Sunday, 29 May 2011

A bad night in Lakeland

Stef had no luck with the weather on Friday night / Saturday and had to bail out of her BG attempt around Rossett Pike before dropping down to Langdale and an unscheduled breakfast at the ODG with Yiannis

Leg 1 had gone relatively well for Stef and she was ahead of schedule at Threlkeld. I was doing road support as planned and had to call Keswick mountain rescue out because one of Stef's pacers, Nigel, didn't come down off Blencathra with the rest of the group. He has a broken arm and hairline fracture of the skull following a fall, but is recovering well thankfully after being taken off the mountain by helicopter

Strong winds and biblical amounts of rain slowly ground Stef down on legs 2 and 3 and so she decided to quit before moving on to the high fells

Many thanks to everyone who came out to support. Get well soon Nigel

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Embsay Moor

I'm sure I start every Thursday's blog post with the words 'cracking run out last night with the club...'. Anyway, we did had another good run last night, on Embsay Moor

It was a great turn out and we took a different route to any I've taken before, setting off eastwards through Eastby before climbing onto the main bridleway that crosses the moor then passing over Embsay Crag and returning to the Elm Tree round the reservoir and over the fields

There was plenty of distance running chat in the pub afterwards as Steve Brock was there along with a couple of lads who'd had good runs at the Fellsman recently. All in all great couple of hours out

Stef arrived a bit before midnight just as I'd finished hoovering my living room and she was in good spirits ahead of tomorrow night's run out. Morgan has offered the use of his camper van as a base at the Dunmail Raise road crossing (change-over between leg 2 and 3), which is just yet another example of the amazing things folk do to help out on BG attempts!

Tighten up

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


One of the world's great rock 'n' roll bands singing about one of the others

Round two, coming up

Stef's second BG attempt is getting closer. She'll be leaving Southampton this evening and will be well on her way hopefully when I get back from our K & C club run from the Elm Tree in Embsay later tonight

I'm working tomorrow but Stef has the day off to sort out final arrangements and get some rest. We'll be travelling up to Keswick on Friday, late morning probably, and at the Moot Hall before 6-30pm to see Geoff off on his round

Stef's starting at 7-00pm and has managed to get a good team of pacers and navigators together at short notice. Yiannis is doing a couple of legs again and Morgan is involved along with several other friends. The only worry is me doing the catering with our friend Trevor from the North East. He's known amongst his pals as 'Oven Gloves', but I'm led to believe he earned this nickname because of huge pair of goal-keeping gloves he wore in the past, not because of any culinary skills!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Byrds sing Dylan

Today is the 20th anniversary of Byrds founder Gene Clark's death and Bob Dylan's birthday

Bob Graham leg 5 report

Navigator - Bob Whiteman. Pacers - Nigel, Ian Fellgazelle, Simon Lantern Rouge, Phil the Bat, Tom R and Ian Wheezing Donkey from Bowland for help on descending Robinson. Lead out man through market stalls - Ken Bother

Leg 5 starts by climbing Dalehead from Honister (the finish of the Borrowdale fell race route). You then take in the summits of Hindscarth and Robinson before returning to the Moot Hall in Keswick down the Newlands Valley

I was delighted that we’d got Bob on board for leg 5. He claims his web-site was only started so he had an excuse not to watch Eastenders with his wife but his love of the Lakeland fells and the BG shine through and we all know different

The Dalehead climb is the last big ascent on a clockwise round and I’d done it several times in the past and knew that although I wasn’t flying up I was at least up to 40minute pace. Bob was at the top to take a photograph as I ran the last few yards. 40peaks down, two to go

Hindscarth came and went at little more than a marching pace and we were soon back by the main ridge-line fence and climbing up to the path junction on the way to Robinson. To be honest I can’t remember the last peak but I do remember thinking it was a smart move to follow the fence-line rather than the trod that cuts off the corner, because conditions were not ideal

Yiannis phoned Ian Wheezing Donkey from near the summit of Gable and told him we were on our way and Ian kindly showed us his ‘Bowland by-pass’ avoiding the rock steps off Robinson after doing the same for Linda who’d blasted through Honister and was now ahead of our group. Wheezing Donkey, like Bob, is a real BG aficionado and has been helping out on attempts for over 25years. He once paid me the biggest back-handed complement of my life by saying, on top of Ingleborough at a night race, ‘hey Andy, didn’t you used to be a fat lad?’!

