An antidote to life’s worries and expensive adventure races

Blog post prompted by watching the Bear Gryhlls Survival Race this weekend in Trent Park, N London, and a posting by Jonny Muir.

hangingI had this post in my head for a while as a cri de couer to get out more, but it morphed to include some thoughts about events like the BG survival race.

Why do increasing numbers of people choose to run off-road, whether it be in races or just as a place to train? Isn’t it just a crazy thing to do, to chose to go running and include as many hills and as much rough terrain as possible?

There is no simple answer, but I hope to partly answer those questions. Some of us are escaping from the stressful urban environment that many of us live in. On a run off-road, away from cars, traffic lights and such-like, you have time to think, and can right many wrongs in your life, and the world. There is also a sense that treadmills, road running and marathons in particular are now passé. Many who participate in these arenas have been trying trail running and also fell running in order to revitalize their running, and perhaps to bring some element of ‘challenge’ to it. Sports psychologist Dr Victor Thompson recently suggested: “Humans are essentially animals and animals are, by nature, lazy. But some people choose to do something about it. For years people will have been pushing themselves in their careers, but after a while you need a new challenge, another goal. They’ve been to the gym, they’ve done that, time for something new.”

toughmudderBut for some the challenge of a tough off-road run is not enough. This need for ‘extreme’ challenges results in people feeling that they have to enter events like Tough Mudder – a 10 to 12 mile obstacle course featuring mud, ice baths, barbed wire and electric shocks – and a hefty entrance fee. Tough Mudder – which an insider has described as “a marketing company that puts on events” – puts enormous effort into branding, which surely accounts for the entry fee levels. However, I question whether the addition of artificial difficulties that this type of event incorporates is really necessary.

Give yourself the challenge of even a medium length fell race (such as the Fairfield Horseshoe) and you will have all the challenge you need, together with beautiful views – if you are lucky, and have time to take them in. You could take it a little further by planning to complete one of the 24-hour challenges, such as the Bob Graham Round, the Paddy Buckley Round, or the Charlie Ramsay Round. The training prior to either of those events will give you a whole series of wonderful new experiences, as you run up and through some of the higher and remoter areas of England, Wales and Scotland respectively.

Why not enter what is considered one of UK’s toughest races? The Dragon’s Back race goes along the spine of Wales, and over its five days has 16,000m of ascent in its 300km. The website asks if you are tough enough to enter what is ‘not a trail race, it’s an incredible journey’. This year’s race was won by Jim Mann, with Jasmin Paris in second place. Both are established fell runners, and both showed their excellent fitness and navigational skills over the demanding course, which included the Carneddau, the Snowdon range, Cader Idris and the rough and trackless terrain of the Rhinogs amongst its highlights.

climbingBut, back to the Bear Gryhlls Survival Race. I went along to see for myself why over 1,000 people had paid anything from £80 to £120 to enter either of the 5k, 10k or 30k ‘races’ that were being held in the park that I train in nearly every week with the athletes I coach at Barnet & District AC. I saw loads of people seemingly enjoying themselves. I could see that many had trained quite hard to ‘survive’ the event, when they might not have been motivated to do so without the incentive of the event. However, despite that, I still went away thinking it was unnecessarily artificial and ridiculously expensive. You can make things as tough as you like for yourself without doing these sort of events, with their heavy whiff of commercialism (you had to pay £15 to go in to the BG Festival area, where you could spend more money at the various trade and community stands).

Fellow authors Boff Whalley and Richard Askwith have both published books extolling a return to running on the wild side. But you don’t have to go to the extremes described by me above. You could do as Jonny Muir’s blog post suggests, and join an athletic club (Barnet & District AC, if you are around Herts/North London) and run some tough cross country races. Equally, even the simplest of runs on the fells or off-road in Britain’s beautiful countryside can give you some tough, yet magical, (and rather less costly) experiences.

I still have vivid memories of an evening training run from Kendal Youth Hostel out to Scout Scar many years ago. As my training partner and I ran hard up to the viewpoint there we saw the vista of a glorious sunset over the Western Lake District spread out before us – we sat down and marvelled at how lucky we were.

