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The Bob Graham Round

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

The Bob Graham Round had been a life ambition since first hearing about the legendary route. There is a great community surrounding the route, with lots of information and support readily available, as well as dedicated groups set up for finding support for individual rounds.


I have always liked the solo unsupported style of running due to its purity and simplicity. Solo unsupported means carrying all of your gear and food for the whole duration, and without any other support runners. I also decided to "on-sight" the route, meaning I hadn't specifically recced any of it, and use only a map and compass for navigation rather than GPS.


I started my round at 2am on Thursday 1st June. The forecast was for a clear and sunny day, similar to the previous 4 weeks of dry weather we had experienced. With the weather being so dry for the previous month, and being unsupported, my main concern was that I would find it difficult to find enough water on route and struggle to stay hydrated. I studied the map and found a couple of key places I hoped would have enough water, and carried an extra bottle to hopefully tide me over the long gaps between sources.



Leg 1


It felt surreal to be touching the doors of the moot hall, and I hadn’t really processed what I was about to embark on and the fact that I was giving the Bob Graham a go. The route leaves Keswick and starts with a steep climb up Skiddaw, to which I was treated to a beautiful clear starry sky and a bright moon which meant it wasn’t totally dark.

Skiddaw and Keswick

Other than making sure to skirt around little man, the route is easy to follow on clear paths. Soon after the summit I picked up the trod down to the stream crossing. This section is notoriously boggy, however I found I was able to keep my feet completely dry! After a quick up and down of Great Calva it was a long ascent to Blencathra, just in time for sunrise. I descended hall’s fell ridge and managed to fill all 3 of my bottles up just before the farm.



Sunrise on Blencathra

Leg 2


Clough head is a daunting sight as you approach the steep climb, however I was enjoying the morning light and happy to get it done knowing the ridge to Dollywagon Pike stays relatively level. The running from Clough Head is grassy and smooth, allowing you to stretch the legs out after the steep climb. After double checking the Harveys map that I didn’t need to summit Calfhow Pike, it was easy nav to the next couple of summits, with just Stybarrow being sneaky and hiding the summit cairn off the path.


The main challenge of leg 2 comes at the end, with Fairfield and Seat sandal. I had decided to take the line which traverses behind Grisedale tarn and is an out and back to Fairfield. I wasn’t clear on which cairn is the summit of Fairfield, so I thought it would be best to quickly nab them all! A quick descent and you’re climbing straight back up Seat Sandal, but luckily it didn’t go on for too long. Then a good long descent into Dunmail raise, where I knew I could fill up next. The first gill was dry so I had a little detour to Raise beck for some water, then got ready for the steep climb up to Steel Fell.

Leg 3


From the lay-by its straight up to Steel Fell. The weather was starting to get quite hot by this point so I took the climb steadily and took on some food. The one and only time I needed to get out my compass was to check that I was right heading to Calf Crag. As soon as I reached the summit I could see the tarn and knew I was right. It was then an easy path to follow to Sergeant man. High Raise held a surprise with millions of midges. It was like running through a cloud and I was completely covered in them. A quick tag of the summit and I ran straight back through them, again being covered in a second skin of flies.


The Langdale Pikes is one of my favorite areas of the Lake District, and I had to take a quick snap and admire the view of the Langdale Valley.

Langdale Valley


After a quick pitstop at the spring just before the climb to Bowfell I followed a faint path and cairns which traversed to Bowfell buttress, this was lower than the path I was meant to take and I found myself escaping up a steep gully to Bowfell.

After Bowfell the running becomes rocky all the way to Scafell. I chose to take the direct route up Broad Stand and found it to be fine. Down into Wasdale is a nice scree descent and a good water point just before you climb up Yewbarrow.


Leg 4


Yewbarrow is famous for being the breaking point of many peoples BG attempts, so I chose to have my first sit down here and change my socks. Although steep, the climb wasn't too bad, and I felt relieved that I had conquered it. However the climb up to Red Pike was undoubtedly worse. It went on and on, with a few false summits before reaching the actual Red Pike summit. After finally reaching the summit it was a nice run over to Steeple, followed by a short out and back to tag the summit. At this point I was thinking that Bob Graham was pretty sadistic for including Steeple, however looking back now it seems fitting for the challenge of the round.


The run over Pillar and Kirk fell went smoothly, I took on my first gel at this point and hoped the energy boost would set me up nicely for the climb up Great Gable. It worked and I was soon at the top. I ran off the summit on autopilot and soon saw Styhead tarn. I knew this was a mistake and checked the map, I had stupidly started running down the wrong side of the mountain. I decided the traverse as fast as I could around to the Green Gable descent path, over some crags and finally found myself back on the path. My first real error and some stern words to myself to focus and not make any more which would jeopardize the round completion.


Brandreth and Grey Knotts were ticked and I decided to follow the path down to Honister rather than the trod to avoid any more mistakes. However looking back at the trod it seemed clear and would be easy to follow.


Leg 5


The last leg and the last big climb up to Dale head. I was starting to get excited about finishing the round and treated to a spectacular sunset from the summit. I knew the navigation form here would be easier as it followed paths and a clear trod, so I popped an extra layer on, had a quick drink and snack and then trotted off to Hindscarth. I was thankful that there wasn't much elevation change between the final 3 summits and was soon making my way up the final summit Robinson.

Robinson

After Robinson there's a steep descent with some lines avoiding the craggy sections. I then descended a scree to pick up the track to the road.


In my haste to attempt the Bob Graham I hadn't looked in detail at the length of the final road section. I thought it was roughly 5km, however once I started I had a quick look at the map and could tell this was an underestimation. The road seemed to go on forever and Keswick didn't appear to be getting closer until I finally started seeing the distant lights.


The final run up to the moot hall felt surreal. I hadn't processed that I was just about to complete the Bob Graham Round. My Wife was at the Hall ready to meet me and it was very fitting to share the final moment with her. I had arrived to Keswick after 21 hours 56minutes of running and having the best day on the Lake District fells.





Moot hall keswick

I really enjoyed challenging myself with finding the route on-sight and doing all the navigation myself. In the future I'd like to have an attempt at a faster round and maybe a winter round too.


Thank you for reading and hopefully see you on the fells!




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