The 215th Wainwright?

MANY READERS of this magazine have an interest — often an active interest — in a wide variety of hill lists: Marilyns, Corbetts, Donalds, Welsh 2000ers, Yeaman–Humps, council tops, trig tops and who the hell knows what else. TAC has long been a rallying point for those keen on such things. But for all this diversity of lists, and for all that various of them have grown in popularity in recent years, it would be hard to deny that the two most popular British hill categories, in voting-with-feet terms, are the Munros and the Wainwrights.

The Munros are always going to be up there, the biggest and — possibly — the best. In centuries to come, people will still be plugging away at the Munros, and the list of known completers (maintained by smc_4.6 or some such cyberclub) will comprise a ridiculous six-figure number of names.

The Wainwrights, however, are more recent (Alfred of that ilk only signed off his seventh book at the end of 1965), and more curious in that they weren’t intended to form a list at all, such that it’s far from clear what one has to do to tick them off.

The standard way is the obvious one: visit the highest point of each of the 214 fells that merit individual chapters in AW’s great work. But by his own admission, AW didn’t always de- scribe the physical highpoint when illustrating “The Summit”. There are various examples, eg Whin Rigg and Graystones

and that’s without even getting into the debate about Helm Crag, where AW freely admitted (to the point of making a self-deprecating joke) that he hadn’t been to the very top.

Quite what a Wainwright-bagger ought to do on such fells is unclear. Go to the mapped highpoint and leave it at that, or seek out the AW-designated cairn and ignore the true top? Hedge bets and visit both? There are those — a small but diligent minority — who argue that to tick off a Wainwright re- quires having walked every route in that hill’s chapter. Hence Blencathra needs at least six visits to tackle the 12 routes given by AW. A further refinement would involve tramping the minor variations, but even the most ardent Alfredophile is unlikely to adopt that as their framework.

These are just nuances and personal preferences, how- ever. What is seen as an absolute constant in Wainwrighting terms is the number of fells being fixed forever at 214, this being the number of chapters in the seven books (35E, 36FE, 27C, 30S, 24N, 29NW and 33W).

Chris Jesty might have updated AW’s routes and modified his text, but even he wouldn’t dare meddle with the number of chapters. The total of Munros has, in recent decades, mean- dered from 279 to 276 to 277 to 284 to the current 283, and will surely change again. But 214 is going to remain the num-

ber of Wainwrights until kingdom come, even though there are cases to be made for adding all sorts of things — Darling Fell, Burnt Horse, the Benn, Ill Crag and Broad Crag — even Walna Scar, the one Lakes 2000-footer outside AW’s ringfence. Others

eg Mungrisdale Common or the Knott — could well merit deletion, but it’s not going to happen. To adapt some lines by Edward Thomas, “No fell left and no fell came”. (Adlestrop, inci- dentally, includes the name of a Wainwright: Haycock.)

That doesn’t mean, however, that there always were 214 chapters. Turn to Volume One, The Eastern Fells. Being the first in the series, the artist’s touch is not so light, and there are ele- ments here that AW — a good self-editor — ditched in subse- quent volumes. Take, for instance, the “thumbnails” used in the 360-degree summit views from Catstycam, Dollywaggon Pike and Nethermost Pike — an idea dropped come Book Two. There is a work-in-progress feel to things, before the format firmed up.

Which brings us to pages Helvellyn 21 and White Side 9 of The Eastern Fells. These concern “Ridge Routes”, the connec- tions between the fell in question and its neighbouring-chapter fells. It’s an idea that AW maintained throughout the series, and a useful one: he provides a small map, distance and reascent figures, and a description of the terrain, often with dire warnings about going this way in mist.

The Helvellyn ridge routes lead to four other summits: Hel- vellyn Lower Man, Catstycam, Birkhouse Moor and Nethermost Pike. The White Side routes lead to just two: Helvellyn Lower Man and Raise. Except that Helvellyn Lower Man isn’t a Wain- wright — it doesn’t have its own chapter in the book.

There seems no doubt that AW was treating Helvellyn Lower Man as one of the chapter-fells when he wrote his Helvellyn and White Side connections, as the name is given in block capi- tals. If a hill name is upcased, it’s a main-chapter fell. Elsewhere in the Helvellyn and White Side chapters, Lower Man is some- times in lower case (see Helvellyn 3), but mostly in caps (see the maps on Helvellyn 20 and White Side 6).

