Lakes Classic Rock Challenge Series

Lakes Classic Rock Round Record broken by Chris Fisher

On April 23rd, Chris Fisher broke the Lakes Classic Rock Round record, completing it in a time of 15 hours 25 minutes solo and unsupported. The Round has been described as the climbers' equivalent of the Bob Graham Round, taking in all 15 routes from Ken Wilson's compilation Classic Rock and running between them, though some say that the Rock Round requires a greater effort.

Scafell Crag  © sheep
Scafell Crag
© sheep, Jul 2013

Commenting on the difficulty of the Round, Chris told UKC:

'Having not done the Bob Graham I wouldn't have a clue! It's nothing compared to Caff's 100 extreme solos, but it is a great round that is achievable for many.'

The previous record was 16 hours 17, recorded by Mark Thomas in 2005. A write-up of Mark's Round can be found here.

Chris began the other way around to Mark's round, starting at Dow and finishing in Borrowdale as per many other attempts. Some of the routes are ascended, others descended. Regarding his time, Chris told UKC:

'I'm certain someone good at fell running and confident at climbing could knock more time off still, I'm a steady climber but an amateur fell runner at best!'

The round was first considered and completed by Mike van Gulik, Dave Willis and Tim Gould in 1993, who made use of a car between certain crags. Dave wrote an article Race Against Time describing their experience.

Not many have completed this round, although many more should have.

The Lakes Classic Rock Round Stats

15 Classic Rock Routes

34 miles of running with an ascent of 4292m and a descent of 4648m, as you start higher than you finish.

Chris has lived in Cumbria all his life, and now lives in Eskdale. In 2014, he finished climbing all of the 'eights' (UKC article).

Tophet wall pitch 1  © Brand
Tophet wall pitch 1
© Brand, Sep 2007

Here's Chris's write-up of the LCRR:

The alarm on my phone sounds out... it's early and unsurprisingly still dark. Dow Crag towers above, only just discernible. The Old Man of Coniston still in slumber across the murk of Goats Water. The rude interruption to my sleep wasn't welcome... never mind, I wasn't up here for a cosy night under the stars.

I stuff in as much food as I can stomach at such an ungodly hour and lather on suncream... seems an odd thing to do in the dull glow of a headtorch. Still, it's beginning to lighten up...

05:12. Kit stashed safely under a boulder, I begin to make the first moves upwards. Murray's Direct, delicate at first but leading into wild traverses on jug handholds, the scree seemingly miles below my feet... Just what the body and mind needs to wake up. I top out, remembering that it's not really topping out at all – a long scramble remains to the top of the crag. Rock shoes changed to fell shoes and I'm off.

Skirting along the side of Brim Fell and Swirl How, the sun begins to rise behind a thin layer of high cloud, along with a welcomed breeze – a magnificent sight and perfect for keeping the temperature low. Down to the Three Shires junction and on to the iron red descent into Oxendale and the head of the Langdale valley. Crossing the fertile valley fields and steeply up the fellside to Gimmer... it seems easier without a rucksack full of hardware and ropes!

Next up - Bracket and Slab... well chalked by the Easter hordes. Then down-climb C Route with some trepidation, followed more easily with Ash Tree Slabs.

Having been told that long pushes are all about fuelling, and excelling at eating (my hobby of choice), I scoff down a couple of pork pies and a sausage roll – this isn't such a hardship after all!

A dash down the scree brings me to the valley bottom again, and this time the longer slog up to Bowfell. Once there, Bowfell Buttress is a joy to climb. No route finding issues here... though I muse at the long term sustainability of mixed climbing on these precious crags, and my own guilty conscience...

From the top of Bowfell, Scafell doesn't look too far, though the terrain in between soon makes it feel less close. Over Esk Pike, Esk Hause, Broad Crag and onto Scafell Pike, suddenly there are people everywhere... strange how so many flock to the same fell top.

Drop down to Mickledore and I skirt beneath the imposing mass of Scafell Crag. Suddenly I'm very much alone again. Jones's Direct is the most intricate route of the day and, having climbed all the Lakes Classic Rock routes more times than I can remember, this is the first time where I have to pull out a tattered photocopy topo and remind myself of the line. I think of the history of these routes and the stories and epics behind them as I carefully tip-toe my way up. This is no place for rushing.

