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Abraham's Tea Round - A runners account

Written by George Fisher

Abraham’s Tea Round is a 30 mile route with 12,00ft+ of ascent that starts and finishes at the doors of our store in Keswick.

The route takes in all the tops which can be viewed (on a clear day!) from Abraham’s Café on the top level of George Fisher.

Each year hardy runners and ambitious hikers from across the UK visit Keswick to take on Abraham’s Tea Round. With successful entrants being rewarded instore with a free cup of tea at Abraham’s Café and an exclusive Abraham’s Tea Round badge.

Our customer Peter Jobes (The Unforgiving Minute) recently returned to Keswick to complete the Tea Round in a very respectable 9 hours and 16 minutes!

Here is his story…

 It’s 5:40am and I’ve already been awake for some time. I give up on waiting for the alarm and pick up my phone to check the MWIS forecast. Rain with a side order of cloudy summits. Quelle surprise.

The question is; go or no go? The answer was never in doubt. I tumble out of bed and get ready, making a bowl of porridge and chatting to my housemate about the route. He wants to know if I don’t come home which hill I’ll have fallen off. He also wants to know where my life insurance forms are. Unrelated, I assume.

A couple of hours later and I’m standing outside the doors of George Fisher, ready to go. After a disastrous day in the fells last July, I have some business to finish with the Abraham’s Tea Round today.

The conditions are perfect running out of Keswick, through Portinscale, to Cat Bells. It doesn’t take long to get to the summit and the day’s started well.

My mistake from last year was taking the Maiden Moor ridge up and over Dale Head and Hindscarth. It added needless miles and elevation. This year I’d settled on taking the optimal route. I drop into the Valley and start the climb onto Robinson.

The Newlands Valley is breathtaking. It’s a long slog up Robinson, but you’re immersed in all the glory of the fells. I’m breathless with wonder. Or breathless from the false summits and light scrambling. One of the two.

From the summit it’s a steep descent following the fence line to Buttermere. It was damp and slippy and didn’t give much opportunity to gain speed until it flattened out at Dalegarth.

Next was the moment of truth. High Stile. The old adversary. I paused to refill my soft flasks in the cool waters of Comb Beck and then got my head down and set a steady pace. This is where I came unstuck last year and the climb onto the cloud draped summit felt slow and hard work. It’s rocky and steep and little fun, but summiting with my will to go on intact felt like a victory.

This is where I came unstuck last year and the climb onto the cloud draped summit felt slow and hard work.

From there it’s a dash across to Red Pike and a brief chat to some runners out on a Frog Graham recce. I’ve not mastered the loose stone descent to Bleaberry Tarn, so I had the brakes on a bit coming off the summit. After another fill up in Sour Milk Gill it’s time for the slippy stone slabs down to Buttermere.

This is roughly the half way mark, and I was about four and a half hours in. Bang on target, but I was aiming for a quicker second half so the challenge was still to come.

The climb onto Whiteless Pike is straightforward enough. I tried, and failed, to stop for a snack – just can’t seem to eat much running, so had to make do with a few Haribo.

At the top of Whiteless Edge, I make the day’s only detour – an extra 400 metres to Wandope. The views are excellent across Sail Beck and onto Knott Rigg, but more importantly it’s another Wainwright bagged.

That marks the last of the three big climbs that define the round, but my watch is showing another 1000m of ascent to go. The second half wasn’t shaping up to be the picnic I’d planned.

I stop one more time to fill up the flasks. I drank four and a half litres on the run so refilling on the go was indispensable. Nothing tastes as good as fresh, cold, water on a hot day.

Hobcarton Crag and Grisedale Pike follow in quick succession. I’m back in the clouds at the top of Grisedale and for the first time in the day it starts to rain. Thankfully it didn’t last long and by the time I hit Coledale Hause it’s mere drizzle.

There are a couple of routes up onto Crag Hill. I’d planned to take the easier one if my legs were sluggish but they were still suprisingly fresh for six and a half hours in. I opted for the fun of some light scrambling on Eel Crag.

From Crag Hill it’s straight onto Sail and then what should be a quick stretch towards Causey Pike, but by this stage my quads were complaining and I didn’t get up to pace.

The view from Causey Pike is spectacular and was worth every bit of the effort. There’s a steep technical descent off the summit followed by an out and back to Rowling End. The flattish terrain and the cold wet heather brushing my legs makes it a welcome respite.

I couldn’t find a good line to Barrow Door so it’s a tentative trot down to the stream. I wade through as deep as I can and enjoy the feeling of cold water filling my shoes. They drain quick so it’s no problem.

Then it’s onto the last climb of the day. Lowly Barrow never felt so tall. I was in the pain cave by now, but it doesn’t take too long. The downhill was still hard work with the sore quads but then I picked up the pace once I hit Braithwaite.

As I ran through Portinscale, I started to feel some emotion. The giants of the sport have all ran this way at the end of their legendary achievements on the Bob Graham. You run this stretch in the footsteps of Joss, Jasmine, Billy, Nicky, Kilian.

Portinscale to Keswick is the taste of success, the elated pay off for hours of grind. My fist pumps the air as I cross the footbridge and start to push, determined to finish strong.

By the time I hit the bottom of the main street adrenaline has pushed the pace up as quick as when I left town on fresh legs nine hours before. I sprint to the doors of Fisher’s, touch the green paintwork, and stop the clock.

I went into the day wanting to know if I could keep going over a long endurance run. I didn’t make my target time of 8:30, but ended up really pleased with 9:16. It was a tough day out and I enjoyed it. Less stopping to soak in the views might have shaved off some minutes, but would also have stole some of the joy. There’s no point in being up there and not taking the time to look around.

Abraham’s Tea Round is a great place to start for people, like me, looking to explore endurance fell/mountain running. Thirty miles and 3,500 metres of elevation make it a real challenge and it rewards your efforts with some of the finest views in England.

I’m excited for some of the other challenges that now feel that little bit more possible. The green light on the dock flickers on. That’s all talk for another day though, once I’m able to walk down stairs pain-free again.

A huge thank you to Peter Jobes for sharing his experiences of our now famous route!

Planning to give the Abraham’s Tea Round a go? We stock our very own Harvey’s map of the route, available here.

We have recently introduced the little sister to the Tea Round, The Espresso Round! There may be no leader board, badge of honour or free refreshments but this 14 mile round is all about the challenge! Check out the route on Strava here.