They call it England’s last great wilderness adventure, a year in which they lived in the mountains of the Lake District and slept on all 214 different Wainwright Mountains, or fells as they are called in Cumbria. No rent just a tent.
The idea had been in the outdoor press for over 20 years and yet no one had pulled off the feat.
The reason why? Because it would be difficult, very difficult.
We’ve all become so used to our heated homes and the comfort of a warm bed that we can sometimes forget we descended from wild animals.
In the last 100 years we have invented many things that make our lives easier and yet do not make us happier.
I wonder if we have lost the true essence of who we are. The word stress was only invented in the 1930s and is now as common as water.
Have all the modern inventions really improved our lives? Mental health diagnoses are on the rise and post the Covid lockdowns.
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I wanted to get out and enjoy the freedom of the wild.
I put all 214 mountain names in a bag and randomly pulled one out every morning, climbed to the top and slept on the mountain.
Wanting to experience everything the weather and mountains had to offer, I divided my camping equally between the four seasons. After the first week, I knew I had made the right decision.
I was camped on Haycock’s island peak when clouds covered all the ground below. I battled blustery winds and freezing sleet to camp atop Helvellyn, and my reward was a majestic golden sunset under a deep purple sky. That’s what I wanted, I finally felt alive.
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Not every week has been pleasant as starting while camping during the seven February storms meant my last month was the toughest of them all.
I had planned to finish in winter because I knew that would be the case. During Storm Bara the wind was so strong that my tent poles broke and the weather was so cold with ice on the ground, spending the night in a cave was the solution for this night camp.
There was a small hole in the side of Bessyboot, a mountain in Borrowdale.
Six feet long and two feet wide, it resembled sleeping in a coffin.
However, most of the camps were in a small one-man tent that was light and easy to carry. Poor in money but rich in experience, I gave up everything I had for the adventure.
The quote from Allan Watts sums up the thinking behind my decision.
“Forget the money because if you say getting money is the most important thing, then you’re going to spend your life doing something you don’t like doing to make money, spending it doing something you don’t like do
“Better a short life spent doing what you love than a long life spent miserably.”
Now that the year is over, was it worth it? Yes absolutely.
Money can’t depend on the happiness and joy I’ve had this year. Experiences like stunning sunrises, red translucent fireballs rising behind Blencathra in the mornings, and stormy sunsets over Ennerdale where the sky turned metallic purple and orange and the light reflecting off the lake made it look like molten gold.
There were times in raging snowstorms when all I could see was white besides my red nose, and other days when the raindrops clinging to the tent looked like diamonds.
The book, titled Fell Asleep, tells the story of Russ Moorhouse, who became the first person to wild camp on all 214 of the Wainwright Mountains within a year. Either in a tent, bivouac sack, hammock or cave.
Follow Russ’ journey on Twitter and on his Instagram @mountainbivvy.