Helvellyn from Thirlmere – Monday 6th August – Week 4

Lakeland’s most popular mountain

The summer of 2012 is and continues to be remembered for the constant rainfall. June was already recognised as the wettest since records began. I guess as a  resident Englishman one shouldn’t be surprised by a month of rain drenched weekends, which is tolerable I guess, but April, May, June and July have barely offered up a few good days for walking. The SMASH diary had in mind the high peaks to be tackled in what should be the drier of months; clear blue skies, long days, sunset desents. We had already postponed our ascent on Skiddaw scheduled for early July, remains un-smashed. Helvellyn would be our last climb before Scafell Pike in August so it was kind of important that we set our expectations right by getting in some of the big peaks beforehand.

After postponing Helvellyn from its original planned date of 29th July again due to poor weather conditions we figured the next weekend would give us a good spell, but it didn’t! Talking to the SMASH regulars, we all remained uncertain about the chances of getting out at all and were feeling properly down trodden about cancelling another walk.

However after keeping a close eye on the forecast there looked like the weather might break just a bit on Monday so on a bit of whim I grabbed the little people and made the journey to Thirlmere.

Jack and Emily were less than impressed with the weather but at least the rain was holding off and we set off up the clear stepped path beside Helvellyn Gill. I already knew this walk was going to be less inspiring for them and started a trivia quiz to keep our minds from the task. At this juncture I had my doubts about the weather and set in my mind this was more about just getting outside and seeing if Jack and Em would deal with the conditions. The walk would be straight forward though and had no intentions other than to reach the summit and come back down on the same path.

The cloud line was around 500 meters and so we disappeared into the soft white cloud admiring the surreal nature of how new features suddenly appeared from the mist.

The quiz went well. Emily thashed Jack and I for not knowing any of her horse based questions which of course remains her specialist subject.  I fought fire with fire and hit her with a bunch of questions about mountains and bikes. Jack on the other hand read like a book of general knowledge leaving me wishing I had room in my head for the more fascinating facts of our world rather than passwords and work based garbage that would send a glass eye to sleep.

We met no one on the way up. There was a guy on the summit who we spoke to and learned he had ascended from Striding Edge which I thought was brave in these conditions. The four of us all had that look on our faces that said, what are we doing up here? But equally it comes with a wry smile that expresses the inner pride that you bothered to go out at all today and climb over 900 meters to see absolutely nothing at all when you got there apart from each other and a wet trig point.

It could be any trig point against a featureless backdrop

I directed the guy over towards the shelter from the trig where he continued toward Dollywaggon Pike. Jack, Emily and I fumbled about for our lunch bites with wet gloves pulling at draw strings and clips in that panicky shivery style when your eager to get at some food that you know will make you feel normal again.Just then a group of about 6 teenage girls rocked up carrying back packs that looked like they might have more teenage girls inside them. It turned out they were on their third day of a 4 day walk across the lakes and were clearly trying their best to remain upbeat about the journey knowing the weather had been cruel and would remain that way. They took their places on the bi-directional shelter from the wind and had lunch and then they were up, onwards and upwards as they say and they headed toward Whiteside.

Are we pleased to be here?

We had our fair and took some very uninspiring snaps if only to prove we were on Helvellyn. There was no view at all and in a way this was kind of amusing to Jack and Emily, they found it bizarre to climb all this way into the cloud and see nothing. How do you deal with that? I guess they could have attacked me and pushed me over the edge. Surprisingly Jack was joking about it remarking that it was typical of me to make them come up here.  They were great though and now we had had enough of the wet clouds we wanted to get down quickly and the moment it was suggested Emily visualised herself back in a warm car wearing dry clothes and hugging her favourite cushion for a sleepy ride home. It sounded like a nice idea, so we stepped up the pace. In doing so though Emily took a trip and though I was holding her hand she went down and grazed her leg and to make matters worse I accidentally trod on her arm.  She was a bit tearful but her determination to get off this mountain was reignited and she manned up to walk off the beating she had taken.We dropped down below the cloud line and could see the start-finish as others were making their way up. I have to say too many looked less than prepared for what they were planning. One father dressed in black jeans and a t-shirt leading his wife carrying a hand bag and an umberalla, his daughter in similar inapproapriate garb. He asked if he was going the right way for Helvellyn. Without being direct or suggesting he wasn’t really equipped for the cold, wet and poor visibilty. He had no map or a shell jacket, I confirmed he was on the trail for Helvellyn but added there was nothing to see thinking it would disuade him from pressing on. I detected a slight gesture of thanks from his daughter. I hope they didn’t continue.

