( I have included Brians report, as I admire his efforts and determination at completing the B.G. )


by Brian Leathley

Not having taken up fell running seriously until I was 60, the thought of attempting a 'BG'never entered my head, but chance remarks at the Kinnside race in 1995 started things moving towards such an event.

Firstly, Joss Naylor asked me if I had thought about attempting his Lakeland Challenge which was for vets of 50 years plus. I replied that I had never attempted anything like that before but would think about it ( 45 miles? 16,000ft? Cor.. ) I discussed it with Colin Henson who told me that he had completed it when he was 60. At that time I was 64. He thought that I could do it, " After all" , he said, " You have done your BG" . He was surprised when I told him that this was not the case. He then volunteered to help me with Joss's challenge.

The following year (1996 ) I got a number of Clayton friends to help me and did one or two recc's with Don Barrton who at the time was the most recently successful Clayton challenger. The helpers included Will & Anne-Marie Grindley and Don Talbot and it was whilst traversing the Dunmail to Gable section on the day of the challenge that Don Talbot said that in 1997, when he would be 65, he would attempt anther 42 peak round on June 13th which would be exactly 65 years to the day that Bob Graham completed his celebrated round. In what to me seemed a very joking remark, Will Grindly suggested that I should accompany Don as I would also be 65. To my surprise and shock. Don agreed with the suggestion! At the end of Joss's Challenge, Colin Henson & Jeff Harrison who had helped me most of the way, both thought I would be capable of completing a Bob Graham successfully.

A few weeks later, in the Cemetery Hotel in Accrington after a Clayton "training night", Don & I started to make plans for the attempt the following year ( 1997 ) . Part of the training would involve a mid- week full-day out ( usually on the Lakeland fells ) to get some hill climbing practice over long periods. These turned out to be most enjoyable and we were often joined by some of the legendaty early Clayton Bob Graham men, who like Don & my self were retired and able to ' play out' during the week.

Not many weeks before the attempt, Don suffered a couple of setbacks to his training plans and was not really fit enough on the day & pulled out on Helvellyn on the second section of the clockwise attempt. I managed to get to the top of Kirkfell before I submitted, almost certainly due to lack of sustenance as a result of inexperience of such a long event.

After a reasonable run in the Wasdale fell race ( five weeks later ) I felt fit enough for a second attempt at the end of July. After going well up to Wasdale Head, a few mistakes were made, but despite bad weather. I managed to complete the round - unfortunately seven minutes outside the 24 hours limit! Although disappoited, I still felt that I could get round within the limit but realised that on the day, everything would have to go well, and that included the weather.

An attempt early in June of this year ground to a halt at Grizedale Tarn, when thick mist, darkness and heavy rain put me an hour behind schedule. This was despite the valiant efforts of Wendy Dodds acting as both navigator and ' donkey '.

Colin Henson then kindly invited me to join the Dark Peak club attempt, two weeks later on the 19th, when six of us (including myself) would make the attempt. Luckily, the awful June weather improved just in time for us and everything went smoothly right from the start at 7 p.m. with superb views all the way up Skiddaw.

The routes across to Gt Calva & Blencathra were variations on the ones that I had made on earlier attempts but good progress was made followed by a fast descent on Hall's Fell ridge. It became dark on the way up to Clough Head but the clear sky all night made for a good crossing of the Dodds and the Helvellyn ridge. By the time we were leaving Fairfield it was just about daylight.

After the second feedstop at Dunmail, the six of us were beginning to spread out a bit; the younger ones leaving me behind somewhat. This was no problem since it avoided a queue on the rope section up Broad Stand.

The stop at Wasdale Head was only ten minutes, unlike the half hour I mistakenly took last year! I was soon up Yewbarrow with Colin Henson and Jeff Harrison. The climb seemed to go on for ever and I thought that I might be slowing down too much but the pacers said I was OK. and they kept the food and drink coming to me all the way to Honister.

To avoid anther ' near miss', it was suggested that I went in and out of Honister without a rest. I did, however, sit down for a few minutes before I set off up to Dalehead with Don Talbot, who took over from Colin. The weather finally gave up on us as we approached the summit of Dalehead and gale force winds and heavy rain replaced the near perfect weather which we had experienced up to that point. Fortunately the rain stopped just about the time we reached the lastpeak, Robinson, number42! There were just a few nasty moments around the big step off robinson and then it was down to the stream and past Newlands church to the car park where the fell shoes were exchanged for road shoes.

When Don told me that I had an hour and twenty minutes to get to Moot Hall, I realised that I was going to make it this time. After the mile or so of downhill, I found it difficult to run due to stiffness in the thigh muscles but I was able to manage a good marching pace. Mike Lee of Clayton & Colin Henson joined us near Portinscale where Fred Rogerson took a photograph as we passed through the gate ( missed it last year! ) onto the footpath towards Keswick.

As we turned the final corner towards the Moot Hall the road seemed to be blocked with people clapping and cheering. All the Dark Peak supporters were there plus Stan Bradshaw and, of course, Fred Rogerson. I took a deep breath and ran the last 100 yards or so.

At the age of 66 I had made it at last, coincidentally in the same time as Bob Graham himself - 23 hours 39 minutes, sixty six years before.

It was a nice touch that Stan Bradshaw was also there to congratulate me, twenty one years after he himself completed it ( for the third time ) at the age of 65.

Many thanks are due to all those at Clayton & Dark Peak who helped me, especially don talbot and Colin Henson.

Brian Leathley. June 1998

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