Numbers of the Round

This is a chapter from 'A Tribute to the Round', a short book on the Bob Graham Round, written for charity and available here

Bob Graham’s gravestone in St Andrew’s Church, Stonethwaite, pays tribute to his record and is inscribed with four major statistics: 42 peaks, 23 hours and 39 minutes, 32,000 feet and 130 miles. The first two are solid, the third is in the right ballpark but the fourth is a prominent example of the exaggeration which often accompanied reports of historical rounds.

Despite technology, there is still no agreed distance for the round. Modern-day electronic mapping produces distances around 62 miles, but contenders’ GPS traces tend to hover around 66 miles (106 kilometres) with 26,500 feet of ascent (8,100 metres). These summary numbers mask the variation caused by the different route choices a contender may make. The figures below give a sense of scale to how this can fluctuate. Reflecting the disparity between theoretical and actual distances, the calculations are based on two-dimensional mapping with an allowance for continual ups and downs; they are therefore an attempt to measure the distance travelled by a person rather than a satellite.

If one could travel direct between summits, across any form of terrain, the shortest round possible is around 56 miles (90km). This would entail 30,600 feet of ascent (9,300m). But going as the crow flies involves trespass, awful lines and travelling over water – not viable for most.

Of the clockwise route options described in this book, the shortest round is 64½ miles (104km) with 26,500 feet of ascent (8,100m). The longest reasonable round is 69½ miles (112km), with a similar degree of ascent. In terms of climbing, the minimum gross ascent that the options can deliver is 25,600 feet (7,810 metres) – a ‘saving’ equivalent to the height of Latrigg.

However interesting, the only sensible conclusion to draw from this analysis is that there is nothing about the Bob Graham Round which can be reduced to bare numbers, save for 42 and 24.