/ Bob Graham Round
I am not a superstar athlete and have not entered any fell races ever. My lifetime best athletic achievements have been 4th in the school cross country championship, 32 years ago, a (very flat) marathon in 3:44, 29 years ago and a Grizzly in 3:56, 4 years ago. I've also done the Welsh 3000s twice, walking, most recently this May with my wife.
In those few days in early August I could either try to repeat the Welsh 3000s and go for a much faster time, or go for the BGR. How realistic is that as an idea? I'm 50, so 42 peaks at 50 is not up there with Naylor's 70 peaks at 70, but then I haven't done the Welsh 3000s quite as fast as he has, either. However, I have run more in the last year than I ever have before, way more - over 1800 miles now, with weekly totals of distance and ascent climbing all the time. This last week to today, I have done 72 miles, plus 1900 m of ascent. I had thought of waiting until next year, but there is a good chance that I won't then be as fit as I am now. Not necessarily, but what if I don't keep this up?
My feeling is to go for it now, possibly fail and learn from it.
I'd be unsupported, so no shiny certificate for me, but, hey, I've never done clubs.
My chances? Suggestions? Great alternatives?
What have you got to lose ?
What have you got to gain ?
Hopefully a successful BGR or, at worst, a hat load of experience.
GO FOR IT !
I’ve been reliably informed there’s not much to it. You just walk on the uphill bits, jog the flat bits and only run on the downhill bits. That should be enough to get anyone round inside 24 hours; if you want to do it faster than that then you need to do a bit of training. Apparently.
Total bollocks, I’d imagine, but my informant was a very experienced fell runner. I suspect it all turns on the exact meaning of the word ‘anyone’.
Still, why not give it a go? It isn’t going to get any easier.
Doing it solo would be quite a bit harder than with support - the navigation needs to be very acurate or you end up going a lot further / loosing a lot of time- there are lots of subtle route choices to make - also worth knowing where you will be able to pick up water as it is quite limited especially on leg 2 and 4. Loads of info if you google around and also if you post on the FRA site you may well find the odd person to come join you for a leg or two - quite a community of 'pacers' out there
Good luck it is a great day out
The fell runners seem to reckon on getting in 3000m of ascent per week as a guide to having enough in your legs to do the BGR. Two week's dedicated training might be on the optimistic side :-)
You don't say how those miles are spread out - I think I'd be looking at having at least one day a week where I'd be on my feet for 12hrs or so to give you an idea of how your body copes with being on the go for a long time. There's some route cards on here - leg 1 here: http://www.ukhillwalking.com/logbook/r/?i=145 . Looking at the route card for the Welsh 3000s it would appear to be roughly equal to legs 1 & 2 of the BGR in distance if a little rougher.
It's not just how fit you are, weather is a big factor, as is the support team.
I've been toying with the idea of an unsupported BGR for a couple of years now, and seriously working towards it for a few months. Here's my advice:
1. Don't underestimate the BGR - it is *much* harder that the 3000s.
2. The Welsh 3000s in a loop would be a good alternative, say starting from Llanberis and jogging to Bethesda and then up onto the Carneddau, etc.
3. Navigation is a lot easier and the footpaths are much bigger on the 3000s
4. Knowing the route really well helps on the BGR - unless you are really fast you will have to do some of it in darkness. The only easy bits to do in the dark are the slog up to the summit of Skiddaw on the first leg, and the last few miles in to Keswick on the last leg.
5. There is one big advantage with an unsupported run in that you can choose a time when conditions are just right. I think a lot of people fail because they are committed to a particular day which turns out to be poor weather conditions.
I was out on a BGR recce yesterday - I did the first three sections missing out several summits. I completely failed on the night-time navigation bit, took far too much food and nowhere near enough water. But I had a good day out and learnt a lot.
I'd estimate that yesterday's run was about half a BGR - it felt a bit easier than running the 3000s (in a loop).
