#GetOutside Champion and peak-bagging record-breaker James Forrest climbs 273 mountains in Ireland in just 8 weeks
My name is James Forrest. I'm a former newspaper journalist turned adventure travel writer. I live in the Lake District and I'm passionate about hiking, wild camping and climbing mountains. I used to live in a city and work in an office - but I hated it.
So in 2016 I quit my job, sold my house, moved to the Lake District and set about living the most adventurous life I could.
It's the best decision I ever made.
I challenged myself to climb all 273 mountains over 600m in Ireland and Northern Ireland - the so-called 'Vandeleur-Lynams" - in the fastest ever time. It took me 56 days in total, with 10 rest days, so 46 walking days in total. I walked 1,129km and climbed the height of Everest every week for eight weeks in a row.
It was the adventure of a lifetime - simultaneously incredibly tough and amazingly rewarding.
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 tranquility 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 heart-warming 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 in heaven. I will remember that moment forever.
Another glorious moment was reaching my final summit and knowing that, despite all the hardship and low moments, that I'd completed my goal.
There were, naturally, loads of lows too: 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 a shop, while some cards that fell out of it were 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!).
But easily the biggest challenge was the weather. I faced so much rain and wind and cloud it was utterly demoralising. 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.
I’m planning on spending a lot of time with my sofa, Netflix and packs of chocolate Hobnobs. But, once I’ve recovered, I suppose I might start thinking about starting on the Munros (eek!)
What's this about a book?
My debut book ‘Mountain Man’ – an inspiring and entertaining (I hope!) account of my mission to climb all 446 mountains in England and Wales in 2017 – is coming out in Spring 2019.
I’m so excited. I enjoyed the process of writing about my adventure and I’d love to get the chance to write about my Ireland challenge. I’m sure it will make a great sequel.
By James Forrest
Mountain-loving, wilderness-seeking, hiking addict from the Lake District, James is on a crazy mission to make his life more adventurous, to explore the great outdoors, and to climb as many mountains as possible.