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I've Never Climbed...

In these days of world lockdown it would be easy to focus on the negatives, the stuff we can't do. But most of us are finding it helpful to think positive, allaying our indoor isolation with plans and dreams. Life is short, we're reminded, and there's nothing like an enforced pause to help you reflect on your walking priorities. Take a look and you'll probably spot some glaring gaps in your hillwalking CV - summits, ranges or even entire areas that have yet to feel the tread of your boots. When we do eventually return to the hills, perhaps it will be with a newfound sense of purpose, and a focus on filling in some of those blanks on personal maps.

So which blindingly obvious hills have you somehow failed to climb as yet?

We asked a few UKH regulars to own up to their most inexcusable omissions. Looks like we've got plenty to work on when lockdown ends...

Paps of Jura - Dan Bailey

Floating on the western horizon, the Paps of Jura have the unattainable allure of an island range, their distinctive scree cones easily recognisable from many mainland peaks.

Paps of Jura from Arran  © newhey
Paps of Jura from Arran
© newhey, Jul 2010

Of course that unattainability is only imagined - it's the Hebrides, not the dark side of the Moon. But the fact remains that they are a hassle, tucked away on their own wild island, far from the more usual haunts of walkers and climbers. You'd have to make a special effort to get there, a commitment of at least a couple of days.

None of the three main peaks, Beinn a' Chaolais, Beinn an Oir and Beinn Shiantaidh make it as far as 800m, but as Ralph Storer wrote in his classic book 100 Best Routes on Scottish Mountains - a well thumbed copy of which has occupied my bedroom floor since teenage years - "no mountain lover could fail to be lured to their commanding summits".

But despite being a big fan of wild islands and challenging little hills, this is a trip that I have never managed to make time for. So long as you like it tough, then the walking on Jura is said to be stunning - both on the Paps and along the island's deserted west coast. I've a hunch I'll want to do both. Post apocalypse, I can feel a ferry trip coming on.

This vid gives a good idea of what we Jura ingenues have been missing:

Pen y Fan - Anne Butler

Certain hills seem to lure you in and invite you to climb them, and from an early age, even before I had developed any interest in hillwalking, Pen y Fan caught my eye. Its graceful grassy curves, the layers of rock strata and the promise of endless views sweeping away from the summit made a city bound London girl want to head west and climb it.

Crossing the ridge from Pen y Fan to Corn Du  © Nonac_Digi
Crossing the ridge from Pen y Fan to Corn Du
Tukukino, Mar 2011
© Nonac_Digi

Whenever I saw pictures of Pen-y-Fan in hillwalking magazines it piqued my interest, we now lived in Devon and Brecon Beacons weren't really that far away. I found a dog friendly holiday cottage near Talybont-on-Usk and booked it for a week during the spring of 2001. I spent the winter months buying maps and planning a weeks walking including the highlight of the trip, the long awaited circuit over Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big from the Storey Arms.

Cue the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak. It started slowly but gained momentum very quickly, the countryside was closed and by the time the moors and coastlines had reopened, the date for our trip to Wales had long since passed.

Sunrise at Pen Y Fan  © Mikaela Toczek
Sunrise at Pen Y Fan
© Mikaela Toczek, Feb 2018

The feeling of déjà vu with our current lockdown seems painfully familiar, the hills are out of bounds and plans for the year have been put on hold.

Since the foot and mouth outbreak we have moved to Scotland and Pen y Fan remains unclimbed to this day. I still look lovingly at its long sweeping ridges and wonder if I will ever get there. Maybe one day, but the 10 hour drive from Aviemore is rather off putting.

Suilven - Jamie Bankhead WMCI

Suilven might just be the perfect small mountain. Its sugarloaf summit buttress and long exposed ridge dominate the surrounding area, it often escapes the clag that enshrouds higher peaks, and the views (I can only assume) must be spectacular, with the Minch and the outer isles to the west and the other shapely Coigach peaks all jostling for attention.

An incredible morning on Suilven   © Lisa Bishop
An incredible morning on Suilven
© Lisa Bishop, Jun 2019

So why haven't I climbed it? I'm not just a Munro-bagger am I? In my defence it is a fair way north, and none of my clients have ever expressed a keenness for it. Is this me trying to deflect my shame? A fleeting plan had evolved for this summer, but that's looking in jeopardy too now. But it'll happen, and it'll be good. Maybe the long walk in and a stay at Suileag bothy, make a weekend of it. Or maybe a day on the perfect sandstone of the nearby Reiff sea-cliffs would balance it out. And I've heard rumours of an amazing pie-shop in Lochinver... More reasons to go than not. I'll wave from the top and feel like a proper Scottish hillman at last, some sunny day.

