Wainwright bagging the hard way

Wainwright bagging the hard way



We’ve been getting out onto the hills again recently on our rare mornings off, and Jonathan has now proudly bagged 44 of the Wainwright summits. So only 170 left to go.

Imagine how we feel, then, to see that our Windermere neighbour Paul Tierney is determined to do them all. In one continuous journey of 320 miles. In just six days.

He’s done many of them already, of course. Paul is one of our local heroes, a runner with Ambleside AC who has the ability to set off running…and keep going…and going…and going.

But this time he wants the record, the one that was set by Steve Birkinshaw back in 2014 who, in turn, broke the record set by the legendary Joss Naylor in 1987. Joss’s time was 7 days 1 hour 25 minutes. Steve took that down to six days and 13 hours. Now Paul wants to see if he can do it faster still.

There’s no point asking, Why? In these parts, the fells dominate our lives every day, and no one with a soul (and a decent pair of lungs, and a decent pair of boots) can resist going up there to find the top. When Alfred Wainwright wrote his seven guidebooks to the Lakeland Fells, choosing 214 of them, he was inadvertently laying down a challenge.

Some people climb them meticulously, book by book. For others it’s a more random journey, that sudden realisation that you’ve done more than half, so why not set off to bag the rest? Some try to fit them into a timespan (usually longer than six days, though); we have a friend who took 42 years to tick them all off.

So those who are lucky enough to live in the Lakes, and those who love the Lakes, can understand the appeal. And anyone who has ever experienced the exhilaration of running fast down a mountainside will understand why Paul Tierney is hooked.

Even so, it’s an almighty challenge. Paul will have very little sleep. He’ll need people to run with him, to verify that he has indeed visited every summit, and to make sure he keeps eating all along the way. Supplies will need to be ferried out to remote valleys; running companions likewise. So it feels like a privilege to be able to help, to offer to pay for the transportation costs, as our small contribution to this giant effort.

One more motivation, for us, and for Paul, and for everyone cheering him on. Paul’s good friend and fellow athlete Chris Stirling died suddenly last month, and Paul is doing this run in honour of Chris’s memory. And raising money along the way for MIND, the mental health charity. So when you settle down to sleep, on any of those six days from June 14, spare a thought for Paul and his team of volunteers, running late into the night, snatching a couple of hours’ sleep in a van somewhere in a valley. And spare a bit of cash for the very good cause which is his driving force.


PS - who or what is a Wainwright??
Alfred Wainwright MBE was a British fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator. His seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, published between 1955 and 1966 and consisting entirely of reproductions of his manuscript, has become the standard reference work to 214 of the fells of the English Lake District.  (and a fell is the Cumbrian name for a hill or mountain)

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