Lake District Classic Rock record smashed

Shane Ohly completed the self-supported rock and running challenge on Wednesday

Read time 3 mins

Published Aug 19, 2022

Hannah Mitchell BASE Digital Writer Hannah is a Lake District-based journalist and all-round outdoor lass with a particular fondness for rock faces.

The Lakes Classic Rock Round is 34 miles of Lakeland terrain with 4300 metres of ascent, scaling 15 rock routes totalling 70 pitches. On Wednesday 17th August, former professional climber and mountain runner Shane Ohly broke the record on the route, clocking a gobsmacking time of 9 hours and 22 minutes.

The iconic routes are a staple in any British climber’s tick-list, but few will attempt to tackle them all in one go. Combining all the Lakeland climbs listed in Ken Wilson’s 1978 book Classic Rock, the round is a challenging route in an area known for severe weather, and a successful attempt is often largely dependent on the conditions.

Photo: Mark Bullock

‘I started at Dow Crag at 10:09 and finished at Shepherds at 19:31 in a total time of 09:22,’ said Shane. ‘The weather was perfect – after a super-hot spell over the weekend, the crags were completely dry and then yesterday was cloudy and cool giving ideal running and climbing conditions in the mountains.’

Achieving a self-supported speed record on the Classic Rock round requires not only a staggering amount of fell-running fitness, but also climbing skill and immense forethought.

Participants will typically solo the climbs (climbing without ropes or any other form of protection), ascending some routes and down-climbing the rest in order to complete them in the fastest possible time, so familiarity with the routes is essential. There is no pre-determined format to the round that participants must follow, so it is up to the individual to plot and recce their route so that they can navigate between crags, unencumbered by maps.

I’ve invested about 30-days on the route meticulously learning, and ultimately memorising each of the rock climbs and the running route

‘I’ve invested about 30-days on the route meticulously learning, and ultimately memorising each of the rock climbs and the running route,’ explained Shane. ‘Having that detailed knowledge of the climbs is essential to enable the routes to be climbed safely when tired. Likewise, the knowledge of the running route allowed me to run free of any map and without any concerns about how I’d get to the next crag.’

As an ex-professional climber, Shane is known for bold ascents and free-soloing routes up to E7. In 2003, along with climbing partner John Arran, Shane formulated a mad-cap plan for an endurance challenge, soloing 500 routes in a day in the Peak District – ultimately he soloed 502. Around this time Shane began winding down his professional climbing career, venturing more and more into endurance running developing a penchant for gruelling mountain marathons. He has completed a record solo and unsupported midwinter Bob Graham Round and held the winter Ramsay Round record between 2008 and 2012. Classic Rock it seems, was a logical next step.

It’s extremely satisfying to get this challenge done and relive the very visceral experience of soloing, which defined my early career as a pro climber

The previous self-supported record of 10 hours 41 minutes on the Lakes Classic Rock round was held by Cumbrian climber and fell-runner Will Birkett, after a hard-fought battle between him and Tom Randall in 2020.

‘There has only been a handful of climbers to complete the round, only three in under 12 hours, and not one of them can comprehend soloing it all in running shoes! Shane has taken the challenge to the next level,’ says Will, who has also completed the 60-mile, 21 route North Wales leg of the round.

Shane sets off up Bracket and Slab Route, Gimmer Crag. Photo: Mark Bullock

Shane’s record comes as the result of three years of planning, training, numerous recces and consideration of kit and conditions. Despite his success though, he acknowledges the inherent danger of undertaking such a challenge, and strongly advises anyone considering something similar to give it some serious thought beforehand.

‘It’s extremely satisfying to get this challenge done and relive the very visceral experience of soloing, which defined my early career as a pro climber. Whilst I hope that people take some inspiration from this, and I was certainly inspired by Will Birkett and Tom Randall‘s 2020 exploits, please make sure you choose challenges that are suitable to your level of experience and skill,’ said Shane. ‘Hand on heart, I can’t recommend Classic Rock in this style.’

The first known human-powered completion of the round was by Nick Wharton and Brian Davidson, topping out on famous Lakeland rock route (and typically where the challenge ends) Little Chamonix, in 2013.

The round has seen other historical records in recent years, with Mandy Glanville and Julie Carter of the Pinnacle Club becoming the first all-female team to complete the round in June 2021, and Katie Mackay becoming the first woman to complete a sub-24 hour round in April this year.

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