Desert Island Peaks: Kate Worthington

© Kate Worthington

If you were marooned alone, with only a few hills for company, which would you choose? To help pass the time while we all sit it out in isolation, we've posed this question to some UKHillwalking regulars (with apologies to Radio 4). Kate Worthington picks two small but perfectly formed Cumbrian fells; the Welsh 3000-er that rises behind her house; and a Cairngorms giant that she has yet to summit.

A desert island couldn't be more removed from living in a steep-sided, mountainous valley in Snowdonia. As much as I love the dramatically changing mountain weather, winds and colours of sky and rock that surround my valley home, I do love to broaden my horizon view with regular visits to the coast. Can that be essential travel please?! To see a sea stretch away from oneself is to feel a little wider and lighter in body and mind. But I can imagine missing the contrast and texture of mountains that have shaped my life, from being a toddler on Tryfan to a mum on Mellbreak. So I'll take these shapes with me…

Kate on the summit of Elidir Fawr  © Kate Worthington
Kate on the summit of Elidir Fawr
© Kate Worthington

Early Memories – Mellbreak, North West Lake District

For as long as I can remember, until well into my late teens, I would spend at least one (sometimes more) school holidays in the Lake District with my family. We visited many different valleys, but would always gravitate back to the North Western fells. For over eight years, we stayed in 'Oak Cottage' in Loweswater – with a stunning view over Crummock Water and Buttermere from the garden. On clear days, you could gaze up to Great Gable at the head of this view, and I spent many moments looking at Great Gable, wondering what the Central Fells would be like on that day. But, one of the nearest summits to the cottage was Mellbreak, with its interesting rocky scrambles to gain the summit ridge and these could be seen from the cottage bedroom window. Again, I did a lot of gazing…

Mellbreak (right) from High Snockrigg  © Kate Worthington
Mellbreak (right) from High Snockrigg
© Kate Worthington

As a young girl, I liked Mellbreak because it didn't take too long to get to the top. It was a mountain shape you would draw as a kid. It started fairly steep from the fields below…went up and up and up…and then you got to the nice, grassy summit ridge, with wonderful views over lakes and fells. And then you could come down again and return to the cottage on foot. Simple and rewarding journeying, with some rocky bits, to keep the ascent fun and allow my brother and I to scamper off from the parents below. I always found Mellbreak comforting and friendly in this respect. It didn't intimidate me, so it was my friendly mountain as a small person.

Family Favourite – High Snockrigg, North West Lake District

If I could, I would love to bring this summit, and its surrounding vista, onto my desert island. In recent years, since losing my Dad, this Lakeland fell has come to be somewhere that my extended family and I have visited, to make some kind of connection with him, and his infectious devotion to the Lakeland fells.

High Snockrigg has a great view of the central and western fells  © Kate Worthington
High Snockrigg has a great view of the central and western fells
© Kate Worthington

And we have done so together, as individuals and I will continue to do so in my adult life; and on my desert island if I could. I think it must be the quiet appreciation of Lorton Vale, Crummock Water and the head of Buttermere that one can gain from anywhere on its southerly flanks. From either Buttermere or Newlands Hause, these direct ascents to its modest spot height will always offer up some decent exercise. That will also be useful on my desert island, I'm sure.

And once atop, like my Dad's eyes would be, mine will usually end up resting upon the dark crests of Haystacks and the brooding Central Fells beyond. Walking with him in my mind and my heart.

It's a family favourite  © Kate Worthington
It's a family favourite
© Kate Worthington

The Quick Fix – Elidir Fawr, North Snowdonia

I've spent the last 11 years gazing at Elidir Fawr's southerly slopes, from the back of my house, so having this mountain on my desert island would not offend me at all. Many people I know very much detest and avoid the drag up Elidir Fawr, from Nant Peris. For good reason. Steep, grassy, usually wet, unrelenting and notably quite dull underfoot! But I would take this mountain with loving arms, as it has offered me much quiet sanctuary in the years I have lived beneath it. And the view back to Yr Wyddfa's massif is breathtaking, especially when the setting sun picks out the details in the impressive rocky architecture.

June morning on Elidir Fawr - not a half bad hill to have in your back yard, or on your desert island  © Kate Worthington
June morning on Elidir Fawr - not a half bad hill to have in your back yard, or on your desert island
© Kate Worthington

Elidir Fawr bears scars of human activity; but magnificently so, with its haunting slate quarries and impressive hydro-electric scheme within its belly. And strong and steady in the face of westerly winds, it can usually brush off the mountain cloud that envelops its neighbours to the south and east. So I will cherry pick this Snowdonia 3000-er, and I can keep trying to beat my run-time to its summit. That will keep me busy…

Forever Walking – Braeriach

Braeriach is a Munro summit that has eluded me in any recent visits to Scotland in winter. So can I take this whole massif with me to my desert island to keep my mind and body occupied (will it fit?)?

Huge, complex and magnificent, Braeriach will keep you busy Kate!  © Dan Bailey
Huge, complex and magnificent, Braeriach will keep you busy Kate!
© Dan Bailey

It's a Scottish mountain massif that I have yet to get my eyes on from different angles; I would like to get to know its shapes and character more, other than from the northerly angle I have mostly viewed it from (longingly!). And I would like to finally reach its broad summit plateau, without being driven back by wind or dubious snow conditions. And maybe the winter snows will all melt once Braeriach is sitting on my desert island… that would make it much simpler to plan my journey. Except the snow patches that remain in the high, dark corrie of Garbh Choire Mor, that usually last all year. Please may that remain the case, even on this desert island.

I know I'm asking for a lot; there's many corries and wild, montane heath plateau here… but what a glorious contrast to my desert island beaches below. And what time I could take in exploring the various routes up, down, around and over. Again and again.

  • Kate and Ross Worthington run RAW Adventures, providing skills courses and guided days out on the hills of Snowdonia.

UKH Articles and Gear Reviews by Kate Worthington

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