Aran Fawddwy and Aran Benllyn - Mark Reeves

To many people, Snowdonia stops just south of the Moelwynion. Cadair Idris is like some weird outlying peak, an also ran when it comes to footfall. Yet surrounding Cadair are an array of worthwhile mountains seemingly so out of the way that even from the northern edge of the park it takes over an hour and a half just to get to the parking.

Aran Fawddwy  © Pietia
Aran Fawddwy
© Pietia, Apr 2018

My interest in these peaks of the South was sparked after I started researching my latest book for Rockfax on the Mountains of Snowdonia, including the hills hidden away in the National Park's closet.

Walks I have done in the south of the Park, like Maesglase or the Arenigs, defintely feel like excursions. But they've been contemplative too, offering time to think away from the hustle and bustle of the Northern hills, and a chance to find answers to life's questions.

It's strange to think that the first thing I'll be seeking after this pandemic is over, is some serious isolation

Forming a long ridge with a spectacular eastern flank, running in an almost straight line from the southern end of Llyn Tegid, and rising to over 900 metres on Aran Fawddwy, the Aran range could be Snowdonia's best kept secret. A full traverse should take in the northern peak of Aran Benllyn, before finishing in the south on Maesgwm, which rises above the broken cliffs of Cwm Cywarch to form something like the full stop to the range.

I just wonder what the question will be the day I finally get round to it?

sunnierclimbs.com

Sgurr na Ciche - Keri Wallace

Despite living and working in the Scottish mountains, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I haven't (yet) climbed the iconic and remote Munro Sgurr na Ciche in Knoydart.

Sgurr na Ciche (right) and Ben Aden above a cloud-covered Loch Quoich  © Dan Bailey
Sgurr na Ciche (right) and Ben Aden above a cloud-covered Loch Quoich
© Dan Bailey

I have admired its distinct outline while thru-hiking, trail running and wild camping in the Rough Bounds, but it has never featured as part of my itinerary. Despite being visible and recognisable from far afield, getting to the foot of this mountain will be an adventure in itself. Once Coronavirus restrictions are relaxed, I look forward to making the unforgetable drive up to Mallaig and to catching the passenger ferry to Inverie, cut off from the UK road network on the shore of Loch Nevis. It's strange to think that the first thing I'll be seeking after this pandemic is over, is some serious isolation.

girlsonhills.com

If you're in the same boat as Keri, this Route Card could help get you planning:

Kirk Fell – Alex Roddie

When I was younger, before I discovered Scotland's wilder charms, I spent every spare moment in the Lake District. I explored the Coniston massif inside out, I climbed every Langdale peak repeatedly and from every angle, and I made the pilgrimage to Wasdale Head as often as I could to tread Great Gable's starry ways or gaze down Piers Gill.

Last light on Great Gable and Kirk Fell from Scafell.  © Henry Iddon
Last light on Great Gable and Kirk Fell from Scafell.
© Henry Iddon

But despite all these repeated visits, there are some glaring holes in my Lakeland hillwalking experience. I've never even been to the north-west Lakes. I've climbed Blencathra a grand total of once. And even in my beloved Wasdale, where I have climbed every single other hill multiple times, there is an omission that becomes more galling every time I go back: Kirk Fell. I've long admired its sturdy simplicity from below, heard all the stories of what a sod that direct ascent up the south flank can be, but I've never climbed it myself. One day. Unless I get distracted by the idea of yet another scramble on Great Gable, of course…

alexroddie.com

Moel Y Parc - Richard Prideaux

It's only 398m tall, but this bugger has been taunting me for over ten years. It's not a mountain, nor even a big hill - but it just sits there. Taunting me.

Snow showers on the Clwyds, looking north from Moel Arthur  © David Dear
Snow showers on the Clwyds, looking north from Moel Arthur
© David Dear, Mar 2013

Anyone who has driven into North Wales along the A55 has seen Moel Y Parc - it's the one with the 235-metre high mast on the side. The red navigation/don't-crash-into-this lights shine across from Cheshire and Merseyside to the shores of Anglesey and are a handy reference point when trying to get your bearings. I can see it from my house and even from the local supermarket car park - it's difficult to miss. I have still never climbed the sodding thing though.

My first attempt was scuppered by being called away to an MRT callout on a nearby hill, another attempt was called off after my (then) decrepit car broke down on the way, and yet another was thrown into disarray by some escaped sheep on the road. It seems like every time I try and get up there something gets in the way, and it just sits there at the northern end of the Clwydians silently mocking me.

