Peak Bagging - How to get started

Mike Knipe

Peak Bagging is an activity undertaken by grown men and women and involves Walking and Hiking up all the hills and mountains on a particular list - so that you can proudly claim to have er . . . walked or hiked up all the hills and mountains on a particular list. As pastimes go it's pretty harmless, healthy and gets you out into the countryside - which all in all can't be a bad thing.

Mike Knipe offers a wry look at what's involved in Peak Bagging, how to get started and where to get your 'Special Pencil'.

1) Don't ask why. The answer is 'Because they are there'.

Peak Bagging will offer you inspiration and motivation about where to go walking next, whilst allowing you keep a clear and precise record of your achievements to date (see Your Personal Mountain, Top, Peak and Hill Bagging Record).

It will suggest mountains and tops to walk up and 'bag' that you hadn't previously thought of - or even heard about.

It will ensure you visit the best mountain summits and present you with some of the finest views British Walking and Hiking has to offer.

Having said that, you will also find yourself trudging across some very dreary, rain-soaked, bog-strewn, dull, grassy humps. When you are, just remember this is supposed to fun.

2) Reduce your commitments. Concrete over the garden, lend the cat to a relative, have lots of rows with your partner so that you can storm out in a huff on Sunday mornings. (Just make sure you put your walk PDF's, OS Map, Boots, Rucksack and Food in the car the night before!).

3) Don't take it TOO seriously. Serious Hill walkers who walk around the hills looking serious are seriously missing the point and seriously deserve to have the mickey taken out of them in a serious sort of way. Try to smile, whistle through all adversity and say 'Hi' to everyone you meet.

4) Choose your list. The Wainwrights are a good place to start if you have access to The Lake District (there are 214 Mountains and Hills). You can build up from the little ones to bigger ones and they are all relatively close together.

See Walk all 214 Wainwrights in just 59 walks which includes shorter walks up the smaller Wainwrights (for the autumn/winter months and or stamina/experience building) as well as the traditional full day hikes in the high mountains for long summer days. And don't miss our Wainwright Planning Maps - essential reading for any serious Wainwright bagger. Ed.

Alternatively, you might want to bag every classified top in a specific area - like The Glyderau (or Glyders) in Snowdonia (just 11 Mountains and Hills) or The Central Fells in the Lake District (32 Mountains and Hills).

Another approach is to bag all The English Mountains over 3000ft (there are 8 by the way) and then follow that success with all The Welsh Mountains over 3000ft (that'll be another 15).

This way, if you have a week's holiday to spare, you can go home with a very full 'bag', a real sense of achievement - and (hopefully) a burning ambition to go back and do some more.

5) Use a 'Special Pencil' to tick your list. If you use a pen and you make a ticking error, you'll have to start all over again. My 'Special Pencil' was er.. 'liberated' from a young child in an hotel in Kingussie. It's a big, thick one with pictures down the sides. It must not, on any account, ever be used for anything else.

6) Plan your campaign with precision. Try to avoid leaving one hill on its own. If you do, it will inevitably be a boring, boggy place with barbed wire fences, a shelling range and patrolled by several huge aggressive and hungry dogs. And when you drive the 100 miles to do it, it will rain all day, your car will break down on the way home, the concrete on your lawn will have cracked and your dinner will be in the cat (see point 2).

But . . .

7) Leave one hill to be your 'Last Hill'. Choose this hill very carefully. Your 'Last Hill' has special, almost mystical properties. Your 'Last Hill' should have a pub at the bottom and should be fairly easy to get up. (You don't want to fail on the last one now do you?). It is on this 'Last Hill' that celebrations will be held.

Now this 'Last Hill' (and this is very, very important) must be studiously avoided at all costs until you have 'bagged' all the others. You should choose it early, but not before you start. You'll need to get a feel for the hills you're doing.

The basic rule (according to 'Mike's Triangle of Pleasure') decrees that an ideal place will have a campsite near the bottom, be next to a pub and not be very high.

8) Try to avoid 'up-and-down-the-same-way' walks. Driving round to the bottom of each hill, going up and down by the shortest possible route and then driving round to another one will get you multiple bags in one day - but it will get a bit tedious.

You'll have a much better time of it if you use the circular walks available on so you can enjoy a nice full day out in the countryside at the same time.

9) You don't need proof. Nobody else cares if you've done these hills or not. If you cheat and tick things that you haven't climbed, just so you can brag about it in the pub, then you're missing the point.

If your lawn is nicely mown grass with stripes in it and your cat is still at home, then this is prima-facie evidence that you are telling porkies and you deserve to have your 'Special Pencil' returned to its rightful owner. (Which in my case will now be a six-foot four, emotionally disturbed twenty-three year old with behaviour problem and a fondness for sharp instruments).

10) Don't talk about your hobby. Avoid discussing your 'hobby' with anybody who isn't also a Peak Bagger. They won't understand why, during the wettest weekend since Noah said 'Chocks Away', you get up at 6:30 a.m., forgo the pleasures of a Sunday morning in bed, drive 200 miles, stand shivering in a damp, wet, cold and foggy bog eating soggy sandwiches, and then drive 200 miles home again arriving 15 hours later exhausted - when you could have spent the afternoon dozing in front of a roaring fire.

11) There is no point 11. Honest. If anybody asks, these tips only had ten points.

The problem here is some peaks that are on some people's lists don't actually have rights of way on them. Some have barbed wire and people who shake their fists and say 'Can I help you?' when that's not what they mean.

We cannot condone trespassing on private land and do not recommend it. The best thing to do is ask permission. However, I'm told that some (nameless) peak baggers have been known to visit these places at night. Others may walk innocently along the nearest right of way and then, judging that the coast is clear – get 'lost' and inadvertently bag their top in the process, using vegetation and the lie of the land to conceal their movements.

All we can say is be careful. The owners of the private land might think you're a poacher and call the police. Inevitably, you'll get caught. If they're in a green helicopter with 'Army' written down the side, then you're really in trouble.

Whatever you do, don't point your walking pole at them. Try to mingle in with the sheep and when questioned, maintain an unshakable belief that a thin black line on the map denotes a right-of-way - and not the field boundary that is actually indicates.

To get your Peak Bagging Career started, is producing a growing series of Peak Bagging Maps and Lists all in pdf format that you can download and keep. To get yours, see the list in the left hand column.

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