‘The Round’ – book launches

image2‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’ was launched at two events, in Keswick and North London. The first took place on Saturday 19th Sept at the iconic Moot Hall in Keswick’s main street. This was the only real choice as it is the venue that is the normal start and finish point for the Bob Graham Round. I hired the community room at the Moot Hall which holds 40, and all the tickets were sold. There was a real buzz as assorted family, friends, clubmates, and some noted fell legends, gathered for the 6pm start of the event. After some drinks and networking my friend Mike Cambray, whom I have shared many an adventure on the fells with, took the floor and formally introduced me to the audience. He started with an observation that he had known me for 42 years. How appropriate was that for a book about an event that covers 42 peaks and was first completed by Bob Graham at the age of 42?

audience by MoiraI then showed a few slides, some from the book and some of my own (and friends’ ones) from a recent Round I had supported. I did forget to thank a couple of people – so here’s thanks to Lucy (Bookends) and Alex (Moot Hall Information Centre) for help with the event. I also forgot to ask if there were any questions – then got one in the network time from someone, and I couldn’t answer it!

With Billy Bland (left)What was most pleasing was that some of the main players that I had interviewed for the book rocked up to the event. It was great to chat to Nicky Spinks right at the beginning (who couldn’t stay) and to see Steve Birkinshaw and Billy Bland stroll in and settle down, almost unnoticed – except by me who was by now excitedly whispering to friends ‘look who’s here’! Kenny and Pauline Stuart had provided a fulsome cover quote for the book (having read the manuscript) and also kindly joined us for the launch.

Book Launch-3563Bookends shop in Keswick had kindly agreed to provide books for the event, and Lucy did a fabulous job selling them to attendees before and after the formal bit. In the networking time in the latter part of the event is was great to see folk having the opportunity to chat with each other and gradually see Steve, Billy, Kenny and Pauline gather small crowds around themselves. I signed books for those that wanted it, and a good number got theirs counter-signed by one or more fell legend(s), which was great to see.

Book Launch-3579It was great to have Mike there, plus my wife Moira and son Josh. We repaired with some of our friends to the Dog and Gun for a celebratory drink and a chat, then for fantastic fish supper at the famous Old Keswickian chip shop, seated in style upstairs. The event venue, pub and food (all iconic Cumbria locations) were all within yards of each other in the centre of Keswick – an evening to savour.

Early onOn the Wednesday after the Keswick launch I held a second ‘launch celebration’ at Middlesex University, in Hendon, North London (my employer). Thirty friends, workmates and athletic clubmates attended an informal event in the Grove Atrium. For this audience I told some stories about the Round, its innovators and included more pictures and some video clips from the Round I had supported in July. This time I remembered to ask if there were any questions, which produced some interested discussion. Again a good number of books were sold and signed, and a post-event pint and pizza were taken at the Greyhound pub, in which I used to spend far too much time earlier in my life. There will be a short video available of this event shortly.

‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’ can be purchased directly from me (signed) and from bookshops, such as Waterstones, Bookends, Fred Holdsworth’s and Sam Read’s (the latter three all being in Cumbria) and online.

Second launch event details

invite2There will be second launch event on Wed 23 September. Come and hear some stories about the Bob Graham Round – the early days, about Bob Graham, the fast men and women, and the innovators.

This is FREE and will be held in the Grove Building, Middlesex University The Burroughs, Hendon NW4 4BT, from 6-7pm. In order to cater it would be good if you would RSVP to:

If you are not able to make either of the launch events you will be able to buy signed copies of the book at Bookends, Sam Read’s and Fred Holdsworth’s. It is also available online from Waterstones and Amazon (where the Kindle version can be downloaded).

The Book: The Round is not only a history of the Bob Graham Round, but also an exploration of the what, why and how of this classic fell endurance challenge. After covering the genesis of the BGR in detail, it documents its development from a more-or-less idle challenge to its present status as a rite of passage for endurance runners. Interspersed with this detail of the round are extensive profiles of many of the event’s significant individuals: innovators, record setters, recorders and supporters.

