By Harrison Newsham
To celebrate their 70th birthdaye anniversary, the Durham University Hill Walking Society will attempt to climb the 214 peaks of Wainwright in the Lake District in 24 hours on Saturday 2n/a July. Through this challenge, which DUHWS believes no university group has attempted before, the society will raise funds for the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association and the Teesdale and Weardale Mountain Search and Rescue Team.
Of the 400 current members of the society, 76 will participate joined by 33 alumni. They will stay at the Braithwaite Institute, near Keswick, for the duration of the challenge which will start at 8.30am. There will be live updates streamed on DUHWS website and instagram so fans around the world can follow the challenge in real time.
The company has divided all of Cumbria’s peaks into 36 routes, each to be completed by a pair of walkers, although organizers expect some people will need to complete more than one route. The longest route is 37km, which covers 13 Wainwright peaks, and the total route covered through the challenge will amount to over 17 marathons. Four minibuses and 15 cars will also be used to ensure the challenge is completed on time and the route leaders have undergone navigation training to prepare them for the challenge.
The Peaks of Wainwright are all mountains in the Lake District described by Alfred Wainwright in his seven volumes Illustrated Guide to the Lakeland Fellscompiled in the 1950s and 1960s. The peaks — all but one of which are over 1,000 feet tall — attract hikers from across the country who want to complete them throughout their hiking careers.
The combined height gain of Wainwright’s peaks is greater than the height of five Everests and all of England’s ten highest peaks, including Scafell Pike and Helvellyn, will need to be climbed to complete the challenge. The current record for continuous lap of the Wainwrights by an individual is held by John Kelly who completed all the peaks in just over five and a half days in May 2022.
Ben Buky, a DUHWS Expeditions Officer who dreamed up the idea for the challenge when he was president of the society last year, believes ‘it’s a really important cause’ because ‘these mountain rescue teams are made up entirely of volunteers available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to calls.
“They carry out lifesaving rescues of lost and injured people in the hills, rivers and valleys of some of the wildest places in England and receive no government funding for this work. Anyone choosing to explore the Lake District or the North Pennines could end up relying on these services.
Buky then continued to reflect on society at large, considering that “my favorite thing about being at Durham is it’s amazing to take on such a big challenge to celebrate your 70th birthday.e anniversary.”
The company has established a Just give page to raise for their charities and at the time of writing they have raised £5,627 to be split equally between the two charities. As an incentive to donate, the Youth Hostel Association is offering a free weekend to whoever raises the most funds.