An adventurer has climbed every mountain in England and Wales in just six months – the fastest known time.
James Forrest, 34, walked over 1,000 miles and ascended five times the height of Everest in his mission to stand atop all 446 2,000ft mountains in the two countries.
Climbing Whin Ben route to Whiteside summit, Lake District
He completed the peak-bagging challenge solo and unsupported in his days off work, hiking up to 25 miles a day and sleeping wild in the mountains.
James, a freelance writer from Cockermouth, Cumbria, reached his final summit – Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain at 3,209ft – on Saturday, September 16.
He said: “I feel on top of the world to have finally completed this epic expedition.
“It has been the adventure of a lifetime and an incredibly tough challenge, both physically and mentally.
“Mountains are good for the soul. I love the freedom, the fresh air, the isolation, the unpredictability, the escapism – and this journey has let me experience these joys more than most.
“I’m now going to celebrate my achievement by having a hot shower, eating a gigantic meal and sleeping for about a week. But I’m definitely not retiring from hiking – my mountain wanderlust has gone into overdrive and I can’t wait to start my next adventure.”
James has completed the ‘Nuttalls’, a list of 446 summits compiled in The Mountains of England and Wales by John and Anne Nuttall, who define a mountain as “any summit of 2,000ft or more which rises above its surroundings on all sides by at least 50ft”.
Walking in the Glyders, Snowdonia
He has climbed 256 mountains in England and 190 in Wales since Thursday, March 16, travelling to numerous national parks including the Yorkshire Dales, Peak District, Lake District, Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons.
“The adventure has been littered with drama and calamity”, added James.
“A few moments stick out in the memory – being chased out of a farmyard in the Cheviots by a gaggle of psychotic geese; getting picked up by a speed-loving owner of a £100,000 Porsche GT4 while hitchhiking in the Lake District; breaking into my YHA in Snowdonia through the kitchen window after losing my key code; and sleeping in an emergency refuge in the Carneddau after getting lost in a horrific storm.
“The scariest incident was a botched attempt at scrambling up Pillar Rock, the only mountain on the list that requires rope work and technical climbing skills – I managed to bail just before it got to let’s-call-mountain-rescue time. The funniest, I think, is the fact that I completed the entire challenge in a pair of my wife’s old hiking boots.”
Wild camping at Elidir Fawr, Snowdonia
The 34-year-old, who also works part-time for Fix the Fells, an upland path repair project in the Lake District, said the biggest difficulty during his challenge was the weather.
“The weather Gods have not been kind to me – it has rained on more than 50 per cent of my hikes.
“I’ve been pummelled by torrential rain and gale-force winds on more occasions than I wish to remember – and I’ve stood atop literally hundreds of mist-shrouded summits with no views whatsoever.
“It’s been a tough one mentally. Often I’ve felt like the last thing I want to do is head up high when the conditions are poor. But I’ve battled on, determined to achieve my goal, and I have found a perverse kind of pleasure in taking on Mother Nature and surviving.
“There have also been so many breathtaking moments in glorious weather. The mountain landscapes of England and Wales are simply stunning.
“Walking in the mountains and sleeping under the stars has been life-affirming.
“Every walk has been time well spent – time for wilderness and solitude, for self-reflection and quiet, for escapism and nature.
“Every mountain has brought me boundless happiness. I’d encourage everyone to spend more time outdoors – you won’t regret it.”
James, whose favourite mountains were Tryfan in Wales and Hopegill Head in England, has raised more than £500 for The British Mountaineering Council’s charity, the Access and Conservation Trust. The money raised will support the upcoming Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign, which aims to protect the mountain landscapes of Britain.
To donate to James’ charity fundraising visit www.justgiving.com/challenge446
Guidebook authors John and Anne Nuttall, who have a list of 288 completers on their website, have confirmed that James’ six month hike is the fastest known time to climb all 446 summits.
Hiking in front of Aran Fawddwy
Anne Nuttall said: “Congratulations to James. Climbing the mountains of England and Wales is an impressive achievement, but to do it in six months is quite exceptional and as far as we know unique.
“When we climbed them all it was a labour of love and we are sure that James will also look at the summits as very special friends.”
James is no stranger to adventure. In 2014 he completed the ‘Wainwrights’, 214 mountains in the Lake District detailed in the iconic guidebooks by Alfred Wainwright, and in 2016 he quit his job and sold his house to go backpacking around the world.
He has now settled in Cumbria with his wife Rebecca Forrest, 35, and is making outdoor adventure part of his everyday life. Follow his adventures at www.jamesmforrest.com or on social media, @jamesmforrest on Twitter and @jamesmichaelforrest on Instagram.