Tough Night on the Hills.....

The Bob Graham (BG) Round, and bad weather kicked my backside on Saturday night.

Starting in good spirits from Moot Hall in Keswick with Graeme Shaw and saying farewell to Sharron, Dennis Speck and Richard Ginn, we were on our way into diminishing light up Skidaw.

The weather forecast I had last seen had been for light winds and 80% chance of cloud free tops with nearly full moon.

As we set off Graeme informed me it was now forecast 25-30 mph winds gusting 50mph and clagged in completely. This was not good and I knew we were in for a battle, I just wasn't expecting quite such a vicious one. By the time we were 2/3 way up Skidaw we were in cloud and visibility was down to 20 yards, by the time we reached the summit we knew we were up against it, I never even saw the summit as I tried to stay on track with the GPS as darkness took away what remained of visibility and the wind tried to knock us off our feet.

Constantly the GPS showed us skewing off route and over compensating back onto it, looked like a drunken route rather than a steady progress. The rocks were wet and we were constantly slipping and sliding over their jagged edges. Graeme and I reached the fence from where we descend down a quad bike track but never even saw that as we went slower than any recce I had previously done, down the hillside towards the Cumberland Way. As we reached the path to cross at a small bridge Graeme informed me that his ankle, which he'd damaged during the Fellsman, was very sore and couldn't keep up so I lost him down the valley route to Threlkeld whilst I went on to Great Calva, where I did actually see the summit this time and descended well to the river.

It was eerie in the dark and I forded the river with water up to my knees before ascending up the back of Blencathra into worsening strong wind, again missing any path in zero visibility this time and strengthening head winds before summitting on the plaque above Halls Ridge descent. With Adrian Belton's warning or at least forebodings of such a descent ringing in my ears I had to really concentrate to descend safely to the valley floor at Threlkeld arriving in 4.15 am, 7 mins down on a 23 hours schedule and over 30 down on the 22 hour schedule I'd set myself. I had a whole set of dry clothing at Threlkeld, 3 cups of hot coffee and 3 flapjacks before continuing with a very supportive and strong Richard Ginn.

Unfortunately the weather was really taking it out of me and although we summitted Clough Head well I suffered into strong head winds along Helvellyn and the Dodds before realising that with being an hour down and the prospect of a an increasingly serious day in poor visibility over stage 3 from Dunmail Rise that it was not on to take Dennis Speck, cracking runner but inexperienced on the mountain, on an epic to Wasdale via Bowfell and Scarfell. I was kidding myself partially as well since my back has been troubling me for some time and was getting very painful, not only that but I doubt I could make up the time I had already lost and I was wet through again!

Richard made phone calls in poor conditions to prevent other lost sleeps for Ed Rawlings and Martin Skelton, although how much they appreciated a call at 5 am I' m not sure. We arrived at Dunmail Rise at 7.15 am in good spirits as we' d slowed down deliberately and were still relatively strong. Dennis was ready and enthusiastic looking like he could do anything but after explaining what it was like up top he was incredibly supportive with the decision as was Sharron.

All in all it was a terrific night's battle against the elements in what were demanding and challenging conditions. The support I had was fantastic and thanks to Sharron who puts up with my insane fell running hobby but who most of all was prepared to support me around the BG course. Also, many thanks to Dennis who drove all the way to the Lakes for little more than see a very drowned rat appear down Saddle at 7 am wearing running gear and being denied a run over some of the most beautiful scenary in the country, maybe another time Den;-) Richard for 'being there' for me when it got tough, Graeme likewise and even with a damaged ankle and illness tried to get through a miserable night on the first leg, maybe there'll be a re-match. Also to Martin who went to Keswick for the weekend with his wife anyway, in the hope to support me the last miles, sorry I couldn't provide a fitting end to the weekend's Jubilee celebrations. Finally to Ed Rawlings who had just driven back form Norwich the night before and was raring to drive up and support me on the fourth leg over Kirk Fell etc. I'm lucky to have such good friends and family.

We'll see if there's to be a re-match, I'll have to sort my back out first. I suppose it was another good recce, and next time a 2am start looks advisable to minimise the effects of the dark and not an idealistic arriving with banners waving for a pint in Keswick at 8pm which was what I had been hoping. The BG kicks many backsides, mine is just the latest in a long line. Oh, yes, I really ought to say thanks also Bethany and Ellie for patiently waiting whilst Dad gets that 'stupid run' off his chest;-)

We stayed another couple of nights camping and enjoyed long walks on benign fells in the sun with light winds.