above that height? Conversely, in the summer on very very hot days to walk up high is very hard work. You would have to carry huge amounts of water to be sure that de hydration is not a problem. On days like these I have found that you cant see anything either due to the haze! So again I would now consider a lower walk and not as far, last summer we had a perfect example of this when we did Allen Crags and Glaramara, poor visibility, too hot to enjoy it and very tired at the end of it! A smaller walk would have been much better on that day!
Daylight Hours
This is a strange one this! When I first started walking in the Lake District this was never an issue, I used to set off at the crack of dawn and be walking by 8 or 9 at the latest. Because Sarah has to come up from the Wirral and John from Skelmersdale we sometimes don’t start walking un till 10 or 11 or even later, this still means a 7 am set off for Sarah! . In winter this can leave us with only 5 hours of daylight at the most. In the summer we have still been on the fells at 7pm sometimes. If we did that walk in winter it could mean walking for 3 hours in the dark! What would be the point! Don’t get me wrong, we are now always prepared for the unexpected. Both myself and Sarah always carry head torches just in case (this followed a walk out of Eskdale in the pitch black pre web site era!) Walking in the dark is not as bad as it may seem, get away from street lights and it is amazing how much you can see with just the moon and stars to provide light, that is of course if it is not cloudy, raining or overcast! So the longer walks I will plan for summer and shorter walks for the winter, sensible really if you think about it!
Fitness and Stamina
Another strange one! It is so easy to sit at home and look at a map and think that a walk is easy! I always used to fall for this one, it’s only that far on the map, no problem at all! In reality looking at a map will not tell you how long a walk will take, or if you can actually do it! John’s body is a temple, he goes to the gym, eats all the right foods (even thought they taste c**p!, Sarah keeps fit by spending hours walking (shopping) or doing vigorous exercise (dancing to loud music!) I keep fit by smoking, drinking and sitting in front of a PC doing this web site! So there are different fitness levels amongst us. Most of the time this involves me playing catch up with the others, but I must say that I sometimes seem to have more go in me at the end of a walk than the others, well it has happened once! I always like to think along the lines of the Tortoise and the Hare, well it makes me feel better! There have been many times when we have been passed by walkers who seem to be running compared to our pace, well my pace! This could mean a difference of hours on a long walk, so I will always plan a walk going on the fitness of the weakest member of the party, me! Saying that, if we walk with people that we do not know the fitness levels of I will always take the easiest option available. In my defense I do have some problems with my feet that usually involve walking at a snails pace going down hill. At the start of this Wainwright bagging thing both myself and Sarah suffered from Knee problems going down hill. With more and more walks under our belts this seems to be a thing of the past though. It is amazing how these things can slow you down though, compared to other walkers.
Points of interest
I know that this may seem a bit daft but if there is something that might be of interest along the way I will plan for it. The main examples of this are the quarry’s and caves that are dotted about the Lake District. We do seem to spend a lot of time looking around these places, they are fascinating! When choosing a route I will always try and go the most interesting way. For example any ridge or crag that may be climbed on route. In most cases these are well known grade 1 scrambles such as Jacks Rake on Pavey Ark or Sharp Edge on Blencathra. Sometimes we will go up a stream hoping to find some good scrambling in the gills such as Tilberthwaite Gill or Rowantreethwaite Beck near Selside Pike. Sometimes we even stick to the paths! This would be more common on well recognized walks like the Fairfield Horseshoe. There are many such walks that don’t really need any plans to be made, just follow the crowds.
Other considerations
This is the most difficult thing to take into account. It would be so easy to just go and do all the “good” walks in one go. All the big horseshoe walks, all the famous mountains, all of my favorite walks from the past. What would we be left with then! I try and split up the walks into “good” ones and then I try and throw in a more sedate, or a more (and I hate to use the phrase) “boring” walk or fell. This is not always possible and especially in the winter months with the weather and daylight hours more of these less glamorous fells and walks will be done.
Actual Planning
It used to be a case of either reading books or watching on best live tv box about walking in the Lake District and seeing what looked interesting. Spreading out a map on the dining room table and seeing what I could come up with, usually in consultation with AW’s books! Now I use my knowledge of the area and the Anquet mapping software. This is based around the Harvey’s 1:25000 scale maps of the Lake District. With a few mouse clicks you can see gradient profiles, distances and times calculated using Naismiths rules that are fully customizable, what a time saver and fun too! So now it is a case of seeing what the weather is going to be, finding somewhere that we have not been yet, sitting in front of the PC and clicking the mouse a few times. The only difficult bit is deciding where to go! (hang on, haven’t I just explained all that!)



Taking all of the above into consideration is hard work, but the results are worth it. When we have completed the round of Wainwrights it might be a case of just going back to our favorite fells and routes. At least deciding to “bag” all 214 gives us an excuse to go and see some fells and places that we might not have gone to otherwise, have I mentioned Mungrisedale Common?