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

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22 Comments to “For the love of hill lists”

  1. That is a *lot* of hills climbed! 🙂 Sounds like you are going to need a new list soon!

  2. I can’t believe you’ve not included the number of trig points that Reuben has bagged…

    • Do they have to be ones that he has actually sat on? If so he is wise to that and no longer lets me put him up there……………..

  3. Wainwrights I could do as I have done most of them. Plus the list wont change unlike the idiotic classification of a Munro. Apply the 500ft rule used on Corbetts (don’t use Corbett Cams book now) and see the number of Munros drop.

    The Welsh ones I will never finish as I hardly go there. Have fun James chasing lists.

    • I quite like the idea of having a 500ft rule for Munros. Some can be crowded together with small ascents between them. You are missing out on Wales as there are some fab hill there.

  4. I like peak lists too because they are inherently social even if you do a lot of hikes alone. I’m working on many at the moment,some very difficult which will take over a decade to complete. To each his own – al reasons for hiking are good.

  5. I’ve been up Meugher – and once with a lesser-known Lake District Hill-list maker, a Francis Falkingham. And I failed to find it once in the fog. I think we circumnavigated it. This was before maps, obviously. Why does yr comments thingy want me to log in by the way?

    • If anyone else had been up Meugher I knew it would have been you Mike. Those new fangled map things are good for finding those tightly bunched areas of contours, affectionately known as hills.

      Don’t know about the comments thingy. Just logged out to have a look and it had the usual page asking for name and email address plus website if you have one. Bit stumped there.

  6. Not obsessive myself but I do keep a few lists going, it does indeed take you to some weird and wonderful places. The one batch I’m nearly finished with are the 2000fts in the Dales (inc Howgills). Hell, if you google “Gargareth”, the first hit is a report of mine on LFTO, that was a great walk…

  7. Anything that gets you out on the hills, in particular the lesser known ones has to be a good thing. I was a Munro bagger in my youth (still am a bit). Passed the 200 mark in 1998 and I’m now up to 215 so at that rate I’ve no chance:). Mark over at Beating the Bounds is an avid Birkett bagger. Basically every hill, rock, boulder and contour in the Lakes worthy of a name but it has taken him (and me) to some pretty remote and interesting spots. Over 500 of them I think!

    • Still of a bit of a Munro Bagger or a youth? A couple of two week holidays in the Highlands and you could get through a fair chunk of whats left.

      The Birketts are a strange old list, and yes plenty of them. I have his original book sitting in my outdoor collection.

      • Young mental age, but approaching the big 5-0 sadly. If you can convince my wife to let me off the leash for a 2 week Scottish mountain I’d be grateful 🙂

      • What’s the best way of persuading her? Maybe go up for a weekend and have your car break down with some rare part needing to be ordered before you can drive back. problem solved.

  8. Actually – just tell her the miserable old git will be out of the house for a fortnight, she’d probably jump at the chance 🙂

  9. Meugher – been there and camped on the summit! And incurred the wrath of a gamekeeper at 7am the next morning…it’s a great hill.

    Have you thought about taking on the Irish hill lists? There are loads more…Dillons and 269 Vandeleur-Lynams which are hills over 600m with a 15m drop.

    • To be caught by the gamekeeper at 7.00am is a bit unlucky James. I did think that it would make a good camp. How did he react to you being there?

      Would love to some more Irish hills, a little less accessible from the English Midlands!

  10. He was firm but polite…said it was access land and I shouldn’t be camping. I said it was a fair cop as I was in the wrong but I didn’t think anyone would be about nor would I be interfering with any shooting and it was before the grouse nesting season. I had only put the tent up at 9pm the night before. We had a chat and parted on good terms…

    I had a plan to camp on summit of Great Whernside too (which I don’t think is on access land) but didn’t get round to that before we moved from Yorkshire to N. Ireland…

    • I suppose that the best thing to do when confronted is own up and move on. Just bad luck to be caught that early in the morning. I got caught by a gamekeeper when wild camping just off the Pennine way near High Cup. He came down off the hill on his quad and chatted for a while. Friendly chap.

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