The Lakeland 42 peaks
Starting and finishing at Moot Hall in Keswick the traditional
Bob Graham Round (BGR) takes in the following peaks:
Skiddaw, Great Calva, Saddleback, Clough Head, Great Dodd,
Watson's Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd, Raise, Whiteside, Helvellyn Lower Man,
Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywaggon Pike, Fairfield, Seat Sandal,
Steel Fell, Calf Crag, Sergeant Man, High Raise, Thunacar knott,
Harrison Stickle, Pike of Stickle, Rosset Pike, Bowfell, Esk Pike,
Great End, Ill Crags, Broad Crag, Scafell Pike, Scafell, Yewbarrow,
Red Pike, Steeple, Pillar, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Green Gable,
Brandreth, Grey Knotts, Dale Head, Hindscarth, Robinson.
A rough measurement
(including wiggles) gives 27000ft, 72 miles , although
the distance can be brought down to around 65 miles
with good route knowledge. To bring the total to 50 peaks (and beyond)
there is a natural selection from the following:
Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw Little Man, Little Calva, Munringsdale
Common, Foule Crag, Blease Fell, Calfhow Pike,
Hart Crag, Great Rigg,
Pavey Ark, Loft Crag, Hanging Knotts, Allen Crags, Stirrup Crag, Little
Scoat Fell, Black Fell, Looking Stead, Base Brown. High Snab.
Choices in the above selection are also a little dubious as some
only need 6ft of extra ascent! As opposed to say a 40 or 50 peak route,
etc, this particular 42 peak
round is quite `popular' and now more so. However the popularity is only
in the weak sense: the numbers attempting this are similar to those who
climb Everest. The total ascent is close (Everest at 29000ft), although you
don't need to carry oxygen up
Scafell Pike. Historically Bob Graham completed this route on his
42nd birthday in 1932, and what made this challenge slightly more enigmatic
was the fact that no one was able to get round within
24 hours again until 1960. Pre-1932, the Lakeland 3000's was certainly
walked by many, and there was the `Wakefield Round' of a similar
scale to the BGR (but much less ascent). The pre-1932 rounds however
could all be done by strong walkers. The BGR generally requires
running although for demonstration purposes it has been walked
(but no doubt `very forcefully').
Of course the time around the BGR now is down to
under 14 hours, and the 24 peak record in the region of 77 peaks.
There is also a vast array of literature on the BGR, from
climbing Broad Stand to ways of mixing rice pudding with lucozade.
Scotland and Wales have their equivalent 24 hour running routes
(resp. `Paddy Buckley Round' and `Ramsey Round') but these
are not so popular at present. In fact the Welsh 24 hour round doesn't
go over all the 3000ft peaks, and is not designed as a natural extension of
the Welsh 3000's. The outlying peaks that include Foel Fras don't
make a good line to get to back into central Snowdonia. The Scottish
24 hour round includes Ben Nevis and the route is hard to support as there
are no road crossings. This latter round is certainly a difficult
mountaineering exercise and you can expect snow all year round, and
a winter Ramsey Round is yet to be achieved in under 24 hours.
Personal encounters with the BGR (and variations).
Attempts on this have been post 2007, and I detail below some of
the the highs and lows! On those occasions I made it about half way or
2/3 of the way around before falling too far behind schedule.
A detailed overview of a more serious attempt
in 2010 is given
I would say good luck
with the weather is a key, but it's also good to know how you'll feel
after being on the fells for a good 16 hours with another 8 hours
to go (or so).
It's possible (and not uncommon) to run a "blinder" but its also easy
to come unstuck about half
way around - and you need to know how to motivate yourself to go further.
Most of my attempts have been semi-supported or "alpine style."
Semi supported in the sense of being met at road crossings and/or
having supporters on a few of the five legs. Done alpine style usually means
not having any fell nor road support - so you have to carry all your stuff
and seeing what fate decides! You also need to get yourself off the mountain
safely if things go pear shaped. In my case, logistical reasons
have usually dictated what available support there is. In particular
having large support groups can put added restrictions on the days for
which an attempt can be made (usually planned around June).
On the whole it is good to have friends running around with you on these
long fell adventures, but I think the alpine style approach is most
favourable if you want to go off into the fells ad-hoc.
Moreoever my recent attempts have not technically complied to a formal BGR as
I've recently chosen to start and end in Grasmere but still with the intention
of taking in the conventional 42 peaks. This option is sometimes more
convenient especially when done solo and when relying on public transport.
