7th September 2007 PHOTOS
Almost there - 23hrs 30mins and 30secs later and we're back at the Moot Hall...
The first time I’d heard about Bob Graham and his round was when, some 10 years ago, I worked for the company that helped put together the Bob Graham information board in Grasmere! I borrowed the famous little green booklet about the challenge of my work colleague and the rest is history as they say!
My first involvement in a Bob Graham round (BG) was in 2006. That summer I provided road support for a couple of friends during their attempt on an anti-clockwise round.
I was gripped but also quite intimidated by what I experienced! Following my charges from Keswick, to Honister, Wasdale, Dunmail, Threkheld and back to Keswick and then nervously skipping by the Moot Hall, willing their return within the 24hrs was exhausting enough – I could barely imagine what they had gone through!!!
After a winter full of night running adventures on the fells with the ‘Ambleside Owls’ early 2007 was the start of some serious ‘bg recce-ing’!!! Long days out on the hills with like minded folk – the memories from that summer will be with me forever: be it those stunning views of the tops and valleys below on the rare sunny days, realizing the importance of good navigation when getting lost in the mist, getting soaked in rain & then returning to a warm pub, or just being plain frightened getting caught out by the dark on Halls Fell Ridge.
In May I accompanied Mike V on leg 2 of his round and loved every minute of it. In July I navigated along the same leg for Becky – in the dark and with some serious clag it seemed a little less ‘fun’ but with some teamwork and grit, we got through and Becky, as Mike, completed a successful round.
Throughout the year I insisted that I was recce-ing and supporting with the intention of ‘having a go’ in 2008. BUT should everything go well and should I feel fit I might have a go in the autumn. And by August I realized that, should I really want to ‘give it a go’, I would have to commit to a date and get organized!
Once I picked a date, the offers of help were quite overwhelming! The last long training runs seemed to go well and the weather was, finally, looking good.
Friday 7th September 2007
We’d watched the clouds come in over Blencathra as we sat in Johns van at Threkheld waiting to collect Mike, Becky and Richard, pacers and navigators on this leg. Now, as we nervously stood at the Moot Hall waiting for the off, Chris Knox entertained us with tales of runners getting lost on Skiddaw the previous week. It should have made us think, instead we just laughed it off!!
Finally it’s 9pm and we’re off. It’s a pleasant night and we soon leave Keswick behind. Reluctantly I let Becky feed me some of my supplies as we climb up the track – my appetite has disappeared and won’t return until about Tuesday, but I know I have to keep fuelled, whether I feel like it or not!
Through the last gate towards Skiddaw and Mike tells me I’ll feel better once this first summit is in the bag. (Not that I’m feeling bad, but I probably look quite apprehensive!).
But we get into the clag and do a little circular route round one of the shelters before we get to the summit – not good for the nerves, and I probably look a lot more apprehensive now, but only 6 minutes are lost on the schedule (which didn’t really make enough allowances for the dark!).
Down the track and to the fence – we keep on a compass bearing now, but somehow drift too far right and miss the track over Hare Crag. Knee high heather bashing and a few more frayed nerves, but we stick on the bearing and get to the track, up to the sheepfold and onto Great Calva. Another 8 minutes lost, but we’re out of the clag and on the way to Blencathra.
All goes well until Richard drops back on the ascent. In all the excitement, I think he’d forgotten to eat enough. Becky and Mike are navigating a little way ahead. The battery runs out on my headtorch – the spare is in Richard’s rucksack, as is all the remaining water – and I’m gasping.
When I catch up with Becky and Mike we decide Becky should wait for Richard and stay with him while I would push on with Mike. No water, but I borrow Becky’s spare torch.
Blencathra summit comes and goes, Halls Fell is dry and not as scary as I remember and we finally reach Threkheld. (21 minutes behind schedule). I feel dehydrated and a bit hectic. I can’t face the pasta I’d prepared for this stop. Rice pudding and tinned peaches, lots of water and some tea and we’re off.
Despite having missed on a whole nights sleep & waiting for me at this un-godly hour, Barrie, Graham and Kate, pacers for leg 2, seem in good spirits. Graham asks me whether I prefer to go up the shoulder or straight up the front of Clough Head. Neither seems an appealing option after all the food has been shoveled down, but I choose the front face.
This works well, although the little scramble towards the top raises the adrenaline levels just as I’d started to recover from leg one. Back into the clag, but Graham is navigating confidently (and competently) assisted by Kate and Barrie and we tick the Dodds of quite quickly (although not on schedule!).
A little hiccup on the way to Raise as we start to descend down Sticks Pass towards Patterdale, but we correct it before we’ve gone too far! I’ve stopped looking at the watch or schedule – head down and get on with it… Past Helvellyn I try out the spare torch in my pocket and it gives much more light – progress improves. After Dollywagon Barrie and Kate turn for Dunmail, while I continue with Graham.
I’m quietly concerned about the time lost, but Grahams’ banter is positive and doesn’t leave room for any negative thoughts. We get a break as we head towards Fairfield! The clouds lift off the summit as we approach, the narrow moon is resting it’s back on the top, dawn’s breaking behind. All the cairns are easy to spot and we get to the summit without any proplems. Down again and the clouds lift off Seat Sandal. It dawns on me how much easier it will be once it’s light!
