I saw it as a work of art, to wild camp on all 214 Wainwright Fells in the Lakes District in one year, spread equally across all 4 seasons to experience all the mountains and weather had to offer. My Dad saw it as a year long holiday. It had never been done before and I saw so much beauty it had to be Art. Natures own art, the very best that this world has to offer. Glowing translucent red fireball suns rising behind Blencathra in the morning. Metallic orange sunsets reflecting in Ennerdale Water as the days closed to an end and rain in all shapes and sizes to give the art a dark side.
The final months had seven named storms in February, and I managed to carry on camping with the help of a cave and an optimistic personality. Surely the weather would turn nice at some point. And it did, on the final nights Bivvy Camp on Brock Crags. Along with 1387 other Bivvybaggers across the UK, Eastern Europe, South Africa, and Alaska we set a world record and raised over £10,000 for MQ Mental Health Research. The record was for the most people Bivvying on the same night and the code word they had to display in their photos was Fell Asleep. This is also name of my book which I have brought out telling the story of my adventure. Each chapter of the book is a different mountain and contains dreamy mountain stories, award winning photography and wild camping wisdom. A couple of example chapters are below;
Helvellyn – 950 metres | Eastern Fells – 4th March
The Adventure – No place for a human
A whole Mountain to myself, Helvellyn. Who else could ever say that? Not one other person is around. A mountain for one tonight.
Walking past the Seldom Seen cows and heading up around the back of Sheffield Pike it’s deserted. The track to the disused chimney on Raise is hard to follow and Helvellyn comes into view as the cloud blows over. The edges are heavily corniced in the last of the winter snow and spindrift is blowing in the air. Reaching the frost line, a strong wind buffets me and my fingers, numbed by the cold struggle to put another fleece on. The winds blow from Patterdale and are funnelled over Red Tarn increasing their strength, then surge to reach the summit whipping ice crystals into the air. The old snow crunches underfoot and my reddened face is like putty with cheeks flapping in the sub-zero temperatures. This is no place for a human.
My plans to drop down and do the classic ridges of Striding and Swirral Edge are not an option for today, this is about wild camping, and it doesn’t get any wilder than this.
The Mountain Camp
Reaching the summit, I confirm with my thoughts that camping up here is not an option today. It’s busier than a music festival in the summer, littered with tents but not on days like this. The summit is only busy with a trig point, cairns and shelters which are all covered in ice. Nine layers of clothing keep me warm, and I head for a spring just 300 metres West of the summit which makes a perfect spot for a camp. Climbing inside my tent I settle in for the night. The wind continues to blow strongly, and I feel the need to check the tent pegs, the last thing I want is to be blown down Whelpside Gill. Stepping outside I am greeted by an amazing sight, the setting sun emerges below the clouds and lights up the mountains in the west, a golden view under a dark purple sky. This has been an amazing end to my first week in the mountains. I feel special as if I have been chosen to complete this task, as if this camping adventure is the perfect challenge for me. I know now, after this first week I will be camping until the end.
Fairfield – 873 meters | Eastern Fells – 21st March
The Adventure – Crown in the Tarn
Dunmail was the legendary king of Cumberland, slain by the English his body is buried under the cairn at Dunmail Raise. His warriors escaped with the crown heading for Grisedale Tarn, over the stile, along the track, underneath the shadow of a cloud, past the waterfalls, up the little, tiny scramble and on reaching the sparkling tarn they threw the crown into the water so it would be safe from the marauders. It has never been recovered.
Today the breeze ripples the surface in the afternoon sun causing it to have an amber glow. When my coffee is finished the little grass trod up the side of St Sunday Crag calls me, the fact it is still grass and not stone tells me it is a quiet track. Searching for the crown can wait for another day. Reaching the col, the climb up to Cofa Pike ridge gives an interesting dimension to the climb. Fairfield’s crags to the east loom large reminding me of the cliffs of Mons Ampere. The sun is setting, and the Western Fells are becoming wrapped up in a blanket of cloud, the horizon line is turning yellow. There is no wind, it is still and cold. It’s a view to savour.
The Mountain Camp
The summit of Fairfield has at the time of writing 19 cairns and shelters, at the time of reading it could be even more. It’s not obvious which is the highest so after visiting them all finally choosing a pitch comes as relief. The top is a vast flattish area with plenty of space to for your tent, but it is not cosy, more like camping on the moon. Fairfield is a magnificent mountain, the biggest in its class and has the horseshoe named after it, which is the way it is more often visited. It’s not a popular wild camping spot because it lacks any shelter or grass ledges to add comfort, but it does have the airy feeling of being in space. The rock, volcaniclastic sandstone outcrops on the summit and provides a fun technical walk over Deepdale Hause to St. Sunday Crag. There is no tarn on the summit, so I gather some snow and melt it to make my evening drink. Hot chocolate and sunsets are a great combination.
My book is available on Amazon by searching, Russ Moorhouse, Fell Asleep or Sleeping with Wainwright and is already sitting next to Raynor Winns, The Salt Path in the charts which I am delighted about. I have been a great adventure for me and I hope my book allows others to enjoy the mountains in the way I did, or even better if it inspires them to go and spend a year living in the mountains.