This brilliant round starts and finishes at the doors of the George Fisher shop in Keswick. It takes in all the tops that can be seen from Abraham’s café window, which sits above the shop, and amounts to 30 miles and 11,000ft of ascent. The tops you cover are: Catbells, Robinson, High Stile, Red Pike, Sand Hill, Hopegill Head, Hobcarton Crag, Grisedale Pike, Eel Crag, Crag Hill, Sail, Causey Pike, Rowling End and Barrow.
My good running pal from Uni, Dan Cade, is currently living in Keswick, so I decided to pay him a visit to attempt the round. I had first heard of it last year and have been wanting to give it a shot since then. We were both feeling quite fit, and as Dan had already run it solo last month, we knew we would be able to give it a good bash. However, as the weekend approached the weather forecast was not looking promising: constant rain, poor visibility and 50mph gusts predicted on the peaks. Over a beer in rainy Keswick on the Friday night we discussed our options and whether we were mad to even attempt the round. Should we go out? What happens if lightning starts? Could we do a low level run instead in a bid to avoid the worst weather? But it seemed such a shame to drive all this way and not give it a go. So why not, let’s go for it. It doesn’t matter if we get wet because skin is waterproof right?!
After a cooked breakfast and a cuppa to warm us up we headed out into a drizzly and rather empty Keswick. The approach and climb up Catbells was quite pleasant, there was hardly any rain or wind. What had we been worrying about last night? The weather forecasts must be wrong. But as we topped out on Catbells we were hit hard by rain drops that turned to needles, and winds that tried to rip out my contact lenses. Ah well, at least the first 20 minutes were pleasant.
We dropped down into Little Town and then began the climb up to Robinson and into the clag. It’s bilberry season so I helped myself to a few as we climbed. As we dropped down into Gatesgarth we passed a few other runners clad in full waterproofs and looking pretty cold. We later found out that they were also attempting the round but bailed due to the weather. The climb up to High Stile was epic, the little streams had turned to torrents and the waterfalls gave a tremendous roar. We slightly lost the path and so had a fun and slippery scramble. The flat-ish ridge connecting High Stile to Red Pike provided our first nav challenge. Due to the thick mist, rain and wind we really had to trust the bearing even though it seemed totally wrong. The descent down to Buttermere was one of the sketchiest descents I’ve ever done. It might look like a lovely stoned staircase but when it has turned into a river it’s incredibly slippery.
The long slog up to Sand Hill and Hopegill Head was tough on the legs and the waterproofs which we were wearing weren’t really waterproof anymore and I began to feel the cold. After putting on my spare layer and chomping down some more food we both started to feel better and pushed on to Grisedale Pike. Those 50mph gusts hit us as we topped out meaning our hoods whipped and rang in our ears. Whilst clinging on to the rock, we managed a quick high five as this top marked the last “big” climb of the round. We got down as quick as we could before we were blown off. It’s funny how mad conditions like this gets the pair of us: we were singing and whooping with enjoyment!
The scramble up Eel Crag to Crag Hill and Sail came by quickly. It’s crazy how different it was up there compared to the Coledale Horseshoe race back in April. Two figures appeared out of the mist on the top of Crag Hill, these were the first people we had seen in over two hours. It was nice knowing we weren’t the only mad people out on the fells. As we dropped down to Causey Pike we popped out of the cloud and had our first view of the afternoon. The heather was in full bloom which wrapped Rowling End in a purple blanket. Feeling excited as we were nearly finished, we shared my secret supply of Kendal Mint Cake which gave us that final boost for the gentle climb up Barrow. The descent down to Little Braithwaite delivered as always, giving us the momentum to chug out the final few road miles back to Keswick.
After only seeing a handful of people all day it was quite a shock to fight our way through the crowds in Keswick centre. We wanted to shout, “get out the way, we are running against the clock!” We clocked back in to the café in a time of 7hrs and 12 minutes, knocking off 38 minutes from Dan’s solo attempt. We couldn’t believe we managed to get around in those conditions and knock that amount of time off, so we rewarded ourselves with a pub dinner and beer. What a day!
— Ollie Roberts