Thanks all very much for the replies, especially the encouraging ones. I'll give it a go unless the weather is silly and see how far I get. If I don't make it, there's another whole winter of trudging at 6 am for miles around the freezing streets of my town in store, so I have plenty of motivation. I did kind of expect it to be harder than the 3000s. It is more than twice as far, and lumpier, after all.
Paul - in darkness, what torch do you use? I have a Myo XP, which is not good enough for cycling in the dark, as I know to my cost. Would that do, do you think, for walking and runnning on fells, or would I need one of those dead expensive ones that cyclists use. It's OK for running along trails here in the dark, but I can't see too far ahead with it in the way that I might want to to check my route.
Supposing that my time is close to 24 hours. What time of day would you start?
May be of some help.
I used to use a myo xp 1st generation for running in the lakes at night and it always did me fine.
> My chances? Suggestions? Great alternatives?
Being lazy I've wondered about doing it over 3 days, with a nice comfy bed and good scoff each night. It would still do 20 miles a day and over 8000 ft of ascent; sort of (but not quite) like 3 back to back Welsh 3000's. And a good reccy for when you do it in one go!
I'd agree you need some stash bags at least somewhere.
If you decide not to how about this:
It's a brilliant run/route and there is loads of route info on the site so you can do it yourself.
It also passes by civilisation quite often just in case you do pull out. Only one real section of 'fell running' with the rest being on trails and well trodden footpaths. Still 3100m of ascent though.
I don't. I've done 4000 miles of running to get to this point. But I won't be supported. I like the idea of a solo attempt. And anyway, I am rubbish at marshaling support. I will work out where to leave water and food and hope it is still there when I get to it.
The ascent you're doing in training, is it up hills or on tracks/trails?
Whatever, why not give it a go and see how you get on. If you don't get it then you've given it a good shot and will know what to do to be successful next time.
It varies. Some is on road, some is on trails you can drive a truck down, some is on rough paths, some is on the coast path, up gradients so steep I can't run up them. Steps. Like on Tryffan, but not so many at once.
The way I see it, as you and some others have intimated, what's to lose? If I do it, great, if I don't, I'm better placed for another shot than if I just wait for the perfect time, which may actually be now. I just wanted some idea of how I might do. I did the 3000s at my wife's walking pace in 16 hours with buckets of energy to spare. My solo time would be well under 12, I reckon, so attempting the BGR doesn't seem so daft.
Thanks Al, I doubt that is true!
I have a Black Diamond head torch. It lights up the path in front of me but not much use for anything in the distance. I had hoped that the full moon would help yesterday, but the cloud base was very low.
I would plan to hit the summit of Skiddaw at first light. The most direct path down from there towards Calva is hard to spot. If you reach the summit and it is still too dark to see the way down you can follow the fence all the way down to meet the main Cumbria Way footpath - adds about 1 km.
In early August I guess I would set off around 2.00 a.m.
Best of luck - I'd be very interested to know how it goes.
Listen to Etak, she's to modest to say but has done the BGR.
Friend of mine who did the Welsh 3000s a month before his nearly solo BGR ( had a pacer on first and last legs) thought it was about half the BGR in terms of effort.
If you're doing it solo I'd get a GPS and have it way marked, I suspect you can download this somewhere, or as Etak says, post on the FRA website to find it.
Thanks. Can you recommend a GPS? My Garmin Forerunner 410 only does about 8 hours. I'll look at the FRA site.
Thanks, I will let you know.
Thanks for that. I have time to do the googling. The route finding is part of the challenge, so let's see how well I do.
Here is some of my reackoning (lots of opinion out there so sure others will disagree!!)
