Ability Series_ The Huge 3 Rounds

The UK’s Huge Three hill rounds are lifetime ambitions for a lot of runners, to not point out lately formidable backpackers, however their magnitude can appear overwhelming. On this article collection we take a look at the various choices and techniques that may make the expertise just a little simpler. From one of the best time of 12 months to do it in, to your method to help and logistics, this primary a part of the collection tackles a number of the key fundamentals to contemplate within the early phases of planning a spherical.

Make of those routes no matter you want. Opposite to what some could let you know, there isn’t a proper or mistaken approach to do any of them. The secret is discovering no matter answer works greatest for you, be {that a} sub-24-hour solo mission, a sociable run supported by associates, or perhaps a multi-day backpacking journey.

Calum Muskett and Nathan Pictor descending Moel Cynghorion on the Paddy Buckley Spherical © Rob Greenwood – UKC

What are they?

This text was written with the UK’s ‘Huge Three’ in thoughts:

The Bob Graham, the Paddy Buckley and the Charlie Ramsay.

In fact many different rounds exist, and you may make up all method of routes your self. Loads of what’s written right here applies to any lengthy and difficult hill route, however on this article we’ll particularly deal with the three most well-known.

Bob Graham Spherical

Lake District

Distance: 98.8km (61.4 miles)

Ascent: 8160m (26,778ft)

The Bob Graham spherical of 42 Lakeland peaks (together with the 4 3000-ers) is the best-known fell runner’s problem within the nation. Carrying tennis footwear and fuelled on bread and butter the person himself set the bar excessive method again in 1932 and his time of 23 hours 39 minutes stood for 28 years.

That is the most well-liked of the three by far. There are numerous causes for this, however the first – and probably most blatant – is that the Bob Graham was the unique ‘large spherical’ and is firmly rooted throughout the coronary heart and soul of British fell operating within the Lake District.

Due to its reputation it’s the best for which to search out help. Not solely are there many individuals desirous to do it annually, however those that have completed it usually need to give one thing again by the use of serving to others, and there is a unbelievable sense of group.

Heading for Honister © Dan Bailey

While it’s thought-about to be the simplest of the Huge Three, I’m hesitant to make use of the phrase ‘straightforward’ in reference to any of them, as a result of they don’t seem to be. I personally discovered the Bob Graham simply as arduous because the Paddy Buckley and the Charlie Ramsay, principally as a result of not like the others – it is extremely runnable. Should you’re good at operating, and have the legs to maintain going, the Bob Graham positively has the potential to be the quickest of the three, however in case you do not – or your strengths lie elsewhere – it may very well be price contemplating the opposite choices, simply in case they go well with you just a little higher (unconventional although that may appear).

Paddy Buckley Spherical


Distance: 100.5km (62.4 miles)

Ascent: 8,700m (28,750ft)

A circuit of 47 summits in Eryri (Snowdonia), the spherical was devised by Paddy Buckley however first run in beneath 24 hours by Martin Stone in 1985. The route contains the Carneddau, the Glyderau, the Snowdon vary, the Moelwynion and the Moel Hebog vary.

The Paddy Buckley is usually touted as being the toughest of the three. It is simple to see why from the stats: it isn’t solely longer, but it surely additionally options way more elevation. If this weren’t sufficient, the terrain can also be rather a lot rougher than the Bob Graham’s. While its reputation has grown lately, it is nonetheless nowhere close to as in style because the Bob Graham, so discovering individuals to recce with, and a group to help you on the try, could be extra of a problem.

The Welsh hills are larger, and the bottom more difficult © Dan Bailey

Ramsay Spherical


Distance: 92.8km (57.6 miles)

Ascent: 8,800m (28,979ft)

An extension of an earlier effort by Philip Tranter, Charlie Ramsay’s superb effort covers 24 Lochaber Munros, with excessive factors on the 4 west coast four-thousanders Ben Nevis, Carn Mor dearg, Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag. However that is simply the beginning (or end) of it: you have additionally acquired to traverse the Gray Corries, the Easains and Loch Treig Munros and the entire Mamores ridge. Ramsay simply scraped contained in the 24 hour restrict in 1978.

