After the end of World War One, 14 peaks were gifted to the Lake District National Park as a memorial for the lives lost. In 2021, a round was established to link those 14 peaks: the Great Gifts Peaks Round.
The exact route is up to the attempter and the summits can be visited in any order – but our route was 36.79km with 3,071m ascent, with the peaks tackled in this order:
- Scafell Pike
- Broad Crag
- Great End
- Seathwaite fell
- Allen Crags
- Castle Crag
- Grey Knotts
- Base Brown
- Green Gable
- Great Gable
- Kirk Fell
On a beautiful spring morning, Allen Bunyan and I made our way to St Olaf’s church, England’s smallest parish church and host of the original Great Gable memorial plaque. It feels a fitting place for the round to start and finish.
We set off excitedly and full of energy, whilst trying to assure each other that we’d take it easy on the first few climbs of the day. We picked off the numerous walkers as we started the gradual climb up Lingmell and then settled in to a decent hike as we hit the spur that would take us up to the col. The climb was a form of therapy for Allen as we revisited the hill where his legs were destroyed in the final descent of the Wasdale fell race.
We soon ticked off the first peak and took the Lingmell slip road to join the Scafell Pike motorway and popped ourselves into cruise control; 70 mph. A traffic jam at Scafell Pike summit allowed for an appreciation of the view back over the mosaic of Wasdale valley. Broad Crag and Great End, the 3rd and 4th peaks, were summited after some delightful boulder hopping over the Scafell massif.
The GGPR is still a relatively new round so the choice of route to link the 14 peaks is ever-evolving. We decided to descend Great End via The Band, a steep rocky descent which is equal parts fun and trepidation. I’ve now been down The Band a few times and have found a fast and smooth descent to be elusive – an interesting and spicy line though!
Seathwaite Fell is diminutive in nature compared to the giants of Great Gable and Glaramara, which flank it. Nevertheless, this was some of my favourite running of the round. An out-and-back that meandered through crystal clear tarns and provided the opportunity to relish some of the giants we had and will scale on the round.
Following Seathwaite Fell, it was a long and undulating climb to Allen (Bunyan) Crags and Glaramara. When checking out the route I had feared this would be a brutal slog. However we flowed through this section of grass, rock and bog, stealing the occasional look over the Langdale valley to our right. If the day had finished here I would have been content – it had been a belting start, but there was still a lot more to do and see.
Glaramara signals the end of the high fells for the first section – it’s then a long descent down to Borrowdale. We refilled our water at the YHA as the midday sun started to crank up the heat. I could have easily stopped here for a few ales but I resisted temptation. A lovely jog along the River Derwent took us to Castle Crag, a short steep climb through slate leading to a beautiful view over towards Derwent Water. From Castle Crag you follow some nice footpaths up to Honister pass. I was starting to struggle with the heat and my fitness but Allen ensured spirits were kept high by rationing me some vital Cliff Shot Bloks.
The second of the two big climbs on the Round is from Honister Pass to Grey Knotts. A leisurely hike up and now the bulk of the hard graft for the day was done. Brandreth followed Grey Knotts, then it was an interesting contour around to Base Brown. Running from Base Brown over to Green Gable you can truly appreciate the scale and beauty of the round, taking in all the peaks that you have summitted earlier in the day.
The pull up to Great Gable, the Greatest of Gables, was a bit of struggle – I checked on the football scores as a distraction whilst Allen started to show the first signs of tired legs. But we knew there wasn’t much to go now so we powered on up to the summit. We stood atop Great Gable, taking in our surroundings as the light softened with the setting of the sun. The descent was eventful to say the least: a couple of falls and some skids down the scree. Then we booted a rock down the hill (accidentally), which nearly resulted in the decapitation of an old lady… thankfully we’re as prolific as Darwin Nunez from six yards out.
Off Great Gable and the final ascent up Kirk Fell. Big Kirk always comes with false promises – false summit after false summit made for a demoralising final climb. At the eventual actual summit we pleaded with some hikers for them to lend us some Bombay Bad Boys that they were cooking up, but sadly our bargaining skills weren’t up to scratch. What lay next had been at the back of our minds all day and in all honesty for most of the week. Kirk Fell nose protrudes over Wasdale Head – its grassy slopes can be as steep as 50% and the descent down was sure to mash our already tired legs. The taste of the finish line and a pint in the Wasdale Head Inn gave us renewed strength though, and we flew down the nose and out like a neon-coloured snot rocket to Wasdale Head. We had to pass Wasdale Head Inn to return to St Olaf’s Church, which was a cruel way to finish and arguably the toughest part of the Round!
We touched the memorial plaque at St Olaf’s church seven hours and 19 minutes after starting. It was Allen and my first official round completed in the Lakes and what a round it was – a beautiful mix of all things great about running in the Lakes: steep grassy slopes, boulder fields, gnarly contours, scree slopes, bogs and the like. All-in-all a mega day out and I can highly recommend it to anyone wanting to experience the Lakes or use as training for bigger runs such as the Bob Graham Round.
There was one last challenge that remained – changing a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere as we tried to make our way home. All our ultra training definitely helped in making that journey back, and in hindsight it was quite a funny way to end the day.