Pioneers (1864 - 1904)

Part 1 of the history of the Lake District 24 Hour Fell Record​, broadly from Elliott (the first commonly-reported record walk) to immediately before Wakefield (the first to codify the record in the broadest of terms). These men - for they were singularly male - were the "pioneers".

Note: [idnx] refers to newspaper references; [idx] refers to all other sources. Full references are available in the Research Hub

Note: [Endx] notation refers to the "endeavour code", essentially a unique identifier for each record attempt or walk. A full reference table will soon be available. 

Sections:

INTRODUCTION

There can be no precise point at which people decided to climb mountains. What I suppose we are seeking to record are those who sought to climb peaks for no other purpose than to test physical endurance, either against themselves or others. Mountain prowess - or a 'fell-hard' quality in Cumbrian terms - will have always been respected and so it should be no surprise to learn that it has been demonstrated ever since people made their homes in the uplands.

The "discovery" of the Lake District by sublimity-seeking tourists of the late eighteenth century, followed by the train-facilitated Victorians with newfound leisure time, would have undoubtedly led to non-natives wanting to test their mettle. The Lake District fells provided opportunity for all, as the class constraints of continental alpinism did not apply. And so, over time, a culture developed of celebrating mountain feats. It started with feats of 'pedestrianism' but evolved in parallel with that of the earliest fell-racing (usually over short courses by locals) and proto-climbing (centred around the Wasdale Head).

I term these the pioneers, because they took the record from a place of nothingness to a place where the main parameters and ways of achieving it were all defined. 

THE FIRST PIONEERS [end0]

The earliest recorded walk of multiple summits for the purpose of mountain achievement alone.

Summary

Date: July or August 1832

Start / finish: Not known, but assumed as Keswick [18 hours]

Route: Not known, but to include Scawfell, Helvellyn and Skiddaw

Distance and elevation: 44-47 miles [depending on route between Scawfell and Helvellyn], 12,800 ft of ascent

Peaks: 3

Contenders: Harrison Walker (HWA); Joseph Clark (JCL)

Account

So far, the earliest record I have found relates to a walk undertaken by Harrison Walker and Joseph Clark, both residents of Keswick, in 1832. The pair captured Scawfell, Helvellyn and Skiddaw (i.e. the three highest peaks in the district, with the notable - and rather odd (more on this below) - exception of Scawfell Pikes and its main massif). The media of the day played a relatively straight bat in comparison to some of the spuriously superlative descriptions of subsequent endeavours. Drawing on the Carlisle Journal, the Morning Advertiser notes: "[that] considering the difficulty of ascending and descending these stupendous mountains, it may be considered a most arduous task" [idn62]. Indeed, we might go further and, in the absence of further evidence, note this as the inaugural Lake District 24 hour fell record - three peaks in 18 hours.

I have found no record of the route chosen but we can put together an illustrative sketch, partly based on the routes of their successors (which give some clue as to the predominant ways of the age). Assuming they began in their native Keswick, a reasonable route to Scawfell could be via Seathwaite, Styhead Tarn and Lord's Rake. Perhaps by way of Foxes Tarn, the pair wended through the Scawfell Pikes massif and down to Angle Tarn, before reaching Greenup Edge and heading down to Wythburn. (Alternatively, they might have headed to Langdale for sustenance, then on to Grasmere.) From there to Helvellyn, descending the traditional white stones route to Thirlspot, then north up the drove road to Keswick. All that remains is a there-and-back to Skiddaw, presumably by the soon-to-be tourist route. All told, this maps out around 45 miles, not far off the "computed distance" (by the Victorian press) of "about 50". Like many future records, the route comes within spitting distance of a number of tops which would be later be claimed by future record-holders but omitted because the main object was to gain the most notable peaks, not the greatest number of tops.

Why Scawfell and not Scawfell Pikes? Based on limited evidence, I can surmise only that it was deemed a more worthy peak. The newspaper article notes the hills chosen were the "three highest... excepting the Pikes" so all were cognisant of the fact Lakeland's highest mountain was excluded (it was certainly known by that the time that the Pikes were taller, as we know from Jonathan Otley's guides and the notes of Dorothy Wordsworth). Perhaps the walkers' affections for Scawfell's top were undimmed by its slightly subsidiary height. Either way, if the pair did indeed start at Keswick, it would have taken some effort and willpower to gain Scawfell but not the Pikes as well. 

ELLIOTT'S HORSESHOE [end1]

Summary

Elliott's horseshoe round of 8 peaks is commonly known as the "first" Lakeland record. If the record is couched in terms of peaks gained, it is a record that stood for some decades. However, if endeavours are ranked by distance and ascent then it was far from a unique feat of the time.

Date: 1864

Start / finish: Wasdale Head [8 hours 30 minutes]
Route: Scawfell, Scawfell Pike, Great End, [Styhead Pass], Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Pillar, Steeple, Red Pike, Stirrup Crag / Yewbarrow

Distance and elevation: 15.5 miles, 8,300 ft of ascent

Peaks: 9 [including Stirrup Crag]

Contenders: Rev. Julius Marshall Elliott (JME)

Account

Reverend Julius Elliott is commonly associated with the "first" Lakeland record, a Wasdale circuit of 9 fells. It was a very different walk from the other pedestrian endeavours as it was the first to focus simply on the greatest number of peaks (regardless of their stature or geographic dispersal around the Lake District.