TrailRunningarticleTo get a feel for it you can read an extract (about Bob Graham, the man), which is available in the current edition of Trail Running Magazine, grandly entitled ‘The 24 hours that changed running history’ (p58-61).

‘The Round’ book launch details – Sat 19 Sept at the Moot Hall


Come and hear some stories about the Bob Graham Round – the early days, about Bob Graham, the fast men and women, and the innovators. You are invited you to the launch of ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’. Snacks and drinks will be provided. You can obtain tickets from Bookends in Keswick, or reserve tickets online (and pay £2 on the door). I will be signing copies of the book, which can be purchased on the day – thanks to Bookends, Keswick.

Details: Sat 19 Sept, 6 pm to 7-15pm, Moot Hall Community Room, Keswick

Good game – a BGR from the roadside support viewpoint


The terms ‘epic’, ‘surreal’, and ‘teamwork’ were used by several participants. It was the first Bob Graham Round (BGR) that I had witnessed at such close quarters, and it has left me with some brilliant memories, increased respect for BGR completers, and a few new friends in the sport. Whilst not on pacing duties at all, I was coordinating the road support, and also advising Neil Walker on his preparation and planning. Quite why he trusted me, with such a freely acknowledged lack of experience in the matter (apart from writing a book on the subject), is way beyond me to understand, but thanks for including me, bud. I hope with this (rather long) posting to give a feel for the two days from the viewpoint of a deeply involved support person.

Neil first contacted me at the back end of April, to ask for my ‘support’. We discussed the need for an extended build-up, for on-leg reccying, and for getting a good team of pacers. He then announced that he would be going in July, allowing a mere three months preparation – not ideal. A long Skype called resulted in a plan for several weekend trips to the Lakes to reccie legs, and midweek long runs in and around his Cheshire base.

scheduleThe pacing team came together, a 23 hour schedule was agreed, and I started working on the support plan. This was massively informed by previous plans that Bruce Owen and Bridget Collier kindly shared with us. Training went well, with Neil managing to get to the Lakes most weekends, but somehow not fitting in midweek long runs as we had planned. This was partly because the long reccies, sometimes over double legs and sometimes supporting other rounds, took their toll and his body needed to recover. He substituted long midweek bike rides to lessen the strain. He was as ready as he could be in the time, and took a two week taper, doing virtually no running in that period.

So, the date finally arrived. In the last Skype call with Neil I had to keep my own excitement bottled as it was designed to be a ‘keep calm and relaxed’ chat with him. Brother Mike Walker travelled up on the Friday and helped Neil box the foods into support-sized portions. Neil had been trying out various food combinations on the reccies, and had arrived at his own individual requirements, with pork pies featuring surprisingly highly. I had been in Sheffield in the week and travelled up Saturday morning, enduring a detour through Preston when the M6 appeared gridlocked, as was the detour. Some members of Team Neil were staying at Raise Cottage, the former Achille Ratti climbing hut. It is situated almost at the crest of Dunmail Raise, and is handily about 200m from the road support point at the end of leg 2.


[click photos to enlarge]

We had the whole of one dormitory booked, and as I was first to arrive I settled in to await the others. Neil had agreed that a friend from Scotland could tag his round, so Alan Smith parked his camper van at Dunmail and came with us to the start. At 5pm we set off to the start point, which is at the Moot Hall in Keswick. Mike Walker and I drove the two pacers for leg 1, Geoff Briggs (nav) and Dave Anderson, together with Neil and Alan of course, on a strangely quiet ride to their physically destination and their metaphorical destiny.

20150725_175755The Saturday afternoon stalls were still busy at 6pm in Keswick, and it was a slightly incongruous setting with a ‘meat waggon’ backed up to the steps of the hall, astride which BGR aspirants have their photo taken.

20150725_175844On the dot of the hour they were off to cheers and well wishes from a crowd of supporters, and were last seen disappearing down the first alleyway on their 62 mile jaunt, over 42 peaks and ‘looking forward’ to over 27,000 feet of ascent, before their arrival back in Keswick, on what would in fact be the next day of their eventful weekend.