Going clockwise you can choose to start late morning after a good night's
sleep (tpyically depart Grasmere around 11am) and try to get the difficult
peaks out the way first. Steel Fell is the first peak encountered via a
gentle climb, while the last peak is Fairfield with options to add in
more peaks on the descent to Grasmere. However this route
(and going via Foxes tarn) adds in almost 1000ft extra compared
to the conventional round. On such an attempt(s) I made it as far as Skiddaw
summit (circa 18000ft, 48 miles) but with 6h30 left on the clock and tiredness
getting the upper hand and I opted to head direct to an awaiting
car at Threlkeld. Another occasion I bivvied off the Honister pass after
getting benighted in the Great Gable section (and so lost considerable time).
For some of the June/July (conventional Moot Hall start/finish)
attempts I opted to do the Helvellyn ridge at night.
This is easy in the day time with clear weather. However trying to run along
the ridge in the misty/rainy dark and then bag all the tops (with precision)
you find that time is quickily eaten up. I found that I took 40 mins to come
off Steel Fell as I got trapped by the boulder fields above Dunmail Raise,
so you're best doing this in the daylight too. On another attempt I
got stuck in a bog near Calf Crag, again in the dark, and
this added to the delays. Such antics lead me in the first instance
as far as Wasdale an hour or two behind schedule. In the second instance
I tempted myself into sleeping on Helm Crag (which in retorspect turned out
to be a nice bivvy site overlooking Grasmere).
For Broad Stand, I have found the rock at the time very wet and the
various climbs have turned into a mini-epics.
I've had climbing friends supporting this, although I have been up this before
in dry weather. A good survey of the climb on the Wasdale MRT website, and the
left hand exposed edge that Coleridge ascended in 1802 is certainly not
easy when wet. I must have slipped off this bit various times on
trying to ascend it albeit being slightly less cautious here as I was
clipped on to the rope! The right hand part is less exposed but some
climbing moves are needed (easy with rock shoes on and with legs that can
stretch). With various ropes and loops I was eventually pulled up the
crucial step, and then guided up further rock steps towards the summit.
Incidentally, these upper rock stops are also notorious when wet
(Grade 2 at least), and in fell shoes you have no grip. In retrospect
I should have asked supporters to bring old socks to put over the shoes.
Other attempts (especially when solo) have gone round via Foxes Tarn, taking
in the cunning climbers traverse. This route might in fact be faster
than broad stand, especially when factoring in time for setting up belays,
For reference it is about
18000-19000ft, 45-48 miles from Keswick to Wasdale. So `only'
7000-8000ft, 20 miles left to Keswick, although Section 4 (with Yewbarrow)
is another steep/rocky section. The half way stage in climbing terms
is around Calf Crag/High Raise, and certainly by Bowfell you're well over
half way overall.
Various other anecdotes on the round include:
Two of us trying to follow cairns off Helvellyn in the dark and also
down Fairfield. We were then being confused as to why these cairns had
vanished. We discovered on close inspection that we had been chasing after
sheep! (Fortunately not over the Eastern Face of Helvellyn). It was also
disconcerting to see the sheep's eyes reflecting back off
the head torch. `They aren't any wolves up on the fells are there?'
my friend asked. I've known mountain goats with their long horns
on the Welsh hills to instill nervousness amongst some, especially
when out in the dark hours.
While doing Dunmail to Scafell I was met
by friends at Broad Stand. They had camped there overnight, and told me of
amusing tales of trying to guide walkers late off Scafell Pike.
These walkers had map and compass and claimed to know where they were going.
They where setting off down Mickeldore in the Eskdale direction when my friends
asked `are you sure you know where you are?' These walkers said
they where off back to Wasdale! Although saying this, I've had
some `entertaining' incidents of navigation of my own
(which I dare not repeat here).
On an occasion when reaching Wasdale I was met by another supporter with
a car. This was to be the case, but only just. I say this, because my supporter
was being urged by a passing walker to offer a lift, the walker even
volunteering to pay money for the lift. My supporter went on to explain that
he couldn't possibly leave as he was supporting a `BGR'. ``So, what's
a BGR?'' the walker asked. He went on to explain: ``well briefly
it starts in Keswick, goes up Skiddaw, then Great Calva...''
and before he was able to list all 42 peaks I arrived on the scene.
There was another small group of other walkers on the scene, obviously
listening with amusement. I was duly informed by the walker
that `I was completely mad.'
Back to main page.