Well done to Gary who completed his Bob Graham Round over the 28th & 29th May in a very impressive time of 21:48. This is one of the oldest of the long distance fell running challenges in the UK and has a proud and long history. The route visits 42 summits across the Lake District and has to be completed in under 24 hours. Traditionally this involves 72 miles on the fells and 10,000 meters of ascent. It was Gary's first attempt but he'd put an amazing amount of effort in to his preparations and training and fully deserved to enjoy the day. He's been keeping a blog which gives a great overview of the dedication needed to be successful at this challenge. Unfortunately I was away on Skye and couldn't be out on the fells pacing him but the updates that were coming through brought back some great memories of my attempts.
Immediately after my successful attempt in 2008 I wrote a report for the Bob Graham Club which I hope shows some of the highs and lows of one of the best things you can do in the Lake District Fells...
'My third attempt on the Bob started at 11pm on Friday 16th May 2008. A couple of years away from the event and then supporting a few attempts last year had rekindled my interest. As a fifteen year old Scout my climbing career took off under the tutorage of Jim Loxham, number 10 on the BG list which I guess was my introduction to the Round. Seventeen years later I was trotting up Skiddaw with Bernie on a perfect cold but clear night. Very much a one paced runner the plan was to use most of the 24 hours and pretty much try to keep on a 23.36 schedule. Removing my watch was a very good idea which totally changed my attitude to the challenge. Taking the time pressure off myself and relying on my pacers to keep me straight lifted a great weight from my shoulders and meant I was far more relaxed even when falling behind schedule. As they say ignorance is bliss! The first leg went well, nailing the trod off Hare Crag and the Halls Fell bypass removing the risk of the fall which eventually curtailed my last attempt. A quick somersault coming down through the heather off Skiddaw was my only fall of the round. As we climbed towards the summit of Blencathra we saw the lights of a midnight attempt lost in the heather of Hare Crag behind us.
Out of Threlkeld 8 minutes up with Sarah & Gary it was all feeling pretty easy as we climbed into the clouds on Great Dodd. Surprisingly 3 backpackers loomed out of the mist at Watson’s Dodd at four in the morning! Dawn was grey but we made good time along the ridge until the cloud began to lift as we dropped off Helvellyn. Going right round Grisedale Tarn I hit my first low with a good dizzy spell and nausea. A quick break for a Bounty and some fluid and I quickly felt stronger than ever. Fairfield was quick and Seat Sandel even quicker with my pacers struggling to stay with me on the descent to the road bang on time.
Bacon sarnies at Dunmail Raise were one of the highlights of the round. The surprisingly large support team, many of whom had slept out, did an excellent job and I was on my way feeling pretty comfortable . Following Kieran we completed High Raise before Sergeant Man, a variation which I’d not tried before but worked well. We lost some time around the Langdale Pikes but the long traverse to Rossett Crag which has always been a hard leg psychologically went perfectly, due to a good reccee a couple of weeks earlier, and I found myself below Bowfell feeling pretty positive. The climb went extremely well and the half way point was reached 8 minutes ahead of schedule.
By this stage there was heavy rain in the Helvellyn range but crucially we were still on dry rock and we began to gain time along the second half of the ridge, possibly due to being dragged along by the Old Counties Tops fell race. At Broad Stand I met my belayer looking very forlorn with his 30’ of knotted rope coiled on his back. Mat had arrived to find the scramble strewn with more than 200 meters of climbing rope, helmets, harnesses and plenty of attentive belayers for the attempts running just behind me. In the event the dry conditions meant a quick pull on a knotted rope for the crux rockover was all that was required and the vocal support from everyone meant that I gained 7 minutes on the climb to Scafell. The descent to Wasdale also went well with a controlled slide down the gully to arrive at the road 19 minutes up on schedule having been 6 minutes behind at Pike O‘Stickle.
The climb up Yewbarrow at the start of Leg 4 was the mental crux for me having never got passed Wasdale on my previous attempts. I left the checkpoint early and followed Dave up the stream using trekking poles. The climb went well apart from being nearly mown down by an anti clockwise attempt and we reached the summit feeling strong. However I made the mistake of relaxing believing I’d cracked it and didn’t manage my food and fluid intake as well as I had been. From Red Pike to Pillar I began to suffer from nausea and began to slow significantly. The poles were thrown away after Red Pike and I found myself having to dig pretty deep. We were joined by a lad on a reccee but I fear I wasn’t very sociable. Dave led me away from my normal route up the crest of the ridge to Kirkfell and we ascended a loose red gully to the left. Throughout my training I’d never had a problem, mentally or physically with the Great Gable climb despite what everybody had to say about it. However down at the col the hallucinations, fatigue, nausea and dizziness all came together and I was down and out. Bounties, water and a lie down gave me burst of energy and once I’d got going again things suddenly seemed a lot more positive. Great Gable was climbed on schedule and for the rest of the leg I was back up to speed especially when Kieran & Bernie joined us on Grey Knotts.
The reception at Honister was amazing and I began to have a sneaking suspicion I would get round in under the 24. With swollen, bruised feet missing a couple of toe nails and dry conditions on the fells I switched to road shoes for the final leg. Dave’s decision not to join us on Leg 5 although deadly serious provided plenty of laughter. As he put it ‘He’d have no problem if he didn’t like me, but as a friend he wasn’t too keen on watching me suffer as I had on the last leg!’
I was joined on Leg 5 by Kieran, Bernie, Anya, Sarah and Skye the dog. Plodding along behind the group I had a bit of argument with myself on Robinson but kissed the final summit 21 minutes ahead of schedule. Good natured abuse got me down to the valley and I began to settle into a rhythm of jogging and walking for the final road run. I didn’t stop at Newlands but was quickly joined by a convoy of runners, cars, bikes and a dog for the final few miles. Arriving in the outskirts of Keswick somebody mentioned we had 3 minutes to beat 23.30. The final sprint up Keswick High Street dodging the drunks and cheered by a large crowd was pretty special and the definite high point of the whole day. 23 hours, 29 minutes & 5 seconds and 6 minutes ahead of schedule. The whole day was an amazing experience made very special by the many folk who were out in force to support me. A huge thank you to Bernie, Sarah, Gary, Kieran, Dave, Anya, Matt, Niv, Sally, Carl, Jo, Betty, Gordon and Skye. '
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