20150725_180004Mike and I went back to Raise Cottage to have a bite to eat, a chat, and to keep an eye on the tracker (a simple GPS device in Neil’s bumbag that was sending signals on a minutely basis, which were then relayed to a continually updating webpage – see opentracking). I already knew this was strangely addictive and potentially time-wasting, but with the personal involvement it meant you could see how he was doing at all times (except at odd times when the signal went and you had to hope nothing untoward had occurred). We checked the food box for the leg 1 changeover through again, and made sure that the leg 2 pacers were up and about if they had taken power naps, as they had a long night ahead. We took the pacers, Andy Ford (nav) and Bruce Owen, to Threlkeld in good time, and had marvellous views of the sun going down on the fell tops as we went.

20150725_213513In the Threlkeld car park we met Barnet clubmate John Owen. He is 2nd claim Altrincham, and had also managed to be part of the send-off team, having dashed from running the Lingmell Dash fell race to be there to support Neil. Mike and I setup for a changeover for the first time, dodging the midges and hoping for an early warning of the runners’ arrival. Local lad Mark McGlincy had been due to pace on leg 1 but injury prevented him doing it. He was however still able to jog up to the lower slopes of Doddick Fell to show them a good line he knew off there that shaved a small amount of time off for them. On Neil’s 23 hour schedule he had 3hrs 49mins to cover the 3 peaks on leg 1. We had just got the kettle boiling when suddenly they appeared jogging down the lane, a handy 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Often a pacer is sent ahead to tell the support team what the contender really wants most. In this case it was loo roll, and Neil grabbed it and ran straight through the car park to inspect the rear of a nearby hedge at close quarters. It may have been at this point that I said to Mike, ‘I don’t know what I am doing, you know!’. We did our best to give the two contenders and the pacers whatever food and drink they wanted, from our well stacked food table.

20150725_213654After a mere 7 mins spent refuelling they were off again. I think I mumbled a few ‘go wells’, but as we will see it is surprising what you DO say, and also how little you remember of what that is. Dave Anderson was carrying on through, so they went out to ascend Clough Head with him and the 2 fresh pacers. They left at 9-54pm just as it was getting dark, with the Dodds and Helvellyn to do in the dark, before the thrutch up Fairfield and Seat Sandal before descending to Dunmail Raise for the next support point. Meanwhile Mike and I took Geoff Briggs back to Raise Cottage, where he was able to eat some of Neil’s wonderful homemade chilli as reward for his efforts. Mike and I did some more food box shuffling in light of what had been taken from the first changeover box, realising we had enough to feed an army altogether. No-one was going to go hungry on this trip.

20150726_022323After a short rest, and more caffeine to keep me going, we made sure Tom Bush was up and ready to take on his leg 3 pacing role. It was 1-45am in the morning. We already knew that Bruce and Andy were going straight thru, with Bruce taking the nav role on the next leg. The setup point is just a bit of verge where they cross the A591, so we wandered up there from the cottage with all the stuff. Mike had forgotten his headtorch, so I leant him my spare, which had seen me through many an adventure on the hills. ‘Ah, the legendary Stevo headtorch’, says Mike as he dons it. We set up the table, find a level space for the stove, and get the food and drink ready on the table. The headtorch became even more legendary when it failed completely after about 5 mins!

20150726_023040The brilliant thing with the location is that you will see the headtorches as they come over the brow of Seat Sandal and know you have 15 mins or so to get everything ready. I had made up Bruce’s special porridge concoction in advance and had it in its own pan warming up. A few stirs with a fork and it was ready. I am not sure what Bruce said when receiving it from me, but (apparently) I did my best Bruce Forsyth impression and said, ‘Good game, good game’ back to him. Neil was still laughing about this incident a day later. Alan was going well, and seemed to me to be existing on just warm water at each break. I later found out he had a stash of Scottie scram about him in various places. They had lost 9 mins against the schedule on leg 2, and the planned 10 min break had slipped to 11 mins as they hopped over the style, and we saw the torches heading off up Steel Fell.