If going for a 23:30 time (look up Bob Whitmans website for the split times) then a 6 or 7 pm start from Moot hall going clockwise i think is best - you want to get down Halls fell before it gets dark but not have too much dark on leg 3 (tricky nav) - though some start at midnight i think this is horrid for your body clock and also means you are 'running into the dark' which is psychologically hard. People who go anti clockwise seem to start at 7am
get a GPS track at least for leg 2 - very easy to underestimate the navigation on this leg - will be dark and easy to make lots of little errors
XP Myo thing should be fine - might want a hand held torch to for added looking power
A food drop bag at Dunmail raise (and maybe at threkeld too) is probably worth it (unless you want the hard core solo and unsupported)
If you can get out and support someones else on a leg is a really good idea - loads of people on FRA looking for pacers
its all about eating and drinking- eat lots early - if you can do a 14-16 hour training session before hand will help loads (best if you can get out over one of the legs will give you a sense of the sort of speed you need - not fast just steady).
I think if you are not a super fast runner than you need organisation and efficiency to get round.
If it wasn't hard it wouldn't be worth doing - good luck
Its about fitness for sure but good round management and housekeeping are huge. try and support a round ASAP as that will give you a great deal of experience about what is required.. ask on the FRA forum..
> Being lazy I've wondered about doing it over 3 days, with a nice comfy bed and good scoff each night. It would still do 20 miles a day and over 8000 ft of ascent; sort of (but not quite) like 3 back to back Welsh 3000's. And a good reccy for when you do it in one go!
Thats not lazy... I tried the paddy over 3 days.. it killed me.. 8-9 hours a day.. I'd rather just get the thing done..
As Iain says, fitness is one part of it but managing your body over 24 hours is just as important, especially if solo. Ensuring hydration and eating are correct and knowing what you will be able to eat after 20hrs out are just as important, many fail here. And there is the mental side of coping with the 'low spots' which can be quite a challenge if on your own - but very rewarding if you come through.
OK, thanks all again for the informative replies. In a couple of week¨s time I will either have succeeded, failed or thought better of it. I will let you know.
Thinking of a start next Tuesday or Wednesday.
Broad Stand- it could be wet, but might not be. Since all websites carry huge disclaimers, it is hard to judge how difficult this bit is.
Exposed, OK, but how hard is it, unroped, alone, after 11 r so hours of effort?
Not that hard BUT it's more the potential drop that's the issue. If you slip it's a long way down to the left.
Also after 11hrs of effort and in running shoes it will feel harder for sure.
To make it more meaningful for me, is it harder, I wonder, than the normal descent into Sennen, to the left of the lookout post, or the scramble out of Bosi at the left hand end, or the narrow gully descent at the right hand end, or the scramble descent to the Seal Slab end of Chair Ladder, none of which I have done for a few years now.
I would be doing Broad Stand in ascent.
The crux is in between these two climbers here:
You can see how vertical the rock is and it's a bit thrutchy and awkward.
There is another photo on here of it 'in context' shows you the potential drop.
There is then a second crux a bit higher up, not got the same exposure though.
I guess there is a reason why most people want a belay on it ?
Thanks. I think I am as likely to lose my way on that as fall off.
If it's a worry to you then you'd be as well dropping down to the left and heading round to Foxes Tarn. Probably not much in it timewise but perhaps another 100 metres of climbing. There's a short cut along the climbers' traverse which is about 50 metres below the toe of the East Buttress and which saves you dropping all the way to the Foxes Tarn gully.
If you're a climber it's unthinkable to fall off it. Since you have to ask I'm assuming you're not much of a climber, in which case I'd go round if I were you.
I'd say scrambling down the descent chimney at Sennen (Griptight Gully, is it?) would be about the same, as a comparison.
It's easy to find the right way (in ascent), you just follow the polish. IMO it's harder than all the scrambled you mention, partly because of the polish, partly because of the consequences of a slip. I've done it several times, both in ascent and as a descent after climbing, and I've never yet had the bottle to do it without a belay.
Personally, for an unsupported BGR (ie without a rope) I'd go via Foxes Tarn (or maybe Lords Rake/West Wall but then you'd have to allow time to stop and empty the scree out of your shoes!)
OK, thanks all.
I ask, since much of the guidance I read is directed, I suspect, at walkers. When I did the GR20 a couple of years ago, the guide described it as "Europe's most daunting footpath", then (from memory) described a side peak on it that I that I did one morning as "significantly harder than anything else on the GR20", so that it sounded pretty scary, but it was easy-peasy, not even exposed.
