Sunday 8 September 2013

Sharon McDonalds Bob Graham Round

23.6.2013 Sharon's Bob Graham Round

I had volunteered my services to pace/navigate on Sharon's Bob Graham attempt running legs 3 and 4. Teamed up with Joe Faulkner on Leg 3 it meant two strong runners and navigators and I had the sole navigators job on Leg 4.
With the early start of around 3:40 from Dunmail, I arrived the night before and camped just over the fence, once I had got the tent up between the heavy showers.
Up at 03:00  it was still dark with the amount of cloud cover and it was wet. I met up with Graham and Jill (road crew), and a very welcome brew. Me and Joe were handed her supplies ready for the next leg.

Leg 3 Dunmail to Wasdale

I lost track of what time it was when we saw lights coming into view off Seat Sandel. Graham once stopped the excitement as they weren't enough lights on the fell for it to be Sharon and her pacers. But not long after Sharon and her pacers appeared and as I was putting her food supplies  in my sack, I tried to get some pizza down my neck and warm tea as I was struggling to wake up properly after sleeping in my tent at the side of the road. 
 Not sure what the time was now, but it wasn’t quite light enough to run without head torches on. At this time of year it was more due to the very cloudy and wet conditions, if it was clear it would have been light. Sharon's stop was only a few minutes and we were off and started the steep climb out of Dunmail. 

Joe and Sharon Climbing up from Stake Pass past black Crag

on the summit of High Raise, still raining
The pace felt good despite the rain wind and cold. We soon reached the summit of Steel fell in a good time and were now onto the good run-able section towards Calf Crag. The wind was buffeting us along with the rain which was heavy at times. Daylight was slow to push through. The pace felt good and we soon caught the team in front of us, but they did take a wrong line to Calf Crag. Joe had a plentiful supply of pizza to my delight and both me and Joe commented on how long it was taking us to wake up properly. Once past Sergeant Man ( still in a good time) we were in the cloud and getting hit by the regular gusts with plenty of heavy showers to make it quite miserable and it was probably enough to slow the pace down. Still we moved strong and once and the next few summits of the langdales were completed, but the wet rock made some of the climbs onto Harrison and Pike-'O'-Sickle very slimy and dangerous. We  descended and headed across Martcrag Moor and the climb up to Rosset Crag. The wind and rain didn't help at this stage and once we descended to Rossett Gill there was some respite from the wind on Hanging Knots. The other two runners in front were struggling with Navigation and we once again caught them up and once we were on the top towards Bow fell it was quite cold in the wind. This next section wasn't easy, wind, rain and the rock been so slimy. It could be easy to say that some time was last here and it was totally down to the conditions. Sharon was running very strong the Navigation was spot on. Now the route from Great end towards Ill Crag was getting busy with early walkers. Soon  we were rock hopping to Broad Crag the route was alive with walkers. The rock was greasy but still we moved on and we were as high as you can in England. The top of England was soon passed, trying not to trip over the masses of litter! why people can't take it with them, dam banana skins.

Onwards down to meet the rope team at BroadStand, Graham and Pat were stood by the stretcher box commenting that broad stand was too wet and greasy to safely rope up. We didn't hang around and Joe led on for Lords Rake, which was a good choice. Not too bad to climb and it was out of most of the wind. We were soon turning onto the West Wall Traverse and exiting onto the top. Not sure how much time we lost here, if any as once again the pace was good and we were making our way to ScaFell been constantly buffeted by the wind.The last peak of leg 4 was completed and all that remained was the descent to Wasdale. This was good and I know Sharon was suffering from some knee discomfort, but still maintained a good downhill pace. It seem to take a while to get out of the clouds and see the lake and valley floor. At least at this stage the rain had more or less stopped ( one less thing to worry about). Down the gully onto the scree and and down across the field to the end of Leg 3. We were a bit down on time allowed for this leg, but under the conditions I wasn't surprised at all.

Descending down towards Lingmell Gill, first time it had stopped raining

Leg 4 Wasdale to Honister

This was another quick stop, and a chance to change into some drier kit, and a quick intake of food. Off we set for the long climb up Yewbarrow with Myself and two new pacers, Rachel and Louise. I got to the front and set a good pace up Yewbarrow and we got to the summit in good time, but was once again met with the cross wind which was quite strong. Once on the path traversing below Stirrup Crag we were on our way up the climb to Red Pike and we were soon back in the cloud. Has we got nearer the summit the cloud thickened making the need for good navigation. 