It’s unclear whether AW excised the Lower Man because of pressure of space, or because, after due consideration, he deemed it unworthy of separate-fell status. It only has around 20m of reascent from the Helvellyn side, and not much distance

but other Wainwrights have even less. Perhaps height was the deciding factor: at 925m, it would have been the fifth-highest fell in the series, poor fare between Skiddaw (931m) and Great End (910m). Whatever the reason, it got the chop late enough for AW not to have the time or the inclination to redraw those pages where it had been capitalised — and so the traces remain.

We’ll never know why he did this, unless some draft version of The Eastern Fells lurks in an archive, but it does seem certain that there were once 215, not 214, fells in the Wainwright canon.














Cameron Scott, Gordon Smith,

OUTLETS: Nevisport and Tiso,



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Aberfeldy: Munros, 1 Bridgend



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Top dogs










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Eager beavers

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Printed by Clydeside Press



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Just like old times

It was a tad chilly from late December through to February. TAC asked five hillgoers for their snowy recollections

Kenny MacIver, Inverness

The first hint of what was to follow came with snowfall to sea level on the morning of Saturday 19 December. By the end of that weekend the north-east Highlands were

awinter wonderland. The north-easterly and easterly winds that followed led to widespread snowfall, hard frosts and brought back memories of 1995, 1979 and the early 1980s, conditions many thought would never return.

A Scandinavian high controlled the weather. The moors and hills were transformed into something very similar to Norway’s Hardangervidda area and for the first winter break ever I did not do any hillwalking. In- stead, I put my four sets of skis to good use: cross- country skiing on forest tracks at Culloden moor, Daviot woods and Loch Morlich; touring on glistening white moorland that is normally a heady Highland mix of heather, bog and biting insects; telemark skiing (the most fun you can have with your clothes on?) at Cairngorm; free-heel ski mountaineering in the northern Highlands and on what has become my favourite ski hill, Ben Macdui.

I was out on skis for 20 days in a row — during the day, in the evening, or both. Gluttony is allowed if the fare on offer is of top quality and might not be served up again for a long time. One great outing followed another, but some of the track-skiing days stand out: the family cross-country ski on Christmas Day as the traditional dogwalk became a langlauf; a Hogmanay cross-country ski by moonlight, arriving back home just in time to bring in the bells with a dram at a neigh- bour’s party; and cross-country skiing on Culloden moor on the afternoon of Sunday 10 January. The sun was shining and the temperature was minus 9C with air so clear you could see the hills of Caithness way up the east coast.

The highlight of the whole wintry spell was inevitably on my old favourite, Ben Macdui. Friday 8 January was that rare perfect day for the ski mountaineer in the combination of snow cover, snow quality, the stunningly clear visibility and the wilderness feel of an empty high-tops landscape. My car thermometer registered minus 16C crossing the Findhorn and a relatively balmy minus 10C in Strathspey in the early morning pre-dawn. I put skins on my skis at the Cairngorm car park and then I was off, heading towards the northern corries. At first I thought I was in for a hard shift as the first snowfields round to Coire an t-Sneachda were soft and unconsolidated. However, after only a short dis- tance, the snowpack firmed up and provided an easy, fast ascent.

My route took me up between Coire an Lochain and Lurcher’s Gully and over the shoulder of Cairn Lochain. I passed by (or was it over?) a completely covered and invisible Lochan Buidhe, then on and up to the west of the north top of Macdui, before the final climb to the main top. The plateau was a high and lonely place that day. I saw just two other people on the plateau, both on ski, lucky for them. There was no

sign of Am Fear Liath Mor, although some friends say that I am beginning to take on a more than passing resemblance both in appearance and in haunts fre- quented! It was Arctic-cold with not a breath of wind, and everywhere was completely enveloped in a deep blanket of sparkling white. The ski descent lived up to all my expectations, with lovely turning snow both across the plateau and down by Lurcher’s Gully. All too quickly it was over.

