Bob Graham Round

Tim Rutter's Bob Graham, Saturday 20th July 2019

I’ve only just had a chance to write up what turned out to be a great adventure supporting Dark Peak’s Tim Rutter on his Bob Graham Round attempt just over a week ago. I’d like to say it was great fun to be part of the team, and the boy did good with him coming in at 21 hours and 34 minutes.

Leg 1 of Tim Rutter's Bob Graham, Saturday 20th July 2019

Moot Hall, Keswick, soon to start

Friday 19th saw us head up from Saddleworth in Minty armed with my wife Claire, Ted the Terrier, and Stu Hutchison. The weather was terrible on the way up, and then near constant rain at the Lanefoot Farm Campsite acting as basecamp (highly recommended), and we were glad of Minty’s cover especially the awning. It allowed us to eat the fish and chips we’d bought earlier from a rain soaked Keswick in peace (with help from Ted). Stu was somewhat envious of Minty due to his weekend accommodation being a Mountain Equipment two person tent, but he put it up with relish.

The mountain weather report was not great at all, in fact pants. I had been put down to support legs 1 and 5, having been let of (phew) leg 3. Tim had needed to do a lot of shuffling of people, which became severely compounded when it was clear the attempt could not happen Friday night and was postponed to Saturday night. It meant yours truly could only now do leg 1 for him as we needed to be back on Sunday. The good news being after some further shuffling the team was in place, with Saturday daytime to spare and a BG start of 6.45pm on Saturday night planned.

Stuart and I, with Ted, decided to walk the 3 miles into Keswick to recce the start route for the way out of Keswick and up Skiddaw - the first peak. It was a pleasant day and a lovely walk. We also managed to take a spot of lunch in the wonderful fell runners cafe called the Fellpack - strongly recommend it. Claire, who was out on a bike ride joined us.

Claire, headed off, whilst Stu, Ted and I checked the route of Keswick - we were happy. It was then a walk back to the campsite for preparation (faffing and nerves.)

After leaving at 6pm we arrived at the Moot Hall to see people who had completed the BG in the previous dreadful weather, and those starting like Tim. It was all jovial but an undercurrent of what was to come.

Although almost unimaginably difficult, its allure is obvious. The statistics alone are enough to allow even the fittest and bravest to wonder: nearly 70 miles of running; 42 peaks including the highest and most famous in England; an altitude gain of 28,000 foot only 500 or so shy of Mount Everest. The beauty of the route is manifold. It takes in all the classics, starting with Skiddaw and Blencathra, then over Helvellyn, across to Bowfell and the Scafells, round via Pillar and Great Gable, not forgetting the many other peaks between, before pitching back north towards Keswick.” (Copyright of Fellpack website)

(Full version of this rather good description of the Bob Graham Round from the Fellpack is here.)

And so Stu, myself, and more importantly Tim were off heading for Skiddaw. It was a pleasant evening, a little humid to start off with, though with a breeze and interestingly enough a little nippy on reaching the top of Skiddaw. This brings me to the pace… Stuart and I were donkeys or mules or support or whatever you want to call us, with Stu navigating. Basically the BGR is divided into 5 legs with the runner supported with a navigator and mule, both carrying their kit, the runners kit, plus extra water. May be more people, may be less. So back to pace. Tim is fit, very fit, and the pace on leg 1 (Keswick to Threkeld) was blinding. Stu and I even without gear would have struggled keeping up, but keep up we had to as Tim took food and water from us.

Descending off Great Calver

From Skiddaw you drop down to then climb up Great Calver, then drop down to begin what is the brutal and long climb up to the summit of Blencathra. By now Tim was into his pace and was a man on a mission. Stu and I were men on a mission to a) keep him in sight, b) not expire.

Heading for the Blencathra summit

On reaching the summit just behind Tim, I waited for Stu to arrive who has sadly suffered from a touch of cramp, so allowing me time for some precious water before beginning the descent to the Threkeld car park for a 15 minute rest before starting leg 2 with different support crew (I’d been invited on leg 2, and more on that to come.) Tim had already partially descended down the rather risky and (in)famous Hall’s Fell Ridge. By now light was rapidly declining. Tim looked back to check all was okay, I waved back, he headed off.

Blencathra summit with Halls Fell Ridge directly ahead and below

During the day (not my photo) Hall’s Fell Ridge looks like this. So as you can imagine it was a pretty hairy and long descent with backpack chasing Tim down to Threkeld, hoping Stu was okay. I’d also not chosen the correct shoes as the studs on my Inov-8 X-Talons had worn a bit and there were one or two heart in mouth slippy moments. I’d not had time to put a head torch on. Idiot.

Hall’s Fell Ridge, Blencathra. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

I made it down in one piece and the humidity hit me in Threkeld and drenched with sweat made it to the car park by the cricket club. Tim’s legs were being worked on and I proceeded to hand over kit I was carrying whilst gulping water and a brew and waiting for Stu to follow behind. I also proceeded to empty a wide variety of small stones out of my fell running shoes accumulated from the ridge. I’d run nearly 13 miles with just over 5k feet of climb in roughly three and a half hours.


It was time to go on leg 2 with the new support crew. Did I follow? I had the option of Threkeld to Dunmail Raise taking in the likes of Helvellyn. Instead I waited for Stu to arrive which he did safely. It was then that we realised from Stu’s pack Tim was missing his waterproof bottoms, buff, and importantly his Inov-8 gloves. I decided to grab them, don head torch, and thought I could chase the chaps down, after all they were not too far ahead. In fact they were quite a distance ahead, and at quite a pelt, sweaty, muddy, gasping, falling through beds of reeds managed to catch the three head torches just before they began the ascent of Clough Head. I was invited on leg 2. I declined. I was spent after having run about two miles there and back with 650 feet climb, at a belt. It was worth it though as Tim was grateful for his gloves.

