Graham's Legacy (1933 - 1975)

Part three of the history of the Lake District 24-Hour Fell Record​, reflecting the efforts of the men who were inspired by Graham's record and progressed the record in relatively quick succession once Graham's round was 'rediscovered' after the war. This part extends up to Joss Naylor's fantastic record of 72 peaks in 1975.

Contents:

 

DES OLIVER AND TED DANCE [end23, end24]

42 peaks describes the period between Bob Graham and the Heaton brothers as the "long gap". This is the perfect description for the lack of any interest in the Fell Record for nearly a quarter of a century after 1932. The combination of the war, the scale of Graham's achievement and waning memories all meant the Fell Record lay largely untouched until the 1960s. The two brief exceptions were attempts by Ted Dance and Des Oliver in 1954 and 1956, respectively.

Ted Dance set out in July 1954 to match Bob Graham’s round over a quicker time. Bob Graham was there to see him off and Dance made good progress over the first fells. However, thick mist and rain necessitated close compass work, which continually slowed his pace. He fell far behind schedule and had to end the round at the Langdales.

Des Oliver also tried for the record in the late summer of 1956. Again, bad weather led to an abandon, this time at Wasdale. Interestingly, Bob Graham had said to Harry Griffin (perhaps jokingly) that he thought that Oliver should have tried to add further fells to his record, rather than just try and improve on the time. Griffin recounted:

 

"In one way it was a good thing - for me - that Mr Des Oliver, the young Keswick mountaineer, abandoned his attempt on the Lake District fell record last Sunday when he did. I was waiting for him at Wasdale Head, and, had he reached there, I had the unenviable task of giving him a message from the record holder that he thought, to do the thing properly, the contender should add another peak or so to his list" [idn131]

 

KESWICK AC ON THE SCENE [end24a]

Date: 13 May 1960

Start / finish: Langdale [27 hours 20 minutes]

Route: Bob Graham’s record round of 42 peaks, excluding Rossett Pike

Peaks: 41

Contenders: Paul Stewart, Maurice Collett, Frank Carradus (DNF) and Raymond Lee (DNF)

 

Account

 

Similar to Chapman’s attempt on the record one month before Graham’s, four members of Keswick AC - Paul Stewart, Maurice Collett, Frank Carradus and Raymond Lee - set out in the month before the Heaton brothers arrived on the scene.

 

The Moot Hall was yet to assume its totemic BGR status and they chose to start from Langdale. Given this involved an additional valley climb (an extra 2,000 feet of ascent), they justified the exclusion of Rossett Pike from the round.

 

The group battled through poor weather and two of their number dropped out. Stewart and Collett doggedly kept on to the finish, clocking in at 27 hours and 20 minutes.

 

Three of the group (Collett, Stewart and Caradus) made another attempt later in the year, but they had to give up before completing the full round. As it happens, they did so in the company of Stan Bradshaw – who completed the Round at the age of 48. None of Stewart, Collett, Carradus and Lee would become members of the Bob Graham Club.

ALAN HEATON COMPLETES THE ROUND [end24b]

Date: 25 / 26 June 1960

Start / finish: Keswick, 10am / 8.18am [22 hours 18 minutes]

Route: Anti-clockwise round of Graham’s 42 peaks, registered with Ill Crag, Broad Crag and Grey Knotts, rather than Hanging Knotts, Looking Stead and High Snab

Peaks: 42

Contenders: Alan Heaton, Ken Heaton (DNF), Stan Bradshaw (DNF)

Support and pacing: Alistair Patten, Gerry Charnley

 

Account

 

On 25 June 1960, the Heaton brothers entered the Fell Record history books for the first but far from the last time. Their surname is the one most associated with attempts and successes on the record – by some margin. One or other of the Heaton brothers break the Fell Record on four separate occasions. Alan Heaton proved particularly prolific, being the lead contender in 10 different attempts and successes, and pacing and supporting many more.