Once we were off Robinson all that was left to do was walk and trot back to Keswick. Bob had done his bit and drove back. Ian Charters and his wife Pauline were out taking photos. Ian like Bob has been inspirational and supportive in the past and it was great to see him and his wife coming out to see us home

I knew I had plenty of time and wasn’t in any rush to get back to the Moot Hall. My feet were a little sore but I felt good as we sauntered back through the lanes. Simon Lantern Rouge realised how much the day out meant to me and we had a good chat about the whole adventure

It’s not far from Portinscale to Keswick and we were joined by Ken Bother, complete with a bottle of Stef’s flat Coke. Ken did his damnedest to get me to run through Keswick but I said I’d only run when I was in sight of the Moot Hall

Running up to the Moot Hall was like coming home. There was a big crowd there including many friends and a good proportion of the folk who’d helped me through the day. Ian Charters took the photo at the head of this post and I don’t think I need to say any more about how much this all meant to me

Monday, 23 May 2011

Bob Graham leg 4 report

Navigator - Yiannis. Pacers - Andy Butler, Hank plus friends of Nigel Tom R and Bill

Leg 4 is probably my favourite leg of the BG. You climb Yewbarrow at what looks from the bottom like an unfeasible angle before taking in Red Pike, Steeple, Pillar, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Green Gable, Grey Knotts and Brandreth, then drop down a fabulous decent into Honister. I’m getting excited and not a little emotional just typing out the names of these wonderful fells. It’s a hell of run out

I’d always believed if you can get out of Wasdale in decent shape and up Yewbarrow at something like schedule pace you’re well on your way. We made it in 50mins and I was starting to believe this time I was going to get round. My friend Chris Preston told me to make peace with Yewbarrow as early as possible in my training and I love this mountain and always think of her when I see it

To be honest I can’t remember too much about the leg now ten days or so afterwards. What I do remember is Geoff (‘Hank’) showing me his watch after every climb and saying you’re doing great. I remember Andy Butler being immensely calm and a conversation we had about where you live and where you ‘belong’. Most of all I remember Yiannis guiding me along, offering me sips of water, pointing out the most amazing little short cuts and his uncanny ability to find patches of grass to run on whenever there was a slippy bit of rock

I remember in particular the glint in Yiannis’ eye as we clambered either Gable and Kirk Fell and him suggesting a detour up a lovely little scramble because he ‘just fancied it’. Gable was the first mountain I ever climbed in the Lakes and at the top this time Geoff pointed that in an hour I'd be at Honister and approaching the last leg

Geoff wasn’t quite right but not far off. It took us only 51minutes to drop down to Honister over the last three peaks. Yiannis and the team had been amazing and I was delighted to see Bob Wightman, who had probably been the main influence in me attempting a round, in the car park and waiting to do the final leg with me. I sat down in a chair in the slate mine car park, was told I could afford to have a short break and that I was now in a great position to finish what I’d started over twenty hours before. Basically, where I'd dreamed of being for two years

Watermelon man

Steve Brock BG success

I was back in Lakeland on Saturday to help pace Steve Brock over leg 5 of his BG. The weather was okay driving across the A65 from home but turned to rain after heading off the M6 towards Keswick on the A66. By the time I got to Honister late afternoon it was raining heavily and the wind was very strong

Steve (who has paced several successful BGs in the past) and another friend Gav (who'd been with me the week before on leg 1) had both set off at midnight on Friday and I'd heard that they were well ahead of 23hour schedule. Gav came through Honister perhaps half an hour before Steve looking a bit weary but happy. I gave him a pat on the back and shouted, 'get it done now!', as he was on his way to his support vehicle

Steve had Heather Dawe and Aiden with him on leg 4 and they'd done a cracking job in awful conditions. Steve was his usual self, smiling away and full of beans

Five of us were soon on our way: Steve, me, Tim from our club plus Andy Nichol and Steven Fry from Bingley Harriers. Steve came out of the car park with a mug of tea in one hand, a big slice of watermelon in the other and a smile that lit up the grey evening skies!