The Reverend's walk clearly broke the peak record and would be the "official" line in the sand for some time. And yet it is hardly noted in the newspapers of the day. My understanding is it was originally recorded in the Visitors' Book of the Wasdale Head Inn, and many of those same achievements were done with no fanfare. [It was considered more as a climber's walk than a pedestrian endeavour]

Setting off from the Wasdale Head Inn, he took in Scawfell, Scawfell Pike, Great End, Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Steeple, Pillar, Red Pike and then there is a point of interest. Records at the time note his final "peak" as Stirrup Crag, which is a rocky top slightly (30 feet) below the altitude of Yewbarrow summit (and half a mile distant). I am prepared to class this as a summit given it the scramble required, which a climber like Elliott would have enjoyed.

Elliott was to die in 1869 in a climbing accident in the Alps.

Notes

  • Smith [p.89, id18], Hooper [id39]

THREE PEAKS FROM LANGDALE​ [end1b]

Summary

Date: 1865

Start / finish: Dungeon Ghyll New Hotel (3am; 8.30pm) [17 hours 30 minutes]
Route: Scawfell, [Lodore], Skiddaw, [Legburthwaite], Helvellyn, [Grasmere]

Distance and elevation: 47 miles; 12,700 ft of ascent

Peaks: 3

Contenders: J Bennett (JBE); Fleming Coward (FLC); and Thomas Grisedale (TGR)

Account

The next recorded pedestrian endeavour came the following year when in 1865 three men set off from the New Dungeon Ghyll - J Bennet (a guide of Mackereth's Hotel), Fleming Coward (also a guide) and Thomas Grisedale (a Langdale shepherd).

 

After departing 3am they managed to fit in three civilised meals (at the Lodore Hotel, the King's Head, and the Red Lion in Grasmere, respectively), in the process of taking in Scawfell at 5am, Skiddaw at 11am and Helvellyn at 5pm. Veracity was ensured by depositing a signed note on each peak, requesting the finder return it to the New Dungeon Ghyll.

They probably didn't appreciate the event, but they beat the 'pedestrian' bar set by Harrison and Walker by half an hour, clocking in at 17 hours and around 30 minutes.

The trio ensured their feat could be verified by leaving a note on each mountain. The newspaper records who found each note. It is unclear whether they agreed to retrieve the confirmation slips or whether they were simply the first people to find and then return them.

For unknown reasons, Grisedale chose to add a further peak, "[running] Grisedale ran round Pike How with a fresh man, and returned at 10pm, thus having walked at a rapid rate almost continuously for nineteen hours" [id52]. Given this was a return trip within the 24 hours, this addendum technically the number of peaks gained to four.

A SPORTSMAN FROM DARLINGTON​ [end2]

Summary

Date: June 1870

Start / finish: Keswick (12.55; 19:45) [18 hours 40 minutes]

Route: [Seathwaite], Scawfell Pike, [Stake Pass], Helvellyn, [St. John's in the Vale], Blencathra, Skiddaw

Distance and elevation: 43 miles and 11,500 ft of ascent

Peaks: 4

Contenders: Thomas Watson (TWA); Wilson (WIL)

Account

With the exception of Elliott, the main men of the moment had been native to Lakeland. But we now come to the first record of a tourist, albeit far from the average tourist. Thomas Watson of Darlington appears to have been a polymath of sports involved in cricket, rugby, athletics and of course fell-walking at the highest level. It is testament to his achievements that his obituary in 1935 does not suggest his Lake District fell record was his most impressive achievement.

At the age of 30, accompanied by a Borrowdale guide named Wilson, Watson set off from Atkinson's Lake Hotel in Keswick at 2am in June 1870 to gain Scawfell Pike, Helvellyn, Blencathra and Skiddaw. The reported objective was to capture the 3,000 ft peaks of the Lakes. Despite the season, the weather was a major factor: the summit of Scawfell Pike was reached in "a most unwelcome snow-squall" [id16] and the ascent of Skiddaw "had to be be done on the hands and knees". ​As one correspondent notes, "How he would enjoy his slippers on regaining his hotel!" (although the credibility of the author is somewhat undermined by the assertion that Blencathra is snow-capped nearly all year) [idn80].

Similar to Bennett et al 1865, corroborative evidence was left at the top of each summit by means of letters in bottles. On each letter was a request for it to be posted back to Watson.

A note on transitions: Keswick to Scawfell Pike is assumed to be on roads to Seathwaite, then Stockley Bridge, Styhead Tarn and the corridor route. The journey from the Scawfell range to Helvellyn presents an interesting route choice. The most direct is probably via Angle Tarn, Stake Pass, heading over High Raise to Greenup Edge, then heading down the Wythburn valley where, according to Wainwright, "the ground is very, very wet." I assume this was used on a number of record walks. From Helvellyn, the Dodds were eschewed and walkers tended to make a path to the King's Head at Thirlspot (presumably for refreshment) and then up St. John's in the Vale. I assume Blencathra to Skiddaw was reached via Skiddaw House.

