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Desert Island Peaks: Mark Richards

© Mark Richards

Lockdown may have limited our hill-going, but we can all still dream. For a bit of vicarious fun over the past few months we've asked a series of well known outdoor folk to name the mountains they'd most like to take with them to a fictional desert island (with apologies to Radio 4). Guidebook author and illustrator Mark Richards' selection ranges across the hills of northern England, from the high bogs of the border country to the limestone pavements of the Dales.

It all started on The Cheviot

The Cotswolds were my home territory for the first fifty years of my life, a rolling landscape with few defined 'hills'. My first memory of hills as significant was as a child on family holidays to the Yorkshire Dales. This introduced me to the magic of fells. I witnessed them in context within an agricultural landscape, staying with farming relatives. My first climb was to the trio of cairns on Gregareth, near Kirkby Lonsdale, though as an aspiring farmer I was seeing the fells as pasture for sheep and cattle, not objectives to climb.

Cheviot - Northumberland National Park  © davii
Cheviot - Northumberland National Park
© davii, Dec 2020

The moment that changed my perspective came in my mid teens when on a Young Farmers' exchange with the Alnwick club in Northumberland I climbed The Cheviot. I wore plain soled leather shoes, which if you know the hill, was challenging, especially the peat decked summit plateau! I saw the mountain before me and I simply couldn't resist its majesty. Soon after I joined the Gloucestershire Mountaineering Club and I was hooked!

Ingleborough means the most

There are so many hills that give me a glow to know. But I suspect that from early memory to this day Ingleborough has the most significance for me. It surveys an amazing limestone scar landscape and enjoys pride of place as the most characterful hill in the Pennines.

Ingleborough  © gsum
Ingleborough
© gsum

Grey Crag - the summit I'd most like to spend the night on

Without question the High Stile range is my perfect place to pitch. There is a lovely green patch of turf at the top of Grey Crag overlooking Burtness Combe, and the views night and dawn from this lofty bunk are superb. There are other gems I could mention, but I'd rather keep them to myself!

Langdale Pikes - the fell I most enjoy drawing

I need rock and scree to bring out the best line effects. My very first rock climb was on Raven Crag above the ODG followed by two routes on Pavey Ark, so no surprise that I love drawing the Langdale Pikes. I attach a recent linescape I did looking across the gulf of Mickleden from Pike o'Blisco, which shows how well the ingredients play out in black and white.

Looking to the Langdale Pikes from Pike o'Blisco  © Mark Richards
Looking to the Langdale Pikes from Pike o'Blisco
© Mark Richards

Blencathra again and again

I could never tire of climbing Blencathra. By a lovely array of spur ridges one can climb and scramble to a head-in-the-clouds summit. The lack of a cairn lends the top a certain dignity and distinction. Given clarity the view is wonderful, and most of Lakeland's greatest fells can be picked out.

Unexpected meeting on Robinson

I had driven over Newlands Hause many times and eyed the striking ridge climbing up from Keskadale to the high-brow of Robinson and wondered might that be an unusual way to the top. Well, one delightful summer's day I decided to give it a go, solo as was almost always my way.

Perfect November day above Buttermere = view down from Robinson.   © jezcam
Perfect November day above Buttermere = view down from Robinson.
© jezcam, Nov 2018

The grassy lower section of what I dubbed Keskadale Edge was fine. The ground steepened. I duly came upon the rock-band I could see from the dale when I started. It was more difficult than I had expected being composed of the tiniest ledges imaginable. I could barely put my boots onto them nor hold them with my hands. However, having got that far I was not in the mood for backtracking. I succeeded, finishing up a groove at the head of Deamancomb Gill to reach the summit dome. Understandably I was feeling elated. When along the summit ridge trip a couple who hailed me by name as they approached. They were neighbours from my rural parish in north Cumbria. I told them what I'd done and we laughed at the coincidence of meeting Dr Livingstone fashion.


Mark Richards is the author of Cicerone's Lakeland Fellrangers, a series of eight hillwalking guidebooks covering the whole of the Lake District



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