Questions and Answers with James Forrest

James Forrest now has the world record for completing 214 Wainrights in 14 days and 11 hours self-supported!

Here are some key highlights:

  • The fasted self-supported round ever!
  • 525km
  • 36,000m ascent
  • 14 consecutive wild camps

Congratulations James, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions:

1. What was the best bit and the hardest part of the challenge?

I did enjoy four joyously sunny days during my expedition – and on those days the challenge was everything I wanted it to be. I loved the exercise, the fresh air, the freedom of the open trail, the challenge of going outside my comfort zone, the majesty of the mountains, and the deeper, more intimate connection I felt with landscape and nature.

My favourite moment was on Holme Fell. I sat in the porch of my tent, tucking into a hearty expedition meal (supplied by Base Camp Food) and watched the sky morph into ever-changing, diluting, blending hues of pink, orange and red above the jagged profile of the Langdale Pikes. After a few days of awful weather, it was a moment that re-opened my eyes to the wonders of the world, and revived my determination to see the challenge through to the end, come what may.

The hardest part was definitely the rain. It transformed my journey into a rather gruelling and traumatic experience – I’ve never felt so utterly miserable and unhappy on a mountain before. But I’m so happy that I found the strength and resilience to keep going and make it to the finish line.

Expedition MealsPicture credit: Dave MacFarlane

2. How did you cope when the conditions on the Wainrights kept changing?

Sadly I was battered by some rather horrific Cumbrian weather during my expedition. I thought the torrential rain and strong winds would never stop - and on more than one occasion I was close to the brink, staring into the abyss of failure, and ready to throw in the towel. The weather really preyed on my insecurities. It blinded me with self-doubt; paralysed me with negative thinking; and tortured me with tantalising thoughts of how easy it’d be to give up. But I’m so happy that I found the strength to keep going and make it to the finish line.

There’s no easy way to deal with miserable weather. Over time it inevitably chips away at your resolve and erodes your spirit. My main coping strategy was to try and stay philosophical and simply accept ‘it is what it is’. I couldn’t control the weather, so what was the point of getting annoyed about it? That was just the theory, however. In practice it was far more difficult, and I did find myself getting utterly irate and angry and frustrated at the weather. But I tried to channel that anger into something positive – a bit like a riled footballer who plays better when he’s angry – and used it to fuel my fire to walk faster.

3. How much food you have to take and was it all freeze dried meals?

I had eight re-supply boxes – plastic storage boxes filled with expedition food, snacks, clean socks and camping gas – hidden across the Lake District, strategically placed so I would pass them every few days. This meant I never had to carry more than two days of food at a time. Pre-expedition, I had to calculate the exact amount of food I needed in each box, figure out where I could leave them, and then distribute the boxes around the Lakes. I stashed the boxes in places like farmers’ barns, a church and behind a pub – I just asked random businesses and people if they’d let me do this, and thankfully many were happy to help. 

I had a freeze dried meal every evening. I’ve always found that a hearty, hot meal can do wonders for your morale and spirit when you’re out in the fells. For breakfast I ate porridge, cereal bars and dried fruit, while for lunch I always had crackers with peanut butter or Nutella alongside more dried fruit, chocolate bars, sweets, nuts and energy bars. You’ve got to treat yourself when you’re out on a big adventure.

Camping MealsPicture credit: Dave MacFarlane

4. How did you choose which food to take, and did you have a preferred brand or meal?

In terms of evening meals, I just tried to have a varied selection. I took expedition meals from Summit To Eat, Firepot and Real Turmat and I really enjoyed them. They were quick and easy to make and always gave me the nutrition I needed. My favourites were probably the Firepot Dal and Rice with Spinach or the Summit To Eat Chicken Tikka with Rice. I’m from Birmingham originally – home of the best curries in the world – so I’ve always loved Indian food.

5. How much weight were you carrying in your pack?

The base weight of my backpack was 6,648g, or 11,275g with two full days of food and 2L of water. It could always have been lighter, but I was pretty pleased with my gram-saving efforts. I kept the weight down by adopting a minimalist approach. I didn’t carry any changes of clothes, for example, and left numerous optional items – cap, hat, gloves, cup, pillow, deodorant and many more - at home. My other key tactic was simply to pack high quality, ultra-light gear.

Dehydrated MealsPicture credit: Dave MacFarlane

6. Did you take a camping stove with you?

Yes, I took an Alpkit Kraku stove with the Alpkit MytiMug 650 – it was a very lightweight set-up and it worked perfectly. I wasn’t doing any complicated cooking, simply boiling water to add to expedition meals.

7. What advice would you give to someone taking on a challenge this?

I’ll keep this one simple: be prepared for a rather brutal – but hopefully rewarding and uplifting – journey.

8. What's your next challenge going to be?

I’m still reeling from that last adventure, I think, so I need to take a few months to let it sink in, process things and decide how I want to move forward. I might step away from big, gruelling challenges; I might not. But, whatever I chose, I know hiking will remain a big part of my life. I want to climb more of Britain’s stunning mountains; I want to progress my career as an outdoor writer; and – perhaps most importantly – I want to continue championing the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors.

Congratulations again and we're glad we could support you on your adventure!

Base Camp Food

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