Bob Graham Round

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The Bob Graham Round is a fell running challenge in the English Lake District. Named after Bob Graham (1889-1966), a Keswick guest-house owner, who in June 1932 broke the Lakeland Fell record by traversing 42 fells within a 24 hour period.

The Round was first repeated, in a better time, in 1960 by Alan Heaton. Since then over 1800 individuals have completed the Round with the fastest time being 13hr53 set by Billy Bland in 1982. The Lakeland 24 Hour record has also been improved with the current holder, Mark Hartell, having visited 77 summits in the alloted time.

Along with the Paddy Buckley Round and Ramsay Round the Bob Graham Round is one of the classic big three mountain challenges in the UK. Some thirty individuals have completed all three.

Bob Graham Round runner and supporters descending Skiddaw.

History of the round[edit]

The development of progressively lengthier and more competitive rounds of the Lakeland fells is chronicled in the Bob Graham Club's Story of the Bob Graham Round,[1] and in the fell-walking section of M. J. B. Baddeley's Lakeland guidebook:,[2] and most recently in Chapter 15 of Steve Chilton's It's a hill, get over it: fell running's history and characters [3]

  • 1864: the Reverend J.M. Elliott of Cambridge traversed the summits around the head of Wasdale in 8.5 hours
  • 1870: Thomas Watson of Darlington covered 48 miles (77 km) with over 10,000 feet (3,000 m) of ascent in 20 hours
  • 1902: S.B. Johnson of Carlisle completed a 70-mile (110 km), 18,000-foot (5,500 m) round in 22.5 hours
  • 1905: Dr Wakefield of Keswick completed the same round in 22h7m (recorded in The Sedberghian)
  • 1920: Eustace Thomas, at age 54, covered the same round in 21h25m

It was Dr Wakefield who codified the essentials of the challenge: "To traverse on foot as many tops over 2000ft and return to the starting point within 24 hours". Wakefield was Keswick based so specified the start/finish point as that town's Moot Hall.

On 12-13 June 1932 Bob Graham extended the 24 hour Lakeland peak bagging record to a total of 42 peaks in a time of 23 hours 39 minutes. Even though this was recognised as the new record several of the tops claimed did not reach 2,000-foot (610 m) in altitude. The approximate distance of the new record (determined using current technology) was 66-mile (106 km) with 26,900 feet (8,200 m) of ascent. At the time the distance was claimed, not by Graham, to be in excess of 130 miles (210 km) though the given amount of ascent was reasonably close to the currently accepted figure. Several 20th Century sources (including the 42 Peaks booklet[1]) erroneously state the distance to be 72 miles (116 km).

The record came under immediate scrutiny, possibly because Graham wasn't from the higher social classes who up until that time had been the only ones with the free time to spend long periods on the fells but more likely due to the large reported distance. The first attempt at beating the record came from Freddie Spencer Chapman who managed the round in 25 hours. As far as is known, this was the only attempt until after the Second World War. The next attempts were not until the 1950s with some coming close to success.

In the early 1960s, at a time when the veteran walker Dr Barbara Moore was gaining publicity for doing the John o'Groats to Land's End walk, the Lakeland writer Harry Griffin noted that "You didn't need fitness for such walks, you could get fit whilst undertaking the challenge. The Lakeland 24 hour record on the other hand." This piqued the interest of several runners: Maurice Collett and Paul Stewart made an attempt starting from Langdale but experiencing rough weather they completed the round in 27 hours 20 minutes. Also interested were the Heaton brothers from Lancashire who systematically set about attempting the record.

After several attempts Alan Heaton finally broke the record in 1960. This began a flurry of activity to add extra tops with the intent of extending the 24 hour record. It was soon discovered that the route of Bob Graham's round was not optimal for attempts on the absolute fell record so the two began to be regarded as separate challenges and have slightly different rules. The 24 hour record has now been extended to 77 tops. Bob Graham's round was left as a challenge in its own right.

The Bob Graham Round is now a standard fell-runner's test-piece: having been successfully completed by 1848 people at the end of 2013. Solo rounds have been accomplished but, again, most contenders are accompanied by at least one runner in support: a requirement for acceptance by the Bob Graham Club. The vast majority of attempts are undertaken close to mid summer to make use of maximum daylight. Nonetheless, as of March 2014, twenty eight individuals have successfully completed a winter round of the standard circuit.

Notes on Bob Graham's round[edit]

It has long been thought that Bob Graham chose 42 peaks to match his age at the time of the attempt but his birth certificate shows that he was actually 43 at the time of the Round. It's possible that this was the original reasoning for his attempt the previous year.

The date of the successful round is sometimes given as 13-14 June 1932. However this date would be Monday-Tuesday which is unlikely given that both he and his pacers would have had to take the Monday off work.