If the wind was strong it was unbelievable on top of Dale Head but we made decent progress and had soon ticked off the three final peaks complete with obligatory photo stop on Robinson. Steve was going well and spirits were high with plenty of cheering and encouragement all round

I was trying to remember the 'Bowland by-pass' route we took off Robinson on my round when Steve dropped down right on a steep but runnable line on grass and we were soon on the path down to the Newlands Valley. Definitely one to remember for future outings I reckon

Steve was buzzing on the run in and I was glad of the uphill sections that we walked as I was struggling to keep up. As we arrived at Portinscale the others shot off chasing a sub-22hour finish and I had a steady trot back into Keswick with my mind full of the previous week's adventures

The sprint finish had worked and Steve finished in 21hours 59minutes but the Moot hall wasn't a place to hang around with the rain and wind, so we adjourned to the Dog and Gun for celebration drinks. Loz from our club, who'd been solo pacer on leg 3 was there, as was a tired but very happy Gav, along with Steve's wife Angela and his parents

Thanks to Steve's mum for the lift back to Honister, Tim and Em for their hospitality in their camper, Ange for the food and the Bingley lads for their company. What a memorable evening in the wind and rain; one I'll remember for a long, long time

Friday, 20 May 2011

Brand New Day

Bob Graham leg 3 report

Navigator - IanDarkpeak. Pacers - Gerry Dewhurst, Ian Fellgazelle, Steve Foster. Accompanying fell hound – Lilly Dewhurst (Staffordshire Bull Terrier, white with black patches, softer than she looks but not much, a bit like Steve really)

On Leg 3 you climb initially up Steel Fell before what’s best described as a moorland trudge to the Langdale Pikes, on to Rossett Pike before joining the proper big lads: Bowfell, Esk Pike, Great End and ultimately Scafell Pike and Sca Fell. The first part of this leg is my least favourite chunk of the BG. The second part is a magnificent run

Steel Fell is always a horrible climb and not made easier by a large bacon cob and two mugs of sugary tea. As it was we made the summit on schedule and met Linda’s group there after they’d taken an unconventional approach one gully over to the left of the normal (and now complete with trod) way

The trudge went better than I could have hoped but our problem was IanDarkpeak was struggling with a bad back. He had to drop out but Ian Fellgazelle was more than happy to pick up the map and compass. It has to be said he did well and we were lucky to have Linda’s group including Calder Valley’s Mike Wardle with us for much of the remainder of the leg. Mike was excellent; never once needing to revert to the map and offering constant encouragement to us all

The area around the Langdale Pikes was probably the bit of the round I found hardest going. It was one of the strange grey Lakeland mornings when it never seems to want to get light. However, around Thurnacar Knott the sky brightened suddenly and with it so did my spirits. The doubt and tiredness left me and it was like starting a brand new day

I’ve found the mini-scrambles up the rocky peaks of Harrison Stickle and Pike O’Stickle tough in the past but my now good spirits and the great grip afforded by the Inov-8 Mudclaw 270s I wore all day helped massively. Gerry, Steve and Lilly helped here in a huge way too with feeding, watering and general good doggie company

The section after the Langdales is great. I love the climbs of Rossett Pike and Bowfell; ingenious, elegant routes off the main tourist paths. Rossett Pike is half way round the BG and we were there at exactly 7a.m i.e. 12hours on from the start. The climb up Billy Bland’s rake up to Bowfell went really well and we were soon away from the moorland and onto what’s probably the most rugged area of the Lakeland fells

Getting to Great End via a really smart line a veteran Bingley Harrier showed me and Geoff on a recce was an important landmark for me as this is where I had to pack on my first attempt. No problems this time though and we were soon on Scafell Pike having ticked off Ill Crag and Broad Crag ahead of schedule

The gully scramble up to Foxes tarn was okay but I struggled badly on the final climb to Scafell, moving well for short sections then stopping to talk to Steve and Gerry. However, we made the summit just as Linda, who’d done Lords Rake was clambering down. The climbing on leg 3 was all done and I could start thinking about late breakfast in the best valley in the country

