August 24, 2022

Bob Graham Round – Matt Nichols

On Saturday 20th of August starting from the Moot hall in Keswick at 7:00am, I began my Bob Graham round attempt. With nerves and excitement overwhelming me, I posed for a few photos with my support runners for leg 1; Ian Hawley and Andrew Lamb. We hit Skiddaw summit 5 minutes ahead of schedule even with the wind building momentum, as the rest of the leg unravelled without any problems and deciding to go straight off Blencrathra down Halls Fell, we got down to Threlkeld now 20 minutes up.

With a standard 10 minute break, I started leg two with Luke Beresford and Craig Kingston. We soon realised after climbing up onto Clough Head that the wind had picked up considerably. With 50plus mph head/side gales mixed in with rain, this was going to be a lot tougher.  As we made good time still gaining valuable minutes with every summit, it wasn’t until the start of Helvellyn where the wind really became a issue. After passing a group of walkers cowering behind a cairn in full winter gear and us in shorts and a thin water proof coat, we got to the trig with a short moment being taken to admire the view of … low cloud.

Craig’s knowledge of the route was great and completely put my mind at rest that we were always on the best lines even in zero visibility. We made our way to the end of leg two and the start of leg 3 with Steel Fell at the front of my mind. I was greeted with a small crowd of happy and friendly faces but most importantly Becky Nichols who was on car support and in charge of everything behind the scenes. Without her especially, none of this would have been possible. I was handed a warm meal, cup of green tea (I think) and a dry pair of socks and shoes.

Leg 3 was supported by Dave Veryard and Tim West. We started the ascent of Steel Fell and instantly appreciated dry footwear. Once again the confidence of Tim’s knowledge of leg 3 was great. We crossed off a few more peaks and waded through  typical Lakeland bogs at this point we had started to eat into the time I had gained on the original timetable (22 hours). Dave was great at giving me food and water as the miles dragged on. We finally got to Rossett pike, the half way point of the whole route and said goodbye to Dave as his plan originally was to drop down to Langdale and be picked up by his wife.  Tim and I then made the long and difficult climb onto Bowfell and eventually Scafell and Scafell pike.

I had underestimated the time it would take to tick these two peaks off the list and not eaten enough. Coming down the side of Scafell pike, which is very steep and covered in shale and slippery grass, I had fallen a few times and generally started to feeling a little beat up we got down to Wasdale head. Feeling hungry and ready for bed, I was once again welcomed by the support team which was now Becky and Ian. I was fed, hydrated and a change of clothes all in a warm car and was ready to start another hill I had been dreading … Yewbarrow. Anyone that knows this hill or has walked up the path the Bob Graham route takes will know it’s a very steep and overwhelming lump.

For the next 42 minutes, Ian and Sue Nige Jeff accompanied by by their  collie, guided me up the trod to the summit of Yewbarrow and somehow managed to claw 7 minutes back. Getting on for 9:30 at night we had to turn the head torches on. The next hour or so was the only part of the route I really felt off but by the time we returned from the out and back to Steeple ( one of my favourite peaks in the day light) I had bounced back.

Running around on top of Lake District mountains in low cloud and in the pitch black makes for a interesting night and sometimes having to stop and workout where the path had disappeared to or even the best way off a peak was and the fact by this point I only had one speed left in the legs which was only slightly faster then walking we had lost almost all the time I had gained throughout the day. I enjoyed having Nigel’s dog with us and seeing how fast and nimble he was on the treacherously slippy rocks. We made our way down to the car headlights at The National trust Honister car park.

The last pit stop of the day Nigel had told me he was in no fit shape to carry on with me onto the final leg. I nominated Ian once again to run with me as there wasn’t another option and not really taken the time to really ask him how he felt. We set off up dale head and soon realised I had asked too much from Him.

The next part of leg 5 I was concerned for his safety and we paused for a nibble of a bounty bar and a chance to put a quilted jacket on we made our way down to Newlands church. At the last pit stop I had discussed with Becky and Sue to meet us at the Newlands church and pick Ian up then to follow me back to the Moot hall along the road. It wasn’t until I got about a mile away from the finish line I realised I was actually going to finish this unbelievably difficult mental and physical challenge. With the original schedule set at 22 hours I knew I had to push on with the last section of tarmac and finishing in a total time of 21 hours and 57 minutes arriving back at the Moot hall for 4:57am.

People who haven’t done the Bob Graham before will never truly understand how welcoming the market place really is and the sound and sight of friends and family cheering you on to touch the door at the top of the stairs. I would like to thank everyone who wished me luck and gave me advice. But I’d truly like to thank the people who took time out of there busy lives some of which had never even met me before I really couldn’t have done it without you and lastly thank you Sue for helping Becky toward the end of the day with the recovery of Ian and showing her the location of Newlands church.