A familiar face on social media platform Twitter, Alex Atkinson ( @atkypne ) is an avid hiker, backpacker and wild camper. Alex and two of his friends recently took on the Coast to Coast walk, in aid of Hounds for Heros.
The Coast to Coast Walk is a 192 mile route that was devised by Alfred Wainwright in 1973. Its starting point is at the Irish Sea (St Bee’s) and it finishes at the North Sea (Robin Hood’s Bay) passing through 3 national parks: Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks. The highest point on the route is Kidsty Pike at 780m (2559ft) above sea level. The route is a mutli-day walking challenge and is one of the most popular walking routes in the UK.
We talked to Alex about his recent challenge and his love of the outdoors.
Alex, you recently walked the 195 mile coast 2 coast walk, in aid of “Hounds for Heros“, what inspired you to do this particular event?
Since 2010 I have been walking the fells Alfred Wainwright wrote about in his pictorial books of the Lakeland Fells. Almost two years later and I have almost completed all the 214 Wainwright’s. Wainwright also walked from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay, which was named the Coast to Coast walk.
As I enjoy a challenge I thought I’d make the Coast to Coast walk my challenge for 2012. Myself and Chris Sumner (who I did the walk with) both love dogs so we thought it would be best to raise money for the newly formed charity, Hounds for Heros.
The walk took you 12 nights, 9 of them involved wild camping. Where was your favourite place to wild camp? And why did you wild camp on these nights as opposed to camping at a campsite?
My favourite wild camp along the route was at High Raise in the Lake District National Park. High Raise is classed as the most central fell in the Lakes, giving you splendid 360 degree views.
I was lucky enough to get a nice sunset that evening and sunrise the following morning. You get great views looking north towards Skiddaw and Blencathra whilst also having the striking peaks of Scafell Pike and Great Gable looking west.
The glory of wild camping is that you’re a part of the landscape, away from the every day hustle and bustle of the towns and villages. I feel in my own little world when I’m on the top of a mountain or fell. Another advantage is that you start off high up, which is always an advantage if your walking a long distance route.
What was the biggest challenge during the walk?
The biggest challenge was during the walk was the steep ascent going straight up to Kidsty Pike from the Haweswater Reservoir. This was over 1,500ft in under a mile. I walked the route from Robin Hood’s Bay to St Bees, which is the opposite way from normal as I wanted to leave the best part of the walk till last.
I enjoyed a number of trips wild camping to the Lake District and the Peak District, all in preparation for the big walk which was getting closer and closer.
What was the highlight of the walk? Would you do it again?
The highlight of the walk must be the section of the route which takes in the Ennerdale valley. The long valley is home to only two buildings, both being YHA’s. You feel like you’re in the wild, I only saw two other people in the whole valley. You have the impressive Pillar Rock towering above you along grazing deer in the valley bottom (if you’re lucky to spot them). The view down the valley from Green Gable must be one of the best views in the Lake District.
I’d almost certainly do the walk again, as I loved every minute and mile of it. It would be in a few years time, the second time around would probably see me walking it the other way around i.e. St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay.
Another highlight of the walk was meeting the various other people along the route. It was nice chatting to likeminded folk who love the outdoors and everything about it. Oh and I couldn’t forget the delicious food and drink sampled along the way!
How much did you raise for “hounds for heros” and can people still donate?
Personally I managed to raise almost £600 for the charity, adding the money to that which my friend raised we got close to £2,000 which will be of great help to Hounds for Heros whom do a fantastic job training the assistance dogs up.
Readers can keep giving on Just Giving.
What is your next big challenge?
Good question, there are many other challenges out there. I recently completed the three peaks challenge, which I did within the 24 hours. The next challenge I have my eye on is the Bob Graham Round.
This route takes in 42 of the most demanding fells in the Lake District collectively totaling over 28,500ft with an ascent over 75 miles. I’d plan to walk the route over three to four days, wild camping the whole route.
On your blog twitter profile it says you are an “Avid hiker, backpacker & wild camper”, when did you get into the outdoor scene?
Since being a young lad, all the family holidays was spent on a working farm in the Lake District, hence my love for the area in my adult life. Up until 2010, I only paid a few visits a year. In August of 2010, myself and my now fiancé walked up Coniston Old Man, the rest is history as they say.
Every spare weekend you’ll find me in the Lake District, either doing a day walk or an extended walk whilst wild camping. My first wild was in June 2011. I acquired some cheap gear and set off to the hills. It was a great experience. I’ve since replace my gear/equipment with light weight gear, which certainly aids doing the long distance walks.
What is your favourite hike?
Apart from the Coast to Coast walk that I recently completed my favourite hike would have to be a great 15 mile walk that I did on the day of the Royal Wedding last year. My father-in-law to be and I did an epic walk to Scafell Pike and Scafell from the Langdale Valley.
We walked up “The Band” to Bowfell and Esk Pike, along Esk Hause up to the rooftop of England which is Scafell Pike. We made our way up the Foxes Tarn path to Scafell and down again via Lords Rake. The walk back was down the valley past Angle Tarn, before bagging another Wainwright fell, Rossett Pike.
A great walk finished off with a few drinks in the Old Dungeon Ghyll at Langdale.
Where is the best place you have ever been wild camping?
I’ve had many excellent trips in the outdoors. One that springs to mind is a two night trip that myself and two friends did in February this year. We wild camped on the summit of Fleethwith Pike and below Haystacks.
The mountains were covered full of snow, the scenery and views we had were amazing. We walked up to Fleetwith Pike in the dark, it was really light that night as we had a full moon (not much need for head torches). Waking up the following morning to the bright orange glow of the sun was breathtaking, you can’t ask for anything better than that!
Is there a hike or wild camp that you really want to do but haven’t yet?
Yes, that would be going up Blencathra via Sharp Edge. I’ve walked the other two main edges in the Lakes being Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. Another walk I’m looking forward to is summiting Pillar via the high level Shamrock Traverse.
One mountain that I’m looking forward to wild camping on is also the summit of Pillar. I intend to finish the Wainwright fells on the summit here, as it’s the last of the big fells that I need to visit.
What is your favourite piece of gear?
I have many pieces of gear that I love. The one bit of gear that I wouldn’t be without would be my Terra Nova Laser Competition tent. I’ve used any abused this tent over the last year testing it to the maximum.
It’s been on the summit of Skiddaw in 50mph winds and out in the snow capped mountains above Buttermere and in deep snow in the Whinlatter Forest.
One other bit of kit that’s worth its weight in gold is my Travel Tap. This enables me to filter any source of water to make it drinkable, which saves carrying extra water for cooking etc.
You recently (Feb) got engaged, what does your fiancé think of your outdoors obsession? Is it a shared obsession?
My fiancée Christina is really proud of all the fundraising I’ve done this year, everyone’s a winner really. I’m walking in the great outdoors whilst raising money for charity. We actually got engaged in the Lake District, we walked to the summit of Skiddaw Dodd in the hail and snow.
It was blowing a gale on the summit so I quickly pulled the ring out of my rucksack and proceeded to get down on one knee. To my joy she said “YES”, and the rest is history as they say! The obsession is shared to a certain extent, but not fully. Christina has some catching up to do, as she’s only walked thirty odd Wainwright fells.
Where can people find out more about you online?
Thank you, Alex, for answering our questions and sharing your love for hiking and the Lake District!
If you would like to ask Alex any questions leave a comment below or tweet @CheapTents
If you’ve enjoyed reading this interview, why not read one or two of our other interviews?
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- Chloe Bellamy – Talks about Bat Watching in the Lake District