So, it started simply enough, even if I didn't get to camp until midnight.
I had a good night on Jenkin Hill and woke up under Skiddaw, which I'd not been on before. It's pretty straight forward, and I was off and onto Graham's birthday hill by 10am.
The pyjama wearing hotelier was 41 when he first tried to run his round, but he didn't make it. He tried again the following year, and added a hill to match his age. Since 1932, the only other addition has been alot of tradition. Maybe because of this, its easy to miss that even the number of hills included is a total accident. Still, it's not a competition, right. The BGR really isn't one. Good to remember when your wading through the soup of other views, telling you you're doing the being outdoors thing too fast, slow, heavy, light or low. Nope. The only one on your back on the Bob is you.
Graham wryly said of his 24hour challenge 'anyone can do the round, provided they are fit enough'. I took the option to walk it, because I am definitely not. There's no route either, so don't try to follow. There's just a list of hills. Relax, it's still a tall order.
I'd not been in the Lakes for more than a day trip for over 3 years, and it was interesting to be back. It prompted some thinking on what unifies Britain's mountain ranges, and what is unique. The feelings we have for them, the values projected onto them, the different challenges to keep them 'special' (that seems to be a word that's used alot - can we be clearer please?) and what can be done to enhance their 'special qualities' (mmm, still with me? meh...) I was thinking I don't feel as emotionally attached to the Cumbrian Fells as I do to the high places of Scotland and Wales, and I was wondering why. I was thinking I really don't need to walk that bloody motorway from Great Dodd to Fairfield. ever. again. Then I got to Dunmail Raise and stopped thinking about anything but breathing. That is where it got interesting. Of course it did.
On reflection, starting a 66 mile walk with nearly an Everest of ascent with nothing in the tank was probably a bad idea. At the foot of Hall's Fell, I made a brew and had to have a nice lay down near a cow pat. I was definitely starting to feel a bit 'special'. Maybe I'd been overly confident, after all those proper mountains north of the border? I knew I'd started at a physically and mentally low ebb. Whatever it was, as the sun went down on the first day, I also knew the Bob Graham Round was going to enjoy kicking my sorry ass into the long grass with nary a second glance.
Despite my extra baggage, with legs of lead, a sandpaper throat and Rudolf's nose, Bob's Round ushered me round anyway. Some old favourites, and some new. Revelations came in tiny packages, the surprises were quiet, but it'd be fibs not to admit to them. A first, snotty wobble to the top of Seat Sandal, feeling stronger again on the barely there, north facing trod of Bowfell 'direct' in the early sun, a return to that beautiful little trail up to Cofa Pike taken at pace after dumping the bag...
...and every smashed, broken metre between Esk Pike and Great Gable, where I found my stride, that beautiful sense of rhythm and forgetfulness that comes from negotiating fierce ups and downs with a goal in mind. Time out of mind.
Climbing out of Wasdale straight up the side of Yewbarrow was horrible, though.
I made it round, but it took 2 days longer than expected, a sprained hip muscle on the Langdales and a unplanned resupply in Wasdale.
The sorry tale of my shoddy performance should materialise in BMC Summit magazine at some point. Until then, I'll leave you with a few randomly grabbed moving pictures. Here's to the Bob' and all its sweat, spit, tears and glory.