The Clwydian hills are not big, nor rocky, nor particularly isolated. You can get to the summit of most of them in less than 45 minutes of gentle ambling from the nearest parking. They are however excellent places to view other hills from. The prominences of Eryri, Mid Wales are either picked out by the sun or show up as clear silhouettes, and you can see across the Cheshire plain to the Peak(s) and even to the lower reaches of the Lakeland fells. On clear and crisp days the Isle of Man is visible on the other side of a sea of twirling wind turbines.

I have climbed, run across and slept on pretty much every other peak in this diminutive cluster of hills - hopefully I will tick this one off one day.

originalouotdoors.co.uk

GR20 - Claire Maxted

Scrambling is possibly the world's funnest activity in the mountains so I've always had a hankering to grapple my way across Corsica's GR20 trail, a 110 mile trek over the rocky spine of this Mediterranean island off Italy's west coast, a classic route with more than a hint of hands-on stuff.

On the GR20, Corsica  © nickcanute
On the GR20, one of the world's most spectacular trails, photo Nick Taylor

I made a pact to do this with my friend Kate who I've done many wonderful hiking trips with all over the globe. I borrowed the guidebook, lovingly mapped out a 9-day journey across those dramatically pointed, rocky peaks, but then disaster struck. Some hikers sadly died in a landslide, so we hiked Morocco's Mount Toubkal that year instead... Then with weddings and life events popping up all over the place, we haven't managed to commit to this awesome fest of camping, hiking and scrambling just yet. But one day we will make it, and all will be well with the world.

wildgingerrunning.co.uk

Meall nan Ceapraichean - Ronald Turnbull

The thing is this. I am not a Munro-bagger, really I'm not. Just to prove it, I don't even mark them up on my map with yellow highlighter.

Coire Mathar Lathair between Beinn Dearg and Meall nan Ceapraichean  © Mal Grey
Coire Mathar Lathair between Beinn Dearg and Meall nan Ceapraichean
© Mal Grey, Mar 2017

So now, when we were walking to Cape Wrath back in the twenty-nothings, we crossed Beinn Dearg of the northern Fannichs and its companion Cona' Mheall in four or five inches of snow. And then, on the way to that very cosy bothy north of Seana Bhraigh, we had two choices. Crossing the top of the hump ahead would give an aiming-off point for the next leg of our journey. But in low cloud and semi-whiteout conditions, how much more satisfying to do it by compass and the contours. To save 40m of ascent while tracking the timings and the direction of the wind and the direction of slope to descend into the following col.

Thawing out, after not quite climbing a Munro...   © Ronald Turnbull
Thawing out, after not quite climbing a Munro...
© Ronald Turnbull

Six hours later, snowy socks gently steaming in front of a pine-log fire at Magoo's Bothy, the hut book shows our predecessor hitting every hill in Scotland. Like us, he's just been on Beinn Dearg, Cona' Mheall, Eididh of the Yellow Stones, and Seana Bhraigh. But he's also noted his crossing of the meaningless hump, the one called Meall nan Ceapraichean. And a horrid suspicion begins to form…

As you know, I'm not a Munro-bagger. Meal nan Ceapraichean doesn't matter. Doesn't matter at all. It really, really doesn't.

ronaldturnbull.co.uk

Mount Kosciuszko - Di Gilbert

The Seven Summits are the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. Everybody agrees with six of them. However, anybody who is climbing the Seven Summits will be aware of the of the Messner and Bass versions.

It might not be the most exciting peak Di's never climbed...  © Jake Meyer
It might not be the most exciting peak Di's never climbed...
© Jake Meyer

Mount Kosciuszko is the highest mountain on the Australian mainland while Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid) is the highest mountain in the Australian continent. Kosciuszko is apparently a four-hour walk from the car park while Carstensz, located in the wild heart of Indonesia's half of the island of New Guinea, is a logistical nightmare with some very peachy scrambling. And it's over twice the height of its Australian rival, at 4884m! What has stemmed from this is the Eight Summits challenge, which includes both the above.

Here's one that Di did earlier - base camp for Carstensz Pyramid  © Di Gilbert
Here's one that Di did earlier - base camp for Carstensz Pyramid
© Di Gilbert

I've been up Puncak Jaya, but since I've never actually been to Australia I've never even thought about doing Kosciuszko. It looks a bit like Ben Macdui, in my own back yard in Scotland! Maybe when I'm older and can't cope with long mountain days…

digilbert.co.uk



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