Completing all the Wainwrights in the Central Fells

Published 12 March 2023

Helm Crag seen from near Gibson Knott.
Helm Crag seen from near Gibson Knott.

My arrival at Helm Crag wasn’t just me visiting any old Wainwright. It marked a more momentous event. When I reached its summit, came a big moment. For doing it meant I had visited every single one of the twenty seven fells Wainwright documented in his Pictorial Guide to the Central Fells.

I hadn’t actually planned for Helm Crag to be my last. Far from it. This was my third attempt to visit it. But it was a fine fell to end on, even if the weather wasn’t as great as it should have been. All those dramatic rocks, and the hint of a fine view, even if cloud cover meant I couldn’t see that much. I loved it to bits.

Not only did Helm Crag see the end of my journey round the Central Fells, it also became the first of the seven Pictorial Guides that I’d visited every fell from. One down, six to go. I bagged my first Wainwright by accident in 2010, and it’s taken me twelve years to complete one of the books.

It’s perhaps inevitable that the Central Fells would be the first one to be completed. It’s fells are easily accessible from Keswick and Ambleside, both places I’ve stayed at many a time over the years. I’ve viewed them from buses. Admired them whilst driving my car. Enjoyed sticking my foot on them. They’re the fells easiest to access.

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Central Fells. There’s been some corkers in there like Walla Crag, Loughrigg, and Pike O’Stickle. And, of course, Helm Crag. Fells I thoroughly enjoyed and have every intention of revisiting in the future. So whilst it’s an end, it’s also not. But never again will I visit each one afresh. Each one I’ll have trod before.

Walkers on a path on a grassy fell, with dark cloud overhead.
Under slightly foreboding clouds, people walk up Loughrigg Fell.

My arrival at Helm Crag wasn’t just me visiting any old Wainwright.  It marked a more momentous event.  When I reached its summit, I’d finally visited every single one of the twenty seven fells Wainwright documented in his Pictorial Guide to the Central Fells.

I hadn’t actually planned for Helm Crag to be my last.  Far from it.  This was my third attempt to visit it.  But it was a fine fell to end on, even if the weather wasn’t as great as it should have been.  All those dramatic rocks, and the hint of a fine view, even if cloud cover meant I couldn’t see that much.  I loved it to bits.

Not only did Helm Crag see the end of my journey round the Central Fells, it also became the first of the seven Pictorial Guides that I’d visited every fell from.  One down, six to go.  I bagged my first Wainwright by accident in 2010, and it’s taken me twelve years to complete one of the books.

It’s perhaps inevitable that the Central Fells would be the first one to be completed.  It’s fells are easily accessible from Keswick and Ambleside, both places I’ve stayed at many a time over the years.  I’ve viewed them from buses.  Admired them whilst driving my car.  Enjoyed sticking my foot on them.  They’re probably the fells easiest to access of all of them.  

Of course it’s not the end.  I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Central Fells. There’s been some corkers in there like Walla Crag, Loughrigg, and Pike O’Stickle.  And, of course, Helm Crag.  Fells I thoroughly enjoyed and have every intention of revisiting in the future.  But never again will I visit each one afresh.  Each one I’ll have trod before. 

The Fells

A stone built trig point sits atop of a stone strewn felltop in the Lake District.
The trig point at the summit of High Raise, in Langdale.

Fells in height order (highest first)

Order the Fells were visited in (and the walks they were done in)

Cairn on a hill top, with a large lake in the background.
High Seat was all about the classic Derwent Water skyline viewpoints.

Bagging Facts

Metal fence posts stand either side of a cairn on a very cloudy fell top.
Steel Fell looking like… well…
  • Number of fells: 27.
  • Number of days of walking: 10.
  • Fells bagged per day of walking: 2.7.
  • Date of first fell: 23 May 2011
  • Date of last fell: 18 September 2022
  • Days between first and last fell: 4,138.
  • Fells visited more than once:  Thunacar Knott (1 March 2013, 3 April 2014), Ullscarf (22 October 2019 and 18 September 2022.)
  • Fells needing multiple attempts before successfully visited: Helm Crag (3 attempts), Gibson Knott (3 attempts.)

Bagging Graph

My five favourites

I could easily fill this with the Langdale Pikes, and nothing else, so will put myself a limit on one from that group.

Grange Fell

A tiny cairn of rocks sits on top of a large boulder.
The summit of Grange Fell according to Wainwright.

One of the lower fells and a firm favourite because of its corking views of Borrowdale and the surrounding area.  A walk of this fell also allows you to take in the famous Boulder Stone, and you can do it all by getting the open top bus from Keswick.

Helm Crag

A shot of the 'Lion and the lamb' rock formation, that's also known as the Howitzer due to its shape.
The Lion and the Lamb and the Cloud.

What’s not to love about the fell also known as the Lion and the Lamb, and the Howitzer.  It took me three attempts to get up there, and the cloud came in when I did finally make it so I didn’t see much.  But it was worth the wait, and one I’ll definitely be back to.

Loughrigg Fell

Trig point at the summit of Loughrigg Fell
Trig point at the summit of Loughrigg Fell.

The smallest of the Central Fells, it provides a perfect afternoon walk from Ambleside.  Beautiful views, stunning scenery, and a thoroughly nice walk to boot.  Perfect family walk too.

Pike O’Stickle

The domed top of fell Pike o'Stickle
Pike O’Stickle looking like someone’s simply thrown a lump of clay on the mountain side, and then covered it in rock.

Definitely my favourite of the Langdale Pikes.  Looks like the result of a giant throwing clay on the ground, and requires a good old scramble to get right to the top.

Walla Crag

View of Derwent Water and Keswick from Walla Crag
View of Derwent Water and Keswick from Walla Crag.

This was a tough one.  I almost went for High Seat, but in the end, Walla Crag pipped it to the post.  I’m a sucker for a good view, which both High Seat and Walla Crag have – both offering a splendid panorama of Derwent Water and Keswick.  But Walla Crag pips High Seat to the post with its wonderful stone pavement, and oodles of heather.

One not to bother with

A single fence post in a concrete base.
Ullscarf offered some classic fence post following.

There’s no truly bad fell in the Central area if you ask me.  But if I had to pick, I’d go with Ullscarf. It’s pretty dull both in climbing up it, and when you get to the top.  Even the half-hearted cairn at the top gives the impression of wondering why it’s bothered.

I’ve been there twice.  I’m quite happy not to go back a third time.

Comments

Vic Flange

12 March 2023 at 8:04 pm

Editorial note: paras 1-5 are largely duplicated as paras 6-10.

I’ve only done 66 Wainwrights (in just over 8 years) but I did complete all of the Northern Fells in 2017. My approach then was to base myself in Keswick and tackle everything that was within reasonable striking distance of the public transport (bus) options. Since then I’ve haven’t been much but last time used the same tactic with Ambleside as the base. Not sure what I’ll do next.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

13 March 2023 at 10:04 am

You can do a LOT based in Ambleside and Keswick, or places nearby. Then it just leaves you with all the tricky ones at the edges!

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