For years I’d heard talk of the Bob Graham Round, and I was intrigued by it. I knew that it was impossible for me to travel 66 miles and climb 42 peaks (27,000 ft of ascent) in 24 hours. So I decided to do it my way, take it much slower and stay overnight in hostels along the way.
Initially I thought three days would do it, but further planning with a special Harvey’s map of the Bob Graham Round led me to choose to try it in 5 days. For me this was a solo navigational exercise so I would be moving slowly, walking not running, and when I applied Naismith’s rule of 5 km/h and 10 mins for every 100 m the 5 days were all going to take me between 6 and 8 hours which seemed long enough in March.
Accommodation was the next issue. Libby at Denton House Independent Hostel in Keswick was very helpful as I changed my plans and I based myself there at the start, doing Day 1 as a round trip from the Blencathra Centre car park. That included Skiddaw, Great Calva and Blencathra. Due to the river being in spate I couldn’t cross it, so settled for a return via Skiddaw House Independent Hostel and a climb as far as the view on Blencathra before returning to Denton House to join my daughter for a pasta dinner and relax in the sitting room there. There’s plenty of space at Denton House and I was very grateful to Libby for letting me leave the car there all week. When I passed Skiddaw House I thought what a magical venue it would make for my 60th birthday party celebrations next February. As well as Skiddaw House alternative accommodation can be found at White Horse Inn Bunkhouse at the foot of Blencathra
On Day 2 I walked from Threlkeld to Dunmail Raise via quite a few summits, and stayed in Raise Cottage, a charming B&B at the foot of Grisedale beck. An excellent alternative would be the independent hostel at Thorney How which I passed the next morning. I spoke to a resident walking up at Easedale Tarn who was staying for 4 nights B&B for £70 and was delighted with it, telling me it was full.
On Day 3 I diverted from the Bob Graham route as the weather was very foggy and I didn’t fancy the steep ascent up Steel Fell and the tricky navigation on the top, so opted for a simpler longer route via the pretty Far Easedale valley which allowed me to enjoy the spring like weather of the lower fells, gorse and primroses, and a walk out of the cloud for some of the day. I was soon up in the mist crossing to Angle Tarn and down to Sty Head, and thence to Wasdale Head, avoiding many of the summits due to the weather. Unfortunately the YHA hostel here was full or closed and I don’t especially recommend the Wasdale Head Inn; although a warm place and a shower and hot food were appreciated it wasn’t friendly and the food wasn’t special. But there’s little choice here. I could have stayed at Murt Camping Barn but as I wasn’t carrying bedding and provisions this wasn’t an option for me.
The next day I abandoned my ideas of some of the peaks, settling for Black Sail Pass, again in cloud, Kirk Fell, Brandeth and Grey Knotts before dropping down Seatoller Fell to the YHA hostel in Borrowdale. YHA Honister hostel was on the route but full or closed. I was very happy with Borrowdale which was full of excellent staff and interesting people having adventures in the hills. Alternative accommodation in the Borrowdale valley can be found at Hawse End Centre, Portinscale or for groups at High House Independent Hostel in Seathwaite.
I returned to the friendly Denton House where I met someone who’d just arrived about to recce Section 1 and 2 for the weekend with a view to doing the round in July. Good luck to him and the others who attempt it this year. I was very happy with my 5 day, 20 summit solo “round”.
The whole of the Lake District is dotted with independent hostels, bunkhouses and camping barns. Find out more about them all here.