dave2We packed up and went back to the cottage, Dave to sleep and Mike to have a power nap. I tried to get some shuteye but failed, and was up and about helping Dave Walton pack his troops and supplies up for his drive round to support at Wasdale Head. He set off with Mike, and headed off to pick up Stefan Bramwell at Castlerigg and Tim Raffle in Threlkeld on the way. I tried to go back to bed and must have achieved an hour or so of light sleep before getting up to check the tracker and their progress on leg 3. They lost a little time more on this leg, arriving at Wasdale about 30 mins behind the schedule. I was a little worried, so tried to contact Dave. Signals were bad at both ends but we eventually made contact, to confirm that all was well. The only significant problem was that Neil was worrying (unnecessarily really) about the lost time. A few words from his pacers and he was fine apparently. We could see from the tracker that they were off up Yewbarrow, and that and Red Pike were done at faster than schedule pace, so they should be fine. On the tops they had caught up with Tim Mosedale, doing his incredible ‘triathlon’, and he had summed up his state in one word – ‘forked’.

Back at the cottage I was having yet more coffee when the leg 5 runners (all were Neil’s Altrincham AC clubmates) turned up there unexpectedly, saving me a Keswick car park pickup. Loading some stuff in my car I fell down the wet steps outside the cottage, but thought it best not to mention such incompetence to anyone. Jeff Norman, Craig Partridge and Shaun Jackson piled into Jeff’s car and set off to Honister, whilst I followed with a car full of food, drink and clothes. Getting there in good time I did a bit of setting up in the quarry car park. It was raining so much this consisted of putting the table out and putting the food box under it. The stove was readied for boiling water, and I retired to the car to get out of the rain and wind. Their hoped for time of arrival had passed and we were anxiously scanning the horizon over which they should appear. After one false alarm for a solo runner they eventually appeared, now 35 mins behind. So, they had a good leg 4 in all that crap weather, slipping a mere 5 mins. [no photos were taken at Honister, it was that grim]

When he saw the car park Mike said, ‘he won’t have the table out’, but I did. When they arrived chaos ensued. People were all over the place. Neil was cold and in need of some extra clothing. I was trying to press food on everyone without much success. I was told Neil had asked for a porridge pot so tried to make one up. We had washed the spoons after Dunmail and managed to leave them in the cottage. So I tried to stir the porridge with all I could find – my index finger. Try it sometime! Stirring up the solids and trying to mix it produced something semi-edible. Fortunately for me, but not for Neil, the wind was so strong that the water had not heated through. I thus didn’t get a scalded finger and he didn’t get a very hot porridge. When it was time to go, after 13 mins according to the increasingly smudged time cards, all the team were scattered around the car park. Gathered together they set off up the last serious uphill, Dale Head. We last saw the team going up the skyline looking good. Mike was going straight through and having spent the break helping his brother had to scrabble some food down and run to catch them up.

20150726_164239A couple of us went in to the café for a warming coffee, before heading down the pass to Buttermere and over Newlands Hause to near Newlands Church for an extra support point on the road run-in. I was so wet through that I had the heater on full blast in the car – and nearly passed out from heat. It is a good little car space over the bridge from the church for a support spot and I set up and brewed up. Not much food was taken on board here, so near the end, but the sweet teas seemed to be appreciated.

20150726_164619I think all had a shoe change, moving from fell to road shoes for the last few kilometres of road. Neil was in the zone, just asking ‘where’s my Alty vest’, donned that and started the run in, with a couple of extra supporters joining his now expanding group. I packed up with help from Dave, and drove past them further up the road, regaling them with ‘Glory days’ by the Boss at full blast through wide open windows.

20150726_173559We parked up in Keswick and walked to the Moot Hall, where a welcome team was rapidly forming. Dave and I then walked down to the end of the track into Keswick, where we could see them after they crossed the bouncy bridge. When they reached us, we ran in with them. I was chatting away with Mike, then realised I wouldn’t make it all the way at a run. What a fall from grace for someone that once considered himself a bit of a runner.

IMG_4173Being so unfit I was gasping up the main street when they touched the Moot Hall, so didn’t witness the immediate emotion. Neil had been on his feet for 23 hrs 40 mins and had held it together brilliantly, despite a small time loss on leg three. There followed many photos and congratulations, before we repaired to the Dog and Gun for beer and food. I can recommend the veg goulash with dumplings there.


