This and the Lake District pages in this web-site

are humbly dedicated to the evergreen memory of

Donald Firth, F. I. MechE. (1918 - 2003),

who first introduced me to the joys of hill-walking,

(and so much else of the first quality besides),
and also of his wonderful wife
Betty Firth (1918 - 2009),

likewise a lover of all the finest in life!

Rainbow over Helm Crag, Grasmere

Why go hill-walking - or, as my long-suffering ‘better half’ is wont to say, why would anyone in their right mind want to go out in the cold and wet and exhaust themselves on some rocky, slippery slope or another, come home knackered, and somehow apparently enjoy it?!

Here are some answers:

1.  "The attraction certainly cannot lie in the view to be obtained from the summit;  for as a rule the view is better when you are looking at mountains, not from them.  It is not solely for the physical satisfaction of making the ascent, though there is no better exercise in the world than climbing.  I hope it is not simply in order to have the gratification of telling other people about one's achievement;  nor for the self-justification of carrying out a difficult climb in spite of contrary odds.  No, there is a greater satisfaction than that in it:  the beauty and aloofness of high mountains and the hard physical effort which is required to visit them combine to produce an emotion which has an inexpressible charm for those who have experienced it.  Mountains have always been acclaimed as the dwelling-place of the gods, and the mountain spirit reveals himself at such moments to his worshippers."

(F. Spencer Chapman, D.S.O., Memoirs of a Mountaineer, London: Odhams Press Ltd., p. 22)


2.  "Why does a man climb mountains?  Why has he forced his tired and sweating body up here when he might instead have been sitting at his ease in a deckchair at the seaside, looking at girls in bikinis, or fast asleep, or sucking ice-cream, according to his fancy.  On the face of it the thing doesn't make sense.

Yet more and more people are turning to the hills;  they find something in these wild places that can be found nowhere else.  It may be solace for some, satisfaction for others:  the joy of exercising muscles that modern ways of living have cramped, perhaps;  or a balm for jangled nerves in the solitude and silence of the peaks;  or escape from the clamour and tumult of everyday existence.  It may have something to do with a man's subconscious search for beauty, growing keener as so much in the world grows uglier.  It may be a need to re-adjust his sights, to get out of his own narrow groove and climb above it to see wider horizons and truer perspectives.  In a few cases, it may even be a curiosity inspired by A Wainwright's Pictorial Guides.  Or it may be, and for most walkers it will be, quite simply, a deep love of the hills, a love that has grown over the years, whatever motive first took them there:  a feeling that these hills are friends, tried and trusted friends, always there when needed."

(Alfred Wainwright,  A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, Book Four: The Southern Fells  Kendal:  Westmorland Gazette, Scafell Pike 24)

3.  “To the true mountain lover, the hills are his whole life.  For him, the mountains, whether they are little Lakeland hills or the giants of the Alps and the Himalayas, are a constant challenge, but - more important - they are always an inspiration to him to turn from false values to things that really matter.  And the attraction of the hills is their beauty, for surely there is more beauty, more grandeur, more nobility in the higher places of this earth than there is among the flat lands.

... once a man discovers the hills he has got hold of something that will stay with him to the end of his days.  He will never tire of it and nobody can take it away from him, but he will be really happy only when he can lift up his eyes to the hills.”

(A. Harry Griffin, The High Places Francis Lincoln Ltd., pp. 86-87)

4.  “These beauteous forms...
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened: -- that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on, --
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things...

For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things...”

(From “Tintern Abbey”, by W. Wordsworth)

5.  "It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves."

(Sir Edmund Hillary)

I rest my case!

Alan Waters


P.S.  if you enjoy Lake District walks as much as I do, please consider making a  donation to the Fix the Fells Project.