Wherever ‘Man meets Mountain’ the spirit of challenge manifests itself in various ways. In the English Lake District walkers and runners have pitted themselves against the fells for well over a hundred years. While climbers found the steepest rock on which to make their mark, for the athletes it was distance and the linking together of the high mountains which provided the lure.
1864 marks the first recorded long distance Round; the Revd J M Elliott of Cambridge ascending Scafell Pike, Scafell, Great End, Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Pillar and Steeple, Red Pike and Stirrup Crag in 8hours 30 minutes, from Wasdale. Six years later Thomas Watson from Darlington achieved the first Round of all the 3000 footers, and over the final 30 years of the Victorian era the boundary was gradually pushed back to 70 miles and 18,000 feet in 22 ½ hours by S.B.Johnson of Carlisle.
By then the challenge was pretty much what it is today; to run up and down as many Lake District hills in 24 hours as possible. Over the next 30 years the 24 Hour Fell Record was extended by a number of individuals before Bob Graham extended it to the remarkable 42 Peaks, a record which was not equalled until 1960, when Alan Heaton ran over a slightly different 42 summits in 22 hours and 18 minutes, breaking Bob Graham’s record by over an hour.
The years since Ken Heaton (Alan’s brother) set a new record of 51 peaks in 1961 have seen a series of extraordinary achievements across the Lakeland fells. Having rested for many years with the legendary Wasdale fell runner Joss Naylor, the Men’s 24 Hour Fell Record now lies with Mark Hartell of Macclesfield Harriers, who topped an amazing 77 mountains in 1998, taking the honour from friend and clubmate Mark McDermott. Three years before that Anne Stentiford stormed over 62 peaks to a Womens record, and the Graham Round has been done several times in winter and the Double (twice round non-stop) has been done eight times!
And the Bob Graham Club itself? Its role is to promote safe long distance traverses of the fells and its main activity is the administration of the Round itself. Applicants must register with the Membership Secretary before an attempt and must be accompanied at every summit for verification purposes. It is one of the traditions of the Club that existing members will assist their aspiring colleagues by ‘pacing’ their attempts.
In January 1971 a Reunion Dinner was held at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Langdale, attended by those associated with the Lake District 24 Hour Fell Record. Fred Rogerson proposed the formation of the Bob Graham Club, membership limited to that small band of athletes who had completed the 42 Peak Round. Fred himself took up the invitation to be chairman of the new Club.
In 1998 Fred retired after an amazing 27 year stint as chairman, doyen and nurturer in chief of the Club, membership having grown from 8 at the end of 1971 to over 1000. Fred and his wife Margaret went to extraordinary lengths to support runners attempting to join the club. Although his own running days were well in the past, Saturday evenings in the 'season' would see the Rogerson camper van parked up at Dunmail Raise, or one of the other three road crossing points, so that encouragement and support could be offered freely. Fred enjoyed cult status amongst the membership. In particular his ‘off the cuff’ speeches at Club Dinners were the stuff of legend! A smattering of Westmerian dialect assisted the comprehension.
The Bob Graham Club simply would not exist without Fred and Margaret Rogerson, and we acknowledge their contribution. The Club Reunion Dinner and Dance is now held every second October at the Shap Wells Hotel. This is the occasion for new members to receive their Certificates and for existing members to relive their former glories!
The Club doesn’t exist to make money. Any ‘profits’ generated from the Reunion Dinners and the sale of ’42 Peaks’ are given to the Calvert Trust and Bendrigg Lodge, two charities local to the Lake District which foster and encourage the enjoyment of outdoor activities by disabled people.
This then is the Bob Graham Club. As Fred Rogerson would say, the camaraderie of the fells is second to none. This is not some elite
clique but a friendly bunch of like-minded individuals who revel in the freedom and beauty of the fells. You are most welcome to join
us - if you are able!
Selwyn Wright - Chairman