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'No rent just a tent': I was the first person to wild camp on all 214 of England's fells


They call it England’s last great wilderness adventure, a year spent living in the mountains of the Lake District, sleeping on all of the 214 different Wainwright Mountains, or Fells as they call them in Cumbria. No rent just a tent.

The idea had been in the outdoor press for over 20 years and yet no one had accomplished the feat.

The reason why? Because it would be hard, very hard.

We have all got so use to our heated houses and the comfort of a warm bed, we can sometimes forget we are descended from wild animals.

In the last 100 years we have invented many things to make our lives easier and yet they make us no happier.

I wonder if we have lost the true essence of what we are. The word stress wasn’t invented until the 1930s and today it’s as common as water.

Have all of the modern inventions really improved our lives? Mental Health diagnosis’s are on the rise and after the Covid lockdowns.

READ MORE: Caravan couple on wild camping: ‘The locals aren’t the biggest fans’

I wanted to get out and taste the freedom of the wild.

I put all 214 mountain names into a bag and pulled one out a random every morning, climbed to the top and slept on the mountain.

I wanted to experience all that the weather and the mountains had to offer and divided my camping up equally between the four seasons. After just the first week I knew I had made the right decision.

I camped on the island summit of Haycock when clouds covered all the ground below. I battled gale force winds and freezing sleet to camp on the summit of Helvellyn and my reward was a majestic golden sunset under a dark purple sky. This is what I had been wanting, I finally felt alive.

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Not every week was a pleasant as the start, camping out during the seven storms of February meant my last month was the hardest of all.

I’d planned to finish in winter knowing this would be the case. During Storm Bara the wind was so strong my tent poles snapped and the weather so cold with ice on the ground spending the night in a cave was the solution for that nights camp.

It was a small hole in the side of Bessyboot, a mountain in Borrowdale.

Six feet long and two feet wide it had similarities with sleeping in a coffin.

Most of camps though were in a small one man tent which was lightweight and easy to carry. Poor in money but rich in experience I gave up everything I had for the adventure.

The Allan Watts quote sums up the thinking behind my decision.

“Forget the money, because if you say getting money is the most important then you will spend your life doing something you don’t like doing, to earn money, to spend it doing something you don’t like doing.

“Better to have a short life full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.”

Now that the year has finished was it worth it? Yes absolutely.

Money can not by the happiness and enjoyment I had during that year. Experiences like seeing amazing sunrises, red translucent fireballs rising up behind Blencathra in the morning and stormy sunsets over Ennerdale where the sky turned metallic purple and orange and the light reflecting on the lake made it look like melted gold.

There were times in raging snowstorms when, apart from my red nose, white was all I could see and other days when the drops of rain hanging on the tent looked like diamonds.

The book titled Fell Asleep tells the story of Russ Moorhouse, who in one year became the first person to wild camp on all 214 Wainwright mountains. Either in a tent, bivvybag, hammock or cave.

Follow Russ’s journey on Twitter and on his Instagram @amountainbivvy.



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