Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Last year, when I reached the final summit of my three-year mission to climb 1,001 peaks across the UK and Ireland, everyone kept asking me “what’s next?” and “when’s the next adventure?” Well, after an unexpected interlude courtesy of lockdown, I’ve finally decided. Here’s the details:
What is my new challenge?
Solo and self-supported, I’m planning to hike all 214 Wainwright fells in the Lake District in a continuous, non-stop round. My aim is to complete the expedition – including 525km and 36,000m of ascent – in approximately 18 days. Wahey - it’s going to be epic. (And probably very, very rainy!)
Will my challenge be a record?
Several ultra-runners have completed awe-inspiringly fast completions of all 214 Wainwrights, including Joss Naylor, Steve Birkinshaw, Sabrina Verjee and Paul Tierney, the current record-holder with a time of 6 days, 6 hours and 5 minutes. There is no way in hell I will ever beat this time.
But all of these attempts by runners were supported rounds, meaning their adventures were (quite understandably) assisted by a large team of supporters who helped organise accommodation, nutrition, logistics, massage, navigation, pacing and many other things.
My approach will be different. I will walk the entire route solo and self-supported. If I make it, as far as I know, it will be the fastest ever self-supported round of the Wainwrights.
What do I mean by self-supported?
The FKT (Fastest Known Time) website provides a clear definition of self-supported, as follows: “Self-supported means you may have as much support as you can manage or find along the way, but not from any pre-arranged people helping you. This can range from caching supplies in advance, purchasing supplies along the way, to finding or begging for food or water. Most long thru-hiking routes are done self-supported.”
My challenge is classified as self-supported because:
• I will not have a support crew
• I will not have any vehicle support
• I will walk solo at all times
• I will be self-reliant at all times
• I will carry everything I need on my own back
My aim is to keep my adventure as authentic and ‘pure’ as possible. My intention is to wild camp every night, to cook all of my own food and to not use any accommodation, restaurants, pubs, cafes or shops. I will re-supply by picking up ‘stash boxes’ – plastic boxes full of expedition food and gas that I have cached at strategic points throughout the Lake District.
However, if the weather transpires against me, safety considerations may dictate that I need to spend a night in a hostel or camping barn, or pick up food in a shop. Doing so is allowed within the self-supported classification, as per the FKT definition, and therefore would not disqualify my attempt.
My adventure is not classified as unsupported. For an adventure to be unsupported, you must carry everything (except water) you need from the start. Unless you are very, very strong (which I am not), carrying 18 days of food is effectively impossible.
All of the above is based on the definitions on the FKT website here.
Has anyone attempted a self-supported round of the Wainwrights before?
Yes. The fastest self-supported completion I have learnt of (through many hours of frantic Googling) is Jack Roberts, who walked the Wainwrights in 25 days in 2017. He is described by the media as ‘the quickest person to walk all 214 Wainwrights without transport support’. So, as far as I know, the current record is 25 days.
Other notable completions and attempts include: Ramblers director Simon Barnett, who fast-hiked all the Wainwrights in an amazing 15 days (but he had a support crew); Colin Ibbotson, who completed a continuous walk of all 330 Wainwrights and Outlying Fells in 42 days in 2018; and Laurie Crayston, who attempted to complete an unsupported round of the 214 Wainwrights on three occasions across 2019 and 2020, but failed to finish each time.
When will my challenge take place?
All being well, I will start on August 17th and finish on September 3rd (my birthday!). However, the dates may change due to weather considerations.
What route will I be walking?
I will be following the route Steve Birkinshaw developed for his record-breaking round, starting and finishing at Moot Hall in Keswick. This route was also followed by Paul Tierney in his record-breaking round.
How you can follow the adventure?
You can track my progress and see my full route, summit by summit, on the Open Tracking website here. For regular updates you can also follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
The daily distance, ascent and numbers of Wainwrights are detailed in the table below:
A note about sponsors