Book Review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
Langdale: The Langdale Pikes and Bowfell by Mark Richards. Cicerone. £14.95.
Mark Richards is an indefatigable mountain walker. He is also an incurable Romantic and his passion for the fells is probably unsurpassed except, perhaps, by his old friend Alfred Wainwright. For Mark, the Lake District is “a land of living dreams”. He finds: “The trappings of modern life thrust carpet and concrete under our feet and it is always wonderful to walk the region’s sheep trods and rough trails, and to imprint our soles on the fells.”
Those imprinted soles, however, bring their own hazard. The well-trodden routes up the fells are becoming too well trodden and it is one of the intentions of this and the other guides in the series to encourage walkers to venture on other and less frequented paths. Mark wants to recommend “fell-friendly routes to each summit which are less susceptible to erosion”.
He finds Scafell Pike is not the most beautiful of fells, but it is “the highest, roughest, toughest and assuredly the most revered ground”.
Mark offers routes up from four directions, but you always feel he is a man who has walked the route many times in all sorts of weather, one who understands the problems a person walking that way for the first time might encounter. Walking up from Rossett Gill, he notes that “the terrain here has a nasty habit of confusing even confident ramblers and it is a meeting of the four winds too”. You feel he is with you as you follow the route: “Weave through the boulders, the path inevitably vague. The boulders relent as the summit of Scafell Pike comes tantalisingly into eye-shot – more distant than you may have hoped.”
There are detailed maps to support Mark’s descriptions and some intelligently chosen photographs. The glory of these guides, however, is Mark’s own drawings. Unashamedly imitated from Wainwright, they offer the clearest of visual guides to each route.
The Guide also includes a selection of “inspiring ridge routes . . . for those of you who like to spend a little longer with your head and feet in the heavenly realms”. Mark takes the aspiring walker on the Great Langdale Round, the Langdale Pikes, the Easedale Skyline and the Green Burn Horseshoe.
The eight guidebooks in the series – Wasdale, Langdale, Patterdale, Mardale and the Far East, Buttermere, Keswick, Borrowdale and Coniston – are revamped versions of Mark’s Fellranger series of guides published a decade ago.
If you require an authoritative, comprehensive, up-to-date guide to all the routes in the fells, then this new, smaller, lighter format of the Fellranger Guides is among the best. They are colourful and well-planned. And Mark’s enthusiasm is infectious. You only have to read his description of one of the routes and you’ll be getting out of that cosy chair in front of the fire and reaching for your hiking boots.