"High Raise seems to have been included" [idn35]

JENKINSON OVER-REACHES [end5]

Summary

Date: 17 June 1871

Start / finish: Keswick (Midnight; 12.55am) [24 hours 55 minutes]

Route: [Styhead Tarn], Great Gable, [Esk Hause], Scawfell Pike, Bowfell, [Angle Tarn], [Greenup Edge], [Wythburn], Helvellyn, [Thirlspot], [Threlkeld], Blencathra, [Skiddaw House], Skiddaw

Distance and elevation: 47 miles and 13,900 ft of ascent

Peaks: 6

Contenders: Henry Irwin Jenkinson (HIJ)

Pacers: an unnamed friend (until Scawfell Pike); two Langdale shepherds (around Bowfell); two men from Threlkeld

Account

1871 brings the first detailed description of a record walk attempt. Henry Jenkinson made his Lakeland name as the author of one of the first detailed guidebooks targeted at Victorian tourists – A Practical Guide to the English Lake District. It is said that he covered over 4,000 miles on foot between October and May in preparation for his guide, putting him in the same class as the eponymous Alfred Wainwright. The guide was published in 1872 so we can speculate that, after a brief respite (the modern-day term would be a 'taper'), he embarked upon his attempt. AW would never have approved of record walks for the sole sake of testing one’s endurance. But in Jenkinson's defence, he was clearly a modest man as he made no mention of his walking feats in his book, despite entitling a chapter: “How best to spend a flying visit to the Lakes”.

 

He was a Yorkshireman, “of middle height, has no surplus flesh to carry, is well and compactly built… and very lithesome and active”… “there is nothing in his outward appearance to incline to to think that he could perform such all but superhuman feats” [idn75]. Palmer notes "his action on the level was easy, while his dexterity among srees and boulders was something to marvel at" [id16, p.72]

 

Jenkinson set out at midnight on 17 June from Keswick. Heading anti-clockwise, he reached the summit of Great Gable between 4am and 5am. He then turned to Scawfell Pike, presumably by way of the corridor route. The way to Bowfell was shrouded in mist and Jenkinson’s companion thought better of perseverance and decided to head back to Keswick - they had become lost in oft-confusing Esk Hause area "for about three hours" [id36, p.124]. Miraculously, Jenkinson came across two Langdale shepherds who seemingly agreed to guide his second attempt on Bow Fell - "for a liberal pecuniary consideration" [idn71]. His remaining summits were Helvellyn, Blencathra and Skiddaw, which he took on following an hour's rest at Wythburn. On his way to the final peak he was "overcome by sleepiness at the back of Skiddaw having to rest for a while at a gamekeeper's cottage" [id36 p.124].

"High Raise apparently included in this round" [idn35]

He arrived back a tantalising 55 minutes after midnight and would have surely made it within the cut-off had weather not intervened after Esk Hause. We know Jenkinson meant to complete his walk within the day as it is recorded as being his “express intention [to visit] the summits of six of the highest mountains in England within a period of twenty-four hours” [idn53]. It is worth noting that none of the many newspaper reports count the exploit as nothing but an unmitigated success, demonstrating that the seminal parameter of the Lake District 24 Hour Record was yet to become firmly established.

Instead, it was noted as “a feat hitherto unprecedented in the annals of English mountaineering” [idn44] – and it was. All told, the route is calculated as [45] miles and [just over 13,000] feet of ascent. [Relative to the 70 miles and 13,200 feet of ascent recorded in [idx]]

It says much of customs of the day, and how much has changed since, that it was also noted – with utmost sincerity and admiration:

“The whole of this remarkable journey… was accomplished without the use of wine or spirits; a mixture of beer and lemonade, only three times during the course of 24 hours, taking the place of the water afforded by the mountain streams on the way” [idn71 / idn59]

PILKINGTONS ON THE SCENE [end3]

Summary

Date: 22 August 1871

Start / finish: Dungeon Ghyll (2.30am; 11:40pm) [21 hours 10 minutes]

Route: Bowfell, Scawfell Pike, [Styhead Pass], Great Gable, [Keswick], Skiddaw, Blencathra, [Threlkeld], Helvellyn, [Grisedale Tarn], Fairfield, [Grasmere]

Distance and elevation: 48 miles and 15,200 ft of ascent

Peaks: 7

Contenders: Edward Pilkington (EPI); John Bennett (JBE)

Account

By this time a pattern was becoming established. Contenders would set off in the early hours of the morning; they would head to the Scawfell massif and then pivot north; some form of "proof" message would be left at the summit of each mountain; and the local press would extoll the exploit as the most remarkable feat ever accomplished by an English pedestrian.

Pilkington's record walk of 1871 was little different, save for it is the first time we can start to see an emergent outline of the Bob Graham route. Pilkington added Great Gable , bringing in the [highest] peak of what was to evolve into leg 4; and Fairfield made its first appearance in the record books, inaugurating the Grisedale Tarn 'there and back' slog.

Pilkington was one of four brothers, two of which were a significant part of he Lakeland rock climbing community in the late nineteenth century.

Edward Pilkington was accompanied by John Bennett (last seen leading his own record walk in 1865), now proprietor of the Dungeon Ghyll Hotel from where they started and finished. Departing at 2.30am, Bowfell was reached by 4am, Scawfell Pike between 5am and 6am, Great Gable at 6.45am, Skiddaw at 12.41pm, Blencathra at 2.45pm and Fairfield at 8.10pm. The total time was 21 hours and 10 minutes.

(While the newspapers report Scawfell as being the second fell, not Scawfell Pike, the accompanying heights [provided by Sir Henry James F.R.S. of the Ordnance Survey no less], inter-peak times and route suggest it was in fact Scawfell Pike.). It was impressive, and undoubtedly harder than Elliott's Wasdale horseshoe, but not a record in terms of sheer number of peaks.

Postcards were left on the major summits, with instructions for the finders to post them onward to Windermere Hotel. These apparently arrived the next day.

