How to Complete the Wainwrights – A Beginner’s Guide

March 18, 2022 3 min read

The Westmorland Cairn at the summit of Great Gable, The Gables

What do you need to know before beginning your Wainwrights adventure? Former Wainwrights record holder Steve Birkinshaw pens a beginner’s guide to completing the Lake District’s most famous fells.

Steve says There is No Map in Hell, but we've created one ... Our Peak Bagging: Wainwrights Fold-out Poster is now available to pre-order, and you can order our guidebook and map together for just £23 as part of the Peak Bagging Bundle offer.

I live in the Lake District and enjoy running on the fells. I also enjoy days out walking on the fells with my family. The children really enjoy the walks, but we have always been careful to do walks that are within their capabilities and have made sure we have never been out on the top of the fells in awful weather.

(1) Have a good look at an up to date weather forecast. As well as checking to see if there is going to be sun/clouds/rain, also check the temperature, and the wind speeds and direction. It can be nice and warm in the valleys but the wind chill effect on the top can make it seem really cold. 

(2) The radar map will show where it is currently raining. If you look at the animation, it can tell you what to expect over the next few hours. 

(3) Peak Bagging: Wainwrights will show lots of great routes. Strava Heat Map is also useful to tell you where other potential routes exist. It is worth noting that if the heat map becomes less strong and the routes spread out, the path will be less obvious at that point.

Summit of Whiteside, Grasmoor and MorePhoto © Andrew Locking –

(4) Start with short days and build up to longer days gradually. If you are not used to it the downhills are often the hardest.

(5) Learn how to navigate in the fells. Navigation on a sunny day in summer is generally quite easy but get used to looking at the maps and knowing how to use a compass when it is nice because when the wind, rain and clouds come in, it is not the time to learn how to do it.

(6) Don’t get obsessed with having the most up-to-date kit, but you do need suitable kit for the weather and the walk you are doing. Remember, the weather can change quickly at any time of year. If you are having a long day out, do not use kit you have never tried before, you could end up with bad rubbing, blisters etc.

Great Knott and Crinkle Crags on the descent from Pike o' BliscoPhoto © Andrew Locking –

(7) Do carry food and drink with you, but do not get obsessed by the latest sports bar or drink. As a family we just have sandwiches and a flask of Vimto. On hot days, a water bottle with a filter is a useful investment as it saves having to carry much water with you (although do check on a map beforehand to see if you are going to be crossing any streams).

(8) Be happy to turn around or shorten a walk if the weather turns or you are not enjoying it. The fells will always be there. 

(9) Do look after the fells. There is not much litter on them and we pick up any we see when we are walking. Orange skin and banana peels count as litter (they take ages to decompose on the fells).

Summit of Grisedale Pike looking towards Hopegill HeadPhoto © Andrew Locking –

(10) Look after the planet. Use buses or boats to make linear walks (Wainwright did most of his walks using public transport). Or if that doesn’t work for you, car share if you can and make sure you park your car considerately.

(11) If you want to bag a Wainwright, make sure you go to the correct summit. Wainwright often chose the location with the best view – not the highest point.

(12) Enjoy your walks and make the most of your days out in a beautiful place.