On the subject of logistics, none are as difficult because the Charlie Ramsay Spherical. Whereas the Bob Graham and Paddy Buckley are break up into comparatively good, manageable sections, interspersed with accessible street crossings, the Charlie Ramsay isn’t. In reality, the one street you cross is the one you begin/end on!

On the Gray Corries heading for distant Ben Nevis © Dan Bailey

On account of its inaccessibility, reccying is far more of a problem – one thing that’s additional difficult by the truth that snow can even restrict period of time it is each secure and practicable to be out on the hills. A winter Ramsay spherical is a mountaineering expedition, not one thing open to runners with out the related expertise and expertise. If its remoteness is not already sounding troublesome sufficient, then it will get worse: the Charlie Ramsay additionally options the roughest terrain of all three (and does so by some margin), has the fewest trods, and probably the most top achieve/elevation.

Which is the one for you?

While there is no denying that the Bob Graham has comfort in its favour, this does not essentially imply it is the correct one for you. Maybe you may just like the sound of the wilderness of the Charlie Ramsay Spherical or the variety of terrain on the Paddy Buckley; or perhaps you simply occur to be based mostly nearer to at least one than the others.

It is price assessing your strengths too, as a result of in case you do occur to favour tough terrain, then there is a chance that you’re going to get on higher with the Paddy Buckley and Charlie Ramsay, in comparison with the comparatively quick, runnable floor on the Bob Graham.

In case one wasn’t arduous sufficient… Nicky Spinks (and buddy) on her double Bob Graham Spherical © Dan Bailey

One other query price asking your self earlier than you determine, as a result of it might turn into an influencing issue, is that this…

Do you care about doing it sub-24 hours?

While these routes are sometimes considered ‘sub 24 hour challenges’, and that actually has its rewards, I genuinely assume it will be optimistic for individuals to let go, or loosen this idea just a little, and be extra embracing of the truth that doing these rounds in over 24 hours remains to be an incredible effort.

Gray Corries from the Mamores at daybreak. You will do all these summits, and plenty of extra, on a Ramsay Spherical © Dan Bailey

There’s a nice satisfaction and lasting delight to doing a giant spherical, full cease, whether or not that be beneath 24hrs, over 24 hours, or throughout a number of days. Hopefully by doing this it’s going to truly ease a number of the stress on the route itself, as individuals not really feel the necessity to over-recce every part, aiming to make ever extra marginal positive aspects, which has led to vital erosion (eg the trail/trod as much as Clough Head, which is now seen from house).

There are as ever a few caveats to this. If you wish to be a part of the Bob Graham Membership, for example, then it’s a must to do it in beneath 24 hours (and have witnesses on every of the summits). If this implies rather a lot to you, then that is what it’s best to intention for. But when it would not – do it in no matter type most grabs you. It is price noting that not like the Bob Graham, neither the Paddy Buckley nor the Charlie Ramsay Spherical stipulate that completion inside 24hrs is necessary to say you have “completed them”.

Finishing a giant spherical is an unbelievable life achievement, regardless of the time it takes you. Do not be afraid to set your individual guidelines – simply be trustworthy (and proud) about nevertheless you determine to do it.

In Focus: Bridget Glaister If some one mentions the Bob Graham or the Paddy Buckley I’ll all the time smile like a Cheshire Cat, as a result of I’ve completed each (and each imply rather a lot to me). It is simple to try to examine them, however they’re every so totally different. In the end, they’re each equally pleasurable reminiscences. I say ‘pleasurable’ nevertheless my Bob Graham was completed in 23 hours and 41 minutes in surprising climate and my Paddy Buckley in 25 hours 24 minutes in not surprising, however nonetheless moist climate. It wasn’t a shock once I observed the clock ticking previous the 24 hours. It was vital, however did not matter. This was due to my mindset. It was sixth September 2020 and I knew that probabilities of it staying dry had been slim, but it surely was between lockdowns, I had labored out my route, and was decided to present it a go. Once I set off my intention was to complete no matter. An hour later the climate got here in. The Glyderau leg was soaked and slippy and I knew it was unlikely I may hold to time, however I used to be nonetheless having fun with myself. I might been on such a journey to get to know the route and get a date there with my mates that it was in regards to the expertise greater than something. That mentioned, I do have a date in thoughts to go once more, solely with sub 24 hours in thoughts, however that might be a special matter as a result of I’ve already acquired the tick!​​​​​​

This text has been primarily written with individuals doing a single push in thoughts, however there’s additionally no purpose why you’ll be able to’t do any of the large rounds as a multi-day expedition. They’re logical routes, in any case, which might characterize a compelling problem for eager hillwalkers and backpackers. Setting off on any of them with an in a single day pack would make for an amazing and unforgettable journey, and the very fact you probably did it over a number of days would – if something – provide you with extra time to take pleasure in being out within the excellent mountain atmosphere. The one draw back could be the quantity of package you’d have to hold!