 

It was a sweltering day when Alan Heaton, Ken Heaton and Stan Bradshaw set out from Moot Hall on a 23 hour and 30 minute schedule. Unlike Graham, they chose to go anti-clockwise. Other than that, the brothers wanted to follow Graham's route. However, their first transition to Robinson was by the road to Newlands Hause rather than via Little Town. This appears to have been because it had come to be believed that Graham had dropped from Robinson to Newlands Hause before heading to Keswick (when in fact he had come down via High Snab). This would have added one more painful mile to the round. The detour was made all the worse by the fact that someone trod on Ken Heaton's glasses at the base of Moss Force.

 

Bob Graham and Harry Griffin met them at Honister slate mine after the first leg. Graham was very happy to see someone seriously go for the record. After Heaton completed the round, Bob is reported to have said, “I’m not the least upset the record’s gone – it’s lasted much too long. This young fellow has put up a wonderful performance.” [idn142]

 

Over the next leg, the three men were forced to split up. Bradshaw was plagued by cramp and had to go slower; Ken Heaton dropped out at Black Sail Pass, in large part because of understandable poor vision. Alan Heaton was therefore forced to complete the remainder of the leg with no water or supplies, on what was a scorching hot day.

 

He managed to get himself to Wasdale but needed a 45-minute break to rest and recover. Thankfully revived, he headed up Scafell at around 5pm, completing the third leg in just under six hours.

 

At Dunmail, Heaton hardly sat down while he refreshed himself with sweet tea, tinned fruit and rice pudding. By this time, Gerry Charnley had managed to fix Ken’s glasses, so he was able to accompany his brother over the Helvellyn ridge.

 

Meanwhile, Bradshaw had continued but had dislocated his thumb on the descent of Yewbarrow (seemingly following in the footsteps of Wakefield and Thomas – both of whom managed to injure themselves on this descent). He somehow managed to get to Dunmail without a torch, but by the time he arrived he was 90 minutes behind schedule and chose to retire.

 

Returning to the Heatons, the final leg passed without further incident. Despite all the drama, when Alan returned to Moot Hall, he had beaten Graham’s record by the huge margin of 81 minutes - one of the biggest chunks ever taken out of the Bob Graham record.

KEN HEATON RAISES THE BAR [end25]

Date: 24 / 25 June 1961

Start / finish: Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale, 12 noon / 10.13am [22 hours 13 minutes]

Route: Clockwise round of Graham’s 42 peaks, plus Pike O’ Blisco, Cold Pike, Crinkle Crags, Shelter Crags, Allen Crags, Lingmell, Scoat Fell, Skiddaw Little Man, Pavey Ark and Loft Crag, excluding Rossett Pike

Peaks: 51

Contender: Ken Heaton

Support and pacing: Alistair Patten, Paul Stewart, Stan Bradshaw and Des Oliver

 

Account

 

Almost exactly a year on from his brother’s success, Ken Heaton stepped up to the plate. His objective was to extend the Fell Record rather than replicate his brother's round. Sadly, Alan was not involved due to a torn tendon.

 

Starting from Old Dungeon Ghyll, he immediately included five new fells in the Langdale area, before heading over the Scafell massif. Lingmell was added on the descent from Scafell, but in doing so Ken cut his hand on loose screen while descending Deep Ghyll.

 

Much of the round was undertaken in cloud, which led to two navigational mistakes. The first was on the descent on Great Gable, where he took the wrong track (“should have taken a bearing!” [id056], he reflected after the event) The second was when icy gales slowed progress over the Helvellyn ridge. This was the hardest part of the round – cold, hard running. In contrast, he said that he very much enjoyed the grassy jogs down Robinson and Skiddaw. 

Heading back to Langdale, he finished with a trot. At the end, he wrote: “Felt OK. Feet in good condition” [id056]. As it happens, his time of 22 hours 13 minutes meant that his 51-peak record was technically the Bob Graham Round record as well. The total rest time was 2 hours and 3 minutes.

 

Ken wore rubber cross-country shoes, a vest, a track suit top and shorts. He mostly kept nourished with fruit juices. He was supported at road crossings by Fred, Margaret Rogerson and Alan, who offered soup, tea, fruit and biscuits.

