> Bob Graham Round: Jeffrey Ross

Saturday 22nd - Sunday 23rd July 2006
Anti-Clockwise, 23 hr Schedule 7am Start

Sometime in 1998 I was visiting the Lake District and called into Fisher's Outdoor Shop for a look around. Whilst browsing I picked up a book entitled "42 Peaks The Story of the Bob Graham Round". I wish I had never picked it up! As from that moment I was hooked on the idea of completing the "BG".

My knowledge of the fells was fairly good I thought, having worked for a number of years in the outdoor industry, visiting the Lake District regularly to climb and walk. I hadn't up to that point done much fell running but my basic fitness was maintained through road running.

I decided that I needed to learn the route and get "hill fit". I started to visit the Lakes on a more regular basis, entering a number of fell races in Northumberland and the Lakes, becoming a member of the Northumberland Fell Runners in the process.

My first attempt was over the weekend June 19th-20th 1999. It was probably the worst weekend the Lake District had ever suffered for rain, wind and mist at that time of year. Small streams became raging torrents, hill sides were running with water and on the tops it was very cold.

Even so I set off but succumbed to the weather between Kirkfell and Great Gable on a clockwise attempt. I had been going about 18 hours when a slight error in navigation in the mist led me to call it a day and we dropped back in to Wasdale. When we arrived at the Hotel it was full of others who had decided the pub was a better option than the fells. I was also told that Jos Naylor had called off a run he was undertaking over the same weekend. I was in good company!

This was never going to be the end of the matter. It was me against the "BG".

I was lucky enough over the next few years to help and assist others over the BGR and this only reinforced my desire to complete it. Many trips were made and my knowledge became greater and greater. My fitness was also improving with age. My 42nd birthday was looming on the horizon in Jan 2006. It was this factor which led me to decide that 2006 was going to be the re-match.

During the latter part of 2005 I maintained a good level of fitness and this continued in to early 2006 where I had planned to do the Rotterdam Marathon which I completed in 2 hours 50 mins so I knew my basic fitness was good. I still needed to get those "hills in my legs" so I spent the next 2-3 months travelling to the Lakes on an almost weekly basis going over the legs, revisiting the tricky bits again and again until I was comfortable with the route.

The next bit of the planning was getting the support. I was lucky in this respect as Northumberland Fell Runners had a good history of successful rounds and a pool of talented runners to help. By early July 2006 I had a strong team in place and my training was almost at an end. It was all eyes on the weather now! I spent hours looking at weather forecasts convincing myself it was going to be ok. During the last few days the weather hinted at warm, sunny with possible brief thunderstorms. That was good enough for me and it was all systems go!

The base for the attempt was at Trafford's Campsite, Bassenthwaite. This had been the base for several other BGR attempts by members of the NFR so we were made very welcome by the owners. However to make sure I got a good night's sleep before the attempt I booked into the Ravenstone Lodge B&B nearby.

The morning of the round brought still, warm and sunny weather even at 6am. Myself and Maxine (my long suffering BGR widow) called in at the campsite and collected the other support runners and family who were to see me off.

As the clock ticked round to 7am at the Moot Hall a mobile phone rang. It was my mother! She had rung to wish me luck. Sue Davis commented "That's a first Jeff".

At 7am on Saturday 22nd July 2006 some 7 years and a month after my first attempt I was off again. This time hopes were high as well as the temperatures. I was accompanied by my brother Steve and Paul Creighton. Even at this time in the morning the sun was becoming hot and we knew we were in for a long hot day.

Leg One: Keswick - Honister

Good and steady progress was made along the road section towards Little Town where Maxine, Sue (my sister and event nurse) and Rosie (sister in law) were waiting with a change of footwear, drinks and bum bags for the stretch over to Honister.

A quick pit-stop and we were off again. The climb up Robinson was steady, the top was reached a minute behind schedule. Whilst on the top I found a nice padded seat cushion which I thought would come in handy. I passed this to Steve to carry. I don't think he was amused as unbeknown to me when my back was turned he threw it away! He had apparently been up all night biting his fingernails to reduce weight!

Hindscarth and Dale Head were reached without incident. The decent to Honister was taken easy and we reached Honister 4 mins ahead of schedule.