Calum Muskett heading up Snowdon within the night mild © Rob Greenwood – UKC

What type do you favor?

It must be clear by now that there are lots of alternative ways to method a giant spherical. Some individuals really feel very strongly about a technique over others, however the way you do it’s totally as much as you.

I’ve outlined varied approaches beneath, however along with these you may have the selection of finishing a spherical in both summer time or winter (or each, in case you’re some kind of a sadist). Thisarticle is aimed toward summer time, partially as a result of in case you have the competence to be seeking to do a winter spherical then most of what we have written ought to already be acquainted to you. There’s additionally the matter of whether or not or not you want to do them clockwise or anti-clockwise, yet one more of these private questions with no single proper reply.

Winter is a special proposition altogether, requiring a bunch of expertise and a excessive diploma of gnarl © Rob Greenwood – UKC


Operating by yourself, with out help or pre-stashed baggage

Execs: the last word by way of purity, which does have a significant profit – flexibility. There is no one to be relied on aside from your self, therefore it is simple change dates to get one of the best climate window doable.

Cons: additionally the last word by way of issue, as all navigation and determination making falls upon your shoulders, plus there’s the additional weight to hold all through, and security to be thought-about if one thing does go mistaken.


Operating by yourself, with drop baggage pre-placed in key positions, by your self beforehand

Execs: a really versatile method, which – very similar to solo/unsupported – offers you the power to shift issues in order that your try matches in with a climate window.

Cons: has the potential to be a large faff, as you drive round wherever it is perhaps – the Lakes, Snowdonia or Lochaber – stashing your baggage while you’d probably be higher of resting (or operating).


Operating by yourself, however with exterior help at key factors

Execs: organising one or two individuals to fulfill you on the roads is comparatively straightforward compared to organising a full group. It is a bit much less lonely than a full solo mission, as you do get to see individuals, and likewise a bit safer as a consequence of the truth that there may be some (albeit minimal) help ready for you at sure key factors.

Cons: requires just a little extra admin, however nonetheless calls for you navigate your method round, and carry every little thing you want.

Should you’re operating solo there is no escaping the low moments. You will have to learn to bounce again


Operating both with one other individual or individuals, with additional help on the roads

Execs: that is doubtless probably the most social, and probably probably the most enjoyable approach to full a spherical, plus it has the advantage of having a a lot better probability of success too, as you may have a tempo set and other people to hold all of your package and navigate.

Cons: it requires numerous organisation and makes you just a little extra fastened to a person date, which has the potential to be a great factor (as a result of it makes it actual) and a nasty factor (as a result of you’ll be able to’t assure good climate).


If you have not acquired the time to tempo different individuals, however desire a pacer, that is an choice, albeit fairly a contentious one, because it’s perceived to go towards the ethos of the spirit of the spherical

Execs: ensures high quality help, from somebody that is aware of the spherical, the tempo and what’s required so that you can make it.

Cons: is that this actually what you need? Within the case of the Bob Graham, guided rounds is not going to be accepted into the Bob Graham Membership

Early morning, heading for Helvellyn © Dan Bailey

Time of Yr – when is greatest to present it a go?

On paper, one of the best time of 12 months to do a Huge Spherical is across the longest day, while you’ve acquired loads of daylight and the climate and underfoot situations are – at the least in principle – extra more likely to be dry.

There are a couple of apparent caveats to this, with the primary being that British climate is extraordinarily fickle and it is price constructing contingencies into your plan round this.

So what if it is a washout? Recommendation on this topic tends to range, with some individuals saying to “give it a go no matter what the climate is doing” and others – together with myself – erring in direction of “go away it till one other day, while you’ll be extra more likely to have enjoyable”. Most people I’ve supported on tough days have had a tricky time. Should you do determine to proceed, you may little doubt have a day to recollect, however in case you choose to postpone simply be sure to can one other date pencilled in ASAP, as you do not need to lose momentum together with your try.