Thus far, there had been no real analytical scrutiny of the adjectives employed by the newspapers to describe the feats. This all changed on 29 August when a "Hugh Klidd" (an apt pen name, given the geometric concerns) stepped forward with a letter to the editor of the Penrith Observer [idn46]

Mr. Kind had taken exception to the phrase "a glance at the map will convince anyone at all acquainted with the district traversed by the pedestrians that the feat is no ordinary one", asserting:

"I come to the conclusion that the whole distance traversed was exactly 53 miles, a good day's work, certainly, but though only a trifle over 2 1/2 miles per hour."

Turning to satire, Mr. Klidd continues: "It would be interesting to know the respective weights of Bennett and Pilkington, in order to arrive at the total weight of flesh and other matter each one raised". With reference the postcards, "let no one henceforth complain of our inadequate postal arrangements." He goes on at some length, concluding "we can have no more solitarys in our Lake country ... it will not be surprising if we find on Scawfell's towering peak a still more towering granite monument bearing on its base, fronting sea-wards, the Pilkington arms.. and a Bennett-head medallion"

While Mr. Kind calculated the route as 53 miles but my estimate is closer to 49. Imagine his parody of the feat had he known it was four fewer miles!

SHORTS [end1c, end2b and others]

In and around this time there is limited record of some additional walks. In each case, there is not enough information to gauge precisely what occurred, largely because there no contemporary newspaper articles have been found. 

1869 - Lawrence Pilkington (LPI); John Bennett (JBE). [Keswick], Scawfell, Helvellyn, Skiddaw, [Keswick]. [end1c] [idn35]

Comment: This is entirely plausible given the pair went on to do a bigger - and much better recorded - walk in 1871 [end3]

June 1870 - Jenkinson (HIJ). Scawfell, Helvellyn, Skiddaw. [idn59]

Mid-1870s - "An Alpine Club man and Mackereth". Bowfell, Scawfell Pike, Helvellyn, Skiddaw. [end2b] [idn35]

Comment: Could this be the inaugeral Four Fells Record? It appears so: "In the neighbourhood, this was looked upon as an unparralled performance, and the feat was established as a record" [idn16]. The Tuckers [end7] were seemingly aware there was a record to be broken. [idn12] notes the brothers "lowered the previous highly-thought of record by six hours". 

THE BROTHERS TUCKER [end7]

Summary

Date: June 1876

Start / finish: Elterwater (4.20am; 11.58pm) [19 hours 38 minutes]

Route: Bowfell, Scawfell Pike, Skiddaw, [Vale of St John's], Helvellyn, [Grasmere]

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Peaks: 4

Contenders: Alfred Robert Tucker (ART); Frederick Tucker (FRT); Hubert Tucker (HUT); Edward Jr. Tucker (EJT); Bell

Account

​In June 1876, four brothers from Cumberland and a man named Bell set off from Elterwater. All were "fine, lusty men, well hardened to the fell" [idn36], some of the brothers were known as painters and one was go onto to take holy orders and become the Bishop of Uganda

"People who had spent all their lives in the land that Wordsworth loved so well, declared that the thing was next to impossible, and the attempt folly. Nothing daunted by the adverse comments freely expressed on every hand, the four young men proceeded to carry out their intention" [idn16]

While the brothers would have known the fells well, the walk was not meticulously planned and there “were none of the careful preparations in training and the supply of proper refreshment that are features of modern climbing records”. [id96]

Leaving at 4.20am [id16], they reached Bowfell by 8am and Scawfell Pike at 9am. Then to Skiddaw around 1pm. Having largely survived on beef tea and streamwater thus far, the party celebrated their three quarter mark with sixteen bottles of ginger beer. Upon reaching Helvellyn there was some debate on whether to add Fairfield to the list, but it was declined on the basis "enough is as good as a feast" [idn16]. And yet the group determined to head back to Elterwater via Ambleside and not over Loughrigg Fell as one of brothers lived there, thus extending the walk by around [5] miles. All told, the round trip is estimated at 54 miles and 11,550 feet of ascent. It was a hot day to be out and they clocked in at 19 hours and 38 minutes - the "hottest day of the summer" [idn14] - with temperatures reaching 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade [id16, p.67].

The group averaged around 3 miles an hour to the top of Skiddaw but it was "too good to last, and the next dozen miles [to Helvellyn] (including some bathing of feet and feeding) occupied no less than six hours" [idn41]

They carried nothing with them "but a small quantity of beef tea" [idn16]

There was a suggestion to take in Fairfield but the party chose to expedite their return. That said, the party chose to return to Elterwater via Ambleside as that was the home of one of the contenders ("thus doing 9 miles instead of 4" [idn16]).

The sources read as if this was an attempt at a 'Four Fells Record', a scantily-referenced term for the fastest time for gaining Bowfell, Scawfell Pike, Skiddaw and Helvellyn (the four highest mountains in the district if Scawfell Pike is taken as the sole representative of the Scawfell massif). There is a suggestion that they were attempting to - and succeeded in - beating the inaugral record set in [end2b]

But while described in triumphal terms, the evidence suggests it was no quicker than what Watson achieved in 1870 [end2], not least because Watson's choice of Keswick as a start / finish point involved less distance travelled.

As befitting of a future clergy, "this remarkable effort of pluck and endurance was conducted on strict teetoal lines" [idn12]

Notes

There is some confusion on the year of this endeavour. The only contemporaneous  news article I can find is dated 1876. Palmer [id16] notes it as 1877 but he is often inaccurate. And all subsequent descriptions of notable fell walks mark it as 1878, although the earliest of these is around 1890. Overall, 1876 is my educated guess because: (1) the veracity of the newspaper source of that year; and (2) by 1878, Alfred Tucker was moving on to other parts of his life.

