The Bob Graham is becoming ever more popular as more and more see it as an achievable goal. This popularity is leading to some problems however in that the optimum route (of which I must admit to being guilty of promoting) is starting to show signs of wear and tear.
For the most part the Bob Graham follows existing walkers’ footpaths and the amount of traffic that reccies and attempts generates while contributing to the erosion is not a significant part of it.
It is the other sections that take shortcuts between the main paths that are of more concern. The most obvious of these are the paths (for that is what they are now) leading away from the road at Dunmail Raise up Seat Sandal and Steel Fell. That on Seat Sandal has been obvious on the ground, at least early in the season before the bracken grows for some time now. Now however it is plain to see in full bracken growth.
The damage to the line on Steel Fell is more recent. As recently as early 2008 (eighteen months at the time of writing) it was still essentially a grass slope with just the occasional worn footstep or two. Now there are obvious divots where many hundred of feet have passed, the climb is more like a staircase.
Other BG paths that have appeared are on the upper part of the ascent of Clough Head and on Yewbarrow. There are also definite marks leading onto and off Great Calva. This latter is a bit of an understatement - the path between Skiddaw and Great Calva is now wide enough in many places for two runners to travel side by side!
There are no easy ones - other than stopping people going on the fells completely. Any attempt on the BGR will cause some erosion, some extra wear and tear on the paths and ground travelled.
Ideally, keep the support team as small as possible, one or two per section is more than enough. Teams of eight or nine supporting one contender is not sustainable besides, it just isn’t as pleasant on the fells in such large groups.
It is possible at several sections on the round for someone to meet the route mid-leg as it were to provide extra supplies - Black Sail Pass is a good example. Making use of these rather than an extra support member for the whole leg lessens the impact of the round still further.
Marker Posts and Cairns
Cairns have long been used to indicate summits and important path junctions, though many would argue that there are now too many. Especially when dry stone walls are dismantled to build them!
Any cairns on the BG route should be subtle so as to avoid encouraging wider use of those paths. A good example would be those on the rakes on Bowfell - there are none visible from the main paths, it does make getting on to the rakes slightly harder, especially from above, if you don’t know where they are located.
Strangely I have seen flourescent marker posts on the line from the Skiddaw House track up Great Calva, rather odd in the night gloom for yellow strips to appear out of the dark. There really is no place in the fells for items such as this, even more so with the now well marked track.
I have dealt with the practicalities of getting up or down elsewhere but recent (2009) events mean its inclusion here. At some point during late 2008/early 2009 persons as yet unknown took it upon themselves to vandalise one of the oldest recorded rock climbs by placing two expansion bolts here presumably with a view to safeguarding the tricky section. The irony is that the people who then removed them reckoned that they had been placed so poorly that they were more dangerous than if nothing had been done in the first place!
The prevailing ethic in British rock climbing is to take things as you find them - if you don’t feel up to the challenge then don’t bring it down to your level.
The solution here is simple: there are two alternatives - Lord’s Rake and Foxes Tarn. Possibly slightly longer timewise but not by much.
While the above may seem like a bit of a rant, I think it is up to us all to save wear and tear on the round. Things do change and the ground covered on a round today would appear very different to that when Bob Graham laid down his mark.
“Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.” but even a line of footprints in delicate ground is beginning to appear too much.