Its thirty years since we lost Alfred Wainwright - the Cumbrian author who is now synonymous with the Lake District fells. He shared his passion for walking with generations of visitors to the area by making walking the fells accessible in the form of his celebrated, illustrated guidebooks. There are 214 Wainwright walks to choose from. It would take you quite a while to cross all those off your list. A lifetime maybe. Not if your name is James Forrest. Just after lockdown, inspired by his daily exercise, James set a new record for the time taken to complete all the Lake District mountains. He completed the set in just 14 days 11 hours. No mean feat. Once he’d got his breath back, we caught up with James to find out he managed this incredible achievement.

James Forrest

“It was an amazing adventure, I had an awesome time.”

It’s funny how when we look back on monumental events in our lives, we seem to forget the struggles and hardship and only remember the good times. James admits he looks back on his challenge with rose-tinted glasses. Climbing over two hundred mountains in a fortnight, in often adverse weather, is bound to test even the toughest resolve.

“I coped physically pretty well. Mentally I found it challenging and there were a few moments where I thought blimey I should just go home and have a shower! I’m glad I perceived in the end and made it to the finish line. I’ve always been quite a stubborn person. That pizza on the finish line in Keswick tasted amazing – I truly deserved it! I can’t even remember what flavour it was as I literally inhaled it!”

James Forrest

Most of us are tempted to enjoy a Wainwright and experience the best of the Lake District. But the million dollar question is why would you want to do them all at once? James was itching to get outside after lockdown.

“I must have been suffering from serious cabin fever. I just love spending time in the outdoors and the mountains. The weather was so lovely in lockdown I had all these visions of camping on glorious summer evenings. Unfortunately the time I chose to start happened to be during a storm!

Fell runners have completed the 214 Wainwrights in less time than James but they were running and most, aided by a support crew. James was completely solo. He calls it his ‘one man mission against the mountains.’

James Forrest

His trusty backpack might have been a lifeline but it clearly couldn’t carry enough supplies for a fortnight. In preparation of the expedition he hid food parcels all around the county.

“I carried a few days’ supply in my back pack and hid stash boxes of food supplies around the place including a farmer’s field, behind the pews in a remote church, and even someone’s garden- with permission of course!”

Not many of us have sampled all of the Wainwrights – what were his favourites?

“It’s so tricky to narrow it down to just one favourite. My top three would probably be Great gable, Blencathra and Hellvelllyn. The Lake District has so many amazing mountains I am spoilt for choice.

James Forrest

And James admits he couldn’t have completed this mission if it wasn’t for the great man himself.

“I love the wainwright books. He is so poetic in the way he writes about the Lake District. I think part of my passion for the area has come from reading his books.”

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