Reflecting back on the achievement, Heaton said, “I have accomplished what I set out to do and do not intend to make any further attempts on the Lake District 24-Hour Fell Record. I will give assistance to anyone making an attempt, undoubtedly by brother. Alan will have a go and, in all probability, improve on my record” [id064]. And so it proved.

ALAN RETAKES THE RECORD [end26]

Date: 4 August 1962

Start / finish: Lairthwaite Road, Keswick [23 hours 48 minutes]

Route: Clockwise round of Ken Heaton’s 51 peaks, plus Ard Crags, Scar Crags and Causey Pike

Peaks: 54

Contender: Alan Heaton

Support and pacing: Ken Heaton, Des Oliver, Gerry Charnley, George Brass, Joss Naylor (+ sheep dog)

 

Account

 

This was Alan’s second attempt of the year, having first failed in June. On that occasion, he had set out from Langdale, but very poor weather forced him to retire at Keswick.

 

The round started in poor weather and the conditions did not improve. This made for some particularly slippy rocks and he fell badly a few times over course of the day, claiming that “more than once he had nearly broken a leg” [id152].

The first fell was Skiddaw Little Man, which was reached in under 50 minutes, setting the tone for a fast leg. Alan arrived at Threlkeld an hour up on schedule, meaning one of his pacers was not in place to accompany him up Clough Head (he later caught up, after getting a lift to Legburthwaite and bolting it up to Watson’s Dodd).

 

Heaton was on Helvellyn by 10pm. There was no moon in the sky, which, which made for a tricky night, leading to navigation errors on Fairfield and over the Langdales.

 

It was a greasy wet climb of Broad Stand to Scafell. After a stop at Wasdale, he struggled on the Yewbarrow climb, later saying he nearly retired at that point (and would have done, were it not for his commitment to his supporters). But he made it through the leg and took a nip of brandy at Honister ahead of the steady climb to Dale Head.

 

After the brief leg of three Newlands fells, Alan planned to take in Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike. However, in the interests of time, these were left out and he instead went to Aikin Knott (which was later incorporated into the Fell Record as Ard Crags).

 

It took him only 36 minutes to get from Causey Pike back to Keswick, a run of around three and a half miles. By the time Alan returned to Keswick, he only had 12 minutes to spare on the 24 hours.

 

Overall, Alan had a similar amount of resting time to Ken’s round of 51 peaks – around 2 hours. That said, he took hardly any food after Wasdale and mainly got through on fruit juices.

 

He admitted afterwards: “I wouldn’t have finished it if it hadn’t been for the others… It was much worse than two years ago and I wouldn’t like to do it again” [id005].

BEARDIE'S BIG YEAR [end27]

Date: 6 July 1963

Start / finish: Keswick, 5pm / 4.35pm [23 hours 35 minutes]

Route: Clockwise round of Alan Heaton’s 54 peaks, plus Great Rigg, Sail, Crag Hill and Grisedale Pike, excluding Scar Crags and Causey Pike

Peaks: 56

Contender: Eric Beard

Support and pacing: Alan Heaton, Ken Heaton, Stan Bradshaw, Des Oliver and Joss Naylor

 

Account

 

In 1963, Eric Beard (‘Beardie’) succeeded in setting records for the Cuillin Ridge, the Cairngorm 4000s, the Welsh 3000s and some others to boot. He fitted more into a single year than most do in a lifetime. So it was perhaps no surprise that he went for the Fell Record. While he was obviously familiar with the fells, the accounts from the time suggest there was not a huge amount of specific preparation for the record; the fact he succeeded in his first attempt is testament to his fellcraft and fitness.

 

There were excellent conditions for most of the round. Starting from Keswick, he completed the first section to Threlkeld in two hours and 21 minutes. Leg two to Dunmail took less than fourhours. As he continued, he suffered a very large blister, but his progress did not seem to be affected in any way.