When we finished the 3000s, someone on the top of Snowdon warned us against going down the paths towards Pen y Pass. Too steep and dangerous, in the dark, they said.
No, I am not much of a climber, but it helps enormously to read words written by people who I have read before and whose words I can interpret with some degree of confidence.
1) I'm against using the rope.. I don't think others should be but thats just my personal view point.
2) Its an additional stress
3) there's not much in it by going around.
Wow, that looks perfect for dry tooling.
So it's not considered bad style to go around? I wasn't going to use a rope, but could do without the stress if it doesn't lose much time or style points.
the round is the summits - you can do what you like to link em up (CW, CCW etc) - bar hitching :)
The BGR has quite defined rules but regarding broad stand its quite vague.. people have used ladders.. which I do think is wrong.. for me a top rope is also too much aid.. but if other people do that's fair enough I'll certainly not judge for it.. but I do think a ladder is a step too far..
Yeah that's why i was saying about 2 cruxes. Different people and different weather conditions mean it's, well, different for everyone i guess.
For me in the wet the lower bit is harder - slippy as a slippy thing.
Not at all. Dunno if anyone's actually collated the number of contenders going each way (Fox's, BS, Lords Rake) but my guess would be about equal proportions. Most of the supported attempts that go by BS have a rope team waiting. Solo rounds tend not to be documented to the same degree so... well, who knows but the most important thing [*] is keep moving and not faff around whichever way you go.
In fact that's probably the most important thing about the whole round. As Bob Graham himself said if you stop on every summit for just one minute... you're adding 42 minutes to your final time!
One other thing, as Iain says you can choose which order to do Sergeant Man and High Raise. FWIW I'd say Sergeant Man first, for *both* directions, CW and CCW.
[*] apart from not falling off and hurting yourself, of course
There's usually a few threads on the FRA forums about route choice. Not seen anything on them to suggest that one way is any quicker than another in getting from Mickledore to Scafell. Perhaps the bigger issue is the extra descent/ascent when going via Foxes Tarn or Lord's Rake.
As for a rope on BS: many years ago I was climbing on Scafell and the Leeds Well Oiled Machine were up there. At one point during the day they all stopped climbing and headed up to Broad Stand to fix a rope for Chris Sowden who was doing the BGR that day. Chris was leading E6 at the time so no slouch on rock.
Broad Stand is definitely quicker (10-15 mins) but only if you can do it straight off with no faffing. On supported rounds you've got to get the pacers up safely as well, of course.
The FRA forum archive is a gold mine of information and experience, I made full use of it.
I am back home now. I failed, by miles, but had a good time and learned a lot. It's been very interesting rereading this thread in the light of what I have just done.
All I did was the first leg on day one, as a recce (first mistake), then leg 2 and a bit of leg 5 on day 2. I spent twice as much time in the car as on the hill.
I only had a maximum of three days, and I had learned from doing the 3000s that getting the logistics rights is key. Get it wrong and you're frazzled before you even start. Thus recceing a leg the day before the imagined actual attempt was not ideal, but I did think I was so likely to get lost on leg 1 in the dark if I hadn't recced it that I ought to give it a look first. However, as soon as I was slogging my way up Skiddaw, and even more, shortly after, as my shoes disappeared in bog while heading for Great Calva, or my knees in water while wading the Caldew, I was appalled at the idea of having to do all this again less than 24 hours later. If I had made my food drops first, I might have carried on because of that (I had started at 8am) but I hadn't so at the end I ran back from Threlkeld to Keswick and my car along the cycle trail. Now I know leg 1 I still think it might be hard to do alone in the dark, it being so featureless from the descent of Skiddaw to Blencathra and some of the going so boggy that you'd have to do it on GPS or compass bearings.