All in all, this wintry spell of snow and sub-zero temp- eratures brought my most memorable winter break ever. However, not everyone enjoyed the icy blast of deep midwinter. Spare a thought for the wife of the lighthouse keeper at Cape Wrath. She set off to Inver- ness to buy a Christmas turkey on 23 December, then got stranded in Durness on her return journey with the Kyle of Durness to Cape Wrath road becoming im- passable due to snow and ice. She finally got home 30 days later!

Cameron Scott, Carluke

I welcomed That Wintry Spell with open arms and made a few trips to the Southern Uplands to enjoy what must have been the best winter conditions for years.

First there was a run up Tinto just after the first heavy snowfall. Not my favourite hill for an outing, but the clos- est to home, and so the best option for a quick winter hill fix during deteriorating road conditions. The driving snow ruled out any chance of a view from the top, so I could only imagine what lay on the horizon. Imagination was not required the next morning on a short trip over the hills above Lamington, from where Culter Fell looked in ideal condition for winter assault.

Early morning on New Year’s Day saw me there, with the added excitement of being first to the top this year

easily verified in snow! As I left the car at Birthwood I considered including the Cardon and Chapelgill tops, but very shortly this plan was kicked into touch as I fell through crust into deep drifts and underlying bogs, wondering whether I would even reach the main top. I eventually got there, stopping to take pictures of Chapel- gill and beyond, and the stunning ice rime features on the fence that separates Peeblesshire and Lanarkshire.

On the way down, I met members of the Upperward Mountaineering Club on their annual New Year’s Day trip up the fell. They were kitted out in full mountain hill gear, and I think some may have had reservations about me being in hillrunning kit. Ten years ago I would have felt the same, but I now believe fast and light is probably safer, at least in the Border hills. Plus, I’ve been up there many times over the past 30 years, in all conditions (physical and weather).

Two days later I set out for a longer day in the Culter range, this time armed with snow shoes — one of those

“they’ll come in handy some day” purchases on eBay a few years ago. However, I had to turn for home, the first of a few frustrating trips where plans were scupper- ed by poor road conditions.

The snow shoes stayed in the car that day, and were finally deployed on a hard slog up the Scrape from Stobo. Although they made the going a bit easier, the trip still took over four hours. Thick low cloud prevented any view, and as I trudged through the deep snow on the return leg, with the prospect of another drive home on dodgy roads, I was beginning to get a bit fed up of That Wintry Spell. Seems that you can indeed get too much of a good thing!

Simon Blackett, Braemar

Christmas Day was definitely a White Christmas. I de- cided to walk home from church — yes, some of us still go! It was about three miles across country, so a nice stroll before Christmas lunch. We had a bit of a melt in progress but it was still knee-deep in places. I took my three dogs with me and before long the woolly one was getting very snowbound and quickly became Michelin Dog. No forward movement, so I ended up carrying the wretched thing for the last mile. I earned my turkey!

Later that day one of our kitchen cupboards fell off the wall as the snow/ice melt had got inside and weakened the fittings. Smash! — dozens of mugs, glasses, jugs and plates crashed to the floor. Scary! But as the freeze/ thaw/freeze continued we had the most amazing icicle show. One of our holiday-cottage guests turned up be- fore Christmas in a people carrier with bald tyres. He got stuck immediately and eventually left on 6 January using borrowed snow chains to get him back to the main road. Oh, and the diesel in most of our vehicles froze as temperatures dropped towards minus 20C on several days.

We had so much snow that it was almost impossible to walk except on pre-run tracks. Options were ski (I am more of a downhiller than a cross-country man), or snow shoe, but I had nobly lent mine to one of the gamekeepers so he could get about his work. One wonderful sunny afternoon I was walking along the golf course road from Braemar when I met the local tele- mark champ on his skis. He had just come from the Glenshee ski centre via Glas Maol, Tolmount and across the middle of Loch Callater. Quite a mega trip!

A few days later I thought I would walk up Glen Cal- later to see the frozen loch. I have an old photo of a Land Rover standing out in the middle, but I’m not sure Elf and Safety would permit that now. Anyway, I gave up halfway, trying to wade through knee-deep snow (the woolly dog was fine because the snow was powdery and dry on top, frozen underneath).