 

Beardie was due to make Causey Pike his final fell before heading down to Keswick. But towards the end of the round, he was “persuaded” by his pacers to include Grisedale Pike because he had time in hand [id152]. This meant that he christened the now classic descent from Grisedale Pike at the end of the round.

 

Alan Heaton – the previous record holder – accompanied him on 24 of the peaks (covering four legs).

ALAN HEATON RETURNS [end28]

Date: 24 July 1965

Start / finish: Langdale, noon / 11.34am [23 hours 34 minutes]

Route: Clockwise round of Eric Beard’s 56 peaks, plus Little Stand, Scar Crags, Wandope, Grasmoor, Sand Hill and Hobcarton Pike, excluding Fairfield and Great Rigg

Peaks: 60

Contender: Alan Heaton

Support and pacing included: Ken Heaton and Joss Naylor

 

Account

 

Two years after Beardie took the record and four years after saying he would not go for the record again, Alan Heaton embarked from the Old Dungeon Ghyll for a 24-hour round. This would be the last record to start and finish from Langdale.

 

He set off in good weather, but it was wet by the time he reached Wasdale and he took two falls on the descent off Lingmell. There was no let up in the weather thereafter. While he reached Wasdale 52 minutes up on schedule, he lost time on the next leg. In particular, he and his pacers were disorientated by mist on Kirk Fell. This was the low of the round.

 

After completing the Bob Graham leg five, he added five new fells in the Newlands and Buttermere ranges. These were not necessarily the easiest tops. On the rationale for adding Grasmoor, Heaton told Harry Griffin: “We’d decided to go into the Newlands Fells, so that obviously we had to include the biggest one.” [id152]

 

After completing the newly added fells in good time, Alan ‘bonked’ on the road run from Braithwaite to Keswick – nearly collapsing from hunger. Despite this, he reached Keswick half an hour up on the schedule.

 

By the time he was running along the Dodds, he was 35 minutes down on schedule after a slow leg over the Skiddaw massif (he hurt an ankle on Hall’s Fell, which made for difficult descent), but he made the time back on the Helvellyn ridge.

 

Heaton had intended to re-introduce Fairfield to the record, but he decided on Dollywaggon Pike that it would be safer to exclude. This was surely the right call, as he only made it back to Langdale with 26 minutes to spare.

 

Heaton stopped on a total of six occasions, totalling one hour and 40 minutes of resting time. He benefitted from 11 different pacers – luxurious for the time but a small team by today’s standards.

 

After completing, he remarked to Griffin: “I’m sure the record could still be improved on given better conditions, but I’ll not be trying again, seven times is enough.” [id152]

 

This count of seven includes three unsuccessful attempts from one year earlier (1964). I have not yet found any details about these attempts.

NAYLOR TAKES THE BATON [end29]

Date: 26 / 27 June 1971

Start / finish: Wasdale [23 hours 37 minutes]

Route: Clockwise round of Alan Heaton’s 60 peaks, plus Base Brown and Causey Pike, excluding Lingmell

Peaks: 61

Contender: Joss Naylor

Support and pacing included: Ted Dance, Stan Bradshaw, Alan Heaton and Ken Heaton

Account

Joss Naylor originally planned a joint attempt with Alan Heaton in 1970 but it was called off due to poor weather. Harry Griffin suggested that Heaton went to try it again because he was a “genuinely disappointed” that no one had taken on his 1965 record (which was set in poor conditions, therefore making it beatable) [id152]. He hoped to add Fairfield and Great Rigg to make it 62 peaks. At the time, Heaton was 42, a similar age to Bob Graham at the time of his record round.

After the aborted plan for a joint attempt the previous year, Joss Naylor set out on his own record attempt in June 1971. He was the first and only person to start and finish records in Wasdale.

 

He faced poor conditions, especially at the beginning of the round, which led to the start being delayed by an hour. After setting off up Yewbarrow, he reached Honister in less than three and a half hours. This included the addition of Base Brown between Green Gable and Brandreth.

