Two Ambleside women celebrated on the summit of Green Gable after rounding off a remarkable achievement in the Lakeland fells.
Jo Jackson and Ann-Marie Verner climbed all 541 of the Birketts, a list compiled by mountaineer Bill Birkett in his 1994 guidebook, Complete Lakeland Fells.
The author defined them as all hills within the boundary of the Lake District National Park which are over 1,000ft.
The summits include all but one of the 214 Wainwright fells – Castle Crag in Borrowdale, which is under 1,000ft – which Jo and Ann-Marie completed four-and-a-half years ago.
They immediately made a start on the new challenge, and in the true spirit of the author’s intention, they repeated all those summits previously climbed.
Fewer than 60 people have to date climbed all 541.
Jo, a retired nurse, and Ann-Marie, a medical secretary, walked almost every Wednesday, often ticking off eight or nine fells in a day.
Unlike the Wainwrights, which are well-known and well-trodden, the Birketts are largely seldom visited and have obscure, sometimes pathless routes to the top.
The pair gained confidence as well as fitness, developing excellent navigational and route-finding skills, setting out in all kinds of weather and learning to identify a fog-bound cairn by double-checking with GPS technology to confirm they were in the right place.
“But we also learned when to turn back, when that was the right decision and made sense,” said Jo.
They also made their first ever rock climb. Bill Birkett, rather mischievously, includes Pillar Rock as one of his 541, a climb graded as “difficult” which is out of bounds to most walkers.
But Jo and Ann-Marie hired the services of a guide, Hayley Webb, who kitted them out in helmet, harness and rock boots to help them reach the summit – and abseil down.
“I was loving it,” said Ann-Marie, who was once afraid of heights. “We have both explored the fells in greater intimacy, in finer detail, than ever before.”
Highlights of the challenge included seeing a Brocken spectre – a large shadow cast on cloud – on Grizedale Pike, and an epic descent in the snow from the summit of Pen.
They were joined for the final walk up Green Gable by family and friends on a day of thick mist and rain. But they are already embarking on the next challenge.
Said Jo: “We have made a start on Wainwright’s 116 Outlying Fells, because some of those – in the east near Shap – are also Birketts.
“But we’re also happy just to go for some normal walks with friends!”