My body aches. It aches in a way that only two days of Bob Graham recce can induce. My quads ache. My thighs ache. Even my arms ache. But, to corrupt that hackneyed saying: 11 hours and 35 miles on the Lakeland fells will make me stronger.
Apart from the inevitable ache, the consequences of recce are twofold: one, you gain confidence in the ground you must cross; two, you appreciate a host of problems that the ground you must cross poses. The consequence of familiarisation is, therefore, the creation of a whole load of dilemmas and difficulties that you hadn’t previously considered. Ignorance really is bliss when it comes to the Bob Graham.
Nevertheless, on the plus side, I now know the second half of leg 3 – Rossett Pike to Wasdale – the Great Gable section of leg 4 and all of leg 1 a little more intimately. I felt pretty fit too. Some 18 miles over Bowfell, the Scafells and Great Gable on day one was perfectly manageable. On top of Scafell, we sat in short sleeves as a fairytale snow fell. Day two was harder, of course, but conditions on snow-speckled Skiddaw were inspirational. And, after years of going to the Lake District, I summited the marvellous Blencathra for the first time.
I’ve plenty to worry about too, like finding the summit of Bowfell in bad weather, the long descent off Scafell, the muddy sloppiness of Candleseaves Bog en route to Great Calva, the longness of the climb to Blencathra, and what proved to be an unenjoyable plummet to Threlkeld via Hall’s Fell.
But perhaps the most important revelation came between Scafell Pike and Scafell. There are three ways to gain Scafell from Mickledore: via Foxes Tarn, Broad Stand or Lord’s Rake. Broad Stand – a Moderate rock climb up often-slippery rock – was our first objective. The climb isn’t much to write home about, apparently, but the prospect of climbing Broad Stand following some 12 hours of running the Bob Graham round seems implausible. And so it was today – after less than 4 hours.
Having squeezed through Fat Man’s Agony to reach the start of the climb, I came to the platform described by Wainwright as the ‘limit’ of pedestrians’ ambitions. Indeed, it was mine. A mere pedestrian, I retraced my steps through the gully and made for Lord’s Rake, realising in these moments that I would not climb Broad Stand in my Bob Graham attempt. I was thrilled at my decisiveness.
I’d never visited Lord’s Rake, but I’d heard the stories about a mighty lump of rock that crowns the first col one comes to. If it falls, which it undoubtedly will one day, the person beneath will experience a fair bit of discomfort. The rock was obvious from the bottom of Lord’s Rake: a giant fang balanced across two walls. Lord’s Rake was a slippery, very steep conveyer belt of scree. I enjoyed it immensely, despite the occasional rock rapping my ankles. A pool of blood decorating a rock near the col reiterated this was a place worthy of respect.
Soon, however, we were on open hillside, trundling happily towards Scafell’s rocky crest where – minutes later – we would sit in wonder, first at the spectacle of Wast Water, then at the magical sprinkling of snow flakes all around us.