 

He reached Keswick 34 minutes ahead of schedule with another new peak added: Causey Pike (reintroduced to the record after having been omitted by Beard in 1963 and Heaton in 1965). This time cushion more than doubled to 71 minutes by Threlkeld. Stan Bradshaw met him on Dollywaggon Pike with refreshment and he stopped at Dunmail for 30 minutes.

 

There were strong winds and rain through the night over the Dodds. Wet rocks slowed progress over the Scafell massif towards the end of the round, meaning the time cushion was very much needed. For the Scafell massif, Joss had intended to include Lingmell as the final fell. But, in the end, it was left out due to a lack of time.

 

While he slightly suffered a bit on the descent from Scafell, he was otherwise physically in good condition all the way round. Reflecting back, Naylor said “I’ve been planning to do this for four years and I wanted to do it when I was 35, I never felt weak, never had one touch of cramp, but my legs were stiffening at the end” [id152].

JOSS EXTENDS: PART 1 [end30]

Date: 24 June 1972

Start / finish: Wasdale [23 hours 35 minutes]

Route: Clockwise round of his previous record, plus Whiteless Pike and Lingmell

Peaks: 63

Contender: Joss Naylor

Support and pacing included: Stan Bradshaw, Alan Heaton

 

Account

 

This was another round in poor conditions. Indeed, the appalling weather was described as “one of the foulest weekends in local memory” [id002]. Chris Brasher said Joss Naylor must “have been the toughest runner in the world” [id152].

 

Still, he set out from Wasdale, reaching the top of Yewbarrow in only 25 minutes. This set the tone for the remainder of the round.

 

Thick cloud meant the moon was of no assistance in the dark over the Dodds. At Grisedale Tarn, Joss decided not to take on Fairfield, Great Rigg and Hart Crag (he succeeded in incorporating all three into his 1975 round of 72 peaks).

 

There were particular difficulties finding Sergeant Man summit – Joss had to find the top himself.

 

For whatever reasons, he was followed by an American film crew for the day. This included giving a two-minute segment on camera at 3.30am in Langdale valley – his support team would allow no longer.

 

Naylor lost time on the final leg over the Scafell massif when the rope was not in place at Broad Stand. The weather was too poor to solo the climb, so he went up Lord’s Rake instead. Nevertheless, he had the time to add Lingmell to the record.

 

He came in to Wasdale with 25 minutes to spare. This was the last 24-hour record to not start and finish in either Keswick or Braithwaite. While Naylor dramatically cut his rest time to one hour and 25 minutes, this is still remarkably long by today’s standards.

 

Brasher concluded: “Joss went home and had a bath; his wife, Mary, fed all the helpers, 14 or 15 of us, and then we cured our dehydration over pints and pints of beer. And then we went home and Joss went off to milk the cows. And still it rained” [id152].

HEATON'S FURTHER ATTEMPTS [end30a, end 30b]

Alan Heaton made two further and final attempts on the record in 1973 and 1974. In total, he was the lead contender in 10 attempts (counting successes and failures) over the preceding 14 years.

 

For the first, he set off from Wasdale in very hot conditions, paced by Naylor. Yewbarrow was the first peak and he joked that it felt like he had completed half the round already, such was the difficulty of the climb – “it’s the first one you do and the worst, and I generally go up in a sort of a daze.” By the night, the weather had deteriorated, bringing thick mist and torrential rain. After a bad navigational error in the Langdales, he was forced to abandon after 49 summits in 19 hours.

 

The second attempt was an anti-clockwise round beginning from Keswick (Lairthwaite Road). The intention was to add Fairfield to Naylor’s 63 and, if time allowed, Lonscale Fell. He made good time over the Buttermere, Newlands and Mosedale fells, reaching Wasdale after around eight hours.

 

Bill Smith has noted that Fairfield was a tough addition – a significant ascent during the night at a late part in the round – but Heaton is said to have felt strongly that it should be included because it was one of Graham’s 42. It would not be until Naylor's 1975 record that all the Bob Graham peaks would be part of the Fell Record.

