Friday 27th June 1997, 23:30 hours, it was a cold windy night. The dark rain clouds that had hung over Keswick that day had not moved and there was no sign of the moon I had hoped would light the route to Skiddaw and beyond.
The support team of Paul Smith, Glen Lowery and Ian Johnson arrived as scheduled, last minute instructions were exchanged, then we all made our way to the Moot Hall. On the stroke of midnight myself and Phil Pearson, who would be accompanying me to Threlkeld, were off.
Unfortunately, the weather on the 28th June was some of the worst of the Summer, with fierce North Westerly winds bringing low cloud and driving rain to the Lakeland fells.
Steady progress was made, however, and the summit of Skiddaw at 3,054 feet was reached in 80 minutes. Pete Wilkinson was waiting on the summit, which in those conditions was an achievement itself.
A combination of the dark and the low cloud (making torches of little use) meant the route across the moorland Back ‘O’ Skiddaw was very difficult. Despite falling waist deep into a pool, I was determined to continue on to Great Calva, where Phil Bellamy and Dave Gilthorpe were waiting to lead the way down to the foot of Blencathra.
The summit of Blencathra was attained as daylight broke, however the very strong winds made a direct access of “Halls Fell” ridge impossible. Following a detour to reach the ridge at a lower level, a good descent soon brought the Village of Threlkland and awaiting support team into view, this first section complete by 04.25 hours. (85 minutes behind schedule)
Following a quick change of kit, a cup of soup, and a fresh pacer in the form of Tim Foster, I was off on the next section. A traverse of the long ridge from Clough Head via Helvellyn at 3,116 feet, to Dollywagon Pike then Fairfield and Seat Sandal to Dunmail Raise. Graham Harrison and Alan Vicarage had left Threlkland earlier to meet me at Great Dodd and continue with me to Dunmail, but wind and rain had taken their toll and they decided the conditions were too bad, we met them as they were descending back down to Threlkland where a warm tent and dry clothes were waiting.
Despite the daylight, visibility was still restricted by the low cloud which would remain on the fell tops all day. Navigation was by knowledge of the route backed up by a lot of compass work. A good pace was maintained, however, and Dunmail Raise reached for breakfast at 08.45 hours.
Linda, my wife was among the support team at Dunmail and it was with some relief she greeted me. Seeing that I was looking well, after a night on the Fell’s she felt more relaxed then for the rest of the round.
The Third section, a traverse of 15 of the Central Lakeland peaks, including the Langdale Pikes and the two highest, Scafell Pike at 3,206 feet (The Highest in England) and Scafell. I was accompanied on this section by my brother Jimmy and Keith Wood who had a very successful Round himself 2 years previously.
This section was particularly tough as the rain and low cloud had made the boulder fields around the summits treacherous where great care and concentration had to be maintained over the very slippy rock (not that easy with over 12 hours and 45 miles on the legs). Scafell Pike was reached at 13.35 hours then down to Broad Stand where Satch and Dave Millen were waiting having secured a safety rope. This I felt was essential as the route up resembled a water fall, combined with the strong winds, it made for a very interesting climb (Ask Jimmy!) It is a short climb from here on to Scafell, 30 peaks down, 12 to go. Wasdale was reached 15.10 hours, following a painful descent, my toes were starting to hurt.
A welcome meal of pasta and chicken (I was getting sick of Jelly Babies, Chocolate and Malt loaf by now!) and a wash of my feet left me feeling quite good. Also, the words of encouragement from Fred Rogerson who was at Wasdale gave me a lift. From down in the valley the weather at last looked as if it was clearing, but the Climb up to Yewbarrow at 2,058 feet brought us back among the clouds.
Fintan Clark and Richard Townsend were with me for the 9 peaks to Honister Pass, incl., Steeple 2,687 feet, Pillar 2,927 feet and Great Gable at 2,949 feet. This section also took in the notorious “Windy Gap” between Great Gable and Green Gable but on this particular day it was the only part of the round where there was no wind at all. It was 20.15 when I made my way down the slopes of Grey Knotts and out of the clouds to meet the back-up team and supporters waiting at the Quarry at Honister Pass.
I had a bit to eat, don’t know what it was? The big soup I had asked for was too much temptation for the support team, so by the time I got to Honister it had all gone!
It was after 20.30 hours when I set off up Dale Head with quite a squad Tim, Keith and Richard who had paced earlier on The Round, had been joined by Phil Bellamy. I was confident now that I would reach the Moot Hall before midnight.
The efforts of the day were now starting to take their toll, I was not enjoying the last 3 peaks of Dale Head, Hindscarth and Robinson as much as I would have liked. We descended from Robinson where we were greeted by a magnificent view of Derwent Water and Keswick with the last of the day’s sunlight shining through a break in the clouds. I was feeling much better now! Down to the Newlands Valley and Chapel Bridge we were met by Tracey Wood who had my road shoes and clean socks. No more climbing now, just a steady run along the road to Keswick. Daniel Henderson joined me for this section which was great to see as he was running again following a broken leg. The road section passed very quickly with Daniel telling me about his latest girlfriends.
The Moot Hall was reached at 23.22 hours, 38 minutes to spare (missed last orders). Slight disappointment for the support team as I had promised them I would get the 2nd Round of the day in, The Bob Graham being the first. They won’t let me forget though.
It was a great feeling to have completed the Round especially in the Adverse conditions, something I could not have done without the friendship and support from everyone that had been a part of my Round
Note – To all at Saltwell I’m looking forward to supporting on any future B.G.R. attempts!