Archive for July 28th, 2013

July 28, 2013

For the love of hill lists

by backpackingbongos

I have a bit of a confession to make.  I’m a hill bagger and I’m not ashamed of it!

For me though there is no single-minded obsession in completing a single list.  No, I’m going for them all simultaneously.  If a hill is on a list somewhere then it is worth climbing.

It is this list ticking that got me into backpacking.  Many years ago I purchased the Harveys Mountain Chart of England and Wales.  It’s a wall map with all the English and Welsh Mountains over 2000ft on it.  I later found out that these were classed as the Nuttalls.  The thing is until a few years ago I did not drive.  With rural public transport being what it is I found that the walk in to many of these hills was huge.  The bus or train station would be many miles away.  I soon ended up going out for several days at a time, sleeping on the hills that I wanted to bag.  Nearly twenty years later I’m still plugging away at the Nuttalls.  With over 400 climbed, the end is nearly in sight.  As with the Munros there is one peak that involves rock climbing.  Pillar Rock is going to be my inaccessible pinnacle.

I’m sure that many would say that focussing on a list of hills takes away the true spirit of walking in the hills.  However I find the opposite is true.  With the Nuttalls now nearly completed I can say that I have enjoyed standing on just about every patch of high ground in England and Wales.  I have visited areas that I may otherwise not have bothered with.  This has led me to hugely underrated places which see very little foot traffic.  Places that give a feeling of solitude and wildness.  Whilst the majority of hill walkers head for the Lake District over and over again, I have discovered the joys of the North Pennines, The Cheviots and Mid Wales.

There are famous and well-known lists such as the Munros and Corbetts.  But what about the Grahams?  These are Scottish hills that fall between 2000ft and 2500ft.  There are some real gems out there such as Suilven, Ben Mor Coigach and Stac Pollaidh.  So in the same way that you should not exclude the Corbetts in the quest for the Munros, you should not exclude the Grahams for the Corbetts.

There are then some quirky lists out there.  How about the Deweys?  These are hills in England and Wales over 500 metres with a 30 metres drop.  This list now gives some structure to my backpacking in places like the Yorkshire Dales.  Many of these hills are totally unknown and ignored by the masses who head for the bigger hills.  There are some real gems out there such as Meugher.  Anyone out there climbed Meugher?  No?  I suggest you do, possibly the most isolated hill in the Dales.  You are guaranteed not to bump into anyone up there.  By linking a few Deweys together you can come up with a wild pathless walk.

The Donalds have led me into little known hill country in Southern Scotland.  This until a few years ago was a gem of an area.  Velvety hills rolling up to the far horizon, easy walking without spotting a soul for days.  Sadly they are now prime candidates to plonk wind turbines on.  Still, there are some great hills out there if you fancy a quiet Bank Holiday wander.

Will I finish all these lists?  Almost certainly I won’t, that is not the point for me, although I may have a push if still healthy after retirement.  They are simply a guide with which to discover new country and a way to put some structure into my backpacking.  If I did not have some form of goal when I head out for a few days into the wilds, I would probably just end up festering in a bothy somewhere.  Although that in itself is fun too.

Are you ready to become an obsessive?  If so there is a great resource on the Hill Bagging website.  There are all sorts of databases you can use there.

As for me, this is where I currently stand.  I should be busy for a long time yet.

Total hills climbed2