There is a suggestion in the sources that the brothers were seeking to beat a previous (perhaps inaugral?) Four Fells Record set by a "well-known Alpine climber" and a "guide, Mackereth of Dungeon Ghyll". This is referenced again in idn41. It is not clear to what endeavour this refers. A Mackereth guide (John Bennett) was involved in an 1865 walk over three fells [end1b] but I do not think that involved an Alpinist. Another option is Pilkington & Bennet's round of 7 peaks in 1871 [end3]. Pilkington's brothers were certainly involved in the Alpine Club, although this walk was not a "true" Four Fells as Great Gable, Blencathra and Fairfield were also included. 

​​PILKINGTON'S RETURN [end8]

Summary

Date: 20 May 1883

Start / finish: xx (xxam; xxpm) [xx hours xx minutes]

Route: xx

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Peaks: 7

Contenders: Lawrence Pilkington (LPI); Charles Pilkington (CPI); Matthew Barnes (MBA)

 

Account

 

On Sunday 20 May 1883, the Pilkington family came forth once again, on this occasion with Lawrence and Charles, accompanied by Matthew Barnes. In just over 24 hours they ascended 7 peaks in an anti-clockwise circuit from Lodore: Great Gable, Scafell Pike, Bowfell, Fairfield, Helvellyn, Blencathra and Skiddaw. Lawrence Pilkington was 12 years older and perhaps this accounts for the slower time over a very similar course to his 1871 walk.

Some of the time loss is accounted for due to thick mist around Esk Hause ("nearly two hours was lost between Scawfell Pikes and Bowfell" [idn18]), and then again on Fairfield, indeed for the latter it was "necessary to build cairns to ensure the way back" [idn17]

To verify the walk, the trio procured other members of the Alpine Club to occupy various positions to note the time they achieved the peaks. 

They had left provisions at various stopping points, which includes extract of beef and "other stimulants" [idn18]

"Both gentlemen suffered a little stiff on Tuesday morning... but the guide, who is all bone, muscle, and skin, would not own up to the slightest inconvenience"

Notes

  • [end8] description [p.123, id36]

  • [end8] [p.18, id5]

A CLIMBERS' DABBLE [end9]

Summary

Date: 27 October 1893

Start / finish: Keswick (midnight; 11.25pm) [23 hours 25 minutes]

Route: [Seathwaite], [Styhead], Great Gable, Scawfell, Scawfell Pike, Bowfell, [crossing fells], [Wythburn], Helvellyn, [Thirlspot], Blencathra

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Peaks: 6

Contenders: John Wilson Robinson (JWR); Gibbs (GIB)

 

Account

John Wilson Robinson was a godfather of the Wasdale climbing scene. Chiefly out of curiosity, he decided to turn his feet to a different endeavour, joining up with Mr. Gibbs of Darlington.

Robinson was the clear leader; his letters give more details of the genesis for the round [id36]

Beginning in Keswick at midnight on 27 October 1893, the pair planned to take in Great Gable, Scawfell, Scawfell Pike, Bowfell, Helvellyn, Blencathra and Skiddaw. [need to confirm it was Lord's Rake to Scawfell and then Broad Stand to Scawfell Pike]. As they neared the summit of Blencathra, they were "at times unable to stand, and were compelled to lie down and cling to the heather" [idn11]. Ultimately, Skiddaw could not be gained within the 24 hours (partially due to poor moonlight) and so they returned to Keswick one peak down but thirty minutes within their target time.

The walk was undertaken in "frost, snow and strong winds" [id18]

[idn11] notes that, while impressive, "unless we are mistaken the same route, with Skiddaw included, was accomplished within the 24 hours about thirty years ago by Bennett, a well-known guide in Langdale". Well, more or less. It is true that in 1871 Bennett accompanied Edward Pilkington on a successful walk of 7 peaks. However, their route included Fairfield at the expense of Scawfell. It probably comes out in the wash.

Notes

  • Long description in Palmer [id16], less so in Griffin [id36] - particularly hairy around Scafell

  • [end9] good description. Notes that at the time of the [end], Robinson was probably the "greatest authority on the Lake District mountains" [p.124, id36]

​​DAWSON, POOLE AND PALMER [end10]

Summary

Date: 1895

Start / finish: Elterwater Common (1am; 8.17pm) [19 hours 17 minutes]

Route: Bowfell, Scawfell Pike, [Styhead Tarn], [Rosthwaite], [Keswick], Skiddaw, [Thirlspot], Helvellyn, [Grasmere], [Ambleside]

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Peaks: 4

Contenders: William T Palmer (WTP); Benjamin Dawson (BDA); William Poole (WPO)

Account

The Dawson name was to have a difficult relationship with the record in twenty years hence, but all of that was yet to come on Monday 5 August when Benjamin Dawson, Mr. W. T. Palmer and William Poole set out to cut the 'Four Fells Record' set by the Tucker brothers in 1878 (and so not an attempt on the 24 hour record [id16]).

In comparison with the heat of the Tucker attempt, the trio were faced with a "memorably dull and wet Bank Holiday, and as a consequence the tops of the mountains were never clear of clouds" [idn14].

