Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

May 10, 2011

Bob Graham Round (Leg 3-4 Recce), 20 mi

With just three weeks to go until the Houseman Hundred, this weekend was a perfect time for another set of back-2-back long runs.  I've been fascinated with the Bob Graham Round since first hearing about it, and after volunteering to help out with fellow blogger Mike's round in July, he let me know about a recce he was doing of legs 3 and 4.   We met up at his house south of the Lakes, and then drove up to Rosthwaite with Jarv for the start of our recce.   Since all of the legs of the BG are point to point, it can be difficult to do a recce without 1) adding other routes to make a full circle, or 2) using two cars.  We would be taking the first option and adding in a few extra bits of trail.

For some reason I wasn’t too scared of doing a section of the BG, but as I look back on yesterday, I know I should have been.   Our projected time of 8 hours to do 23 miles, turned into almost 10 hours to finish 20 miles, and the route we walked and ran has quickly blurred into a never ending rollercoaster of steep climbs and sharp descents, peppered with every more climbs and a few rock scrambles.  To be fair to the BG route, the section we did claims some of the worst rocky parts, but I’m sure the rest of it has its moments as well!

To start from the beginning, we made the climb out of Rosthwaite under cloudy skies up to Glaramara and Allen Crags, before joining onto the BG route.  It was about at that point that we rose up into the clouds, and as it was also cold and windy, we skipped the summits of Great End, Ill Crag and Broad Crag, heading straight for Scafell Pike instead.   And so I summited England’s highest peak.  Skipping Scafell and the tricky rope crossing (uh, we had no rope), we descended straight down the valley to the top end of Wast Water reservoir.  It was raining quite heavily on the descent, and under the meager shelter of the dripping trees, we stopped for a snack while looking up at the ominously steep climb to Yewbarrow. 

We had covered 9 miles relatively easily at that point (if reaching the highest peak in a country could be called easy), and were at the end of the BG Leg 3.  Leg 4 in its entirety waited for us as an obstacle to return to the car, but our route still led away from the comfort of four wheels.  The climb up to Yewbarrow took almost a full hour, but at least the rain stopped and we could see sections of sunshine everywhere but where we were.  Typical in the lakes, I reckon.  Mike and his dual trekking poles was soon high above us climbing like a mountain goat.  From the cairn at the top it was down again (surprise!) steeply to a saddle and then back up to Red Pike.  Sheer cliffs along the edge of the trail rolled off into foggy depths.  A choice of routes from Red Pike let us bypass an unseen Steeple and continue on to Pillar.  I wasn’t arguing as I was slowly getting left behind on every climb by the guys, who were kind enough to wait at the top for me to come back into sight. 

The fog slowly started to recede, and as we curved around to Pillar the top of Scafell Pike was almost out of the clouds.  From there on, the day got nicer, the clouds lifted, and we were treated to the sight of the Lakes District in all its glory.  Unfortunately for me, we could also see the remaining summits still far in the distance, including the mushroom top of Great Gable.  First it was up and over Kirk Fell, which required a steep scramble up a crag, and then a more rounded path to the cairn.  Great Gable awaited us after  rest and nibbles inside the shelter cairn, and it looked a lot steeper from up there than it did at the foot of it, thankfully.   Not that it wasn’t still steep….  By then I was thinking at some point that my legs would refuse to carry me either up or down, and wondering how I would get home if that happened! 

Somehow I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and reached the top of the mushroom summit.  With 360 degrees of clear views, we could see the islands of Scotland in the distance, and trace the line of peaks that made up the Bob Graham route, from distant Skiddaw to the ridge containing Helvellyn and back around to Scafell and the peaks we had just walked. 

Mike, trig point, Jarv
  Just three summits remained in our route, and we ticked them off on the mostly downhill route, hitting Green Gable, Brandreth, and Grey Knotts.   A passing storm cloud, which we had seen from atop Great Gable, hit us midway through to the finish, dumping not rain but hail, hitting us with marble-sized bullet-shaped ice pellets.  They stung even through running tights and a rainjacket, and the guys in their shorts and thermal shirts had the worst of it. (Imagine Mike desperate burrowing into a bog in an attempt to shield the backs of his legs.) The short bout of hail left the ground peppered with ice, and we were gratefully nothing bigger had fallen.   A second hail shower hit us as we were descending steeply to the summit road over Honister Pass, and then a loud clap of thunder over our heads made me grateful I wasn’t still standing on a summit!  My knees and quads were slowly giving up the ability to keep me running down the steep boggy slope, but the thunder spurred me on and got me down to the road.  At least by that point my shoes were cleaned off with fresh rainfall, although Jarv managed to fall into a knee deep bog and had to scrub off his leg. 

Bullet-shaped hail stones
 At that point it was raining heavily, and so we were surprised and overjoyed to see Mike’s wife Helen and her friend Helen (no, that’s not a typo) waiting for us at the coffee shop.   Taking pity on us, after getting soaked earlier on a nearby hike themselves, they had driven up to save us the final three road miles running back down to our car. We were so grateful that we crammed our dripping packs in the boot and soaked the backseat as well with our wet clothes.  A brilliant rainbow dropped pots of gold several times along the drive and was still shining when we stopped at the car.  After over 10,000 feet of climbing for the day, we stood in the late-day sunshine chatting, and I refused to move my feet at all, it felt so good just to stand still. 

 The Day’s Summits:
Allen Crags
Scafell Pike
Red Pike
Kirk Fell
Great Gable
Green Gable
Grey Knotts

Climbing the gully up to Kirk Fell (Photo courtesy of Mike)

Great Gable looming in the distance (to the left), and Scafell Pike in the clouds on the right

Jarv's attempt to show me Steeple summit without actually walking up to it (photo courtesy of Mike)
I think this is actually to scale...

View down from Yewbarrow

Yewbarrow on the right

Climbing up out of Rosthwaite

Below Green Gable summit

The hail piled up on Brandreth cairn

Scrambling up to Glaramara (Photo courtesy of Mike)


  1. Hey Dawn, you've been busy. You'll be running circles around us at the Housman 100 with the fitnss you must have now. Are you going on the early start? I still haven't decided whether to go at 10 or 12.

  2. Amazing pictures and epic day. Wow!

  3. Nick, probably going for the 10 am start as I am unlikely to overrun the checkpoint opening times, and starting earlier might mean that I finish before dark on the second evening (fingers crossed)!

  4. Excellent write up and photos.

    Good luck for the Houseman 100!

  5. Hi Dawn, a great post and fine pictures too... I would have possibly been too knackered to work a camera at the end of all that!