I had allowed 10 mins rest. This was just enough time for a change of footwear, clothing, wipe down and a honey and banana sandwich.

Leg Two: Honister - Wasdale

On this leg I was supported by Neil Armsworth, David Steel and Mike Jeffrey. This was a strong team. This was important as after the first leg it was apparent that a lot of fluid would have to be carried to counteract the effects of the heat. I normally don't eat or drink a great deal when I am running but on this occasion they carried 4-5 x 500ml bottles of water, 3 x 500ml bottles of lucozade sport just for me. It was all needed, they were all empty at Wasdale.

The climb up Grey Knotts was led out by Mike at a steady pace. We reached Grey Knotts having gained another minute or so. It was then off over to Brandreth and Green Gable. By the time I had led us up Great Gable we were 7 mins ahead of schedule. During my training and recces of the route I had never been on Gable in good weather so never trusted myself to find the screes and a route to Beck Head avoiding that horrible descent off Gable. However the conditions were great for a scree run and Mike and David led the way down. We stopped at the bottom to empty our shoes. We continued over Kirkfell onto Black Sail Pass then climbed quite comfortably up Pillar where we were afforded superb views into Ennerdale. I could also see the rest of the route curving around Mosedale with Yewbarrow in the distance.

At Pillar we were 13 mins ahead and I felt strong and confident. The out and back trip along the ridge to Steeple was done without packs which were left in a shelter by the wall near Little Scoat Fell. We continued to Red Pike remembering the first cairn is the top, and I enjoyed leading the descent to Dore Head. We then took the traverse under Stirrup Crag which lead us to the ridge of Yewbarrow arriving 15 mins up. A couple of minutes were taken for food and drink before the descent to Wasdale. I had found a good route off Yewbarrow when training so I lead the way down the tricky descent following a trod and then scree.

The awaiting support team had seen us coming over the top and they were afforded a good view of us using Steve's sailing binoculars. As we descended the temperature rose quickly and when we got to the road leading to the National Trust car park it had become very uncomfortable. It was now the hottest part of the day with temperatures reaching 28C.

On reaching Wasdale the support team had set up in the shade of the trees. This was very welcome after the heat coming down. The stop followed the same routine as previous ones. A change of footwear after a lovely cold foot bath, new clothing, cooling fresh wipes for face and body, food (salted potatoes this time), and more cold drinks. When we left Wasdale I was 17 mins up.

Leg Three: Wasdale - Dunmail

I was supported by Bob Sewell, Paul Hainsworth, Paul Appleby and Dave Atkinson. Bob and Dave had both done successful "BGRs" so I was in good hands for the longest climb of the day. I think the Pauls both harbour ambitions of their own and were keen to get some valuable experience of the route.

Bob led the way as we slowly made our way up leaving the support team behind. The heat was very exhausting and again several bottles of water / sports drinks were carried to help (we found out later that we didn't have enough). As we gained height we also got some cooling breeze. I had planned plenty of time into the schedule for this climb so I stopped to take on fluid several times, but we still managed to make the top of Scafell gaining another 8 mins. We were now 25 mins up.

Its was now off to Scafell Pike the highest point of the route. Bob did make a comment that it was all down hill from there - I suppose it is best to have a team of optimists with you on the BG!

I had contemplated going down Broad Stand but for one reason or another during the prep and planning I decided that I would go via the steep gully that joins Lord’s Rake after the displaced boulder then onto the West Wall Traverse leading to the short climb up to Mickledore. On the way to Mickledore I allowed myself time to look at the climbers strung out along Scafell Crag. The climbing must have been exhilarating on warm dry rock with a setting to match the brilliance of the climbers themselves. Once at Mickledore it was only a short time before we joined the masses on top of Scafell Pike. This was the only time during the whole round that we came across a lot of other walkers.

We continued over the boulder strewn terrain towards Broad Crag, Ill Crag and then Great End. On leaving Great End, I was 20 mins up. We climbed up Esk Pike then followed a trod from Ore Gap towards the summit of Bowfell this enabled us to gain time as I reached the summit 26 mins ahead of schedule. It was now my turn again at the front for the descent towards Rosset Pike. This was done by following a series of ramps to the north of Bowfell Buttress which lead down to the head of Rosset Gill. I had been down several times during training placing cairns to assist if bad weather.

