Jason and I haven’t been running much of late, with injuries to his knee and my arse proving rather stubborn, hence deciding to have an attempt at the Lakes Classic Rock challenge (LCR) a couple of weeks ago instead.
The LCR, also known as “the rock climbers’ Bob Graham”, is an enchainment of fifteen of the finest and longest rock climbs in the Lake District, separated by 32 miles of running. We managed to complete ten of these climbs (a total of 38 rope-lengths, or ‘pitches’*), together with 20 miles of hobbling in 20 hours unsupported; our midnight departure was carefully timed to give us the trickiest climbing in daylight hours, but it also meant that we’d been awake for 41 hours by the time we collapsed back into bed, and our safety margins felt pretty slender towards the end with me in particular starting to nod-off whilst holding the rope and generally beginning to see things that weren’t there.
We opted to go fast and light, mostly climbing together, or ‘simul-climbing’ (meaning if one fell the other would almost certainly be pulled off, guaranteeing at best big air time for both of us), on a super-skinny 7mm x 30m ‘walkers confidence rope’ and an absolute minimum of safety protection to keep the weight down. This added to the sense of commitment and made for some memorable moments teetering hundreds of feet above the abyss, with our last piece of protection often a distant memory, connected to each other by what felt like a fat shoelace. To go any faster would necessitate jettisoning the rope altogether, i.e. free-soloing, which thankfully we’re too old for.
Chapeau to anyone that completes this challenge sub-24 hours, we estimate it’s only been done about half a dozen times, and instead we’ve decided to enjoy it in the style that works best for us, i.e. returning for a second day later in the summer to finish it all off which promises to be half the risk and twice the fun.
* this equates to more than double the height of the cliffs on the north face of Ben Nevis, or approximately 38 ascents of the biggest wall at Ratho climbing arena
Olly Stephenson, Jason Hubert