Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Scafell and Scafell Pike: four fine mountains, and placed just far enough apart that a strong walker can do them in a day - but only just. It's a circuit that's big, but also beautiful, with Skiddaw at sunrise, Helvellyn after everyone else has gone home, and 45 miles of woodland, upland and crag in between.
A walk can be a lot shorter than the Lakeland Threethousands and still be a challenge. Turnbull and Clayton cover the Old County Tops - substituting Coniston Old Man for Skiddaw saves ten miles, but loses nothing in serious mountain ground. The authors round up the eight Valley Horseshoe routes and describe the 25-mile Roman Road from Windermere to Penrith. For the extremely energetic there's the 60-mile Bob Graham Round and challenges beyond...
Ronald Turnbull gives valuable advice on diet, pace, timing and training for both walkers and hillrunners. From the rocky way round Langdale to the bivvybag circuit of almost everything, Lakeland Mountain Challenges will show you the way.
||The Lakes 3000s
|| The Roy Story|
A Midwinter run
||The Four and More
||A 60-mile bivvybag route|
||the Old County Tops
||the Roman Road
||Windermere to Penrith|
over High Street
||The Eight Great Horseshoes
||Across Lakeland: Penrith to the sea
||just passing by|
||On going twice as far|
The Bob Graham Round
There are many reasons for walking on hills: the scenery, the companionship, the satisfaction of tricky compass work in mist. There is - dare I mention - the simple pleasure of showing off one's stylish and astonishingly waterproof Triplepoint Ceramic jacket. But nearly all of us, sooner or later, want to undertake a long and demanding walk just to see if we can do it.
Maybe it's the 45-mile Lyke Wake Walk, or the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Maybe it's the Welsh Three-thousands, or Tranter's Walk in Lochaber. However, for many of us the best walking in England (the best walking in the World?) is among the mountains of Lakeland.
The obvious long walk in Lakeland is the one over the four three-thousanders. Each of the four is a fine mountain, and they are fine in different ways. Skiddaw is grassy and isolated, its long slopes dropping to the Keswick Plain. Helvellyn is crag-sided, but with wide easy paths across its meadow-like summit. Scafell is crag-sided but also crag-topped, and all of its various approaches are difficult and spectacular. Scafell Pike is possibly the least interesting of the four, but it is the highest in England.
The threethousands are well spread out; if we did manage to do them all, we'd walk across four different volumes of Wainwright and look down into most of the Lakeland valleys. Our friends have been up the four in separate expeditions, and when we've succeeded they'll be able to say "Coo, gosh!" from a standpoint of knowledge and experience.
So it's not surprising that the walk of the four attracts several hundred each year in the organised walk of the Ramblers' Association, as well as uncounted freelances over the rest of the year. The walk has, however, a couple of drawbacks. The route is not ideal. It involves an inelegant out-and-back on Skiddaw's Tourist Path, and a long roadwalk up Borrowdale, as well as a shorter but nastier one along the A591. Secondly, the route is rather long: between 40 and 45 miles, depending on who's doing the measuring. On the first count, we have offered alternatives so that virtually the whole of the route can be accomplished off-road. The walk by woodland and lakeside, along the other side of Borrowdale, adds nothing to the length, and with its help the route becomes a mix of crag and valley, sheltered and fierce. Further improvement could only be achieved by moving Helvellyn five miles closer to Keswick, and that is beyond the powers of the present authors.
So we looked for a very long, very good, walk that is yet not quite so long as 45 miles. It wasn't hard to find it. The walk of Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and Coniston Old Man may lack the compelling logic of the four threethousanders, but is not altogether arbitrary as these are the summits of the three former counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancs. The 35-mile tour of these three is, to my mind, even better than the longer one of the four. Borrowdale is good, but it isn't as good as Upper Eskdale. Derwentwater is a fine lake, but I'd trade it for the tarns of Grisedale, Seathwaite, and Little Langdale, and then we get our lake anyway at Grasmere.
A walk can be a lot shorter than these two and still be a long one. We can only guess what the Romans thought of the high traverse from Windermere to Penrith, but for walkers of today it has a railway station at each end, six peaks in the middle and a narrow grassy edge joining the whole thing together. It makes a fine outing if you're building fitness for the Threethousands or the Old County Tops, and is equally fine if you aren't...
At around the 20-mile mark, the classic outing must be the circuit of one of the main valleys. We round them up into one convenient chapter. With them thus gathered into a tight space, we can lean over the railings like Cumbrian farmers at Penrith Mart and assess their undoubted merits; and pick out three of the best, the trips round Buttermere, Wasdale and Caldew.
At barely twenty miles, these last long routes run the risk of appearing almost short. So, finally, we expand and go multi-day. Those who walk the hills still only half-know them if they don't also sleep among them at night. On the trip from Penrith to the sea that sleeping is in bunkhouses and B&Bs, or in Lakeland's ancient inns. The trip of the Four and More is designed for a different and increasingly popular form of accommodation. The room decor is more impressive than at the Lodore Stakis; the beds less comfortable than the most primitive bunkhouse; and the cold shower before breakfast is something you get whether you want it or not - when you take your green breathable bag onto the summit of Gable or Haystacks, Grey Knotts or Sheffield Pike.