Year in Review | 2020’s Outdoor & Adventure Moments
A look back at the stand-out moments of the past year; the good, the bad, the first feats and the fastest times.
2020 – a year to forget? The coronavirus pandemic, global lockdowns and travel bans have made 2020 a strange year for outdoor enthusiasts. The mountains have been out of bounds for many months. Horizons have been limited, adventure ambitions hampered, and backpacking plans cancelled. For much of the year, many of us have been denied the escapism, freedom and therapy of the great outdoors.
But, when restrictions have allowed, 2020 has still been an adventurous year full of broken records, fastest runs, peak-bagging feats, and general acts of daring do. Covid-19 might be a potent enemy, but it has failed to curb the sheer passion, determination and zeal of the outdoors community. Here’s our Year in Review recap of some of the notable moments.
Header image: Sebastian Barros
January – Lake District In Snowflake Row
Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, is quoted saying that the Lake District needs to attract more diverse visitors – sparking a hot-tempered debate in the national press. The Sun runs with the headline ‘The Flake District’ on its front page, claiming the landscape has been labelled ‘too white’ and ‘not inclusive’. Others argue increased diversity can only be a good thing for the area.
January 29 – Snowdonia Winter Record Falls
Damian Hall sets a new winter record time for the Paddy Buckley Round, a gruelling peak-bagging circuit in Snowdonia with 8,700m of ascent. The 44-year-old inov-8 ambassador runs solo and unsupported, completing the 61-mile circuit over 47 Welsh mountain peaks in 21 hours and 30 minutes. He beats the previous record, held by fellow ultra runner Jim Mann, by just 7 minutes.
March 23 – UK Plunged Into Full Lockdown
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces a full lockdown with a ‘stay at home’ order. Travelling to national parks or mountainous regions becomes illegal for millions of people, in an unprecedented curtailing of personal freedoms. Local walks, cycles and runs become the only option for outdoor recreation.
April 6 – Captain Moore Inspires The Nation
Aged then 99, Captain Sir Thomas Moore begins walking laps of his garden in aid of NHS Charities Together. His initial aim is to fundraise a modest £1,000 before his 100th birthday, but – after catching the media spotlight – he goes on to raise a staggering £33 million and receives a knighthood for his inspirational efforts.
April – An Epic Ascent…Of The Stairs
Barred from the outdoors by stringent coronavirus restrictions, the adventure community gets creative and innovative. Summiting a ‘virtual mountain’ by climbing the equivalent ascent via the stairs in your house becomes in vogue, as does camping in the garden.
May – Netflix And Thrill
With millions of workers on furlough, and the mountains out of bounds, many turn to modern technology for their adventure fix. Climbing and adventure movies on Netflix surge in popularity, while adventure podcasts help others experience the outdoors vicariously.
May – Ultra-Running Records Tumble
Unleashing all of their pent-up lockdown energy, three long-distance runners set mind-boggling records in a crazy week for the ultra-running community. First up Sabrina Verjee runs all 214 Wainwrights in just 6 days, 17 hours and 51 minutes, a new female record (she later asks for the record not to be ratified, due to receiving physical help from pacers after a painful knee injury). A day later Kim Collison climbs 78 of the Lake District’s 2000ft peaks in one single day to beat the previous record by one fell, and finally John Kelly powers through the 268-mile Pennine Way in just 2 days, 16 hours and 40 minutes (only for his record to be beaten by Damian Hall in July).
May – Sunshine Irony
The UK experiences its sunniest Spring since records began in 1929, according to the Met Office. The month of May registers as the driest in England for 124 years and the sunniest in the UK ever, with 626 hours of bright sunshine – smashing the previous high of 555 hours set in 1948. But the irony is hillwalkers are mostly barred from enjoying the bumper Spring due to coronavirus restrictions.
June – Spotlight On Outdoors Diversity
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, sparks a global advancement in the Black Lives Matter movement, which aims to tackle racial inequality in society. This inspires the outdoors community to look inwards and address its own inclusivity issues. Several diversity groups – such as Black Girls Hike and Brown Girls Climb – grow in profile.
June 19 – Outdoor Brands Snub Facebook
The North Face announces on its Twitter page that it will be halting all US paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram until stricter policies are put in place to stop “racist, violent or hateful content and misinformation from circulating on the platform”. A few days later, Patagonia issues a similar statement, announcing that the brand will pull all advertising on the social media platforms until at least the end of July “pending meaningful action from the social media giant”.
July – Beauty Spots Blighted By ‘Fly Campers’
Media reports tell of hordes of illegal campers wrecking Britain’s national parks with a tsunami of human waste, litter, campfires and discarded equipment – a reprehensible trend that becomes known as “fly camping”. The easing of coronavirus restrictions and a staycation boom, in the absence of foreign travel options, are blamed for the crisis.
August 19 – New Cuillin Ridge Record
Kelli Roberts, a fell runner from Ambleside, sets a new Cuillin Traverse women’s record, completing the Isle of Skye ridge in five hours, 56 minutes and 46 seconds, despite soaring August temperatures. The traverse breaks the previous FKT achieved by British climber Anna Wells in six hours 34 minutes.
August 30 – So Close For Alex
Adventurer and mental health campaigner Alex Staniforth completes the National Three Peaks on foot, climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon and running the entire distance between them. His 452-mile journey takes 9 days, 12 hours and 51 minutes, agonisingly missing the current record by just over an hour. The adventure raises £10,000 for the Mind Over Mountains charity.
September 2 – Munro Madness
Mountain runner Donnie Campbell breaks the record for the fastest solo round of all 282 Munros in Scotland by more than a week. The 35-year-old, from Inverness, completes the round in just 31 days and 23 hours, running up each mountain before running, walking, cycling or kayaking to the next one. The feat breaks Stephen Pyke’s record of 39 days and nine hours, which was set in 2010.
Mountaineer Doug Scott passes away on December 7 at his home in the Lake District after a battle with cancer. Part of the golden generation of British mountaineering, Scott achieved many notable feats over the course of his climbing career, including successfully scaling Everest via its south-western face in 1975 alongside Dougal Haston. Not only was this a first ascent via that particular route, ‘Everest the hard way’ as it was called, but it was the first time a British team had reached the summit. 2020 also sees the passing of other legends including Hamish MacInnes, the Fox of Glencoe, Berghaus co-founder Gordon Davison and mountaineering hero Joe Brown.
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