Bob Graham Round

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The Bob Graham Round is a circuit of 42 fells in the English Lake District, including the 3,000-foot (910 m) peaks of Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Scafell and Scafell Pike. The round is named after Bob Graham (1889–1966), a Keswick guest-house owner, who in 1932 set the record for the number of Lakeland fells traversed in 24 hours which he held for twenty eight years until its repeat, with Graham's encouragement, by Alan Heaton in a quicker time in 1960.

Any contender who traverses the fells of Bob Graham's round within 24 hours is eligible for membership of the Bob Graham Club. While the club keeps to a low profile policy in the spirit of Bob Graham's reputation as a quiet, modest individual, its primary role being record keeper of attempts and successful rounds, members encourage and support contenders. Despite Graham's understatement that the round is achievable by anyone of "average" fitness, it is considered by many as one of the most demanding tests of endurance for an amateur athlete or mountaineer.

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]

  • 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

On 12–13 June 1932 the Lakeland fell runner Bob Graham set the peak bagging record of 42 Lakeland peaks in just under 24 hours. Bob Graham's Round was not repeated again until 1960. Depending on the line taken, the length of the route is between 63 miles (101 km) and 66 miles (106 km) with approximately 8,200-metre (26,900 ft) of ascent and descent. Several 20th Century sources (including the 42 Peaks booklet[1]) erroneously state the distance to be 72 miles (116 km).

The Lakeland writer Harry Griffin is credited with rekindling interest in Graham's record in the late 1950s, at a time when the veteran walker Dr Barbara Moore had gained much publicity for doing the John o'Groats to Land's End walk. Griffin went on, with Fred Rogerson, to found the Bob Graham Club, which meets bi-annually in the Lake District.

Alan Heaton became the first to repeat and better Graham's round in 1960, though the tops Heaton chose were not the same as Graham had visited. Graham included:

  • High White Stones
  • Hanging Knotts
  • Looking Stead
  • High Snab Bank

These were replaced by:

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

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

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. Although it is possible to complete the basic round at a fast walking pace, most contenders choose to run at least the level ground. 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 2011, twenty three individuals have successfully completed a winter round of the standard circuit.

The Bob Graham cairn [1], commemorating both Graham and his feat, stands just below Ashness Bridge (grid reference NY270196), quite close to the road. Note that this memorial erroneously gives the date of Graham's round as 13–14 June.

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 record for the fastest round of the standard 42 tops was reduced progressively:

  • 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[3]

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[4]

Graham is believed to have chosen 42 peaks as his age at that time - he had attempted a round of 41 peaks the previous year and narrowly failed to complete it in 24 hours. 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

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. ^ RaceKit news
  4. ^ RaceKit news; Dark Peak Fell Runners news

External links[edit]