20150726_174248Later that evening and the next morning Neil, Mike and I reflected back on events. Two comments Neil made stick in my mind. He was commenting on the great pacers and said, ‘I am a single male and there’s not a single female pacer’. He also claimed a world record for on the hill peeing, noting that at one point he had ‘a pee and there was a whole line of pacers peeing’. Other random thoughts included thinking that Raise Cottage was a top spot for a BGR stay – owner Philip’s homemade bread and jam were a joy to savour.

BGRtimesIt was nice to think that Neil had carried on both old and new traditions for his BGR. He very kindly paid for the accommodation for those of his team that stayed at Raise Cottage. He encouraged friends to join him on the run-in, and he had pacers from several different running clubs (see below). He also took advantage of the tracker service so that friends and others could follow his progress – be it going well or otherwise. Later I asked Mike if he was inspired to ‘follow in Bob’s footsteps’ and he quietly replied ‘er …. no’ – but I am not so sure. Whatever, it was a grand day out.

Finally, some thoughts from those heroes, the pacers:

I hope everyone had as good a time as I did at the weekend – it’s always a pleasure to be involved in these big rounds.’ – Geoff B

‘… an amazing weekend which left me truly inspired.’ – Dave A

‘A great day and good to meet a load of new people through the BG, once again it’s only reinforced my view that this is the best sport in the world.’ – Andy F

‘All the planning & preparation seemed to work out perfectly. Apart from the weather on Sunday, but even that was an added frisson …’ – Tom B

Neil’s pacers were: Geoff Briggs, Pennine Fell Runners – Dave Anderson, Pudsey and Bramley – Mark McGlincy, Keswick AC – Bruce Owen, Pennine Fell Runners – Andy Ford, Horwich RMI – Tom Bush, Altrincham AC – Mike Walker, Barnet & District AC – Stefan Bramwell, Pennine Fell Runners – Tim Raffle, Altrincham AC – Craig Partridge, Altrincham AC – Shaun Jackson, Altrincham AC – Paul Swindels, Unattached

If you have got this far you might be interested in: The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps and It’s a hill, get over it.

In Bob Graham’s footsteps ……. a round of my own

P1000356Well not my own really, but I am ‘doing as I say’ by supporting a friend’s Bob Graham Round at the end of this month. Sadly, with the state of me, it will be road-side support rather than pacing or on the hill support, but I am looking forward to it massively nonetheless. I have been ‘advising’ my friend on his training buildup, which has been quite a change for a coach normally working with 800m to 10k runners, but fascinating to see this particular commitment developing and building, hopefully to a successfull completion. We hope to be using a tracking device (from the most excellent so that interested parties can follow progress. At the moment the training and reccies are going well; and kit, food, and support logistics are being finalised. More details, including tracker URL, nearer the date,

IMG_0084Things are rolling along nicely with the Bob Graham book. I have just signed off the typeset proof of ‘The Round: In Bob Graham’s Footsteps. It now goes to the indexer for that work to be done, followed by a last proof check, and then printing. The book will be published on Thursday 17th September, and I am currently working on a book launch, which is planned for Saturday 19th September. Appropriately enough it is to be in the Moot Hall in Keswick, which is where the Bob Graham Round starts and finishes. I am also working with the publisher on the details of the dust jacket. We have three fantastic cover quotes to weave in somehow, two I am pleased to say from absolute fell legends.  I am also working with a prominent magazine to have an extract published in their next issue, which will conveniently be out just prior to the launch.

cloudsIn case you are thinking this writing lark is all sweetness and light, it doesn’t always work out as you might wish. I wrote ‘The Round’ quicker than ‘It’s a hill, get over it’, partly because I had increasing confidence and partly because my networking tentacles extended further and contacts and interviews seemed to come more easily. Whilst finishing the manuscript I had an idea for Book III, which I started working on. I pitched it to my publisher who was initially interested in the synopsis. But when I later asked about the timescale for my planning I got a sort of ‘whoah, slow down’ message, which I am not sure whether to take as ‘no’ or ‘maybe, but later’. So I am working on the manuscript, but more slowly now, having established really good relationships with the two main protagonists. And yes it is a third book about fell running!

