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back to Book Reviews

The World of a Wainwright Bagger
by Chris Stanbury
ISBN: 9781850588542
Published by Sigma Leisure

The World of a Wainwright Bagger
Don’t let the word ‘Bagger’ put you off. The concept of dashing up and down hills just to acquire that tick is not what AW would have approved of, nor Eric Robson who has described Wainwright Bagging as ‘trainspotting with altitude’, yet has written a foreword to the book.

The book is an autobiographical account of climbing Lake District peaks. Chris Stanbury, who first began walking in Lakeland some twenty years ago, describes the long-distance walks he has undertaken, the ascent of summits and how an appreciation of the Lake District environment gradually evolved through each experience. Concerning those early encounters, there are chapters entitled ‘Skiddaw’, ‘High Mountains and Ridges’, ‘Bagging in Winter’ and ‘Scary Places’.

Gaining the ticks was clearly not the author’s main objective, rather the quality of the experience of going up fells. Chris reveals his joy of seeking out what he terms ‘the spiritual summits’ of mountains (not always the highest points) where the best views can be enjoyed in order to ‘get an overall picture and knowledge of the landscape around you’. He says that he finds it essential to stay on the summits for as long as possible in order that he might understand the character of these 214 high places, and to enjoy the euphoria he experiences there. Chris commends lower Wainwrights, which have abundant charm, solitude and intrigue and recounts numerous experiences encountering red deer on The Nab, cloud inversions and mists, headducking in cool mountain water; bottom-sliding off mountains in winter snows. A recurrent theme is sharing AW’s preference for solitude on the fells.

One chapter discusses the theories behind the urge to ‘bag’. Chris admits to being a self-confessed bagger, but explains that it is part of a desire to know the Lakeland fells intimately. ‘And because of that, my love of the Lake District extends beyond just bagging the 214 summits. I will not rest until I have an intimate knowledge of each fell.’ I found the book full of thought-provoking ideas and reflections about the mountain world so many of us enjoy.

Chris writes passionately about the fells and with a fresh perspective, and clearly shares values held by Alfred Wainwright. I’ll leave the last words to Eric Robson who, in his foreword, answers the question why he would write ‘nice things’ about a book about ‘fell-bagging’: ‘Simple. Chris takes time to pause, to take in the view and to think about the meaning of life as he slowly works his way round the Lake District. The Wainwright-bagging is a means to an end rather than a superficial ritual. Chris is a personable companion. Enjoy the long walk in his company.’

reviewed by Roger Bunyan- Member No. 1217