Verification had moved on by this point, and "to prevent doubts being cast on the result, arrangements were made to have persons interest in the walk to be stationed on the summits of the fells, and to them the pedestrians handed letters containing the time they passed over" [idn9]

Starting at 1am at Elterwater Common, the three first made for Bowfell and then to Scawfell Pike, but time was lost in mist and poor weather while traversing between the two (taking over 90 minutes). By this point, Palmer has retired with due to "indisposition" or because he was "seized with dizziness" or because he had a bad knee. The long trek to Skiddaw was next, which followed a thirty minute pause in Keswick for refreshment. In the first suggestion of a schedule, it was noted that at Skiddaw there were thirty-five minutes behind time. Despite this, they made up time, even accounting for a 22 minute stay at the Traveller's Rest for tea.

With the record in the balance, Palmer returned to pace the party from the pub to the finish. They returned to Elterwater via Ambleside, presumably because it was the route taken by the Tucker record, although it would have added around five miles to the distance. They completed this final stretch in under an hour [idn86]

"At the finishing point the winners were enthusiastically welcomed by a large crowd. Mr. Astley [of Elterwater Hall, who collect the verification letters from Bowfell and Scafell] announced the record to be broken by 20 1/4 minutes, all proofs coming in just before the finish" [idn32]

The men finished strong and well, succeeding in taking 21 minutes off the Tucker's record, clocking in at 19 hours and 17 minutes.

They were clearly going for it, as a walker noted that while toiling in Skiddaw, he came across the two mean "leaping from rock to rock like chamois [goats]" [idn77]

Notes

  • [end10] brief description [p.125, id36]

CARLISLE YOUNG MEN'S CYCLING CLUB [end11]

Summary

Date: June June? 1898

Start / finish: Seathwaite (5.24am; xxpm) [19 hours 35 minutes]

Route: [Sty Head Pass], (1) Great Gable, [Esk Hause], (2) Great End, (3) Scafell Pike, (4) Scafell, [Esk Hause], [Hanging Knotts], (5) Bowfell, [Stake Pass], (6) High Raise, [Wythburn], (7) Helvellyn, (8) Helvellyn Lower Man, (9) Whiteside, (10) Raise, (11) Stybarrow Dodd, (12) Watson's Dodd, (13) Great Dodd, (14) Clough Head, Threlkeld, (15) Blencathra, [Skiddaw Forest], (16) Skiddaw

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Peaks: 16

Contenders: Ned Westmorland (NEW); S. B. Johnson (SBJ), Ernest Beatty (ERB); P. Strong (PSG)

Account

The four men of Carlisle consisted of Ned Westmorland, S. B. Johnson, E. Beatty and P. Strong. Three years in the gestation, their intention was to break the overall 24 hour record for the most fells sumitted. [idn55] cites two sources of inspiration. First, to "prove cycling does not, as some people imagine, incapacitate its notaries for pedestrian exercises". Second, to show that a previous record was not in fact such an impressive record at all. 

The attempt was, apparently, "planned as long ago as three years" [idn73]

Following an intense period of training, they set off from Seathwaite at 5.24am in June 1898, as dawn was breaking over a perfect day in the fells.

Their round broke new ground by taking in Great End (skirted by many but summitted by none so far) and High Raise (again, passed by all those going from the Scawfell massif to Helvellyn). Scawfell was gained by means of Broad Stand. At Wythburn the group split*; Westmorland and Beaty retiring to Threlkeld station (12 miles away, for a train to Carlisle - more likely due to work commitments than fatigue) and the remaining duo continuing on. The descent from Skiddaw required them to strike matches to see the path, despite the electric lights from the town and the new moon. They took a rest at its base before heading back to Seathwaite via Keswick - or so they planed. 

* Site of the then Nag's Head hostelry, where a meal was had. 

While not counted as summits at the time, the route from Helvellyn to Threlkeld took Johnson and Strong over Helvellyn Lower Man, Whiteside, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Watson's Dodd, Great Dodd and Clough Head. All of these would eventually become the "easiest" string of fells on the Bob Graham Round.

Like many that would follow in their footsteps, three of the group clad their soles in ordinary gymnastic shoes as the rubber soles provided the best support on dry rocks (but were poor in descent). On the slopes of Scafell, the light-footed trio envied their leader who was more heavily shod. 

The walk is noted by multiple sources as covering14 mountains. But in total 16 peaks gained (GG, GE, SP, S, BF, HR, HE, HLM, WS, R, ST, WS, GD, CH, BL, SK). Two of the fells on the Helvellyn range must not have passed muster, perhaps HLM and WS given their puny prominence.

Reached Keswick a little past 1am. 

The time might have been a good bit shorter had they not stopped for a a few hours' sleep at the Skiddaw Hotel (awakening the proprietor) - and not completed the round! Did they then go en route back to Seathwaite? The evidence says not, seemingly because they had calculated the had sufficient time in hand to do so and therefore they deemed the final flat walk as unnecessary. Anyone who has done a hard day can emphasise with the complex self-justificaiton for taking an easier course. "As the climbers had four good hours to spare in which to walk the nine miles to Seathwaite and complete the circuit, they determined to take that bit of the journey for granted". 

All told, they took 19 hours and 35 minutes for the [x] miles and [x,000] feet of ascent. It was a clear new record in terms of peaks gained. It was noted that the total ascent was that of Mont Blanc.

[idn27] asks "one would like to know what was the most vivid impression of which the performers were conscious, when it was over." [idn55] notes "one who has a reputation for veracity declared that he was not in the least tired at the end of his journey, and that it was never in the least fatiguing. But another has whispered to some sympathetic friends that he would not undertake another such ramble upon any consideration whatsoever."

