#THISISMYADVENTURE - James Forrest, Ireland Completed
Having already climbed all 446 mountains over 2000ft in England and Wales, in 2017, James’ 2018 challenge to himself was to conquer all of Irelands mountains. In the 56 days that the challenge took, he walked a total of 1,129km and climbed the height of Everest eight times!
‘It was the adventure of a lifetime - simultaneously incredibly tough and amazingly rewarding’.
James has always been passionate about adventure and, in 2016, decided to pack in his job in the city, sell his house and move to the Lake District to pursue a career as an adventure travel writer.
Following his 2018 conquest of the so-called 'Nuttalls' in the fastest ever time (just six months) James was next drawn to Ireland. He’d never hiked in the country but the idea of new experiences and exciting landscapes, was something he couldn’t resist, ‘especially in the wild, rugged, remote west and south-west of Ireland’.
His conquest of the Vandeleur-Lynams (every 600m summimt in Ireland and Northern Ireland with a minimum prominence of 15m) was not only the fastest ever completion of this group of mountains, but the first ever continuous 'single round' of them too. Walking on average 25km a day, 40km on his longest day, James says he didn’t train for the challenge and didn’t spend lots of time planning, either.
‘I love the unpredictability of adventures and the joy of 'going with the flow', so I've never been one to over-plan. All I did really was jam-pack my car full of expedition food and camping gear (especially chocolate and Nutella) and plan routes on my phone using a GPS app. Simple’.
As you’d expect on a challenge like this, things weren’t all plain sailing; ‘There were, naturally, loads of lows: falling violently ill (stomach problems) after my first week in the wild; losing my wallet in Killarney (only to luckily get it back after it was handed into the police}; being berated by an angry Air BnB owner for 'making his house smell of old socks' after stashing my hiking gear in the room (one of the most awkward and cringy moments I've ever had!); and forgetting my lighter on a multi-day wild camping trip meaning I couldn't use my stove (luckily a kind man gave me one on day two!).
But easily the biggest challenge was the weather. I faced so much rain and wind and cloud it was utterly gut-wrenching. At one point I hiked for 10 days in a row, climbing over 50 mountains, and it was torrential rain every day and I didn't see a view from a single summit. It was horrific. I felt like giving up so many times. It was demoralising and I felt broken, mentally. But I persevered, as I didn't want to be a quitter, and I'm so pleased I kept going’
But it wasn’t all bad;
‘There were so many highs and ecstasies: the freedom and escapism of the mountains, the nature, the fresh air, the simplicity of your only goal for the day being to walk from A to B, the solitude and tranquillity of walking alone, the magic of sleeping wild under the stars, the sense of achievement that comes with a big challenge, the happiness-inducing endorphins of exercise, the heartwarming generosity and kindness of the strangers who gave me lifts when I was hitchhiking around, the unpredictability of a big adventure (and the joy of overcoming the mishaps and obstacles in my way), and the beauty of the wild landscapes of Ireland.
But, my most euphoric moment was waking up to a perfect cloud inversion on a mountain called Knockowen in the Beara Peninsula. I unzipped my tent and couldn't believe my eyes. It was truly beautiful, like waking up heaven. I will remember that moment forever’.
This moment won’t just be remembered by James forever, though - a video he took of waking up above the clouds on Knockowen in the Beara Peninsula went ‘viral’ online, being viewed tens of millions of times on the world wide web. Having seen the footage, we can see why James was in awe of this area of the country; ‘I was particularly wowed by the beauty of the mountains in the west and south-west of Ireland. I loved exploring those wild places – it was breathtaking’.
Having now climbed all of the mountains in England and Wales in 2017, and all of the mountains in Ireland in 2018. James feels that, perhaps, the past 719 mountains have just been training for the inevitable - an attempt on the Munros in 2019 maybe. But, for the time being, he’s planning on spending a lot of time on his sofa, watching Netflix and eating Dominos. We think he deserves a break!
James’ first book, about his record-breaking adventure in England & Wales will be published in the Spring of next year by Bloomsbury - we can’t wait! Until then you can follow his adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.