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James Forrest sets self-supported record for Wainwrights Round

Written by Fiona

September 08 2020

James Forrest on his Wainwrights adventure.

James Forrest has walked 525km (328 miles) carrying all his own kit to set a new record for the Wainwrights Round. He completed the self-supported feat, visiting Alfred Wainwright’s 214 Lake District peaks, in 14 days and 11 hours.

James, 37, of Cockermouth, Cumbria, ascended 36,000m and and wild camped for 14 consecutive nights during the adventure.

The inov-8 ambassador said: “I am ecstatic with the time I’ve set and so relieved to have finished.”

James Forrest on his Wainwrights adventure.
James Forrest described the Wainwrights round as tough. Credit: | Dave MacFarlane
James Forrest on his Wainwrights adventure.
Poor weather made the round much harder. Credit: | Dave MacFarlane

A self-supported round

Walking alone with no support crew or pre-arranged help, James carried his kit and camping equipment in a large rucksack. He occasionally re-supplied along the route with food and gas that he had earlier stashed in secret locations on the route.

The author and adventurer spent an average 13 hours each day walking and battling a range of tough weather conditions. He wild camped in the fells and slept overnight in a cave, barn and church.

His round is the fastest self-supported completion, beating what is believed to be the previous record of 25 days, set by Jack Roberts in 2017.

James – who has set a number of mountain-bagging records across the UK and Ireland – said: “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 to 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.”

He described it as the “challenge of a lifetime”.

He said: “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.

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

James Forrest on his Wainwrights adventure.
“The challenge of a lifetime.” Credit: | Dave MacFarlane
James Forrest on his Wainwrights adventure.
A record round. Credit: | Dave MacFarlane
James Forrest on his Wainwrights adventure.
James carried al his kit with him. Credit: | Dave MacFarlane

Leave no trace

James adhered to leave-no-trace principles during his trip. He camped responsibly by carrying out all litter, never lighting fires, pitching late and leaving early.

The fastest supported completion – and overall record – is held by inov-8 ultra runner Paul Tierney who, in June 2019, finished in an impressive six days, six hours and five minutes. He beat Steve Birkinshaw’s previous best by almost 7 hours. As you would expect given the nature of their attempts, both runners were supported by pacers and a roadside support team.

James added: “I have a new-found 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. 

“In some ways I loved the solitude and tranquillity – and I relished the test of being entirely self-reliant. But dealing with the 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 adventure.
James at the finish. Credit: | Dave MacFarlane

The Wainwrights Round route

James followed the route Steve Birkinshaw had meticulously planned in 2014, and which Paul also used. Starting and finishing in Keswick, it wriggles a way over the 214 summits famously featured in Alfred Wainwright’s iconic seven-volume pictorial guide to the Lakeland fells. 

James added: “Steve’s route is incredibly clever and efficient – and I thank him for sharing it with me. He even came to see me on Blencathra and that was a lovely moment that really gave me a boost when I needed it.”

Throughout the adventure James wore just one pair of hiking boots, the ROCLITE G 345 GTX with Graphene-Grip, designed by Lake District born-and-based brand inov-8.

Lee Procter, inov-8 Global Communications & Ambassadors Manager, said: “What James has achieved is amazing. He got to grips with some of England’s toughest hiking terrain, moving fast over it every day for almost three weeks.”

James Forrest on his Wainwrights adventure.
Time alone was both good and bad. Credit: | Dave MacFarlane

Who Is James Forrest?

A journalist, author and adventurer, James has previously completed  a triple crown of peak-bagging expeditions covering 1,001 peaks across the UK and Ireland.

In 2017, he climbed all 446 mountains over 2,000ft in England and Wales – the so-called Nuttalls – in just six months, which is the fastest time.

He repeated the feat in 2018, bagging all 273 600m mountains in Ireland and Northern Ireland, known as the Vandeleur-Lynams, in just eight weeks and set another record.

He also completed his 1001-mountain challenge by bagging all 282 Munro’, mountains over 3000ft in Scotland, in 2019.

James is the author of Mountain Man: 446 Mountains. Six Months. One record-breaking adventure, published by Bloomsbury.

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