Notes

  • Sources: Griffin [id36], Palmer [p.79-80, id16], Smith [p.90, id18]

  • The walk was undertaken in excellent weather, much better than Robinson & Gibbs

  • "slightly more than Robinson's height" [p.125, id36]

  • implied this was a younger cadre of man than Robinson & Gibbs [id16]

  • Revised the order of Scafell and Scafell Pike from Robinson & gibbs and took safer routes [id16]

  • [end11] brief description [p.125, id36]

WESTMORLAND'S REPRISE [end12]

Summary

Date: July 1898

Start / finish: Threlkeld (4.45am; 4.31am) [23 hours 22 minutes]

Route: [Sticks Pass], (1) Raise, (2) Whiteside, (3) Helvellyn Lower Man, (4*) Helvellyn, [Wythburn], (5*) High Raise, [Stake Pass], (6*) Bowfell, [Hanging Knott], (7*) Great End, (8*) Scafell Pike, (9*) Scafell, (10*) Great Gable, (11*) Skiddaw, (12*) Blencathra

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Peaks: 12, of which 9 principal summits (*)

Contenders: Ned Westmorland (NEW); Ernest Beaty (ERB)

Account

 

This was a well-organised attempt and there is a an explicit reference to a schedule being determined in advance - the first reference in this history to a device which is now commonplace. 

They set off in brilliant sunshine along the Vale of St' John's, ascending the Helvellyn ridge by way of Sticks Pass. After Helvellyn, they breakfasted at Wythburn. Heading up the valley and to Greenup Edge, High Raise was reached before skirting the back of the Langdale Pikes to ascend Bowfell. After Great End and Scawfell Pike, Scawfell was gained by means of Broad Stand. 

From Scawfell summit, the Penrith Observer [idn72] describes a slightly curious route. The next peak was Great Gable, but instead of taking the corridor route, they descended Broad Stand, returned to Scawfell Pike, and then headed down Piers Ghyll path, climbing to Styhead Tarn. It was then a there and back to Gable.

Seathwaite offered a 45 minute rest and refreshment before heading north to Keswick. A further 45 minute rest had been scheduled but the pair went straight on to Skiddaw. In an episode with which many a Bob Grahamer will emphathise, they could not find their way through Keswick to the lower slopes of Latrigg. No sweat, they arrived at Skiddaw at 1.35am, bang on schedule.

Walking from the Caldew, they lost their way on the ascent up the back of Blencathra and Westmorland is said to have started to lose heart. Beaty was in better spirits and started up an alternative route. By means of shouting they managed to reacquaint themselves on the top after 4am. Impressively for the time, and especially at that time in the round, the descent to Threlkeld was done in 22 minutes.

Total resting time was said to be 3 hours 35 minutes.

[idn72] cites it as a new record. 

Provisions consumed on the move consisted of meat sandwiches which were dipped in water to soften them. Rubber-soled shoes were used and no "alpenstocks" were carried.

Mr Westmorland took the first train to Carlisle and did a full day's work, not reaching bed until 10.30pm - Graham was to emulate this. Mr. Beaty wisely started a holiday.

Notes

  • 22 minute descent of Hall's Fell [id16; id36]

  • [end12] brief desc [p.125, id36]

BROADRICK'S DUATHLON [end13]

Summary

Date: 1 September 1898

Start / finish: Windermere (bike) [3.30am]; Dungeon Ghyll (foot) (xxam; xxpm) [20 hours 15 minutes]

Route: (1*) Bowfell, [Hanging Knotts] [idn70], (2*) Great End, (3*) Scawfell Pike, (4*) Scawfell, [Wasdale Head Inn], (5*) Great Gable, (6) Green Gable [idn70], [Keswick], (7*) Skiddaw, [Keswick], [Sticks Pass], (8*) Helvellyn, [Dunmail Raise], [Windermere]

Peaks: 8, of which 7 principal(*) summits

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Contenders: R W Broadrick (RWB); Henry Crewdson Broadrick (HCB)

Account

As the end of the century approached, the [Northerner] announced with a trace of nonchalance: "Record walks in Lakeland are becoming if not quite so common as blackberries, at least numerous"

On 1 September 1898, R. W. Broadrick set out from his home town of Windermere at 3.30am on a bicycle. Depositing his steed at the Dungeon Ghyll hotel ("in a conspicuous place, hoping that the hotel people would take charge of it" [idn25]), he set out on foot for Bow Fell, Great End, Scafell Pike and Scawfell before reaching Wastdale Head around 8.30am. Great and Green Gables were summited on his way to Keswick. Skiddaw was done by way of a there and back, heading on to Helvellyn by way of Sticks Pass. The intention was to reach Grasmere via Grisedale Tarn but in the dark he instead ended up at Dunmail. What followed was a 15 miles walk back to Windermere, completed in under 3 hours (the bicycle would have to wait for another day). The total time was just under 20 hours. 

Notes

  • Sources: Griffin [id36], Palmer [pp.83-85, id16], Smith [p.90, id18]

THE FINAL FOUR FELLS [end14]

​​​

Summary

Date: 27 April 1899

Start / finish: Ambleside (4.30am; xxpm) [15 hours 26 minutes]

Route: Langdale Church, (1*) Bowfell, (2*) Scafell Pike, (3*) Skiddaw, (4*) Helvellyn

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Peaks: 4

Contenders: R W Broadrick (RWB)

 

Account

An attempt at the Four Fells Record. A fine day for walking - an "ideal day for walking" [idn14]. He departed Ambleside at 4.30am. Made excellent time up until an incident at a stream, where we left a purse on the slopes of Skiddaw and lost 45 minutes in retracing his steps to find it. The rest of the round appears to have passed without incident and he made a significant advance on the record. 

