The 9-5 Worker Who Climbed Every Mountain In England
In an attempt to mix adventure with his everyday existence, James Forrest decided to climb England’s 446 mountains in less than six months – the catch was that he had to do it all while keeping up with his own 9-5
Focus can be a luxury. The dream of a life of adventure seems to be realised in those able to dedicate their all to it – the pros. The rest of us, who choose to follow other careers, might think that being an adventurer is incompatible with our 9-5. James Forrest dared to think different.
In 2016 he and his wife quit their jobs and sold their house to travel the world, looking for fresh experiences. The expedition was a success, but when they got back and needed to find jobs, and somewhere to live, Forrest’s thoughts were still on adventure.
Rather than hanging up his travel-stained boots he decided he would climb every 2,000ft+ mountain in England – the so-called ‘Nuttalls’ – in under six months. That meant walking over 1,000 miles, climbing more than five times the height of Everest and sleeping in a bivy bag on mountains more than 50 times, all while working around a four-day-a-week job. What started out as an experiment developed into a way of life...
It’s remarkable how much time you can free up if you cut out mindless time-wasting
Q: What about your next adventure challenge?
A: ‘For the first month or so afterwards I didn’t climb a single mountain, I was ready to slob out and not do anything active. I was so fatigued: it took a lot out of me mentally. But in the longer term, after that initial stage, my wanderlust is still there. Everyone keeps saying I’ve got to do the Munros, and I’ve got my eye on doing all the mountains in Ireland. So maybe I can do all the mountains in Britain?’
Q: Is there one little-known mountain in England that you’d suggest we all lace on our boots to climb?
A: ‘There’s one I love in the Lake District called Hope Gill Head – it’s very dramatic because of its exposed summit, it’s a rocky scramble to the top, but it’s also prominent on the skyline where I live, it’s the peak that keeps calling me to the mountains. I loved Rhinog Fach in Snowdonia: a rugged and remote peak where you're more likely to see feral goats than fellow hikers. I felt like the only man on earth hiking in this heather-clad, rocky wilderness.’
‘Then there’s Steeple in the Lake District: Alfred Wainwright described the summit of Steeple as a thrilling spot where “one's feet are on the ground but one's eyes see as from a cloud in the heavens.” Surrounded by precipitous drops on all sides, it’s my favourite viewpoint to gaze out over the beauty of Lakeland. It was great doing all the classics, but it was doing the obscure mountains that had a charm all of its own.’