> Bob Graham Round: Jerry Sharp

24th July 2004

'You know it ain't easy
But no-one said it would be this hard'


Dave Atkinson is entirely responsible for my needing to write this report!!

Before the 2002 Open Country Mountain Marathon, my first fell race, I was in blissful ignorance of the 'Bob Graham'. As we ran together for the first time Dave described the route - I initially thought he was mad. After numerous KIMMs, LAMMs, BG assists and recces, while I now count him as a very firm friend, I know now that my original impression was indeed correct!! Unfortunately his comments and enthusiasm planted a seed and this report is the product.

Midnight 23rd July Moot Hall.Dave & I start off clockwise. I am better going uphill than down and couldn't face the prospect of seeing Keswick from the top of Skiddaw and not having the speed on the run in for a tight finish. This was my second attempt the weather had beaten us 3 weeks earlier on Dollywaggon Pike.

Lovely night, good progress up Skiddaw. Is the wind on the top of this hill ever less than gale force?? We came out of the mist to see Ann and Val's light on the Cumbria way bang on our bearing.

A hop skip & a jump down for a quick chat and then up Great Calva. No moon but still conditions then down to the valley before the trudge up Blencathra - up on schedule but early days.

Halls Fell Ridge always interesting in the dark (I'm sure the life insurance doesn't cover it) then jog to meet Ann again, invaluable in her role as support / kit man / all round good egg. A quick bite and off on leg 2, again with Dave.

Lovely sunrise between Clough Head and Great Dodd – this proved to be the only 2 minutes of sun we saw all day. Red sky in the morning shepherds warning – I did hope this didn't portent ill for the rest of the day, as logistically I wouldn't have been able to organise another attempt this year.

Helvellyn tops passed in regular succession in the mist with occasional views into the valley with Steel Fell and the Langdales in the distance – concentrate on the job in hand don't think about the next 18 hours!

Fairfield and Seat Sandal went well and straight down to Ann and Val with the irrepressible Bob ready at Dunmail by 7.45 – thanks Dave job well done.Secretly I was looking at a sub 23 hr schedule so I am bang on target. System check: feet? fine - fresh pair of socks and Walshes, legs? acceptable, back? ache, head? fine. Change of top and off.

Bob Sewell's pedigree on the BG is well established and I am extremely grateful for his filling the navigator's slot on leg 3 at such short notice. We got on tremendously. His tales of helicopter lifts off hills, conquered Achilles problems and 23hr 57 min BG attempts certainly kept my mind off the tired legs etc.

On my recces I had always done High Raise before Sergeant Man but Bob said following the Sergeant Man path and then doing Raise was better in mist. I decided to trust him – he's right. As it was the mist lifted!

The wind increased under leaden skies as Harrison Stickle and Pike o'Stickle were ticked off. Someday I will explore the axe factory here but not today.

Bowfell negotiated successfully, despite the mist and now I hit my first low point – surprising really as Esk Pike is relatively flat.

Bob insisted I had a power gel – can't stand them normally but I went with the flow. The effect was miraculous because I spent the next 2 hours licking spilt banana flavoured goo off both my hands and cagoule, without any thought as to how bad I was feeling!!

No view from Great End through to Scafell but I've been up here so many times this April/May when the weather was fantastic that I wasn't too disappointed. 12 mins up on time by Scafell Pike – good.

No rope party available but we still made Wasdale ahead of the game. Ann, Geoff Stewart, Sue and Graham ready and waiting great – thanks Bob couldn't have done it without your help.

I had no concerns whatsoever about the party for the next section – Geoff, the best navigator I have ever run with, Stewart (and Cassi the dog) whom I accompanied on legs 2 & 3 of his BG, with his encouraging humour, Graham, always right on hand with water, food clothing etc and Bob who decided to continue from leg 3.

However, I had always worried about the actual leg – I hit the wall at 2&#frac12; hours in marathons, 6 hours on Mountain Marathons and at 10 – 15 hours in longer runs, so it was with a certain degree of trepidation that I set off for Yewbarrow and Red Pike.

I was very pleasantly surprised how Yewbarrow went (47 mins). It was the slog up Red Pike I found hard but Stewart's Ribina filled platypus and Graham's food got me there.

No view after Yewbarrow but Geoff was always spot on as I knew he would be.

Psychologically I knew if I could do Kirk Fell within the expected time I should (hopefully) be OK and I was 27 mins inside the 22&#frac12; hr schedule. The longer I could keep this up the better.

The weather now deteriorated the rain and wind on Kirk Fell and Gable was as bad as 3 weeks previously but this far into the mission it didn't matter. At least it washed off the residual sports gel goo!!

The view down to Honister was only tempered by knee pain - not had that before.

Thanks to all the support on this leg team (including Cassi) – invaluable.

At Honister Ann, ready as always, with Charlotte, Sue & Val. Dave's grin as big as I've ever seen a massive boost that. 4 ladies on the last leg, must be my animal magnetism, Geoff comes as well presumably as chaperone!!

What do they mean 'only' Dale Head. There must have been an unrecorded geological upheaval in the area since I was last here (the day England won the Rugby World Cup) because Dale Head has moved both upwards and sideways. It was now distinctly taller and further from Hindscarth than before.

Good natured banter without any major time concerns made this leg the perfect end to a lovely day. Mist on the tops but marvellous views towards Keswick. Just keep going count up the hills, jog the flats and hobble the descents, especially coming off Robinson.

Newlands car park, swapped walshes for running shoes, with approx. 2&#frac12; hours to get to Keswick. I had often thought about this and the run in but it was not to be as I had, as expected, just plain run out of gas. However I had enough time in hand to allow for this eventuality.

I declined the offer of a pint on the way in but it this final road leg did give me time to reflect on everyone who had helped make this possible:-

  • Jackie, my wife, and the children, for their encouragement, their ribbing of me about my numerous injuries, their resigned acceptance of having an odd dad and for putting up with my absences so often this year.
  • Rex & Adam Bleakmanwho helped enthusiastically on recces and my first attempt. I still think that Adam citing his honeymoon as a reason to dip out on the second attempt a bit lame frankly.
  • Tony 'the rope man'– sorry we didn't get to do Broad Stand.
  • Simon Elliott & Gary McMohanfor the recce, the craich and being prepared to do leg 3 on my first attempt!
  • Steve Walkersorry you were injured for the second attempt
  • Lewis & Jane Grundy, Lewis's 20 hrs effort was inspiring and Jane's group hug on Dollywaggon Pike at the end of the first attempt will always be remembered.
  • Geoff & Sue Davis– for the navigation, encouragement and NFR application form!
  • Graham Daglishfor the camera skills and quiet reassurance when needed.
  • Stewart & Charlotte Gardner– my 'assistance' on Stewart's successful attempt cemented my desire to do the BG although I really only made this attempt so I could receive your book on paleopathalogy Charlotte!
  • Bob Sewellwithout whom I definitely wouldn't have got through leg 3 in such good shape – most appreciated.
  • Ann Dinglefor all her outstanding organisational skills at the check points, her enthusiasm and, as always, her encouragement.
  • Val Atkinsonfor doing leg 5 and allowing me to sleep on the mezzanine floor of the mobile gin palace with en suite facilities and cooled champagne and finally DaveAtkinson for being such a good running mate, as I've said before I consider it an honour and a privilege to run with you – nuff said.

The final run up to the Moot Hall was all I had hoped. I will always remember it and the whole trip – thanks guys.

22.44hrs 24th July Moot Hall– success – pity I couldn't manage more than 2 sips of champagne – still there were plenty of others who managed to finish it off for me!!

Jerry Sharp

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