Sadly, Alan ran short of time on the Skiddaw massif. Even having missed out Lonscale Fell, the clock ticked over 24 hours as he summitted Skiddaw Little Man. (he would have needed 30 minutes to return to Keswick). Agonisingly, he could have beaten Naylor’s time – and thus taken the record – if he had missed out Fairfield.

 

It must have been tantalising for the large group of people watching from Keswick, looking for signs of light on the hillside. Heaton reflected that “after the summit of Blencathra, I just did not get going again” [id152]. Still, he showed no outward sign of disappointment and put on a sprint finish at the finish. A class act to the very end.

JOSS EXTENDS: PART 2 [end31]

Date: 22 / 23 June 1975

Start / finish: Lairthwaite Road, Keswick, 7.07am / 6.18am [23 hours 11 minutes]

Route: Clockwise round of Naylor’s previous 63 peaks, plus Lonscale Fell, Little Calva, Great Sca Fell, Knott, Coombe Height, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Great Rigg, Rossett Pike

Peaks: 72

Contender: Joss Naylor

Support and pacing included: Eric Roberts, Dave Ellison, Pete Walkington, Alan Evans, Allen Walker, Neil Shuttleworth, Donald Talbot, Chris Brasher, Mike Pearson

 

Account

 

The round was completed in heatwave conditions, in stark contrast to the rain and wind of Joss Naylor’s previous records and attempts. Joss is said to have thrived in conditions in such conditions.

In a chance to his previous records, he chose to start in Keswick. This meant he began with the significantly expanded leg one, involving five new northern fells.

 

While he initially complained of footwear trouble, this did not seem to slow him down – he arrived in Threlkeld after three hours, with nine summits already topped. In particular, the Blencathra descent was completed in just 18 minutes, just two minutes slower than Kilian Jornet’s time on his 2018 Bob Graham record. Joss' pacers were struggling to keep up with him at this point – this would be a regular feature of the day. “He just isn’t human,” remarked one to Rogerson.

 

The Helvellyn ridge was next. Joss suffered from cramp at Dollywaggon Pike, but it was fixed quickly with nourishment from a support party stationed at Grisedale Tarn. At Dunmail, he was witnessed by a BBC Radio 4 reporter, who later wrote an article on the record.

 

After the Langdale Pikes, for the first time since Bob Graham in 1932, Naylor did not drop into Langdale and on to Pike O' Blisco. Instead, he took the Bob Graham line from Pike O’ Stickle to Rossett Pike and Bowfell. In doing, so he added Rossett Pike to the record. This and Fairfield’s inclusion meant the Fell Record now included all the original Bob Graham peaks.

 

After a seven-minute break at the top of Rossett Ghyll, he headed up Bowfell. At 7pm, Naylor was ascending Great End, his 42nd summit, 12 hours in. He gained Scafell by Broad Stand.

 

He climbed Yewbarrow in 35 minutes after a 12-minute stop at Wasdale, only a mile from his farm at Bowderdale. Leg four to Honister was essentially the Mosedale Horseshoe and had to be done at night. Honister was reached at 1am.

 

On the ascent to Dale Head, Joss apparently dropped into a walk on a few occasions, but leg five to Newlands Hause was still completed in just in one hour 17 minutes.

 

He finished in Keswick with 49 minutes to spare. At the end, he was met by a small set of supporters. After a short interview with the BBC, he was driven into Keswick for a well-earned rest. Overall, he rested for one hour and 12 minutes (of which 40 minutes at road stops and 32 minutes at ‘fell rest points’ [to use the Rogerson phrase]).

 

It was a huge leap on his previous record. That said, 42 peaks notes that the inclusion of tops such as Little Calva and Coomb Height – both over 2,000 feet but sporting limited prominence – “did not meet with universal acceptance”. This instigated a debate on the rules of the record, which culminated in stricter requirements for the inclusion of new peaks to the record.

 

Regardless, Naylor's 75 peaks was a stupendous achievement which was considered unbeatable by many. It must surely be one of his most impressive records.