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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.