Rossett Pike was next and easily ascended. I had discussed with Bob my choice of route to the Langdales and we settled on the longer but runnable terrain around Langdale Combe. My thoughts were to avoid losing height towards Snakes Gill and the climb on the other side. This route looks as though it paid off as Pike O' Stickle was reached and I was 36 mins up. It was only a short distance and climb to Harrison Stickle. I was glad to reach the flat grassy runnable terrain beyond Harrison and we were soon off towards Thunacar Knott and High Raise.

However the heat was still a problem even into the early evening. We reached High Raise at 5.53pm and realised that we would not have enough fluid to get us to Dunmail which was just over an hour away. We decided that we would stop at Mere Beck beyond Sergeant Man to refill bottles. We pressed on, surmounting Sergeant Man still 35 mins up. It was off towards Codale Head and the descent via Mere Beck. We scrambled down to the Beck and bathed our faces in the cool water. The stream was very short of water but we managed to fill enough bottle to get us to Dunmail. Calf Crag was soon completed and the rest of the route to Steel Fell could be seen in the distance. Due to the stop at the Beck we were now 32 mins ahead when reaching Steel Fell.

This descent is probably the worst on an anti-clockwise round especially at this time of year as the bracken/ferns had grown tall covering boulders underneath. It was decided to traverse high above the worst of the ferns across boulders, then take a direct line down to the awaiting support team at the roadside. Again they watched us through the binoculars make our way down. We were soon down and the support team swung into action providing hot food, tea, cold water and sandwiches to all and sundry. I again was treated to a cold foot bath, new footwear and clothing, I ate some pasta bolognese which was lovely after all the sweet drinks and snacks I had consumed. I took the full 20mins I had allocated for this stop as I was up on schedule and I wanted to get myself fully refreshed for the next section which included 3 climbs one after another. I was also conscious that I had only done 12 ½ hours and still had almost the same to do.

Leg Four: Dunmail - Threlkeld

At 7.24pm it was off again crossing the road towards the bottom of Seat Sandal and Raise Beck. I had decided to follow the beck as far as the waterfall and single tree then cut up right to the summit. I thought that this would be easier on the mind and legs than the trod up the front of Seat Sandal. I was ably assisted on the leg by Geoff Davis who had successfully completed his Bob Graham in 1999 and Steve Walker, John Dallinson and young Will Horsley. Will had even raced in the morning at Latrigg and had done very well coming 3rd.

The waterfall was reached ok. Geoff left us to continue to the bottom of Fairfield and the rest of us made the steep climb out from the stream onto the less steep ground towards the summit. This was my worst moment of the round. I maintain a dignified silence but I was hurting for the first time. Time after time I had to stop, drink and pour water over my head. It was still very warm. Steve, Will and John were very supportive and patient as they coaxed me further up. I used a method of counting 100 steps then stop, 100 steps then stop, 100 steps then stop. This eventually brought me to better ground and I was able to get my second wind. Even with the problems I had had I still managed to reach the summit 36 mins up.

We descended to Hause Gap and started the slow ascent of Fairfield, reaching the summit some 38 mins ahead. I was now starting to feel that if I could get up Dollywagon Pike without too much difficulty then I may have the upper hand. We dropped down to Grisedale Tarn via the trod down from Cofa Pike meeting up with Geoff for the climb up Dollywagon. We bagged Dollywagon still 36 mins up on schedule. This was a great psychological boost and my confidence and strength grew. We continued in good light reaching Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn without problems. It was now 9.45pm and still we didn't need torches.

About this time I received a phone call from Dave Armstrong enquiring on our progress. He was sitting at home in Haydon Bridge. Unfortunately we lost signal and I had just enough time to inform him of where we were and what time we would be at Threlkeld.

The summits were coming thick and fast now. Lower Man, Whiteside and Raise all in quick succession. I think we put our head torches on when we reached Sticks Pass at about 10.30pm. It was then onward and upwards to the start of the Dodds. These were all expertly navigated by Geoff and we were soon on the approach to Clough Head which was reached at 11.24pm, 42 mins ahead of schedule.