I’d only done the descent off Scafell (the biggest descent on a clockwise BG) once with Paul on ‘Cockley Beck week’ and wasn’t looking forward to it. As it was the top rocky / scree section went well as I passed some of Linda’s team and Ian took us out to the left to pick up a fantastic grassy path down. It didn't seem long before we were in the National Trust car park and I was scoffing another huge bacon cob made by Dave the Gaffer and feeling much better than I expected to an hour or so earlier!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

In the wee small hours of the morning

For Stef, who did so well to keep moving on leg 2 last weekend. A brave, brave effort

Bob Graham leg 2 report

Navigator - IanDarkpeak. Pacers – Ken Bother, Simon, Brett

On Leg 2 you cross the A66 from Threlkeld and climb Clough Head, followed by a high-level tour of the Helvellyn massif, before a there and back visit to Fairfield, and a descent to Dunmail Raise via Seat Sandal, with more runnable ground than any other leg. It’s the leg I know best having done it perhaps nine times over the last few years

I think ideally you want to be finishing leg 1 and starting leg 2 feeling like you’ve just got going and I was lucky enough to feel exactly that way. Linda and her team of pacers didn’t have as long a break as me and Stef, and were soon gone. We trotted down through Threlkeld after five or six minutes and crossed the main road before starting the long, increasing wet and steep climb up Clough Head, the first of the Dodds

It was not long after crossing over that Stef had to take another toilet break. Our pacers re-assured her we had plenty of time but as the toilet breaks increased in frequency and the accompanying stomach cramps became more griping then the more we all became concerned for her well-being

Stef continued until we had crossed Sticks Pass and had made good time on anything but the climbs, where the pain slowed her down. After some discussion with Ken, who’s an experienced BG pacer, she decided to pack and return to the valley. We had a few seconds together alone when she said, ‘carry on and do it for me’, before she headed toward Dunmail and I continued on with Ian and Simon

The weather wasn’t great over the Dodds with swirling mist and gusting winds but as Ian and I approached Helvellyn the wind increased in force, visibility got much worse and the mist turned to rain! Simon was struggling to run at times and I ended up with just Ian on Nethermost Pike

It was on Nethermost that we caught up with Linda’s team. They had lost their navigator (Bill Johnson from Calder Valley) with sickness, and had done well to keep moving on schedule with a team map reading effort

Ian suggested we take the Cofa Pike route over to Fairfield rightly working out that it would be sheltered from the ever worsening weather. This was a good plan and we’d soon done the last two peaks and I was racing down from Seat Sandal with Ian, who was shouting encouragement every minute or so, 'come on Andy!'. I did this descent in 15minutes; by far the fastest I've ever done it

Stef had returned safely to Dunmail with the help of Ken and Brett but I didn’t have chance to see her (everyone said she was okay and I needed to progress). Ian had played an absolute blinder navigating in difficulty conditions over leg 2 and shown real leadership qualities too. Really good work from the Dark Peak stalwart and smiliest man in fell running!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Into the valley

Bob Graham leg 1 report

Navigator - Yiannis. Pacers - Gav P, Deejay, Hank

Leg 1 is up Skiddaw from Keswick (the biggest climb on a clockwise round), on to Great Calva, then the long moorland slog over Mungrisdale Common up Blencathra and back down to Threlkeld

Altogether 15 of us ran out from the Moot Hall on time and headed to Fitz Park. I was first through the ginnel by the pink sweet shop and I burst out laughing when Yiannis popped out of another ginnel in front of us to take the lead through the car-park

I’ve had a couple of bad climbs up Skiddaw on recces but last time we looked at it I shot up and on Friday I felt great again. It’s part of BG lore that you train ‘tired’ with full kit, taper / rest, then feel great at the start of your attempt and this proved to be the case again this time

The leg went well and I enjoyed chatting to some of Linda’s team who were from various parts of the Midlands. Clare Griffin was amongst this group and it was lovely to see her as she is one of the people who inspired me to have a go at the round. Gav was great on his first ever support and really looked after me with food and drinks as we knocked off the peaks. Geoff and Deejay were doing their jobs quietly and efficiently too