I did get there in early February however after an approach from a film scout looking for a location for a fashion stills shoot that required a frozen loch with plenty of snow. I duly met the two scouts in their hired Japanese 4x4s. We set off to visit the loch and the hired 4x4s got stuck and had to be towed out by my trusty Landie. Eventually we reached the loch and it looked absolutely stunning in the Alpine sunshine, untouched pure white, shore to shore. I was told the plan was for the fashion model to lie on the ice with a tiger (presum- ably a dead one, to be brought over from France) with a photographer coming from New York. They wanted to light a fire on the frozen loch burning “pretty logs”. I was asked to lay on the mountain rescue, so the Braemar team will hopefully be getting a donation.

Andy Heald, Bardowie

The days between Christmas and New Year were ex- ceptionally snowy. I was without a companion and Central Gully on Ben Lui seemed a good thing to do. Donald Bennet’s atmospheric photograph of the gully was, to my generation, the cover of W H Murray’s book. And that book was, through many editions and many different cover designs, the essence of mountain- eering in Scotland to more generations than mine.

The photograph looks across the broad upper part of the gully, with the summit rocks immediately above, all in deep snow. Ranges of snow-plastered hills lie be- yond. The shade of the gully contrasts with the shining summit, but the focus is on a small figure climbing alone on the last section of the ridge that divides the gully. He moves straight in his steps, axe plunged in walking-stick position, as nobly upright as the charact- ers in the book itself. For 30 years I had wanted to be that man.

It was not a dawn start, after 10am from Dalrigh, and I was hoping to return over Ben Oss and Beinn Dubh- chraig. So I raced along the snowy Cononish track. There were footprints ahead. Eventually, by the farm, I saw a moving speck about half an hour in front. Not wanting to queue in the gully, I increased my speed and passed one climber who had taken as long on his snowy cycle as I had on foot. I passed another man, then a pair on the approach to the corrie, before pausing to step into crampons on the final steep approach.

Still I was hardly gaining on that original speck. He appeared larger now, and twice sat down as if waiting for me. He was lost from sight in the gully itself, but at one point a snowball bounced down, so I knew he was somewhere above. The climb was straightforward, with a single set of steps to follow. The snow was quite deep, “just one awkward step” as the old boys would say. Briefly, in the ice here, I resorted to front- points and my pick. Then I was out on the broader slopes above, on to the subdividing ridge of the photo, and up to the sharp wind of the summit.

He was ready to leave the cairn when I arrived. We passed a few minutes together, debating the view. He brought out a map of the whole of Scotland to con- firm, yes, that must be Rum, Skye, Nevis, and those must be the Paps of Jura. There was discussion of our routes home, but I didn’t think much about it at the time. In the fierce wind we were both eager to get on, and he disappeared.

The descent from Ben Lui and the ridge to Ben Oss was on the lee slope of all the snow that had fallen over the previous ten days. I was wading, in places

crawling, to avoid sinking in. Twice I lost a crampon and had to retrace to find it. I didn’t fancy a retreat to the corrie floor because the snow would be neck-deep down there.

The bottomless snow went on and the summit seem- ed to be getting no closer. I have to admit to wondering how much more I had in me. A Sea King chopped over to have a look and I gave more than a thought to raising my arms in the famous Y signal. I let it go, and instantly felt rather frightened, wondering whether I had made a seriously bad mistake, being too proud to ask for help.

I ploughed on, not stopping for food or drink. I told my- self that I must reach the summit of Ben Oss by 3pm, though it was not clear what I would do if that time passed.

As I struggled up the ridge, I started to think about the climber I met on Ben Lui. He had cut an unusual figure, being quite old for one so quick, though I only saw a few square inches of his face. He had an axe the length of a fishing rod, Salewa adjustable crampons of the type I’d retired 25 years ago, and a rucksack to match. He said he would take the easy way back as there were only two-and-a-half hours of daylight left, and set off the short way but must have changed his mind as I saw him descending my ridge. I had flown down that ridge catching occasional sight of him, but didn’t overtake him. His prints didn’t reach the col, and the option of descending the side, to get out of the ice-laden wind, looked a serious thing to do. As I was floundering up Ben Oss, I started to wonder if he had really existed.

I arrived on top of Ben Oss three minutes after my deadline. Most of it was now downhill and easier, al- though I still had to climb 150m over the high shoulder of Beinn Dubhchraig to reach the descent, which I reckon- ed to be the quickest way back. The top of the slope had to be found while there was still some light, and I reached it at 4:15pm as the moon came up.