Good situations are arduous to search out, however days like this come shut © Rob Greenwood – UKC

The opposite difficulty with going near the longest day is that it may be extremely popular, which presents totally different however no much less problematic points than an excessive amount of rain. Not one of the rounds have significant shade, so there is no escape from the warmth, and when warmth stroke hits – it hits arduous. There are methods to assist mitigate this (i.e. drink a LOT of water, and hold topping up the electrolytes), however do not underestimate the problem it provides. Warmth does have its makes use of although, with extended sunshine drying out the bottom to make it extra runnable; nevertheless, it may additionally dry up a number of the streams you may want for refreshment alongside the best way.

It is also price taking a look at what state the moon is in, as a result of a full moon is a large profit in a single day, because it gives you with much more mild. In fact, in an effort to take advantage of this it wants tobe cloud-free – which is not all the time the case – but it surely’s price being conscious of and planning round it, in case you can.

It could appear a fruitless activity to try to summarise seasonal climate situations, given how unpredictable it all the time is. However this is a broad generalisation of a number of the professionals and cons of every of probably the most appropriate months:

April* Execs – can get some good, cool situations (in case you’re fortunate) Cons – rather a lot much less daylight, may truly be fairly chilly

Might* Professional – historically a great, secure climate month within the mountains Cons – barely much less daylight, however not by a lot

June Professional – a equally good month to Might, however with much more daylight Cons – could be fairly heat, midges begin to turn out to be an issue

July Execs – nonetheless a great quantity of daylight Cons – extra midges, extra rain, roads more likely to be busier with vacationer visitors

August Execs – only a few… Cons – much less daylight, midge scenario near insufferable, roads more likely to be busier with vacationer visitors, vegetation at its highest

September Execs – tends to be a bit cooler than the summer time months, with extra secure climate Cons – rather a lot much less daylight, vegetation will nonetheless be fairly excessive

* In spring it may nonetheless be winter on the Scottish hills. Important snow patches can persist into Might or June on the Charlie Ramsay Spherical, which can successfully write off an early season try – except you are desirous to do it with axe and crampons.

One factor is for certain although: you are by no means going to get good situations, and in case you’re ready for them there is a distinct probability you are going to be ready a very long time.

In winter situations the slender ridges and steep slopes of the Ramsay Spherical name for mountaineering competence © Dan Bailey

Etiquette and environmental issues

Our presence throughout the upland atmosphere all the time has some impression.

One factor I all the time advocate is the precept of “be good, say hello”. Take into account your self an envoy for the large rounds while you are doing them. Individuals are usually fascinated as to what you are doing and if you cannot clarify, get certainly one of your help to. It will genuinely make somebody’s day. Within the valleys, the noise we make near individuals’s houses could be heard, and is unlikely to be welcome within the early hours of the morning, so in case you’re a foghorn (like me) – bear in mind to show it down a notch.

On the subject of the atmosphere, there is no denying that the rise in reputation of the large rounds has had a marked impact on the obviousness of the tracks and trods which can be taken. Nowhere is that this extra apparent than the Bob Graham, the place the road up Clough Head, particularly, represents one thing of an eyesore. An article resembling this may very well be seen to make issues worse, as these items do not must be extra in style; nevertheless, the difficulty – in my eyes – is extra complicated than simply the variety of individuals doing it. The obsession with doing it in beneath 24 hours results in individuals over reccying, so moderately than operating it simply a couple of times beforehand, they cowl the bottom many extra instances. Every go to means footfall and erosion. Add into the combination a gang of pacers, with some events taking 4 or extra on every leg, and there is going to be a far better impression.

While I am not advocating everybody does it onsight, solo, what I’m saying is that we do want to contemplate our impression. I additionally assume we should always transfer the main target away from the Bob Graham just a little as ‘the spherical’ to do and open the doorways to the others. While neither of these is with out points, in case you method them in a sympathetic and delicate method (i.e. do not over reccy and take into account the quantity of help you obtain) then the extent of wear and tear ought to be extra balanced.

It ought to go with out saying: comply with the Countryside Code in England and Wales, and the Scottish Out of doors Entry Code north of the border.