Jim Mann ran a record time yesterday for the Winter Bob Graham Round. I had the pleasure of trying to keep up with him as he set a blistering pace on Leg 5. Jim ran clockwise, setting off from The Moot Hall at 0103 on Sunday morning, and finished in 18 hours 19 minutes at 1922.
Conditions were bad during the night with strong wind and rain, but perfect during the day. Some more info and a couple of photos here https://twitter.com/H18ORR
His summer time was a few years ago, can't remember how fast that one was but I'm pretty sure it was slower than 20:35 (set off with someone else who dropped out). His winter time of 20:35 was a brilliant run in amazing late winter conditions, no taper, racing the day before, solo on leg 2 in Feb 2011.
He was on for the winter record last year until we moved too slowly up the snowy/icy lords rake and Bowfell and lost too much time. So he knew he had it in him.
i'm with you Iain. Whilst a great achievement - 18 hours any time is a fast pace and in all the dark, etc is a amazing - for winter it was mild and very unwintery. Probably more accurate to say fastest time in the winter months.
I am dead impressed by that achievement, whatever the conditions and whatever it gets called, although I think it a bit odd to call it a "winter" record just because it is in December.
Having done Legs 1 and 2, and not even the one straight after the other, let alone the rest to follow, I find the achievement of managing route finding on Leg 1 in the dark, between Skiddaw and Blencathra tops really impressive - (is this where pacers help, is that one of the things they do?), not to mention the Dodds as well in what must still have been near darkness. Or is some GPS gizmo doing the directing?
Yes, pacers do the navigating, time keeping, load carrying and general chivvying to help people get round. Some have just one or two for each leg, others might have four or five.
It's a good craic helping out, the first leg is usually pretty quick for me, my favourite is leg 3, surprisingly easy to support as in decent visibility you can verify many of the tops without going there yourself.
That's interesting... From where might I stand the best chance of verifying the most tops? I've volunteered my services to assist a mate, on his attempt, next year... Ideally, I'd prefer to do my verifying from a barstool, but am prepared to wander up a fell if there's really no alternative.
> Yes, pacers do the navigating, time keeping, load carrying and general chivvying to help people get round. Some have just one or two for each leg, others might have four or five.
Doesn't that reduce it merely to an athletic achievement? Which is not nothing, by any means, as any sub 2:05 marathon runner will beg to point out, I am sure, as they follow the 26 mile long line at a blisteringly fast pace, but it seems somehow to be counter to the mountain, fells, self-reliance thing.
Did Steck have people all over the big faces he has done, telling him which way to go, and carrying his water?
Well, if you desire a 'purists round' - and very laudable that is too! - then the answer is clearly to have a crack at it just for the heck of it? Forget the support teams, and official recognition etc. and get out there with your boiled eggs and plimsolls! That's pretty much how my pal is proposing to go at it.
I tried a purist's round, so pure I didn't even know where the Moot Hall was when I arrived, and was only recceing even one leg the day before, and came unstuck. Another go in May looms. The unpure way, sullied by craic, sounds good though.
The truth is that an "onsight solo" round is just too hard for most people. I'm not sure if it has ever been done. But I would imagine it would come unstuck pretty quickly. It's tough to stick to the 24 hour schedule and do the nav, not impossible, but very tough especially at night. You would miss a lot of the best lines if you hadn't looked at it first, the line off Skiddaw isn't obvious, the line up Great Calva can be missed, if you hadn't looked at it first I would imagine that you would probably give up when you were looking at Broad Stand and thinking "this can't be the bloody way, and i'm not going up that deadly looking rake to the right!"
Quite a lot of people reccy it so well that the pacers don't need to do any nav, it's just left at the next cairn, and keep going till the trod appears then follow that. That sort of nav.
Jim knows it well enough that I reckon he could do the whole thing, in the dark without a map or a head torch, so the pacers are just there for safety, and load carrying and moral support.
I've crossed it when it's been ankle deep and also crossed it when I've had to swing across the dilapidated fence Indiana Jones style. If you think it's high or going to be high then you can go via Skiddaw House.
Ski touring? I doubt it would be much quicker, what times you gain on the descents you are likely to lose (and more) on the ascents.
> Doesn't that reduce it merely to an athletic achievement?
The purest style is of course the on sight unsupported solo. Anything other than that is about reducing the chances of failure (or achieving a round that gets you in the club). People can be guided round, not knowing where they are or the lines to take. Or they can have reccied lots, have all the route choices sorted and pacers there for general support and keeping them right, and verifying the round. In each case there is athletic achievement and, to varying degrees, the sense of achieving something on the fells that is more personal.