To aid navigation off Clough Head down to the Old Coach Road we were assisted by fluorescent marker flags which had been placed during the evening by Wayne Coppen. This enabled a quick and easy descent to the stile with the flags collected by Will on the way down. We were also helped by Bob Sewell with his big torch. He guided us in to the farm and we finally reached terra firma and the road / track which brought us out at the A66.

It was here that Dave Armstrong met us which was a great surprise. He had apparently driven over from home after speaking on the phone. It is kindness and support like this that makes the BG special.

On arriving at Thelkeld I was still 38 mins head and I now believed I was likely to succeed barring any disasters.

The support crew again had done a marvellous job of setting up seats, stoves, lighting, hot food and drinks for everyone. I completed a last change of footwear, clothing, had some more pasta and a cup a soup. I again was treated to a nice cold foot bath and fresh face / body wipes. It was a new me which set off towards the kennels and the bottom of Halls Fell. The final leg was underway!

Leg Five: Threlkeld - Keswick

This section was undertaken with Geoff & Sue Davis, Bob Sewell, Peter Reed and Dave Armstrong. Bob led the way up past the kennels, the dogs barking furiously as we passed.

It was then on to the open fell side up onto the Halls Fell Ridge. I had expected to take my time up here but I felt reasonably ok and Bob set a good pace. We reached the top in 56 mins which I was really pleased with. I was exactly an hour up at this stage.

We spent a few minutes catching our breath at the top, and I also decided that I wanted the easiest way up Great Calva avoiding the heather bashing ascent. Bob decided to take us across Mungrisdale Common until the fence corner was reached then across the Cumbrian way along Wiley Gill. Crossing the Common in the dark was quite difficult underfoot with tussock grass but I chatted away to Sue and the time passed.

Once beyond the Cumbrian Way we stumbled upon some wild campers: they must have been a bit wary of us as we passed them at 2.30am. It was now a steady climb up the fence line to the top of Great Calva. We had lost 10 mins on this route but I wasn't concerned. I only had one more peak to achieve and then all down hill!

We made a steady descent to the little bridge on the Cumbrian Way over Dead Beck. We then crossed over and headed for the sheepfolds near Hare Crag. We contoured around to the right and made our way up Blake Hill taking advantage of the trod and quad bike tracks. We had one or two stops on the way and smiles were starting to appear on people's faces as the end was in sight and success almost in reach.

As we crossed the fence to reach the broad ridge of Skiddaw there was low mist, rain and wind for the only time on the whole round. I even had to put a windproof smock on as the temperatures dropped. The last summit was reached, but due to the weather we pushed on with no stopping. It was all down hill for here I had my dream in sight. We quickly picked up pace and dropped out of the clag just beyond Jenkin Hill. It was here we also met up with my brother who had made his way up to meet us for the run in.

It was a happy bunch of souls that made their way down. We reached the car park and joined the path through the woods. I exchanged my windproof for a NFR vest and then picked up the pace for a flying finale. We raced down over the A66 and into Fitz Park meeting Paul Hainsworth on the way then across the River Derwent into the car park behind the main square. I was really pushing now and I entered the market place and saw everyone clapping with the Moot Hall only yards away I raced to the steps and touched them for the last time at 5.07am. I had won the re-match, I had laid to rest a 7 year dream, I had completed my Bob Graham Round in 22 hours and 7 mins.


Success on a BGR is not easy: it takes guts, determination and stamina and I am not talking about me here. That is the support crew, helpers, drivers and pacers. It is not individual success which triumphs on the day but teamwork.

I would like to thank the following for all their assistance; Maxine my long suffering girlfriend for her work on the day and support of me whilst I trained and prepared. My family: Steve, Rosie and Sue for their help at the roadside which was amazing. All my pacers, navigators and drivers who unselfishly ferried people around the Lakes to all the start and finish points. Bob Sewell and Geoff Davis who were present at my first attempt and who have continued to convince me I could succeed. I would also like to say a big thank you to Kevin Bray who could not assist on the day but was also present at my last attempt right till the bitter end. Also to everyone who missed their sleep and were there at the finish to enjoy another BG success. Thank you!!

It was a great and memorable day for me. I hope it was enjoyed by everyone else.

PS. I am now glad I picked up the book entitled "42 Peaks The Story of the Bob Graham Round" all those years ago.

Jeffrey Ross

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