Top 5 – The best mountains in England and Wales

Today we hear from James Forrest. An adventurer that has climbed every mountain in England and Wales (in just 6 months – the fastest know time).

So James, out of all 446 2000ft+ mountains you climbed across the UK – which are your favourites?

Ever since I completed “the Nuttalls” – a list of 446 mountains in England and Wales – in a record-breaking time, people have been asking me the same thing: what were the best mountains; which peaks were your favourite; if you could only climb one mountain again which would it be?

I find it really difficult to pick out my favourites. So many factors affected my enjoyment of each walk: the weather (it’s difficult to fully appreciate a peak when you’re being battered by dire conditions and the views are non-existent), my mood (was I feeling tired, fatigued and miserably wet at the time or inspired, motivated and happy?), and a myriad of other features such as luck, wildlife, fellow hikers, the proximity of roads, the weight of my bag, my wild camping set-up, the presence or lack of mobile phone reception, my wild camping set-up, the quality of the paths, and the number of syrupy flapjacks in my rucksack. Then there are my personal preferences: I tend to love dramatic mountains, favouring crags, cliffs, exposed summits, and razor-sharp ridges to rounded, grassy hills; and I’m drawn to wild, remote, rugged places rather than tourist treadmills.

Consequently I’m sure I think negatively about some mountains simply because it rained on the misty summit when I was there. On another day I might have loved it. Similarly, I perhaps have a rose-tinted, overly positive view of other peaks simply because the sun shined, or I saw a rainbow, or I had it all to myself, or I stumbled across an epic wild camping spot. The conclusion? That any list of the “best” mountains is inevitably subjective and biased. But, with that proviso now in place, I’m not going to sit on the fence. So here it goes…I climbed all 446 mountains in England and Wales and there are (in my opinion) the best 5.

Hopegill Head, 770m, Lake District

Prominent on the skyline near my home, I always feel like Hopegill Head is calling me to the mountains. Don’t tick it off via the Coledale Horseshoe like so many do; climb it from High Lorton and enjoy a glorious scramble on slabs of bare rock to the summit.

Tryfan, 915m, Snowdonia

I love dramatic mountains and you don’t get much more dramatic than Tryfan. It is a fine peak, blessed with crags, cliffs and epic scrambling opportunities. My only regret? Wimping out of the leap between the twin summit monoliths of Adam and Eve, a jump that – as tradition dictates – grants you the freedom of Tryfan.

Rhinog Fach, 712m, Snowdonia

A rugged and remote peak where you’re more likely to see feral goats than fellow hikers. I felt like the only man on earth hiking in this heather-clad, rocky wilderness.

Steeple, 819m, Lake District

Alfred Wainwright described the summit of Steeple as a “thrilling spot” where “one’s feet are on the ground but one’s eyes see as from a cloud in the heavens”. Surrounded by precipitous drops on all sides, this is my favourite viewpoint to gaze out over the beauty of Lakeland.

Crib Goch, 923m, Snowdonia

Classified as a separate mountain in the “Nuttalls”, Crib Goch is an exhilarating (and dangerous) razor-sharp ridge that leads to Snowdon. The jelly-leg inducing scramble along the arrete was the most adventurous, adrenaline-fuelled climb of my entire challenge.