Stef had to stop for a brief toilet break part way up Calva but I didn’t realise that this was the start of what turned later into a real problem. We were soon on the summit of Blencathra with three peaks in the bag

I’d never done the Parachute descent before and was terrified to be honest the first time I saw the start last year with Bob Wightman and Richard Gilbert. However, me and Linda followed Stef and Yiannis down and I was surprised pleasantly to really enjoy it. The sight of the steep fell-side lit up by head torches as we ran down was amazing and I was shocked at how much grass we had to run on and the fact that the route never felt exposed like the ridges on the South face

Before I knew it we were all down safely and I was tucking into a mug of tea and if I remember correctly a sausage roll. One leg done with around twelve minutes in the bank and 'just' four to go


This has been playing in my car constantly for the last day or so

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Mixed Bob Graham news

Stef had to pull out of her Bob Graham attempt part way through leg 2 on Friday night. Despite going well and progressing close to schedule she was struggling badly with what we are fairly certain was a stomach bug. She wasn't sick but had to stop repeatedly to answer a call of nature. Thankfully she is feeling much better today after spending yesterday in bed and is already starting to plan another attempt in the next few weeks

I had two unsuccessful goes at the BG last year and was determined this year to do something a bit different so on Friday I registered an attempt and to cut a long story short yesterday at 6-44pm I was back at the Moot Hall in Keswick having completed the 42peaks in 23hours and 44minutes! Stef had assembled an excellent team and I decided a few weeks ago that I would accompany her this weekend but kept it quiet apart from telling a few close friends and club-mates

I'll post a full report soon when I have photographs etc but in the short term would like to thank everyone who came out to support us this weekend. It's a bit of a Bob Graham cliche to say one is humbled at the dedication and enthusiasm of the people who help regularly on these challenges but like many cliches it's based firmly on truth!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Not long to go now

Stef arrived safely in Addingham around 4am this morning (!) after a good drive up from Southampton, and is currently putting the finishing touches together for her Bob Graham attempt starting at 7pm tomorrow. I've been busy this morning printing-off spare schedules etc

This evening I have to meet Linda to collect her hill-food (Linda is setting off at the same time as Stef with her own crew but using Stef's road support i.e. my friend Dave and his mate Jonny B) before Stef and I go to Dave's to take food, kit and drinks over plus pass on Linda's stuff. We're calling on the way to Dave's to see a couple of K&C friends who have offered kindly to lend us Hope headtorchs for the overnight run over leg 2

The weather forecast doesn't look too bad (showers basically) and before we know it I expect we'll be on our way to the Lakes in the morning. Jonny B is going to update a Twitter account Stef has set-up so friends, family and colleagues can monitor her progress. This can be accessed here

I'm getting increasingly excited for Stef and Linda because after some really good training over the spring and with excellent support teams in place they both have a real chance of joining the one hundred or so women on what I refer to as Morgan's list

Go gals go!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Van the man

I can't believe I've not posted any Van Morrison songs on my blog before. This demo version of Redwood Tree, which came out on the Saint Dominic's Preview album in 1972, is lovely

Jack Bloor

I went over to Ilkley Moor last night to watch the Jack Bloor race. It was a cracking night for a run out and it was good to catch up with several friends including Geoff, who had an excellent run at his first ever short fell race; Morgan, the secretary of the Bob Graham Club and various club-mates and friends from the FRA forums. Paul from our club, said I was looking fit, 'BG fit' which I took to be a good sign!

Graham Pearce held off Tom Adams to win and I think Laura Martin was first women. The results should be here soon

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Keep on movin'

Preparation for Stef's round

Stef's BG is approaching very quickly now. She has Thursday and Friday off work and will be arriving in Yorkshire on Wednesday night. I'm working on Thursday but have Friday off. Our plan is to drive up to Keswick on Friday morning, get some lunch in town after checking into the B&B (Dollywagon again), then spend the afternoon in the B&B with feet up before going over to the Moot Hall for the 7pm start. I'm hoping to do at least two legs and have had a 'mini-taper' so I'm fresh on Friday

One of the downsides of the Bob Graham is that for many folk it takes over your life! Training is very much tailored to the challenge of doing 42peaks / 65miles / 27,000feet in sub 24 hours and that can mean missing out on favourite races, and especially events with relatively little climb. It's the Jack Bloor race tonight on Ilkley Moor, which is always a terrific evening, but at best I'll be going over to watch / support. More likely I'll be getting ready for the weekend!