Yes, I reckon so, if there was a skin track in on every climb and skiable snow over nearly all of the terrain (these conditions might be rarer than once-in-a-lifetime though, I don't know the lakes well enough to say...).
The best ski-mountaineering racers are faster, on total metres ascent and descent per hour, than the best mountain runners (often the same person, Kilian Jornet...). In 3hour races the best will average in excess of 1000m/h up and down, sometimes a fair bit more, there aren't any summer mountain races I know of where people manage that average for that length of time. On the lightest race kit and with a good track in the you lose a bit going up, but a good skier can gain much more going down. I reckon on something really long it would be maybe more of an advantage too, since you wouldn't get nearly as fatigued cos you're not hammering your legs on the descents.
I tried the Ramsay round on race skis once, in exceptional conditions. Skied from the Ben to Loch Trieg in the dark with a little Petzl Tikka. Quite exciting! Got stormed so bailed there. I was slower than I would have expected to be in summer (a fair bit slower than 24hr schedule) because a. there was no track in and b. I'd only been skiing for two or three years and c. I was having to navigate over terrain I didn't know.
It's unlikely (though not of course impossible) to get consistent snow cover from valley floor to the fell tops so you'd probably have to be carrying the skis for some sections. Also a lot of the tops (say the Helvellyn range) get very wind scoured so they may look white and doable on skis but when you get there they are basically boulder fields as far as skiing is concerned. There may well be lines off to the side of the tracks/ridge that would be more suitable for skiing but I've never investigated them.
It may well be possible but as you say, the right conditions may be a once in two hundred year occurrence.
Yes, agreed that it might well be more of a theoretical possibility than an actual one. Not sure you'd ever get good enough snow conditions.
Yes, skied the Grey Corries ridge. From memory had to take the skis off to descend to CMD arete as the snow wasn't deep enough to cover the boulders, but then had them on the whole time from Aonoch Mor to close to the Loch Trieg dam, where it was raining and conditions had deteriorated a lot and there wasn't enough cover. Was exceptional conditions though, snow down to really low. I think that's right, that I didn't have to take the skis off after Aonoch Mor, but it was five years ago now and my mind is full up with other things at the moment, so I may have had to take them off a few times, but 90% sure skis were on for most of it and all the descents.
The Cairngorm 24hr rounds are probably much better objectives to do on race skis, much more likely to get good conditions I think.
I think, even with amazing snow, you might end up having to take skins (or skis) on and off a lot if you wanted to actually visit all the tops, rather than take a ski touring line close to them.
To give you an idea of how rare conditions might be, we'd lived in the Lakes for 10 years before we got a winter when conditions were good enough to ski Skiddaw (and even then thin, so you'd have struggled linking it to even the rest of that leg). And some of the rocky bits would take much more snow to be easily skiable.
But I imagine there'd be a few locals giving it a go if the snow ever came....
Congratulation to Jim and nice one for supporting him.
I have the Bob Graham map on the bedside table and flick through it quite a bit. Hopefully will have a more serious look next year and actually start training for it.
Well done again to you both
In reply to Ged Desforges:
Did some reackoning on skiing it a few years back there was enough snow ( did leg 2 road to road on skis) certainly doable but think it would always be slower than running - as i dont think enough fast skiing down hill to make up for the extra weight / effort on the up hills - tho who knows....
> The truth is that an "onsight solo" round is just too hard for most people. I'm not sure if it has ever been done. But I would imagine it would come unstuck pretty quickly. It's tough to stick to the 24 hour schedule and do the nav, not impossible, but very tough especially at night.
Bloke from london did this last year i think - am sure it has been done
I don't think he said it was impossible, just rather hard. Also most will have walked at least some of the route so the "onsight" can be rather hard to achieve.
I was talking to Helene Diamantides a couple of years ago about how hard it was to recce and do the Ramsay Round in the same year because of the limited time available once the snows had gone. Her response was "Just turn up and do it, it's what I did". She is rather good though! I possibly could have claimed an onsight of the Ramsay as up to that point the only bit of the round I'd done was from the summit of the Ben to the top of no4 gully.
One of the Scottish runners I know did on an on-sight solo BG... rather impressive... but I do think winter records are a bit weird as the best times are most likely to come when there are least "wintery" conditions; but hat off to Jim for a pretty fast round in any conditions. As an old git I am thinking what is the fastest V50 time? But to be honest if I was fast and strong I think I would head into the South Lakes hills after Bowfell to try and snag Coniston Old Man in an extended BG, albeit probably over 24 hrs....