Russ Moorhouse recently set an unusual record, becoming the first person to wild camp on all 214 Wainwrights. What drove him to do it?
The finishing place for the Bob Graham fell running round is Moot Hall in Keswick. I remember seeing the town centre packed to welcome in the likes of Killian Jornet and Steve Birkinshaw, when they raced the clock down to set their records.
My own round also finished at Moot Hall, and the similarities ended there too. I wasn’t racing the clock. It took me 214 nights to sleep on all the Wainwrights and in order for the next person to complete a round in this way, it will also take 214 nights. The adventure was not about following a set course and going faster or further than before. The adventure was the journey and there was no competition.
High life, wild art
I thought of wild camping on all 214 Wainwrights in one year as a piece of art. I picked randomly from a yellow bag each morning and spread the nights out equally across all seasons to experience all that the mountains and weather had to offer. I witnessed a red translucent fireball rising up behind Blencathra in the morning, and a stormy sunset 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. There was so much beauty, it surely had to be art.
Perhaps I’m guilty of enjoying it all too much, but it was an amazing year. However, living on top of the world with my head in the clouds wasn’t always easy. There was a night during the January storms when sleeping in a cave on Bessyboot was the only way to avoid gale-force winds and freezing sleet. Another time on High Raise, the wind was so strong that the tent was pressed flat against my face before a pole snapped. I stepped outside in my underwear and the pouring rain and splinted the fracture with a tent peg before tying it off with a wet sock. Living the dream!
Two world records
My final night was a Bivvy on Brock Crag overlooking Angle Tarn and I was joined in person by my partner, Doro Frejliszek, (a.k.a Mrs Bivvy) as well as 1387 others remotely from across the UK, Eastern Europe, South Africa, and Alaska. Together we set a World Bivvy Bag Record. There were several Scout groups who joined in, and a lot of first timers. In fact, over one hundred people left the comfort of their homes and slept outside for their first ever bivvy. Thankfully it was a dry clear night, and the International Space Station could be seen flying overhead at 5am. It was a fantastic way to end my adventure, with the largest ever recorded number of people Bivvying on the same night.
Here’s what some of the new World Record Holders said the day after the event:
“Wow! That’s fantastic. It was a first wild Bivvy for me and I will definitely do it again! Cheers” – Wendy Jacobs.
“Thanks for putting this together, you’ve made a lot of people very happy and given others the motivations to sleep outside for the first time” – Andy Buckles.
“I’m absolutely buzzing! What an amazing time, lots more adventures to come” – Lorna Fulton
“Yes, Bleeding fantastico! Bring on the next one. It’s going to get bigger and better. We all loved it” – Vivienne Birch.
The code word to ‘prove’ your bivvy took place that night was Fell Asleep and on the following Sunday, we were joined at Moot Hall by dozens of people, many of whom had taken part in this bivvybag world record throughout the Lakes. We celebrated on the famous balcony like world record holders should – hands in the air and smiles all around. Then, exhausted after the year, the night and the morning, we went home and fell asleep.
Russ Moorhouse’s book, Fell Asleep, tells the tale of his year sleeping in the mountains. It is a mixture of dreamy mountain stories, award-winning photography and wild camping wisdom.