After stumbling in darkness through the lovely woods of Scots pine that cover the lower slopes, I drove straight to the café in Tyndrum and ordered a large tea. “Half a litre?” she asked. “Yes, please.” She pulled out a huge mug. “Like that?” “That’s right,” I confirmed. Now, where do they keep the sugar in this place?

Paul Hesp, Vienna

Winter in Austria is more or less back to normal after a number of warmish years: lots of snow, skiing in the Vienna Woods, temperatures below zero — though not as low as in my early days here, when minus 15C wasn’t uncommon in the lowlands.

Of course schools and transport function, including in remote rural areas. In my quarter of a century in Austria I have never heard of the mountain rescue teams having to supply remote farms or pick up sick people from them. When I saw those pictures of impassable country roads in the UK, I wondered why you don’t adopt a sim- ple Austrian technology: snow screens, simple wooden lattice constructions placed on the windward side of the road. They make quite a difference.

Because I cheerfully ignored the fact that I became an old duffer in September 2008 according to Dutch law (I started getting pocket-money transfers from The Hague), my body decided to teach me a lesson exactly a year later, giving me back, ear, metabolic, blood press- ure and plumbing problems in quick succession. I man- aged to get it all sorted out, but my hillwalking suffered severely. In early November, even the 50m difference in altitude between the bus stop and our flat was a K2- sized obstacle.

In late December I managed a standard route through the Vienna Woods in accordance with Naismith’s Rule, and was looking forward to some snow shoe work. Then the plumber advised against sports for a period of four weeks.

So the steep slope of the garden with its pine and birch became Norway, and above it rose the Cuillin created by the snow plough.

Before the big freeze came the rain. Ann Bowker, writing in early February, recalls the Derwent Deluge of mid-November 2009

When I was a schoolgirl in Edgware, we lived in a road called Lake View, but the lake was really little more than a pond with a few ducks and a pair of swans. When it rained heavily, water slowly made its way up our road, but to my great regret never quite reached our house. I’m sure my parents were relieved.

I suppose it was this same wish for a bit of excitement that made the Cumbrian floods of November 2009, for me, just a great opportunity to get out with my camera. Of course it does help to live up a hill and not be threatened with inundation.

All week it was wet and water levels were rising. With the fells uninviting, walks became strolls through the grounds of Portinscale’s rather upmarket Derwentwater Hotel to the outflow from the lake — where, even on the previous Saturday, the water had crept well into the

hotel grounds. On Tuesday 17 November I just got through, but with wellies full of water. On Wednesday it was impossible to reach the lakeshore, and so the Thursday of torrential rain which followed inevitably brought real trouble.

The media claimed that Seathwaite in Borrowdale had had the most rain in 24 hours anywhere in the UK since records began in 1766, and this may well be true. A Google search, however, revealed that things are more complicated, as statistics must be measured from 9am to 9am; in which case, Martinstown in Dorset still holds the record, with 279mm starting on 18 July 1955. There was 316.4mm measured in Seatoller over 24 hours sometime between Wednesday evening and Friday morning, while the Sty Head rain gauge recorded 1431mm in November, probably an all-time monthly record.

After lunch on the Thursday, Rowland and I ventured out to the bridge over the Derwent in Portinscale to find that all the fields between there and Keswick were under water — as they had been during the “Carlisle floods” of

January 2005. It was impossible to continue towards Kes- wick, as the whole area beyond the bridge was a raging torrent pouring water into the downstream fields. We walked over higher ground towards the A66 and were amazed to find that the tiny Pow Beck between Portin- scale and the main road had apparently burst its banks, and that we were cut off from the outside world. Later, two men trying to wade to the village were nearly drown- ed here.

What had happened was that Newlands Beck had smashed down the road bridge at Little Braithwaite and broken through into the fields beyond. Abandoning its normal course, it had poured eastwards, joining Pow Beck and flooding the road out of Portinscale.