Monday, 9 May 2011

You've got to have freedom

I first heard this on the Mr Scruff mix album Keep it solid steel albeit a different version. It's a totally firing piece of music, guaranteed to lift the spirits, always

Seve Ballesteros R.I.P.

I saw on the BBC web-site on Friday evening that Seve's family had announced a severe deterioration in his health and then came the terrible news that he had passed away on Saturday morning. A sporting giant has left us

Friday, 6 May 2011

Jimmy Cliff

Weekend plans

After seven consecutive 10,000ft weeks culminating in 20,000ft + last week and with Stef's round starting next Friday evening I'm taking it a bit easier this week. I bought a pair of Inov-8 Mudclaw 270s while we were in the Lakes but only wore them on the day we trotted over to Coniston Old Man to watch the race and for a couple of evening strolls by the Beck, so I'd like to have one decent day out over the weekend in them, probably in Upper Wharfedale / Littondale. Apart from that it'll be birdwatching walks and chilling at home. Stef is in Devon this weekend with her family so I'll be on my own

Thursday, 5 May 2011


Davey Henderson and the Fire Engines, ace!


I nipped over to Lothersdale last night for the fell race I'd put my kit on and took a pair of Walshes in the car but decided against running and helped man the road crossing instead

Lothersdale is a splendid village on the Pennine Way and it was great watching the runners come by twice (the course is an out and back) with Russ and Charlie Marshall (the organiser of the Yorkshireman Off-road Marathon). Lapwings were overhead with curlew, skylark, house martin and swallows, and we all commented on how green the fields are at present

Well done to Jack Smith from Wharfedale on his win. Results should be out soon here

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Les Nuits


Over the last eighteen months or so I've spent some time trying to learn what various wading birds look like and being able to pick say a spotted redshank from a 'normal' redshank, or identify bar-tailed godwits as opposed to black-tails. Stef lives close to some excellent birdwatching on the Hampshire coast and this has helped along with visits to Blacktoft Sands, the Dearne Valley and the Fylde in West Lancashire. My next project is learning the calls / songs of warblers and other summer migrants, which helps enormously when looking at what often appear to be just 'SBJ', (small brown jobs)

Last night I was down in the Strid Woods again and heard chiff chaff, wood warbler (plus had fleeting glances), pied flycatcher (around half a dozen smart looking males around) and what I suspect was a garden warbler, holed up in a very thick patch of undergrowth. No doubt there were blackcap and redstart around too and they're next for the identity parade!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


Easter in Lakeland

After seizing the opportunity to extend our Easter break to Monday morning we didn't get back to Yorkshire until early afternoon yesterday. We had a great holiday helped by amazing weather. Apart from some clag on Easter Saturday we had clear skies and loads of sunshine virtually every day. I never had a map out once apart from in the cottage in the evening whilst planning runs and my waterproofs stayed in my rucksack all week!

Our training went as planned and included a a run out from Dunmail to Rossett Pike and back on leg 3, climbing up to Mickledore then going via Foxes Tarn to Scafell and back to Wasdale with Paul, nipping over to Langdale to meet Ian from Southwell, ascending Rossett Gill and going as far as Scafell with him before dropping down to the cottage via Slight Side and Moasdale and a recce of leg 1 with Yiannis, which was as good a day out on the hill as I can remember. We also ran over to Coniston Old Man to watch the fell race on Saturday

The runs totaled around 81miles with 31,000feet of climb over the break and I found out this morning I lost another three pounds in weight during the time off, to make 15 in total since New Year. Stef's BG is a week on Friday and I'm praying the good weather holds and can't wait to get back up the Lakes to support her