When a group of enthusiasts invites you to come hillwalking, you need to be very careful about what you’re agreeing to. There are some committed bunches for whom a brisk ramble in the Chilterns or even an occasional hike up Ingleborough isn’t enough. Not nearly enough.
While the rest of the country idles its way through spring’s bank holiday weekends, these folk will be adding a handful of peaks to their portfolio of Birketts, or out with their surveying tools hunting for Deweys. Yet more will be zipping up and down those nursery slopes of hillwalking, the Marilyns, or heading for the Lake District to bag a few more Outlying Fells.
And then? Hillwalkers who enjoy the extra challenge of peak-bagging have a unique set of web pages on which to commemorate their achievements. The Hillwalkers’ Register is free of charge and open to anyone, the sole proviso being that they must have completed a full round of at least one of several categories of hills in England, Wales or Ireland.
Wainwrights The most familiar are probably the Wainwrights, the 214 Lakeland mountains described in Alfred Wainwright’s seven pictorial guides and featuring such celebrated climbs as Hellvellyn, Scafell Pike and the Old Man of Coniston.
Birketts Another qualification is to have bagged all 541 Birketts (the Lakeland fells over 1,000 feet). Others include having stood on all 39 County Tops of England and Wales, or ascended every single one of the 400-plus 2,000-foot mountains in England and Wales, known variously as Nuttalls, Hewitts or Bridges.
Deweys Then there are the Deweys, defined as the 500-609-metre tops of England, Wales and the Isle of Man that have a drop on all sides of at least 30 metres. (And rest assured, the measuring is very precise: in 2010, Kisdon, in the Yorkshire Dales, was denied Dewey status because it is a mere metre too short.)
While most walkers are content with the occasional ascent of Whernside or The Cheviot, others find it’s having the target of a full round of peaks that provides the motivation to get out there.
More than 1,000 hillwalkers have earned the right to feature on the Register, and every April the names of new completers and a list of those who have achieved the greatest number of rounds are published in a separate pullout, the Hillwalkers’ Annual Report, in Strider, a magazine for people who like walking long distances in the countryside.
Topping the league of Birketts climbed in all are Jim Bloomer (533) and Chris Bullard (527). Stephen Moore is king of the Wainwrights – 39 whole rounds, including four in 2012.
Meanwhile the call continues to go out for the first intrepid female hillwalker to bag all the 2,000-foot mountains of Ireland. So far every one of the completers is male.
Peak season for the peaks
Wainwright bagging peaks in the early summer months of June and July, together with the autumn months of September and October. For some hillwalkers, a full round represents half a lifetime’s project; the annals record that Philip Lund took 44 years, from 1961 to 2005.
In contrast, the youngest bagger of a complete set of Wainwrights in recent years was five years old. Somewhat more mature were the 19 members of a Yorkshire-based walking club, The Irregulars, who celebrated the end of their two-year campaign to bag all the Outlying Fells of the Lake District with champagne and chocolates on top of Latterbarrow. The 22 walks undertaken covered almost 300 miles and 51,750ft of climbing.
Now these enthusiasts have a fresh set of hills to conquer and collect. A new register has been set up for those bagging the Synges, named after Tim Synge, author of The Lakeland Summits. These are hills with a height in excess of 300 metres, and there are 646 in total. So far, only four hillwalkers have managed to complete the lot. What are you waiting for? Get climbing!