It was during that afternoon and night that Cocker- mouth was overwhelmed by the River Cocker, with eight feet of water reportedly roaring down the main street. Amazingly, thanks to the work of lifeboats, mountain rescue teams and other emergency services, there were no serious casualties in the town. Unfortunately, in Working- ton, where the Derwent meets the sea, a major road bridge was swept away along with a policeman, Bill Barker, who was trying to keep folk off. A terrible tragedy for him and his family, and one that had irritating reper- cussions for everybody else, since it resulted in numerous other bridges (probably quite safe) being closed, even to pedestrians.

Come Friday morning, Portinscale was still cut off for cars, but a slightly higher walking route allowed escape. Latrigg was reached by a devious line, and from the sum- mit we enjoyed the view of Derwentwater and Bassen- thwaite Lake merged into one. The A66 ran — by good planning foresight? — along an embankment through the enlarged lake. The view was almost identical to that on 8 January 2005, and the flooding in Keswick was on a similar scale. This time, though, Carlisle escaped and the Derwent valley bore the brunt, presumably due to the un- precedented rainfall on the fells above Seathwaite.

From Latrigg I dropped into Keswick where cars were abandoned outside the flooded supermarket, and reckon- ed I would get home along the main road — a plan thwart- ed because a policewoman stopped me from walking across the main bridge to the north-west. Afterwards, I wondered if I would have been arrested had I ignored her. She told me to go to Portinscale via Briar Rigg — the road which runs below Latrigg and from which Spooney Green Lane, the way to Skiddaw from Keswick, branches off. Instead, I found a way through the Fitz Park over a footbridge — a day later this was cordoned off. Subse- quently, the only walking way from Portinscale to Kes- wick was over a bridge installed to replace one washed

away in the 2005 floods. At the time there had been an outcry over this ugly replacement, but its overkill forti- fications seem to have been justified.

So Keswick was cut off by road for several days, except from the east. Some bridges were reopened after inspec- tion, but others remain closed at the time of writing while those at Little Braithwaite and in Lorton towards Thack- thwaite have disappeared completely.

What of the scenario for walkers? In mid-December a representative of the Lake District National Park country- side team said there are 1364 footbridges and 3500 miles of right-of-way in the park. Not all have yet been checked, but around 200 bridges appear to have been damaged or completely swept away. The prediction for restoration is nearly £8 million, and the park has applied for a gov- ernment grant. Meanwhile, various paths are blocked with yellow tape, but these are mainly valley paths and probably do not affect fellwalking routes. Apparently, however the Scarth Gap path west of Haystacks is severe- ly damaged, with a six-metre-deep hole. As of late Jan- uary it was officially closed, but I’m sure folk have been using it and circumnavigating the damage. I’ve not yet been to have a look.

In our local area, the upstream Pow Beck footbridge between Portinscale and Ullock has now been reinstated. Most annoying for us is the closure of Portinscale foot- bridge across the Derwent. This is a suspension bridge and it is hard to see why it should be dangerous; indeed, people are flouting the restriction and climbing the fence — but those who most need this route are the elderly of Portinscale who have no car and are not agile enough for fence-scaling manoeuvres.

The authorities keep reinstating the barrier and the locals keep breaking it down. In the weeks after the floods over Christmas and the New Year, hundreds if not thousands of folk safely crossed Portinscale footbridge with the barriers pushed aside, although notices at the Keswick end of the path still claimed that it was closed. On 6 January or thereabouts, the barriers were put back with new notices saying that the bridge might look safe but it wasn’t, and threatening a six-month closure. These barriers were soon thrown aside. On 13 January new stronger ones were in place, but a way was quickly cut through with wire cutters. What next? CCTV? (This was apparently used on the temporary footbridge in Work- ington to catch cyclists and motorcyclists, although pre- sumably they were allowed to push over the bridge.)

In terms of the specific damage to the bridge, 40 rods connect the deck with the overhead cables and one of the shortest rods is broken. It looks like a rust problem, so was probably not caused by the floods and could have been like this for ages. There is reportedly further damage to the supports for the cables, but there is no sign of this to the untrained eye.

Also washed out is the path beside Newlands Beck from Stair to Little Braithwaite, which had been recently upgraded for disabled use. Now the northern end has disappeared into the river.

There was a move in the area, where most working people are reliant on tourism, to promote the slogan “Cumbria is open for business”. My cynical side wanted to add “…but not for pleasure”. However, although a lot of low-level routes remain closed, I don’t think there is any significant problem for hillwalkers.