Posts tagged #Lake District

Alfred Wainwright

There is no other character in British hiking quite as celebrated as Alfred Wainwright; although he is little known outside of the UK, for many he is the godfather of recreational walking. His pictorial guides to the hills and fells have made much of the UK, and in particular the Lake District, accessible for all to enjoy.

It all began on 7th June 1930. Wainwright had saved enough money for a weeks holiday in the Lake District in North-West England. He took the bus from his Blackburn home and after arriving in Windermere he made for Orrest Head; it is a short walk but ends with breathtaking views over the town of Windermere, the lake of the same name and the surrounding fells.

I was totally transfixed, unable to believe my eyes. I had never seen anything like this. I saw mountain ranges, one after another, the nearer starkly etched, those beyond fading into the blue distance. Rich woodlands, emerald pastures and the shimmering water of the lake below added to a pageant of loveliness, a glorious panorama that held me enthralled.
— Alfred Wainwright
My trip to Orrest Head

My trip to Orrest Head

From then on he was hooked, he spent the following years making multiple trips to explore the Lake District – he even found ways to make the journey during the early years of World War II, when travel was heavily restricted. So keen was his love of the area, that in 1941 he took a pay cut and moved north to Kendal to work for the Kendal Treasurer's Department. The hills were now on his doorstep and he ventured out at every opportunity, building a personal relationship and deep knowledge of their many peaks.

Being a meticulous scribe, illustrator and artist, as well as a passionate walker, Wainwright began to document each of his trips. In 1951 he began work on a set of Lakeland Guides, he intended to climb and document every one of the 214 Lake District's Fells. He completed this in 13 years and compiled them into seven books, once published they became instant classics, inspiring millions to load up a pack and head to the hills. Wainwright went on to expand his range, creating guides for the Pennine Way, the Coast To Coast walk and eventually the Lake District's Outer Fells, these have also become indispensable walking guides.

Each Wainwright guide is exquisite. Every publication is a compilation of his illustration and writing; of factual practical knowledge as well as his whimsical musings. If you chance upon any be sure to pick them up, even if you have no intention of visiting the Lake District – they are real works of art and an amazing case study in information design. His guides are now part of UK folklore, so much so that the 214 peaks in the Lake District are now known as 'Wainwrights'. The guides are still widely available and have been recently updated by Chris Jesty (a friend of Wainwrights) for Frances Lincoln who now has the publishing rights for the guides.

Sadly Alfred Wainwright passed away in 1991. He may have been quiet and reclusive in life, but his legacy does, and will, continue to speak loudly of his love for the hills and fells for years to come, through the practical content of his guides and in the memories created by the generations of walkers they inspired. 

Posted on March 12, 2015 and filed under Hero.

Kendal Mint Cake

Kendal Mint Cake on the 1924 Everest Expedition

Kendal Mint Cake on the 1924 Everest Expedition

Before there were Clif Bars, Larabars, Powerbars, Mulebars, GU, BumbleBars, Greens Energy Bars, Belly Timber Survival Energy Bars, Hammer Bars, Honey Stinger Energy Sachets and Rise Bars. Before there was dextrose and glucose tablets. Before there was Snickers and Mars Bars. Before there was even Hershey Bars and Cadburys Dairy Milk there was Kendal Mint Cake.

Kendal mint cake is a confectionary made from sugar, glucose and peppermint oil, prized by hikers, climbers and explorers alike for it's high energy content.

It's story is simply told. According to legend a confectioner named Joseph Wiper was attempting to make glacier mints, he took his eye off the cooking pan and when he returned the mixture had become cloudy and grainy. He poured and set the mixture anyway and the Kendal Mint Cake was born. He began making Wiper's Mint Cake in a small factory in Kendal.

Mount Ossa Attempt

Mount Ossa Attempt

Since its creation it has earned possibly the greatest resumé of any confectionary.

  • Kendal mint cake boxes have been found in WWI trenches.
  • Sir Ernest Shackleton stocked mint cake on his 1914-17 Trans-Antarctic Expedition aboard the "Endurance" and "Aurora."
  • Grettir Algarsson stocked it when he led his North Polar Expedition attempt in 1925.
  • It was also carried by the Cambridge Greenland Expedition as they tried to map the East Coast of the country in 1929
  • 1931 saw it packed aboard the R.S.S "Discovery" for the British, Australian, New Zealand Antarctic Research expedition under the leadership of Sir Douglas Mawson.
  • The R.S.S "Discovery II" also packed the treat on the British Antarctic Reasearch Expedition in 1931.
  • The early British Mount Everest Expeditions all took Wiper's Mint Cake in their attempts in 1922, 1924, 1933 and 1935-6. It was said to be a favourite treat of George Mallory's.
  • Romney's provided the mint cake for the successful 1954 Everest expedition. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay snacked on mint cake at the summit. Norgay is quoted on Romney's packaging "we sat on the snow and looked at the country far below us... we nibbled Kendal Mint Cake."
  • British climber and writer Gwen Moffat spoke about eating mint cake in her 1961 book the "Space Between My Feet."
  • According to the Mick Wall's book "When Giants Walked the Earth," Robert Plant and Jimmy Page shared mint cake after writing "That's the way."
  • Sir Chris Bonington also snacked on Kendal Mint cake on his 1975 summit of Everest as well. He even had his own promotional bar made by Romney's and Berghaus.
  • Colin Fletcher talked about his love for mint cake in "The Complete Walker" and "The New Complete Walker" he saved the energy laden sweet for days he was "pushing hard." Thanks canoe62 for the tip-off.
  • It is included in the Irish Defence Force ration pack and in some menus of the British MOD ration packs.
  • Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman packed mint cake on their 2004 "Long Way Round" motorcycle expedition.
  • The Vintage Hiking Depot author enjoyed mint cake on his failed attempt to summit Mt. Ossa, in Tasmania in 2008.

A lot of the  information used was found at Stricklandgate House centre for voluntary organisations in South Lakeland. If you know of any more famous tales that should be added to Kendal Mint Cake's Resumé please feel free to contact me.

Posted on November 27, 2011 and filed under Classic Kit.

Wainwright On Equipment.

Orrest Head Lookout, Windermere - Where it all began

Orrest Head Lookout, Windermere - Where it all began

My small rucksack was in fact virtually empty, and I could have managed quite well without it. I incline to the view, never before expressed, that a rucksack is not at all necessary on a walking tour. How some can enjoy themselves beneath the weight of their huge, fifty-pound burdens completely passes my comprehension.

I have had expeditions in the Lake District without a pack, and gone short of nothing. I take a light raincoat or a cape, always; but never a change of clothes, nor an extra shirt, nor pyjamas. The clothes I wear when I set off must suffice: if they get wet, it is unfortunate for walking in wet raiment is unpleasant, but they have never failed to get dry afterwards. Pyjamas are, of course, a nuisance at all times and have no saving grace. A pair of slippers is a comfort, and additional socks are essential, but these will slip easily into a pocket.

On occasion my rucksack contained four maps, the one in use being carried in my pocket. I had a toothbrush and safety razor, a bottle of Indian ink and a pen, pencil and a rubber and a few postcards. I had a miscellany of ointments and safe and certain cures for influenza, widely different in form and actually resembling each other only in the fact that they were one and all highly recommended by medical proffesion.

All told, the entire content of my rucksack would weigh less than two pounds, so that I was free to square my shoulders and stride out as quickly as I pleased
— Alfred Wainwright, from Wainwright The Biography
Posted on October 12, 2011 and filed under Gear List.