Steve Birkinshaw’s Top Ten Wainwrights



Everyone who goes to the Lake District has their own favourite Wainwright Fells. Last summer I ran them all in 6 days and 13 hours, I have also spent many years running and training over them so I have got to know a lot of them fairly well. I have also walked up some of them with my family. Here is a list of my top 10 favourites – they are a very personal choice and depend on a variety of factors such as the weather, the company and terrain preferences (whether you like rocky or grassy routes). I am sure some people will look at these and wonder why I have chosen them but they all bring back special memories for me.



10. Carrock Fell (661m)

This is on the eastern edge of the Northern Fells. It a great little fell that rises up steeply from the Caldew valley. On a good day there are great views across the Eden valley to the North Pennines. It has a fascinating history and geology which I would like to know more about.
My most recent ascent was with the family over the Christmas period. We took the short steep rocky climb from the road to the east of the summit and then we all ran down a nice grassy descent going first west then north from the summit.



Carrock Fell summit with my sons, James and Matthew



9. Pike O’Blisco (705m)

This fell has a nice little rocky summit and a great view over the Langdale Valley to the Langdale Pikes. The summit is a checkpoint towards the end on at least four fell races and you can make loads of places up if you are feeling strong on this climb.


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Descending from Pike O’Blisco summit on the Langdale Fell race


8. Red Screes (776m)

This is a great rocky fell rising up steeply from the Kirkstone Pass on the Ambleside – Ullswater road. The first photo shoot I did with Berghaus was running up and down Red Screes from the Kirkstone Pass. It has great memories for me on my Wainwrights round as it was the half-way point. It took me around three days (72 hours) to get to this point and although it was an exceptional long way from this point and I already had blisters and tendonitis I felt I was making progress in my goal of finishing all the Wainwrights.



Berghaus photo shoot on Red Screes with Helene Whitaker


7. Harter Fell (649m)

The picture I have included of Harter Fell does not really sell it. But there are wonderful views of the whole of the South and West Lake District from its summit. There are also three rocky summits and it is fun to scramble around and decide which is highest. One time coming down from the summit I got really disorientated and after 10 minutes going round in circles I arrived back to exactly where I had been before. I took out my compass and had to force myself to carefully follow a bearing, although I felt it was taking me in entirely the wrong direction. Eventually I came out exactly where I wanted.



Approaching Harter Fell summit at dusk towards the end of the 2nd day of my Wainwrights run


6. Catstye Cam (890m)

Catstye Cam is connected to Helvellyn via Swirral edge. I was going to include Helvellyn in this list as I really like the area around Red Tarn surrounded by Stridding edge , Helvellyn and Swirral edge. However, the pointed summit of Catstye Cam is so much better than Helvellyn that I decided to include this fell.



Catstye Cam on the 5th day of my Wainwrights run  


5. Hallin Fell (388m)

From Martindale church it is only about 160m to the summit (one of the shortest climbs of any Wainwright). Despite this short climb there is a great view from the summit of Ullswater and the surrounding fells. I last went up here with the family in the autumn. We sat in the car with the rain pouring down and thought about heading straight home. But once the rain stopped we set off and were treated to some amazing light with the sun shining between the black clouds.


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My sons, James and Matthew, approaching the summit of Hallin Fell


4. Scafell Pike (978m)

As the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike is an obvious choice. However, I very nearly did not put it in the list. The last time I climbed it with the family was a weekend in June from Wasdale Head. The car park was full of minibuses of groups of people doing the 3 peaks. It is great to see so many people enjoying the fells, however, a significant number seemed to think it is OK to drop banana skins, and gel and bar wrappers. We picked up quite a lot on the way up and down but there was so much it did not seem to make much difference.


Despite this it is still a great mountain with a wonderful view from the top and loads of different ways up. I particularly like some of the routes from upper Eskdale to the summit.



My Daughter, Hannah, on the descent from Scafell Pike



3. Cat Bells (451m)

This top at the western side of Derwent Water near Keswick must be one of the most climbed fells in the Lake District and as such an obvious choice. However, I have included it as there is a great view from the summit and the children really like climbing it (Hannah in particular as she likes cats!). Just as they are getting bored there is an interesting rocky section or they see one of the Derwent water launches. The large number of people around also seems to provide a bit of motivation.



A family photo on the summit of Cat Bells


2. Helm Crag (405m)

This rocky fell is also known as the ‘The Lion and the Lamb’ and I am a big fan of it. It is a short walk up from Grasmere and a great view from the summit. The last time I was there with my family the children spent an hour exploring all the rocky sections. It was a bit scary watching them but they seem to know their limits.



Helm Crag with my son, Matthew, looking towards Seat Sandal



1. Blencathra (868m)

Definitely my favourite Lakeland Fell. However, I am biased as I live near it southern base and can look from the house at the five spectacular ridges coming down from Blencathra. As well as these ridges there are two more (including Sharp Edge round the other side). So there is a massive range of options of which way to go up and down. Most of my training is on or around Blencathra and I must run up to the summit around 30 times a year. However, my favourite route is up Doddick Fell – it is a great place for hill intervals! It is also the fastest route down from the summit (11 minutes from the summit to the wall where the fell meets the fields).



Blencathra summit on a photo shoot with Alistair Lee for the film he produced of my Wainwrights run