 

Notes

[end14] brief description [p.126, id36]

WESTMORLAND EXTENDS? [end12b]

​​​

Summary

in [idn7], Westmorland gives notice that in a fortnight's time he intends to extend the record he set the year before in the company of Beaty. The intent was to climb 13 summits within the 24 hours, one more than the 12 in the previous walk [end12]

Date: xx

Start / finish: xx (xxam; xxpm) [xx hours xx minutes]

Route: xx

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Peaks: xx

Contenders: Ned Westmorland (NEW)

 

Account

 

Notes

BROADRICK AND DAWSON [end15]

Summary

Date: 14 September 1901

Start / finish: Rosthwaite (3.30am; xxpm) [23 hours 32 minutes]

Route: [Styhead Tarn], (1*) Great Gable, [under Kirk Fell], (2*) Pillar, [Wasdale Head], (3*) Scawfell, (4*) Scawfell Pike, (5*) Great End, (6*) Bowfell, [Dungeon Ghyll], [Grasmere], [Grisedale Tarn], (7*) Fairfield, (8*) Helvellyn, [Thirlspot], [Threlkeld], (9*) Blencathra, (10*) Skiddaw

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Peaks: 10, of which 10 principal summits(*)

Contenders: R W Broadrick (RWB); Cecil Dawson (CDA)

Pacers: Oppenheimer [LEO] (and his brother); Evans; Jones; Richardson

Account

This appears to be the first walk to use pacers to a significant degree, with four Manchester men being used to organise supplies and accompany the record-breaking pair.

The big development here was stretching into Mosedale after Gable and taking in Pillar. For the first time, there was a semblance of leg 4 on the BGR. The quick descent to Wasdale at the time would have been via the screes.

The weather was generally fine but deteriorated significantly at Skiddaw [id18] - "thick mist rendered the going exceedingly slow" and they missed the stationed torch-bearers at Skiddaw House [idn26]. Instead of being guided up the back of Skiddaw, the pair slowly found their way to the Glendaterra, only to spend "20 minutes floundering about in a swamp" [idn26]. But they did get to the Skiddaw ridge, at which point a strong wind promptly blew out their small lantern - the only source of light. For the next three and a half hours (!), the wind played havoc with the lantern until there was simply no candle to relight. Having been at the top of Blencathra at 7.55pm, they did not reach the Lake Hotel in Keswick until 12.50am.

In Broadrick's own words:

"We went on very well to the top of Saddleback, the weather conditions being perfect ; but there darkness and fog came down together, and we had five hours stumbling along by compass and lantern-light, which, owing to the mist, only showed up two or three feet of the ground ahead at one time. Added to that, there was a very strong north-east wind, which blew the light out continually, and necessitated wrapping it up in a sweater. However, after making up our minds several times that it would be necessary to spend the night on the uplands, we struck the railing leading down the mountain. I don't know whether we got to the actual top of triple-headed Skiddaw, but we got to one of the tops, and stuck our cards on the cairn. It was utterly impossible to tell which of the three it was."

Despite all this, Broadrick and Dawson managed to return to Rosthwaite within the prescribed time.

It does appear that Westmorland and Broadrick were trading records a the time. Palmer asserted that Broadrick could out-pace Westmorland on the flat (by around half a mile per hour) but this was trumped by Westmorland's superior stamina and ascending / descending technique [idn25].

Notes

Sources: Griffin [id36], Palmer [pp.85-88, id16], Smith [p.90, id18]

Other information:

  • No explicit mention of Scoat Fell and Red Pike, so most likely that they were not covered (and/or that Dore Head was noted erroneously)

  • Fairfield explicitly noted as a "new" peak [id18] [and no others]

  • Was the second attempt at this walk, as detailed in [id16]

  • Went via Grisedale Tarn, including a dip [id16]

  • A new record [id36, id16, id18]

  • Made use of pacers for part of the walk [id36]

  • [end15] brief description [p.126, id36]

JOHNSTON’S LAST WORD [end16]

Summary

Date: Thursday 28 May 1903

Start / finish: Threlkeld (5am; 3.07am) [22 hours 7 minutes]

Route: [St John’s in the Vale], (1*) Helvellyn, [Grisedale Tarn], (2*) Fairfield; [Langdale valley], (3*) Bowfell, (4*) Great End, (5*) Scawfell Pike; (6*) Scawfell; [Wasdale Head], (7*) Pillar, (8*) Great Gable, [Seathwaite], [Keswick], (9*) Skiddaw, (10*) Blencathra

Distance and elevation: xx miles and xx ft of ascent

Peaks: 10, of which 10 principal peaks (*)

Contenders: S B Johnston (SBJ)

Pacers: P Strong (PST); Ernest Beatty (ERB); Ned Westmorland (NEW)

Account

A clockwise round, as opposed to Broadrick’s anti-clockwise. In today’s terms, starting with leg 2 of the BGR.

 

Noted as the same round as Broadrick but knocking nearly an hour and a half off the time. Johnson felt the record could be further cut.

 

The Scawfell massif was the hottest and hardest part of the walk.

 

He was at the top of Skiddaw at midnight and the descent was therefore done in the dark. Navigation by starlight enable a good course up the back of Blencathra.

Notes

SourcesGriffin [id36], Palmer [pp.89-, id16], Smith [pp.90-91, id18]

[end16] Accompanied by formal pacers (for the first time) and "at one time the runners were able to navigate through the darkness by the stars" [p.126, id36]