Descend Steep Ghyll, snow still hidden deep inside the dark and forbidding cleft above... A flashback of harrowingly struggling upwards years ago in the teeth of a winter storm, half-cut from the night before.

On to Moss Ghyll Grooves, one of the finest routes of the day, the delicate crux traverse doesn't feel as secure as I'd have hoped in oversized rockshoes with socks. Still, it passes smoothly enough and the exposure on the upper ramps is to die for, though fortunately not literally.

Down Broad Stand and cut back through the masses en-route to the top of the Pike, the Corridor Route leads to Sty-Head and then underneath Kern Knotts, to traverse the flanks of Gable and on to the fortress that is Tophet Wall.

Another cracking route... although aren't they all!

Memories flood back to first climbing this route many moons ago with a school mate. Incompetently scrabbling our way up whilst it was half covered in snow, and then of years later too, when, with the same mate, we shook our way up Supernatural next door, with fear in our hearts and in our eyes.

So many great memories, in the fells and on the crags.

Scrambling over the top of the Napes with bare feet was a pleasant relief, the combination of running and climbing beginning to take its toll. Needle Ridge - easily located and descended without incident.

Here I was greeted by the first climbers I'd seen all day; a pleasant couple who seemed bemused on firstly why I'd came down Needle Ridge, and secondly on quite what I was thinking heading straight up the Needle. The top 'tagged', I descended via the Arête, and tucked into some much needed pizza... the eating part was going well!

By now the sun had fully appeared from behind its cloudy veil and indeed it was hotting up. My last water fill had been from the stream that flows down Piers Ghyll, and the bottle I was carrying was nearing empty. Fortunately though, the route through to Pillar, behind the back of Kirk Fell and on to Robinsons Cairn passed numerous cool babbling becks – enough to refill and quench my thirst.

Pillar appeared suddenly after the long trek out... and here the low point of the round reared. After descending the unpleasant scree gully from the top of the high level route and feeling somewhat jaded, I proceeded to change into rock shoes, only to knock one off, watching it bounce merrily further down the scree slope...

Once retrieved however, I was soon enjoying the superb moves and rough rock of Rib and Slab, with a stiff pull over on the bottom groove, and the awesome airiness of the delicate upper 'slab'.

New West proved a useful down-climb, with only the chimney providing any real sense of 'perhaps this wasn't such a good idea after all'. Take my time - no one to hear a fall here, should it all go terribly wrong.

Then back up the scree gully to retrace my steps behind Kirk Fell and on to Gable, this time to continue under Gable Crag and onto Green Gable via Moses Trod. The path leads to a cut across the fell and a contour round to reach the old fence line which leads the way to the top of Gillercombe Buttress.

Having previously recced the downclimb, I set off knowing what to expect, but forgetting quite how long the route actually was... downclimbing is never quite as much fun, or as easy, as climbing up!

Once at the bottom of the crag a dash through the marshy ground below, and down the well trodden Sourmilk Ghyll path, saw me at the road at Seathwaite. Fuelled now on jelly sweets and chocolate, the tarmacked 7.5 km from here to the track that leads up to Black Crag seemed to go on forever, especially at my now snails pace...

Through the trees up to Black Crag drenched in sweat, the evening by now upon me. It felt warm in the valley compared to the cool of the fell tops. Greeted by two climbers who'd just descended. "Nice evening for it. Crag to yourselves?", I ask. "Yes - just us here now". Exactly what I was hoping to hear...

Troutdale Pinnacle is always a pleasure, and this was no exception, though by now I'm trying to climb with the sides of my feet... my toes in agony.

Back down to the road and a slow dash past the Borrowdale Hotel, where my lift home was happily ensconced inside.

The path along and up to Little Chamonix, although usually feeling like a short hop from the car, now feels mountainous in scale... I'm properly knackered now! My plan of continuing up in fell shoes was out the window, I needed all the help I could get. Rock shoes back on for the last time. Minutes later I top out and flop down on to the flat crag top.

The time is 20:37, it seems apt that the light is fading away into the night.

Exhausted I sit and take in the receding view over Derwent Water and appreciate the surroundings. What a day!

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