Start of Leg 4 and the climb up Yewbarrow

Once passed Red pike summit the cloud was very thick and the wind was full on in our faces. At least the rain had stopped and we were only  dampened  by the low cloud. There was a bit of pressure for the next bit crossing off the main path to hit Scoat Fell, at one point I lost the others as visibility was bad. Back together after some shouting and we hit the wall and were just off to one side of the summit of Scoat fell. Keeping the pace up and bagging Steeple. We were back on the main path and making our way towards Pillar. The cross wind was very strong now and Windy Gap really lived up to its name and made the going hard work, and I'm sure it was making Sharon having to dig deep and put the extra effort in to fight against the elements especially with been on here feet now for over 18 hours, or there about’s.

The clouds had closed in, heading to Pillar

Our Irish friends passed us once again out of the cloud and it was a good job they were still pondering at the summit of Pillar, as they were about to set off on a 180 degrees bearing. We put them on the right path and off they went in front, again! Now we had to keep the pace up descending down to Black Sail, before the climb up on to Kirk Fell. I decided to take the path up through the gully to get us out of the wind and hopefully not loose anytime. Soon up the gully with a few parts that were quite wet, which made climbing dangerously greasy. A good pace was been made and Rachel and Louise were doing a cracking Job of keeping Sharon's spirits up and fueling her up. 
Having just left Kirk fell we knew, looking at the time, that the time to complete was now very tight and we were really would  have to push Sharon and keep the pace moving on. Still in the cloud, there was no room for any navigational mistakes.
A good strong descent to Black Sail! and the push was on. A good pace up onto Great Gable and Sharon was strong, out of the wind we climbed at a good rate and at the top we were off picking our way off the complex rocky section and onto Green gable. Still in the cloud we caught up with the Irish lads,  they looked like they had given up, slowing down and just waling now. We passed them on route to Brandreth. Good running now, and at last we had a cloud free summit on this leg ( Grey Knotts). All there was left was a good descent to Honister. Looking at the clock I knew time was still tight, I decided to push ahead and get to the car park to let the next leg team to be ready to go as soon as she arrived. It was still achievable and Sharon was pushed down to the car park and straight into the start of Leg 5. Louise and Rachel did a great job of pushing, feeding, looking after Sharon, which left me to concentrate on Navigating and keeping a good pace in front. That was two legs I run with Sharon and she didn’t have it easy at all, many of runners would have packed there attempt in. 

Leg 5

Leg 5, two peaks to go, massive support for Sharon, Hindsgarth Edge

I was still feeling good and the pressure was off as a Navigater and support so I decided to join the massive group to push, and see, her on to the end. This was also good training for me, to get the miles and climbs in my legs. This was definately the best weather of the day as the cloud had lifted and the rain had stopped. Soon at Dale Head summit the finish was there beckoning us on. Time was tight but it was possible, Sharon was strong and this team wasn’t going to let her slow the pace off. Hindsgarth soon passed just one more climb and the banter was good, and before you know it we were there on peak 42, Robinsons. In front of us now was the descent off Robinsons and the not so favourite bit, the road section back to Keswick. The descent came and went with some interesting bum slides down to the track that leads to High Snab. Then the start of the dreaded road section. No shoe change at Chapel bridge and time was good, me and Joe reconed at this pace she would do it with about 15 minutes spare. This was a very good pull back, has along time ago at the bottom of Great Gable it wasn’t looking great.
‘Surround yourself by good friends, and anything is possible’
The pace and banter was great what a difference it makes when you have loads on the last leg to give you a massive moral push. Portinscale was met and passed and across the River Derwent and the nice path to Keswick. The good thing with Sharon’s early start was all the take aways etc were open and the smell was great and I was certainly ready for Fish and Chips, not sure if Sharon was!
Job nearly done, 300 meters to the Moot hall...

There it was only 100 meters away, the Moot Hall. The cheers, the clapping and the familiar touch down on the famous green doors, job done with 12 minutes spare.
She really deserved to complete in these conditions. They were always against her and there have been many runners that have failed or pulled out in such conditions.

On reflection as I have said before for anyone attempting the round before, it is to get to know the route and have pacers/ navigators who you know and are strong enough to get you round with out having to worry about having to navigate yourself. But also if a pacer/navigator has to pull out you still have the knowledge of the route to get yourself round.

Yes job done, time for chippies :)


A larger sack was required to carry Sharon's rations and my own kit and supplies, I used my OMM 15 L sac. My INOV8 315 did there job as usual good grippy sole and plenty of cushioning for distance work.

Further to Sharon's successful Bob Graham and myself getting in some good training, in a space of 8 days I ran over 135 km and over 8000 meters of climbing, just what I needed and I felt strong afterwards.

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