Hiker climbs 214 Lakeland peaks self-supported to break record

A hiker from Cumbria climbs all 214 fells listed in Alfred Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, without additional support, to smash the previous record.

James Forrest on his Wainwrights expedition, Credit: Dave MacFarlane

James Forrest, a 37-year-old adventurer from Cockermouth in the Lake District, climbed all 214 Wainwright peaks and hiked 328 miles, self-supported, in 14 days and 11 hours.

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The incredible feat beat the previous record of 25 days set by Jack Roberts in 2017, and included 36,000m of ascent – four times the height of Mount Everest.

James wild camped for 14 consecutive nights, carried all his kit and camping equipment, and hiked an average of 13 hours a day. He occasionally re-supplied along the route with food and gas that he had earlier stashed in secret locations along the route.

James Forrest on his Wainwrights expedition
James Forrest climbed all 214 Wainwright peaks in just over two weeks/ Credit: Dave MacFarlane
Dave MacFarlane

“I am ecstatic with the time I’ve set and so relieved to have finished,” said James.

“The atrocious weather transformed the journey into a rather gruelling and traumatic experience – I’ve never felt so utterly miserable and unhappy on a mountain before. I thought the torrential rain and strong winds would never stop.

“But I’m so happy that I found the strength and resilience to keep going and make it to the finish line – it was really emotional arriving into Keswick, cheered on by friends and family. That moment will stay with me forever.”

“It has been the challenge of a lifetime. I love the Lake District and – if I can somehow forget the thrashings I took from the weather gods – I hope the enduring memories of my expedition will be the times when the sun did shine and I relished the peace, beauty and escapism of Lakeland.”

James Forrest hiking near Loweswater during his challenge
James Forrest hiking near Loweswater during his challenge/Credit: Invo8
Inov8

Adhering to a leave-no-trace philosophy, James camped responsibly throughout the trip, pitching late and leaving early. He carried out all litter and never lighting fires.

“The Lake District is a special place and we should all respect and look after it,” he added.

The fastest overall record (supported) is held by Paul Tierney, an ultra runner who completed the challenge in 6 days, 6 hours and 5 minutes back in June 2019.

“I have a newfound respect for the ultra-runners who have run the Wainwrights in under a week – I have no idea how they got around so quickly.

“My approach was very different, however. Hiking alone and without a support crew added an extra layer of difficulty to my expedition, particularly the discomfort of camping in depressingly damp conditions after a long day of hiking.

Langdale, Lake District, Cumbria with mountains fells and blue sky and clouds in summer
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“In some ways I loved the solitude and tranquillity – and I relished the test of being entirely self-reliant. But dealing with the rather crushing mental lows by myself was incredibly difficult. There were a few times when I was in tears, ready to quit and throw in the towel, but I managed to pull through.

“I hope my journey has inspired some people to seek out the mountains and adventures in the great outdoors – they can have a massively beneficial impact on your mental health. Just make sure you pick a good weather window!”

James Forrest on his Wainwrights expedition
James Forrest is a 37-year-old adventurer from Cockermouth in the Lake District/Credit: Dave MacFarlane
Dave MacFarlane

In 2017, James climbed all 446 mountains over 2,000ft in England and Wales in just six months, the fastest ever time. He repeated the feat in 2018, bagging all 273 600m mountains in Ireland and Northern Ireland in just eight weeks, once again breaking the previous record. And in 2019, he bagged all 282 mountains over 3000ft in Scotland. Combined, James summited an incredible 1,001-mountains.

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Find out more about James Forrest at www.jamesmforrest.co.uk and www.instagram.com/jamesmichaelforrest