Bob Graham's original round included four tops that are not in what is now called the Bob Graham Round. These were:

  • High White Stones (an area just to the north of High Raise)
  • Hanging Knotts (a subsidiary summit of Bowfell)
  • Looking Stead (a prominence on the ridge between Pillar and Black Sail Pass)
  • High Snab Bank (a minor prominence on the ridge to the north of Robinson)

Alan Heaton replaced these with:

  • Whiteside
  • Helvellyn Lower Man
  • Ill Crag
  • Broad Crag

Graham must have passed over the first two as they lie on the main path along the Helvellyn ridge.

It is these along with the other 38 tops that is now called the "Bob Graham Round" and are listed below.


The route[edit]

The round may be attempted either clockwise or anti-clockwise, provided that the start and finish is at the Moot Hall, Keswick. Predicted times for each stage of the round can be determined using an adaptation of Naismith's rule.

Summit
Sequence
Location
Start and Finish Line Moot Hall, Keswick
1 Skiddaw
2 Great Calva
3 Blencathra
Road Crossing Threlkeld
4 Clough Head
5 Great Dodd
6 Watson's Dodd
7 Stybarrow Dodd
8 Raise
9 White Side
10 Lowerman
11 Helvellyn
12 Nethermost Pike
13 Dollywagon Pike
14 Fairfield
15 Seat Sandal
Road Crossing Dunmail Raise
16 Steel Fell
17 Calf Crag
18 High Raise
19 Sergeant Man
20 Thunacar Knott
21 Harrison Stickle
22 Pike O' Stickle
23 Rossett Pike
24 Bowfell
25 Esk Pike
26 Great End
27 Ill Crag
28 Broad Crag
29 Scafell Pike
30 Scafell
Road Crossing Wasdale Campsite
31 Yewbarrow
32 Red Pike
33 Steeple
34 Pillar
35 Kirk Fell
36 Great Gable
37 Green Gable
38 Brandreth
39 Grey Knotts
Road Crossing Honister Pass
40 Dale Head
41 Hindscarth
42 Robinson
Start and Finish Line Moot Hall, Keswick

Record circuits[edit]

The history of the fastest round for the standard 42 tops is:

  • 1960: Alan Heaton - 22h18
  • 1971: Peter Walkington - 20h43m
  • 1973: Bill Smith & Boyd Millen - 20h38
  • 1976: John North - 19h48
  • 1976: Billy Bland - 18h50
  • 1977: Mike Nicholson - 17h45m
  • 1982: Billy Bland - 13h53m

The fastest ladies round is:

  • 2012: Nicky Spinks - 18hr12m[4]

Building on the basic Bob Graham Round, later runners raised the number of peaks traversed within 24 hours still further:

  • 1962: Alan Heaton - 54 peaks in 23h48m
  • 1963: Eric Beard - 56 peaks, involving 88 miles (142 km) with 34,000 feet (10,000 m) of ascent in 23h35m
  • 1964: Alan Heaton - 60 peaks in 23h34m
  • 1971: Joss Naylor - 61 peaks in 23h37m
  • 1972: Joss Naylor - 63 peaks in 23h35m
  • 1975: Joss Naylor - 72 peaks involving over 100 miles (160 km) and 37,000 feet (11,000 m) of ascent in 23h20m
  • 1988: Mark McDermott - 76 peaks in 23h26m
  • 1997: Mark Hartell - 77 peaks in 23h47m

The ladies record is:

  • 2011: Nicky Spinks - 64 peaks in 23h15m[5]

Several later runners have successfully attempted 50 peaks at 50, and 55 peaks at 55. Notable achievements are:

  • 1997: Joss Naylor attempted 60 peaks at age 60 over 36 hours (first to last peak) to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis research
  • 2005: Yiannis Tridimas completed 60 peaks at age 60, in 23h52m
  • 2006: Joss Naylor completed 70 peaks at age 70, covering more than 50 miles and ascending more than 25,000 feet, in under 21 hours

The Bob Graham Club 24 Hour Club[edit]

The Bob Graham Club was proposed in 1971 by Fred Rogerson. It exists to record attempts at long distance challenges over the Lakeland fells. The majority of the club's activity is related to the Bob Graham Round itself. While there is no requirement to apply for membership most attempting the round do so. The Club does not organise attempts on the Round, this is left to each individual.

The rules for gaining club membership are simple:

  • Starting at the Moot Hall in Keswick, traverse the 42 summits of the Round (or more) on foot and return to the starting point within 24 hours of the starting time.
  • The visit to each summit must be witnessed by a companion and the time of that visit recorded.
  • The times and names of companions are entered in the membership application form.

The second requirement effectively prevents solo rounds counting for club membership though several runners, both club members and non-members have made solo rounds.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Covell, Brian; Griffin, A.H.; Smith, Roger (1982/1992). 42 Peaks: The Story of the Bob Graham Round. The Bob Graham Club. 
  2. ^ Baddeley, M. J. B. The Lake District, 23rd edition (edited by R. J. W. Hammond), 1968, Ward, Lock & Co.
  3. ^ Chilton, Steve (2013). It's a hill, get over it: fell running's history and characters. Dingwall: Sandstone Press. ISBN 978-1-908737-57-1. 
  4. ^ RaceKit news
  5. ^ RaceKit news; Dark Peak Fell Runners news

External links[edit]