Solo Attempts on the Round
In 1932 Bob Graham took pacers and company to help him in completing his round. It is an ethical and practical approach that the club encourages, and is committed to continue to require as a criterion for membership.
In light of the above, the criteria for Club membership were set down back in 1972. The criterion regarding having one’s arrival at each summit witnessed remains as valid today as ever.
From the Club’s perspective, solo attempts will, for safety reasons, not be recognised or considered for club membership (this includes partly solo rounds, i.e. a round that is only partly witnessed). One of the Club’s purposes is to encourage attempts. The potential risks to a contender are significantly increased should a contender chose to travel solo for around 24 hours in the Lake District mountains. Having company in the mountains enhances the safety factor.
The risk of losing a contender in the mountains may seem far-fetched but there have been deaths of fell runners during much shorter fell races. It is understandable that there is no desire to repeat that experience in a Bob Graham Club context. Were the Club to recognise solo completions for membership, it’s no great step in the minds of loved ones left behind to see that as an endorsement, nay an encouragement, of solo attempts; and families may feel that the Club (which is an unincorporated body) and therefore its Officers should bear some responsibility for a dreadful turn of events.
One claim made for modern GPS devices is that they can provide both veracity and a form of safety, however there have been fraudulent attempts to secure membership over the years; the advent of modern technology to validate a round neither mitigates the safety issue nor removes the ability to defraud.
Allied to solo attempts are attempts where a form of reciprocal witnessing takes place: contender A witnesses contender B and vice versa. This is acceptable, and there have been several such rounds over the years, but not recommended.
There are many accounts of multi-contender attempts having to split up. The most common reason is simply that most people go through a significant bad patch, often for several hours, and hoping that these coincide is hoping for too much. If contenders do have to separate, safety margins are hugely reduced. Pacts not to separate are all well and good at the Moot Hall before setting off but can unravel under the physical and mental pressures of the day. Again if the party has to separate, then the attempt will effectively be over in terms of obtaining membership of the Club.
In summary, the witnessing rule has always been in the Club’s Guidance Notes, and always will be. It is grounded in safety. Clearly in limiting the only help on the fells to a co-contender (who may be in a pretty poor physical state should problems arise), there is a significant reduction in the safety margins for the individuals. Usually a support team of two persons per leg should be adequate, but the decision on the number of supporters and pacers is of course up to the individual.