Monday, 14 November 2016

Guest Contributor – Steve Smith


This page heading on the Mapping Mountains site features articles from Guest Contributors, with the only stipulations being that the article has to be hill related and that I don't end up in court through its publication! Otherwise the choice of subject matter is down to the Guest Contributor.  For those wishing to submit an article please contact me via the email address given on the ‘About Me’ page heading.

Guest Contributor – Steve Smith

Steve Smith - Nuttall completer

Evolution of a Hill Bagger

On 02 October 2008 I went up Simon Fell, my very first English Nuttall, before I even knew that a Nuttall existed or indeed any other hill category.

Pen-y-ghent summit one of the first Nuttalls visited on 03 October 2008, but this time on Day 07 of The Pennine Way

But that is not really where hill-bagging for me started.  That can be traced to walking the Dales Way in August of the same year.  On day 03 we were scheduled to walk along Beckermonds where the guide book suggested we should look out for Ingleborough straight ahead.  However it was Pen-y-gent on the left that caught my attention although I did not know its name at the time, and I just wondered what it would be like at the very top.  I also met up with Bob Smith, though I am sure he will not remember, from Grough Magazine.

I therefore planned a return with friends in October that year staying at The Sun Inn, Dent where we passed a couple of days later on the way to Sedbergh.  However they could only manage two or three days off work, so I set off on my own a few days early to go up both Ingleborough and Pen-y-gent.  Planning the routes also identified two other spot heights; Simon Fell & Plover Hill as well as Park Fell.  Moving on to Dent we also went up Wherneside and The Calf again picking off a few spot heights as part of the same route.

Having not done any walking other than The Dales Way surprisingly that was me hooked.  Returning home I managed to arrange another trip before Xmas and this time it was the Lake District with a couple of mates.  Two days - two spot heights; Helvelyn from Patterdale on day 01 and High Street from Mardale on day 02.  Day 01 we got as far as High Spy summit, via Birkhouse Moor before being split up as a group and driven back by the first snow of the year.  Day 02 was more successful in as much as we reached High Street via Rough Crag and also managed to pick off three other spot heights on that ridge; Rampsgill Head, High Raise and Kidsty Pike.

Finding Reg after being separated 30 mins earlier on High Spy summit as he pressed on across Striding Edge

It was not until after returning home from the Lake District I started to research the web and found the hill-bagging web site.  I also searched for “Striding Edge” and found  Both were inspirational.  Hill-bagging introduced me to all the different hill types including Nuttalls and Striding Edge gave me the germ of the idea to document all of my walks on a blog – Peak Bagging and Long Distance Walking in the UK .

Originally the scope was to document routes to the Nuttalls, which were not readily available on the internet in those days.  During the 8 years since the first Nuttall I like to think I have progressed past the novice phase now but know I still have a lot to learn.  The purpose has now been extended to  include all hill types , be part of the extensive and growing community for hill-walkers on the web and share these experiences to:-

·         link up with likeminded people.

·         show that with common sense and not going outside of your skill-set anyone can enjoy the hills.

·         demonstrate opportunities available to extend your skill-set to enjoy the hills safely even more.

·         maybe meet up on the hill and go on walks you would not necessarily do, or are capable to do alone.

·         share routes

Turns out my very first Hill was The Roaches in June 2008 but what really appealed to me on Hill Bagging was the “My Progress” page which showed I had been up 20 hills including 15 Nuttalls, 11 Hewitts (which I initially struggled to differentiate from Nuttalls), 4 Deweys, 7 Humps and 6 of these things called Marilyns.  It was at this point I had the idea that I would target Nuttalls and resolved to return to the Lake District as soon as I could after Xmas.

Not sure when I first had the idea to go up all of the Nuttalls, sometime during the next couple of years, but with only managing four or five trips I do remember being constantly frustrated I was not managing more bagging trips.  However I suppose that was not bad living in Suffolk and working full time.  Writing up the walk reports helped as a surrogate and in all honesty it has turned out to be a record of my journey from novice hill-walker to relatively experienced hill-bagger.

Catstye Cam - English Nuttall completion (NPR) 20 April 2013 with wife, daughter-in-law (to be at the time) and walking friend John

In August 2012 I had a brain Haemorrhage.  With only 12 English Nuttalls remaining one of the things I remember thinking was I had not completed them all.  Fortunately I made a full recovery and completed (NPR) on Catstye Cam in April 2013.  What turned out to be a theme Thack Moor was promoted to Nuttall status that month and I managed to include that during the final trip.  One disappointment was the weather prevented me getting up Pillar Rock and for whatever reason I did not want that to be the last.  However that is how it turned out and after completing it in June this year I realised it was a worthy top and in some ways wish I had saved it as the final English/Welsh Nuttall.  It’s status as the final English Nuttall did not last long however as Calf Top finally achieved Nuttall status (for now anyway) resulting in me having to nip up to Cumbria from Suffolk on the way to North Wales to avoid leaving one Nuttall unclimbed.

With completion of the English Nuttalls approaching I had been considering what to do next.  In all honesty that choice was obvious.  Carry on with the Welsh Nuttalls which I then started on Chwarel y Fan in August 2013.  I was briefly distracted by the Munros in 2014 but after a serious back problem in March 2015 following a strenuous Winter Mountaineering expedition in Torridon once again started thinking I had not completed the Welsh Nuttalls.  The Shropshire Hills and other Marilyns in area 38 provided gentle rehabilitation and although I intended to complete the Nuttalls before my 60th birthday, once again I was tempted to focus on Marilyns rather than Nuttalls.  However returning above 2000’ in October 2015 on the Foel y Geifr ridge for the first time since injury provided the refocus I needed and from then I set myself the target to complete the 110 remaining Nuttalls before November 2016.

England & Wales Nuttall completion on Arenig Fach with family, friends and hill-bagging buddies 06 November 2016

2016 has been my most prolific hill bagging year culminating in me completing the Nuttalls on Arenig Fach on 06 November 2016, 8 years, 1 month and 4 days after the first.  Not a record braking pace but that is not what it is all about.  Thinking about the highlights – there were lots (and a couple of lowlights, nearly not getting off Mickle Fell).

On reflection I think the biggest highlight is the personal growth and development.  Doing something like going up a mountain for the first time on your own, learning any necessary skills to complete the challenge not to mention taking on a long term challenge the scope of which seems impossible but is clearly not with time, application, resilience and effort.

Abseiling into Jordan Gap from Pillar Rock - English Nuttall completion 22 June 2016

An obvious highlight was the recent ascent up Pillar Rock.  I always said if I need a rope I won't be going there.  Well I have needed a rope and have been there.  Think I will be doing a bit more as well.  This has been my approach throughout, not to be constrained by limitations but use them to move forwards and achieve the overall objective.

One thing for sure, after completing the Nuttalls there is not a feeling of emptiness.  Short term is to concentrate on the Munros leading on to Corbetts and Grahams in the medium term.  All of these will contribute to the long term goal of completing all 1556 GB Marilyns.

Steve Smith (November 2016)

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