Recce 1 – Leg 1
We looked over Parachute Drop. A 2000ft scree drop masked in heather where only the brave or stupid dare venture.
“I say we go for it!”
Sunday 21 July 2019
Myself and Tim Groves had ran in the Yorkshire Wolds HM on the Saturday and Paul Wray ran a 19:07 at Hull parkrun so what better start to a Sunday morning than standing at the corner of my street at 4:30am to be picked up and driven to Keswick.
I had known about the Bob Graham Round (BGR) for some time. For those that don’t…in 1932 Bob Graham decided to go for a run on his 42nd birthday. The route he devised consisted of 42 peaks strewn over 66 miles of Lakeland fells with a staggering 27000ft of elevation (that’s around the height of Everest or 270 blocks of flats stuck end to end). Bob started and ended at the Moot Hall in Keswick completing his endeavour within 24 hours. Thus, the challenge was born.
Paul and I had the BGR on our bucket lists and Tim, well, he fancied a fun day out to see what it was like. We parked up in Keswick, made our way to the Moot Hall and when we were ready to set off on our Recce…went to the toilet! Finally, at around 7:45am we set off.
This particular run was to be a recce of Leg 1 (of 5) bagging our first 3 summits starting with Skiddaw. Cutting through the park towards the base of our first climb we hit our first snag. “F**k, s**t, c**t!!”. Within just minutes of Tim letting us know of his epipen in case of a sting (and being mocked by me and Paul about the likelihood of a sting), it was I that was attacked by a wasp. I would like to say that it was a leather-jacket-wearing, cigar-smoking, tattoo-covered hard b**tard of a wasp but the truth is…I’m just a fanny!
After much dancing around we started to run…then jog…finally walk up Skiddaw. The path is well-used and after a slight diversion to avoid accidentally traversing Little Man we arrived at the trig point. One peak and 2700ft of climbing down, 2 peaks to go. 400m along the route, we turned right and began to hurl ourselves down the grassy descent heading in the vague direction of Great Calva.
Our grassy descent turned into a boggy challenge with disappearing feet and ankles working towards the Cumbrian Way crossing. At the crossing we switched to a single-file march climbing 660ft through uneven, muddy, wet heather. At the cairn of peak 2 we were feeling proud of ourselves and everything had gone perfectly to plan. Oh, how naïve!
The recommended route off Great Calva is to follow the fence eastwards from the S. summit into the valley bottom. We chose to ignore this.
If you stand at the S. summit and look towards Mungrisedale Common (our bearing point) you have two options. You can take the aforementioned route down the side of a fence line taking you quickly and safely to the valley bottom or…you can spend the next 10 minutes being torn to shreds by knee-high heather (even higher for me!) which eliminates any visibility of where your next step forwards will land and leave broken bits of plant in the tops of your socks and shoes. So that’s what we did! Obviously we didn’t ‘choose’ the crappy route but when navigating a route for the first time we knew no better. At the time, we agreed that this must be the correct line and that it would just be awful no matter what. Matty “knows every line” Hayes later informed us that if you zoom in on our Strava entry, the correct line was about 5 (yes only 5!) metres to our left.
Nonetheless, we made it to the valley bottom and took out the map. Between the 3 of us we couldn’t agree on the correct line to take and so, inevitably, set off in the wrong direction! Half a mile later we were back at the valley bottom and pointing towards Mungrisedale Common. Mungrisedale Common isn’t particularly pretty. It’s around an 800ft climb of leg-sapping tussock grass with no trig/cairn to aim for other than keep going up. Before we started our last ascent we had one final (or so we thought) hurdle – the river!
We must have crossed the River Galdew a few times before we finally realised that there is a nice narrow section which keeps you relatively dry. Either way, we were across and trudging up the Common. At the top of Mungrisedale out true target was in sight; Blencathra. Another 750ft of climbing to go but we could see the line and set off on easier footing. Finally at Sharp Edge (a ridge just North of the summit) we got our reward. The view! I would try to describe it here but could never do it justice.
A little run/jog further and we had bagged Blencathra. Now to get down. We looked over Parachute Drop. A 2000ft scree drop masked in heather where only the brave or stupid dare venture.
“I say we go for it!”
I was quickly told where to shove my idea! The recommended route takes Hall’s Fell Ridge to the small village of Threlkeld and our destination. We stood atop the ridge and peered over, not too bad but daunting nonetheless. Myself and Tim were stopped in our tracks by Paul who decided that now…NOW?!…was the best time to sit down and let us know he’s not too fond of heights. (He actually sat on his arse in a stubborn refusal to move!). After trying to edge further out onto Hall’s Fell we eventually buckled to Paul’s preferred route option and started to descend the wide open path of Doddick Fell.
Doddick Fell was easy to run and we picked up the pace again. However, we were heading away from Threlkeld. I took the lead and diverted off our line towards a gully between Doddick and Hall’s. So far so good, we were making good time and running felt easy. Halfway through our descent and we began to slow. The route, which was no longer an actual route and just fellside, steepened. Soft grass became thick heather. Then it got bad. The heather turned to bracken. Myself and Paul slowed to a steady meander trying to avoid the sheep s**t along their tracks weaving between the 2-inch spikes from the bracken and practically crying all the way. It hurt! We found a slight opening where the bracken wasn’t growing. Sorry…we found an opening where the bracken couldn’t* grow. Paul and I found a small scree and slid on our arse to the bottom where Tim, who had clearly had enough by now, was waiting. Tim being the manly man he is waded through the bracken and was nursing his cut shins in the water down the gully.
A hop, skip and a jump later and we were done.
Leg 1: 14.5 miles, 3hrs 40mins, 5200ft elevation, a wasp sting, boggy fellside, knee-high heather, river crossing, wrong turns, tussock marches, parachute drop, Hall’s Fell, Paul sulking, Doddick Fell, more heather, bracken, scree drop, cuts, and bruises (both physical and mental).
HOOKED! Although it was painful and I could barely walk for the next couple of days, I have never enjoyed being out on a run with friends more than this leaving me and Paul to decide there and then that the BGR will happen. Tim undecided initially but opted out to focus more on road running and chasing the sub-3 marathon.
Next, make a plan. We decided that we will end the year with some long distance training and pick up the fells when the weather improves after Christmas.