Friday, 22 July 2011

Two Birds with One Stone (BGR and L100 Training)

In an excellent piece of timing my mate Dave decided to join his clubmate Andy in his attempt at the Bob Graham Round (BGR) two weeks before the Lakeland 100.  This was an ideal opportunity for me to support Dave and get some last minute training in across Lakes terrain at the same time. 

I was working away from home in Liverpool so, rather than go home to work on Friday, I went straight up to the Lakes on the Thursday evening and camped at Castlerigg Hall campsite.  This was no random campsite choice.  Castlerigg Hall is the ancestral home of the Wren family.  My ancestors, who moved to Borrowdale in the 17th century came from here. 

On Friday I worked from the campsite kitchen and dining room which was very conveniently equipped with free wi-fi.  I had a view across Derwent Water to the Cats Bells ridge, a vast improvement on staring at a wall at home.

Dave and Andy's BGR attempt was to start at 7.00 p.m. on Friday at the usual start point, the Moot Hall in Keswick.  Coincidentally, there was a special BGR attempt taking place a few hours later.  Fred Rogerson, who founded and ran the Bob Graham 24 Hour Club for many years had died recently.  He never did the BGR himself but friends and family had arranged to take his ashes around the route in a relay to make him a special member.   We jibed Dave and Andy to hurry up if they didn't want to beaten round by a dead man.  I didn't know Fred but I'm sure he'd have laughed at that.

I'd agreed to do the pacing for Dave on leg 2 from Threlkeld to Dunmail Raise via Helvelyn.  I'd done this before on another BGR attempt but it was in the dark and rain and it was an area I didn't know well (I'd last been on Helvelyn in daylight over 30 years ago) so I couldn't promise to help with the navigation.  I then thought that I might continue for a couple more legs to make sure I'd got the whole night in. 

The evening came around and it was time to go.

The weather was kind to them on leg 1 (Keswick to Threlkeld) with just a  little mist on the top of Skiddaw.  As we were waiting at Threlkeld wondering which of the sets of head torches we could see making various routes down of Blencathra was them they suddenly appeared out of nowhere and there was a mad rush to hand over pacers and to refuel Dave and Andy. 

We were soon off up the road towards Clough Head.  As we climbed up to the Old Coach Road below Clough Head we could see the tops being covered by cloud.  By the time we arrived the weather had taken a turn for the worst.  It was just like the last time I'd done leg 2.  Howling wind, rain and low visibility.  Great.  I'd gone up in a windproof (but not waterproof jacket (although I was carrying my waterproofs).  Andy was doing a great job in navigating us.  I was following our route by thumbing the map along with my compass.  As we reached the summit at Great Dodd, Dave asked for his camera which I was carrying.  I passed him the camera and looked down to find that I only had the compass in my hand.  The wind had whipped away the map out of my hand without me feeling it, just like that trick where the guy pulls the table cloth out from under a set table without disturbing anything.  We had other maps and Dave's GPS so we weren't in trouble. 

The rest of the leg was a case of deja vu for me as we zig-zagged across the Dodds and up over Helvelyn.  By this time I was getting very cold and fearing hyperthermia.  So, we had a short stop at the shelter on Helvelyn where I put on an extra top, my waterproofs and gloves.   After Dollywagon Pike Andy took us a different way to where I'd been on my previous leg 2.  We went round the eastern side of Grisedale Tarn then straight up the side of Fairfield over a large amount of scree which slowed me down (as well as the fact I was carrying mine and Dave's gear). I lost contact with them on the way up and Dave was waiting at the top. 

I'd probably cost them a two or three minutes (which is a long time when you're standing around in a gale) but fortunately soon had chance to redeem myself at the top of Seat Sandall when they continued following the wall after the bend at the top.  I knew the summit was straight on at the bend and brought them back.

It was then a quick drop down to Dunmail Raise and our 5 hour adventure on leg 2 was over.  During the run along the tops I'd felt that I couldn't breath to bottom of my lungs.  I assumed this was somthing to do with the strong winds literally taking my breath away but a couple of days later I developed a bad cold.  Either way I knew I was in danger of holding them up so I didn't continue. 

I got a lift back to the campsite from Sarah Rowell who was driving round to Wasdale to support leg 4.  After waking up Dave's son Jack at 4:00 a.m. as he had my car keys I grabbed a couple of hours sleep then got ready to go round to Honister to support Dave on leg 5 (assuming they hadn't packed in the night due to the continuing foul weather).

I went with Jack and his girlfriend up to the Honister slate mine where we parked in their car park.  Dave and Andy were still going so as we waited we prepared various foodstuffs.  They came charging down the hill and straight through the car park without stopping.  I was chasing them with a panful of spaghetti hoops which I passed to a random stranger as I ran out of the car park.

Leg 5 is perhaps the easiest of them all.  Following a stiff climb up Dale Head it's an undulating ridge run via Hindscarth and Robinson before dropping down into the Newlands Valley (another Wren stronghold) and through Portinscale to Keswick.  As we ran along the top we could see through gaps in the cloud down into Keswick where the sun was shining.  Andy had gone ahead partway along the ridge.  When we eventually reached the valley bottom the weather played its last trick on us by waiting for us to remove our wet weather gear before pouring stair rods on us.  The sun then came out for the last couple of miles as we ran into Keswick and up the high street. 

Dave reached the Moot Hall after 23 hours and 23 minutes, the latest member of the Bob Graham 24 Hour Club. 
Post Script: As we were sitting in the pub having a well earned pint later that evening the Fred Rogerson party turned up at the end of their BGR.  Here's some video footage of their round.  Dave appears right at the end (2m 54s) on the right hand side.

1 comment:

DickyTicker said...

Great work Mick. Brings back good memories. Thanks for your help. Dave