BGmapsSo, to keep my creative juices flowing I have tried to write for other media. Having had an article on navigation published in The Fellrunner recently, I thought it would be a cinch to get stuff accepted elsewhere. Having talked to a friend who had his writing accepted for Like the Wind magazine and The Guardian Running Blog, I decided to write something specific for both to see if it would be accepted. I was not put off by some of the almost abusive comments that my friend got to his piece in the latter, Fartlek: Sweden’s gift to running. So, pieces loosely entitled ‘the dark art of coaching’ and ‘are you tough enough’ were sent to the respective editors. Time has passed and I have heard from neither. Frustrating, but will be thickening the skin as necessary as rejection seems more likely as time goes by.

Footnote: that weekend trip mentioned in the last blogpost resulted in 4 more Wainwrights – Barf, Lord’s Seat, Broom Fell and the lovely Walla Crag (from whence the photo at the top of the blogpost was taken). However, I am still not convinced I will actually chase completing the Wainwrights.

(Thinking about) Doing the Wainwrights

ManwithwainwrightbookFor no apparent reason, apart from the fact that I have just read in ‘Never mind the Quantocks’ about Stuart Maconie completing the ‘task’, I wrote a Facebook posting the other day on how many Wainwrights I have bagged. Bizarely, it turns out that I have completed exactly half of them (107 of the 214). No, not impressive at all, but some very happy memories – and some I must admit I have no memory of ascending. Mind you at this rate of progress it may be a while till completion! Six decades (and counting) for me ….. or a six day run out for Steve Birkinshaw.

guideSo, I nerdily sat down on a damp afternoon to get the bigger picture. I wanted some answers. Was it even across the 7 Wainwright guides? How many of the ‘big uns’ have I not done? Are there clusters I could easy put together to hit? And most importantly do I actually want to chase completing – having not been at all bothered about doing so up till now? If so would it even be feasible with what will become fading powers/fitness eventually.

Firstly then, some basic facts. I have recorded in my copies of the Wainwright guides the tops I have bagged. This is a fairly random process, only very rarely with dates included. It is by adding up these ticks that I come to the startling fact that I am only half-way through the task. If you had asked me I would have said I had done way more than half

table1How have I fared book by book (measured by the Wainwright guides)? I seem to have concentrated my effort(s) in the Eastern and Southern Fells, but that the Far Eastern Fells need the most care and attention.

table2However, I have done the 19 highest peaks in the list, which might be a bonus later. In fact if you take the top 50 peaks, in order of height, there are just 8 of them to do. Four of these are in Book 6 (North Western Fells) and the other four in Book 2 (The Far Eastern Fells). The highest missing fells, by Book, are listed in the second table.

So, what strategy to take – if going for them? Hit them all randomly, concentrate on the books with most to do, or hit the eastern Fells to get the boost of knocking one book off? And what summit to leave for last? In my mind that would be a celebration of some sort, with my wife, family and some friends with me preferably. Should it be an easy one, or an iconic one with a top view? Or just let it happen and see what ends up last?

The Round sample 6Finally, how am I on the Bob Graham Round peaks? Surely as the author of a book on the subject I have done the round? No! Well at least done all 42 of the peaks on the Round? No, again. To my surprise, and somewhat shamefacedly, I have to admit that I have not bagged two of them. The first is Hindscarth. Having done Dale Head and Robinson, did I just bypass it, or do them on separate occasions, neither of which took me on to Hindscarth? The other is Great Calva. I have no recollection of going up there, despite vivid memories of Skiddaw House and stream crossings out that way. Maybe I was just working round from Skiddaw to Blencathra then.

It seems weird now to think that I can’t remember ascending some of these 107 peaks at all, but have recorded the fact that I did. You have to remember that there have been a lot of trips, over a lot of years. Also that some of the 107 have been done many, many times, especially those on the fell race routes that I competed in.

Oh well, it is something to give thought to. Which I will do as I go to the Lakes this weekend, to possibly add a couple to the list.


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