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Okay. I admit it. I'm a bit of a peak-bagger.

I use 4 different list; Hewitts, Wainwrights, Marilyns and county tops (still not updated for the various local government re-organisations of the 1990s). I've developed a consolidated list on an Access database; 674 hills in England and Wales and I've been up 394 of them.

I was interested to find a commentary on peak-bagging on the TACIT tables web site; TACIT keeps a definitive list of Hewitts and Marilyns in England and Wales. It reckoned there were two clear schools of thought:


peak-bagging is an abomination and peak-baggers are little better than train-spotters and stamp collectors. The very exercise of peak-bagging devalues hillwalking and reduces the experience


having a list is a doorway into new hills and new experiences. The list is also an aide-memoire, helping to recall glorious days out.

I have reflected on this. There have been days when I have gone out purely peak-bagging; the usual key is that I've used the car during the day to get between the different hills. The worst example was when I did 14 Wainwrights in 3 days in 9 different walks (including the one when I failed to get up through a mixture of fatigue and inclement weather) There were pleasures in this but overall there was a feeling of guilt and pleasure diminished. You don't quite feel that you have been fair to the hill, however much you try to savour the top.

I've finished the Wainwright list now and I have to say that it was a bit of a millstone right at the end. I felt that I had been set a deadline for completing and this was a bit oppressive. This meant that I was thinking "How can I do these hills with least effort" rather than "How can I construct interesting walks to climb these hills?" I was also thinking "How can I use my free time to do the remaining Wainwrights" rather than "How can I best use my free time for walking" These distinctions might be at the heart of the two schools of thought above. Having said that I have gone up some of the final hills not expecting much and being delighted by them. For example, the mere name of Slightside suggested mediocrity but the top was a delight. Similarly the view of Ennerdale (which is far from being my favourite Lakeland valley) was superb from Crag Fell.

This gives a hint of the beauty of the lists. They do open your mind up to new areas and also to hills near to familiar places that you have previously dismissed as uninteresting (in my case because they tend to lack a near-death experience on the route to the top). This is why, on balance, I do feel that I have gained far more than I have lost through using lists to help in walk planning. And it shows the truth in the TACIT comment that the lists are a doorway.

So where does this leave you when you finish a list. Well I am driven by the cult of the new. I get most satisfaction from visiting a new summit and there is a slight sense of let down on completing the list. I know this from finishing the Wainwrights (after the incredible high of reaching the top of Harter Fell, my last one, on the perfect walk, in planning, in anticipation and in execution). It's certainly true that I haven't been as keen to go to the Lakes as at one time (although this is partly down to non-walking agendas). There are still quests there; new routes, new views (especially those hills where the cloud was down on the first visit) but these aren't as enticing as a completely new visit. It's good being able to name the peaks from Lakeland tops but is it quite as tantalising as not being able to name any without getting out a map and working them out?

Yes I do enjoy ticking off the hills on my list but (in most cases) the real pleasure is in getting out there and living the walk.  



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