The decent of Seat Sandal is fun – I stop Graham in his tracks to check out the stunning views behind – we may be behind schedule, but this is special!
The road stop at Dunmail, at last! My pacers have been treated to bacon butties while they waited for me. I settle for porridge and tea, fresh clothes and we’re off. Probably the shortest stop of them all (and none of them were long!), but I’m anxious, having lost another 27 minutes on the 2nd leg.
Eric, Paul, Chris, Nathan and Ade are with me on this leg. I’ve never met Eric before, but had heard enough about him to forget worrying now. Some relaxed banter, smooth progress and things start to look up! I’m in awe as we tick off the summits – I may not remember them for the future, but I’m aware we are taking canny route choices between the tops.
I don’t need to be told that ‘Do you want something to eat/drink?’ isn’t really a question, but an order and do as I’m told - and I don’t take long to realize that I could do worse than follow in Eric’s exact footsteps!
He allows me a breather on the way up to Bowfell which I’m grateful for. From the summit though I can sense the pressure rising. We seem to pick up the pace between the climbs.
On the way to Ill Crag Eric asks whether I’m sure I want to go up Lords Rake instead of Broad Stand. All year I had insisted I would NOT, under any circumstances attempt the climb up Broad Stand. Now I’m not sure anymore!
I somehow assumed Chris had some ropes & harness’ in his rucksack (this alone is proof that I was loosing my marbles already – only 13 or so hours into the challenge) – if they thought I’d get up Broadstand, then I’d give it a go!! Time was precious now! Despite never looking at the watch or asking about the schedule, I could sense we were making good progress on this leg.
In the end Broadstand is amazing! The rock is dry and Nathan clambers up ahead. I put a foot in Chris’ hands, reach for Nathan’s arm, and am up in the corner in no time at all. No ropes, no fuss – awesome!! I continue up the track while the others make their way up the rock.
The decent into Wasdale is brilliant fun – Eric had said we’d get down before 12 now – that puts an extra spring in my step as we race down the scree!
Glad I had ordered soup for this stop as I’d long lost the will to chew – two and a half cups of fruit smoothie were too much for my stomach though. Just eight minutes and we’re off again.
I’m not feeling too good as we start up Yewbarrow, with the sun in our backs. My stomach’s churning, I’m too hot and generally feeling quite weak. I’m glad Chris and Ade are still by my side as Anna and Bill seem quite far ahead and are having a debate about the best route to the summit! I feel grumpy – I don’t care which way we get to the top, I don’t think I’ll ever get there anyhow! I feel like I’m crawling, but Chris informs me we’ve made two minutes up on the schedule, which lifts me a little.
Over Red Pike, Steeple, Pillar and Kirkfell I continue to struggle with my guts and the heat. I can sense Anna and Bill working very hard to keep me moving. Anna makes sure I keep drinking and taking on some food. Chris stays calm when I continually either moan or badger him about timings and the schedule!
Having worked so hard to make up the time I’d lost in the night I really don’t want to fall behind again, but it is an uphill struggle, literally and figuratively speaking!!
Great Gable at last! I don’t appreciate the grassy trod off it enough, until they tell me we’ve made some time by Green Gable! Hurray!! Brandreth and Grey Knotts pass in a flash and Honister is in sight.
I’m sure they are a little concerned down there at the road when I send ahead for immodium, rennies and my inhaler! But while I shovel down more porridge and fruit smoothie the excited faces of all the supporters start to lift my spirits.
I hadn’t expected to come out again of the struggle I’d experienced since Yewbarrow until the finish, but somehow all the pain seemed forgotten as our party started up Dale Head. 10 friends and my faithful furry companions, lots of excited banter, interesting tales and some stunning views for good measure!
I steal a few glances backwards, over those summits on the horizon and feel quite emotional! My stomach never recovers, but I feel good despite it! I know I’m better when I stop asking about the time and schedule every two minutes and instead start to soak up the atmosphere.
Dale Head, Hindscarth and then, at last, I kiss the cairn on Robinson! Nearly home now!
The toes aren’t too happy with the steep decent, but soon we are trotting along the track and into Newlands. I’d changed into trail shoes at Honister, so don’t need to stop here. Along the road Anna comes along side and provides a much appreciated constant commentary. Quietly and calmly she makes sure I stay focused and in a good rhythm. I can’t think as far as the finish yet – it’s one step at a time.
On the final track through the park those around me start to get excited and yet more friends meet me at the final gate to join in on the final run up through Keswick.
The excitement of those around me is rubbing off! There’s a lump in my throat, but the smile starts to broaden as we cross the final road and head into Market Square. I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat now and seem to pick up the pace, sprinting up to Moot Hall! I remember clearly someone on that square, (one of the few aware of what has been attempted) shouting ‘hero’ at me! I slam my fist against the Moot Hall! Wohoooo! 23 hours, 30 minutes and 23 seconds.
For now, all the pain is forgotten, the exhaustion disappeared. It’s lovely to have so many friends at the finish! Lot’s of hugs and kisses, some champagne and photos! Then we all head to the pub! I make a feeble attempt to match Becky’s amazing feat of downing a pint after her BG, but fail miserably…
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