Anyway, the first leg took me 4:10, which is just slower than a 23:15 schedule, and that was in the light. I went off the Skiddaw summit ridge too early and lost time in boggy ground trying to get to the Skiddaw house road. I also went down Hall's Fell ridge, which was easy but fiddly scrambling. Doddick fell to my left looked faster going. I took the direct descent from Calva, straight for the bend in the Caldew, and that was fine.
Before all this, I had recced Keswick, as far as the start of the Skiddaw path, having arrived for my BG attempt without even knowing where the Moot Hall was!
I felt tired after this, and thought it unlikely that I would manage the BG for real in 24 hours, so hatched a plan (several, actually but this is what I did) to start at Threlkeld the next day, at 4 am, roughly when I should have arrived there if I had started from Keswick at midnight, and go as far as I could. This is what I did. By this time I had dropped food bags at Dunmail and Honister. This takes time.
My food bags, since you ask, contained boiled new potatoes, two home made granola bars, a banana or two, a 2l bottle of water to refill by camelbak thingy, a tub of soup (chard and coconut, not very nice, whatever Sarah Raven says, but welcome at the time) and nuts and raisins. I meant to take a bag with me on leg 2, but forgot(!), so did that leg on water alone. I drank almost 2 l on the leg and wolfed down most of the food when I got to Dunmail.
I got up at 3 am, ran from Burn's Farm where I was staying and off up to Clough Head. The dawn was fantastic, as was the weather for the whole of that day. The Dodds were a doddle in perfect visibility and all was fine and on schedule until I started the descent to Grisedale when I felt pain in my shin and slowed down, noticeably. I did Fairfield up the face but became really slow on the final descent to Dunmail. My shin was hurting, which made running very difficult. By the time I got to the road I was hobbling and decided to give up on the one-push attempt. Annoyed, I caught the bus back to Keswick and started out on leg 5 towards Honister, thinking I could stay at the YHA then do legs 4 and 3 the next day and that way end up having recced the lot. But three miles out of Keswick I was really struggling to even walk, so turned back, and that was that. A limp ending, but that's how it goes.
I learned that the toughest thing when doing it alone and unsupported (though I had offers of help from kind people on the FRA forums) is the psychological challenge of dealing with the continual temptation to give up, something I recognise from all the long runs I have done, but which is all the more pressing over this much longer challenge where you have to reckon on what you will do if you don't make it. On the flip side, a fully supported attempt would fill me with anxiety about letting people down. My anxiety was of course heightened by me doing this route for the first time. Once you know the way, and have an idea of your actual capabilities on the different legs, it would be easier.
I think different temperaments might be better suited to different approaches, from alone to being surrounded by a big team. Myself, I could enjoy both,but am drawn to the former. However, lack of fell practice made all the ponderings more fearful alone. You can easily tip into self-pity when alone.
Physically,apart from the injury, I felt fine. The injury might just be soreness brought about by my using my now old Flyrocs, which felt little better at times than Converse, and I could easily deal with the sight of big hills just in front of me. They didn't cow me. It was the bigger picture that was scary.
I think I would lean to an 8 pm start, clockwise, as Etak suggested, since the going on leg 2 is easier underfoot, so long as you can navigate well. I don't fancy floundering around in the bogs of leg 1 in the dark.
I mean, 6 or 7 pm start from Moot Hall, to get down Hall's Fell in the light. But you ought to get all the organising done the day before, or you could tire yourself out hairing around the lakes dropping off food etc.
Thanks for reporting back in so much detail. I can empathise with a lot of that. Glad you had a good time anyway.
Are you planning to recce 3 & 4 and/or have another go at the complete BGR?
Yes, but no firm plans as yet. I would like to try the whole thing, but probably would first go and recce 3 and 4, just to give me the confidence, on arrival at Dunmail, that I could get through them.
It's easy now to say that, back at home. On the ground, the BG in one day is a really tough undertaking!
Sounds like a good effort! It's a shame you didn't complete it, but you have increased your chances of doing it next time...
Thanks for the report. Even though you didn't complete I'm impressed by the 'turn ul and give it a go' spirit. Sounds like a good adventure, no matter what.
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