The Bob Graham Round
As a Lakelander, I have interests in the area outside climbing. One of these is the 24 hour challenge known as the Bob Graham Round. The idea is to visit 42 named summits on a 66 mile circuit that starts and finishes at the Moot Hall in Keswick. It is not a race, except against the clock, and contenders may attempt the circuit in either a clockwise or an anti-clockwise direction.
The information in many of these pages is dynamically generated according to the preferences of you, the visitor: things such as the direction; start date and time; etc. By default the information relates to a clockwise round beginning at midnight on the closest Saturday to midsummer. If you wish to change this then visit the calculator page, change the appropriate details in the table and save them.
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The round was first attempted by Bob Graham when he was forty one, the idea being that he would ascend one fell for each year of his age. However luck played its part and he did not complete the round that year. Thus he added the 42nd fell, supposedly this was Great Calva in the back o’ Skiddaw.
Note that traditionally the Bob Graham Round was reckoned to be around 72 miles. However using modern mapping software gives a distance of between 61 and 63 miles depending on the software being used. Now some extra miles may be added due to zig-zagging on steep slopes but certainly this does not add up to the missing 11 miles as there are only a few steep climbs (Clough Head; Fairfield; Steel Fell; Yewbarrow; Great Gable) where this is necessary. Interestingly, the traditional given height gained for the round of 26,000 ft is confirmed by the same software. This is equivalent to around 17 ascents of the Empire State Building!
Some recent rounds have taken a GPS unit with them and recorded values between 65 and 66 miles which may come to be regarded as the true distance. This site uses 66 miles as the length.
The challenge may be divided into five sections, each of which starts and ends at a road crossing or Keswick itself. In a clockwise order these are:
- Keswick to Threlkeld over Skiddaw, Great Calva and Blencathra
- Threlkeld to Dunmail Raise over the Helvellyn range.
- Dunmail Raise to Wasdale over the central Lakeland fells including Scafell Pike.
- Wasdale to Honister Pass over the Wasdale skyline including Pillar and Great Gable.
- Honister Pass to Keswick over the Robinson group then 5 miles of road to finish.
The following paragraphs are intended as a précis on the ground covered along with some idea of the distances and amount of ascent/descent involved. The names of tops are in bold type. The times are very rough and include stops. They give a round of 23hrs.
There is also a fuller set of notes about the intricacies of the round.
Section One: Keswick to Threlkeld
A short amount of road to the small carpark on Latrigg then a steep pull up onto Skiddaw itself. A steep descent to the track leading to Skiddaw House, straight over this and up Great Calva, then a beeline for Blencathra. Finally a descent of the steep Halls Fell to Threlkeld. Once on the fells the going is at first a slate/shale path then boggy or heathery with a rocky final descent. Distance: 12.5 miles, Ascent: c.5150ft, Time: 4hrs
Section Two: Threlkeld to Dunmail Raise
A slightly involved section in the valley to gain the slopes of Clough Head, once the summit of this is reached then it is high level ridge running along mainly grassy paths to Helvellyn. At Dollywaggon Pike a steep descent is made to Grisedale Tarn then the two outliers of Fairfield and Seat Sandal are taken before descending to the road at the summit of Dunmail Raise. The going is mainly grassy with some easy stony paths around Helvellyn and Fairfield. Distance: 13.2 miles, Ascent: c.5900ft, Time 4hrs
Section Three: Dunmail Raise to Wasdale
This is the longest section and also the roughest underfoot. A steep climb from the road to Steel Fell leads to an undulating section in and around rocky hummocks to the Langdale Pikes. A moorland section then leads round the head of Langdale to Rossett Pike. A cunning scramble leads to Bowfell which marks the start of the roughest section of the round. Speed is difficult to maintain over this terrain as it is mainly composed of large boulders. Eventually Scafell Pike is reached. The quickest way to Scafell is via Broad Stand which is a rock climb, though admittedly easy, where a rope may be required (support team?). It is then a long descent on grass to the car park at Wasdale. Distance: 15.2 miles, Ascent: c.6500ft, Time 7hrs
Section Four: Wasdale to Honister Pass
This section is another tough section especially since it follows the long central section. It begins with another steep climb direct from the car park at Wasdale to the summit of Yewbarrow. Generally easy running ground then leads around the head of Mosedale over Pillar to Black Sail Pass. Kirkfell and Great Gable (which along with Green Gable is the last rough section) are then traversed before easier ground leads to Honister Pass. Distance: 10 miles, Ascent: c.6300ft, Time 5hrs
Section Five: Honister Pass to Keswick
This is the shortest fell section with only three summits to cross before the final road section is reached. Follow the fence up to Dale Head, there then follows a high level ridge over Hindscarth and Robinson before a long ridge is descended to the road. Generally grassy underfoot. Distance: 10.6 miles, Ascent: c.2500ft, Time 3hrs