From there it was back to the basecamp at Lanefoot Farm with a much welcomed lift. On getting out of the car Stu and I felt chilled to the bone, so showered, and retreated to Minty for Spag Bol and then to a much welcomed sleep. Tim and team were still up on the Dodds heading for Helvellyn.

After deep sleep I awoke and it was odd to think Tim was still out running with support. We tucked into bacon and egg barms with delight and plenty of coffee and tea.

Claire and I decided to jump on our bikes into Keswick for a bite to eat and coffee and said goodbye to people, off to support Tim in his endeavours. On getting back for the long drive home our part of the camp was empty.

As I said at the start, the boy did good and completed the Bob Graham Round coming in at 21 hours 34 minutes, which was a fast pace indeed. We learnt this later in the day and were delighted for him. It had been an excellent weekend with the weather eventually clearing up.


It is one hell of a challenge to run the BR. What freaked me out was the fact Tim was running when I was eating Spag Bol, sleeping, having a shower etc. I have nothing but respect.

Running Leg 3 of the Bob Graham Round as support, and Kilian Jornet.

The weekend just gone was amazing for a variety of reasons. The weather, the location, the running, the history being made.


Many, unless a fell runner, won't necessarily know about the Bob Graham Round, or the Bob Graham Club. Let me explain... Back in 1932 a Keswick Hotelier, with support from two friends, broke the Lakeland Fell record by traversing 42 fells in The Lake District in 24 hours. He was called Bob Graham, hence the name of the Round. It is classed as the pinnacle of fell running in the UK. Since then over 2,000 people have completed the Round, with many attempts failing. The route is a 66 mile circuit from the Keswick Moot Hall and back again, normally completed clockwise, climbing the 42 names fells, with 27,000 feet of cumulative climb - it is hard, in fact it is a super human feat.

Over the years the route has been refined and developed, with people able to run with support teams, GPS, known routes and so forth. But it is still a severe challenge. The route is broken into five distinct legs (Chris and Des's running support in brackets.)

It is highly planned with support crews meeting the runners at the change of legs. Food is taken on board, shoes changed, with minimum amount of time expended. Cars and people need to be shipped all over the place. Normally a runner on each leg as an absolute minimum will have one person navigating, and another carrying water, food, and kit - the "donkey".

Leg 1: Keswick to Threlkeld. (Richard Mackey, Nick Haynes, Sean Willis, Ed Steele)

Leg 2: Threlkeld to Dunmail. (Richard Mackey, Simon Jump, Ryan Townrow)

Leg 3: Dunamail to Wasdale. (Paul Taylor, Peter Cobley, and Gaynor Keane)

Leg 4: Wasdale to Honister. (Ozzy Kershaw, Scott Newburn, Ed Steele)

Leg 5: Honister to Keswick. (Martyn Hodgson, Monica Boland, Sandrine Fraisse, Jill Davies)

(I've not mentioned all the people who supported in between legs, drove, and provided moral support. It was and is a huge effort. Just look at the Flickr photos.)

The fastest run to date (until the weekend) had been by a famous fell runner called Billy Bland at 13 hours 53 minutes and stood from 1982; yes, that time over that distance and climb, and that's fell runners for you. Unassuming, never heard of, amateur, get on with it. The women's record is currently that set by Jasmin Paris in 2016 at 15 hours 24 minutes.

Over the weekend, Chris Smith and Des Thorpe attempted the Bob Graham Round, setting off from Keswick Moot Hall at 7pm on Friday 7th July. They are members of the Saddleworth Runners, the fell running club I run for. They had 24 hours in which to complete the leg. I myself was running Leg 3 in support. At 6am on Saturday 8th July a person called Kilian Jornet set off with support - he's a famous mountain runner in our circles. More on him to come.

Myself and Leg 3

I was over the moon and nervous after my wife said I'd run as a Donkey on Leg 3. This particular leg is viewed as the hardest due to length and climb, approximately 17 miles and 7,000 feet of cumulative climb, taking in Steel Fell, Bow Fell, Scafell Pike, and Sca Fell.

We arrived at the handover point of Legs 2 and 3 at Dunmail Raise at 2.45am Saturday morning, and saw support crews gathered and headtorches coming off Seat Sandal as others were also attempting the Round.

We picked up the lads and were then off, straight up Steel Fell. It was already hot by 7.15am and this made the running hard, oh so hard. I'll let the pictures tell the story, but it was magical, with a clear day giving unbridled views of The Lakes at their best.

It was an honour to run with Des and Chris as support on Leg 3. Paul Taylor's navigation was "bob on", with Gaynor and I as "Donkey's". The packs were heavy: I myself carried gloves, hat, waterproof top and bottoms, bivvy bag, head torch, emergency food (plus the runner's food) and 4 litres of water, 3 with electrolyte. The heat meant the water was near enough consumed when we hit Wasdale.


My Strava for Leg 3:

The End?

After tough running in extreme heat with temperatures in excess of 25 degrees C, they did it! Both Chris and Des coming in to the Moot Hall at 22 hours and 55 minutes!

Kilian Jornet?

It was an experience to chill out around Keswick on Sunday and to monitor what had been kept a top secret event - less fuss that way. He was supported by some of the UK's top fell and mountain runners. Both Claire and I were lucky to make it to the square outside the Moot Hall to see a 36 year old record broken as he came in at an amazing 12 hours 52 minutes. To greet him was Billy Bland, the legend. Was Jornet tired? Yes. Is he super human? Yes. Is he modest? Yes. Look him up!

But let's not take away from Des and Chris. They spent a year planning and building up to this. That is what it genuinely takes. Well done lads. You deserve it!