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Alex Conquers The Bob Graham Round

In last weeks report we got just a taste of what is involved in completing the iconic Bob Graham Round, a Lake District challenge of epic proportions.

Here, Alex Banks shares his adventure in more detail. It's a tale of determination, self belief, the value of support from friends and family and of finally fulfilling a huge ambition.

"My Bob Graham round began on a rowdy Friday night in Keswick on the Jubilee weekend. Actually, that’s not true. It really began in the early 2010s when I began my first forays into the hills and Lakeland fells. After conversations with fellow runners and some additional inspiration from ‘Feet in the Clouds’ by Richard Askwith, the Bob Graham Round seed was sown. In the intervening years ability and commitment never aligned, until now, and back to Friday night at 11.59, stood outside the Moot Hall, a long day ahead and a brilliant support crew lined up for the rest of the day. It was time to begin."

"Leg 1 - is a tour of the northern fells - Skiddaw, Great Calva and Blencathra. After jogging through the streets of Keswick we skirted round Latrigg on well worn trails. The climb up Skiddaw was a long drag but the path is wide and smooth which is good as the cloud was down to 600m with a strong wind blowing in from the East. With very limited visibility I nearly ran right past the first summit! Not the best start. However, I was confident the cloud would clear with the dawn, so just took the weather as it came. The descent and climb to Great Calva were best described as extremely boggy. In the darkness it was a definite gamble whether it would be ankle, knee or at times thigh deep! Thankfully the level of the River Caldew was low enough to comfortably cross before beginning the climb to Blencathra. I have good knowledge of the final summit of the section, so despite zero visibility, wind and slick rock the climb and descent went smoothly."

"Leg 2 - is along the ridge from Clough Head which continues south down to Dunmail Raise road crossing. With clouds still sitting low on the fells the day dawned without a sunrise but did come with good running and plenty of summits in short succession. We made good progress on the leg and got on the optimal round lines. Dropping down to Grisedale Tarn we were treated with a clearing in the clouds that showed the weather to the west was bright blue sky! A tough climb to Fairfield followed and a quick hop over Seat Sandle finished the leg."

"Leg 3 - is the longest leg and goes all the way across to Wasdale from Dunmail Raise, taking in the Scafell massif. The leg started with a steep slog up to Steal Fell, but with the sun out, we were soon at the top and heading over to the Langdale Pikes. These provided light relief in the form of some easy scrambles to gain the summits. Covering tough climbs and mixed terrain we arrived at a bustling Scafell Pike, before heading into the steep, rocky gulleys that make up the West Wall traverse approach to Scafell. The long drop down to Wasdale saw the temperature ramp up but my appetite dwindle due to some stomach issues, despite this we had a blast charging down the scree into the next support point."

"Leg 4 - loops round the Wasdale valley. Taking in the most climbing of all the legs. There is a saying that if you get out of the chair at Wasdale support point, you will make it round. I wasn’t convinced at this point though. Leg 4 was tough! The first climb is Yewbarrow, which has a well deserved reputation, but for me the following climb up to Red Pike was the real challenge. Heat, tough climbs, sublime views and great chat (not much from me at this point!) followed as we made our way round the valley skyline. A punchy climb starts the ascent to Kirk Fell. Halfway up this I started to believe I could actually do it! Getting to the summit of Great Gable strengthened that belief. I definitely had to dig deep to keep things together on Leg 4 and ultimately did lose time on my schedule. However, the reception and up beat atmosphere at the Honister support point was a real boost. Despite feeling pretty rough I remember feeling very contented at this point."

"Leg 5 - has the final three summits and a road stretch back to Keswick. I was feeling positive and my stomach settled somewhat on the long but relatively gentle climb up to Dale Head. The light took on a golden hue on the summit and it was then knew I could finish. The final two summits came quickly and the 42 peaks were done! With a final careful descent, the shuffle along the road section began. With the light waning we were treated to splendid colouration on the fells as we made our way back to Keswick. We finally turned onto the high street and Moot Hall came back into view, what a view! I climbed the stairs, touched the door, stopped the clock and I finished the Bob Graham Round."

"I can’t recommend a more immersive and satisfying (and hard!) experience and I also can’t thank my amazing support crew enough!"

Thank you Alex for sharing your inspirational story!

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