So with Helvellyn SMASHed I was confident that Jack and Emily and myself were better equipped in our minds and physically able to take on Scafell regardless of what the weather could offer in August. So it was a successful walk in as much as it was grim. Were we glad we come out?

Of course!

Walk Route Summary:– The Swirls Car Park Thirlmere, Browncove Crags, Lower Man (Helvellyn), Helvellyn,  The Swirls Car Park Thirlmere.Vital Statistics for this Walk

  • Length/Distance: 13.50km (8 miles)
  • Total Ascent: 1005m (3296ft)
  • Allow at least: 4.50hrs
  • Walk Grade: 5
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Tour of Helvellyn – 45km/28miles – Grasmere – Monday June 18th

High Mountain Classic

With the Big 4 Day Epic looming l needed to get in some distance rides on terrain that would mimic that Keith and I would ride on the 12th of July from Pooley Bridge in the North Eastern corner of the Lake District in Kentmere, the Howgill Fells then southeast into the South Yorkshire Dales aiming for every high pass in our way. My riding conditioning was in need of a boost and the only way to do so would be to ride long and high.

To Patterdale from the A591

The Tour of Helvellyn is a well known classic ride, not classic in the sense you can see it off after a day in the office way, but classic in that it represents a purist lakeland ride that has a bit of everything. Steep rocky packhorse roads a well graded coach road and busy lakeside roads whizzing with tourists.

My attempt on this route was a solo effort which I enjoy sometimes when I know the going is not exactly what one would call a good ride but simply getting around and completing the tour not always sat on the bike but rather underneath it as required for the first third of journey. I parked just north of Grasmere at the Travellers Rest pub on the A591on the provision I would have a drink and a bite to eat to the sum of £5 when I return. Fairly doos I thought and took a raffle ticket and popped it on the dash hoping it doesn’t get pulled out the hat.

A good trail to Great Tongue

I set out in search of a good bridle path that turned right and climbed steep. No messing here opting for granny ring immediately just to spin the legs into a gentle warm up and grind out the ascending stoney track towards Great Tongue following Little Tongue Gill. The recent weather that has remained wet since High Street has gills and becks gushing white with rain falling from the fells feeding the lakes around either Grasmere or Thirlmere. The gradient steepens to G.O.A.P (Get Off And Push) status. No amount of hanging on the bars will keep the front end down so I resort to pacing out the climb it stages. This scenario always reminds me of the climb up Bram Rigg in the Howgill Fells to the Calf. Killer! The stone trail fades to that kept grass that only sheep can offer. I use the footsized steps to get a grip on the hill and begin to feel the effects of what can only be described as a full body work out pushing my bike decisively through my legs and chest out through my arms. I’m assessing the magnitude of the climb and how much is left of the ride after what is an incredibly slow start to a long day and imagine what time I would get round to Thirlmere. It seems like ages away with some much mountain before me. The only indication of progress here is clear when looking back to the view of Grasmere which looks very inviting. I think about lying in the park with a book and a beer.

Grasmere from Little Tongue

Waterfall under Fairfield

The track turns stoney but this time it’s knarley and the pace remains slow keep you from gaining enough speed to carry you across the roughest sections. The scree from Seat Sandal is responsible for what makes you think, “what’s the point of this again”? I revert to rolling to a stop and pushing before I can ride to the next unridable boulder field. It’s not a bridleway really. It’s not a path if only for the fact it’s a series of green dashes on the map. I hoist the bike onto my back as more rain falls from under my helmet, it’s head down to start the hike a bike section up to the highest point of the ride through Hause Gap below Seat Sandal to Grisdale Tarn. The role is reversed and I’m taking my bike for a walk because it’s given up and  doesn’t intend to turn another wheel until we head down. Typical!

Grisedale Tarn from Hause Gap looking to Ullswater – A banana stop.

Despite the grueling climb and lack of any proper riding I’m lifted by the view of the cool looking tarn. The sky is a mix of broken grey and white clouds occasionally interrupted with blue but not nearly enough to make a pair of sailors trousers.

I was also lifted by the prospect of a fast descent. You can bare a major G.O.A.P. for the

Just a matter of line choice eh?

promise of an equally major screaming downhill. From Grisedale Tarn the trail looked good . I can remember years ago riding from the side of Dollywagon Pike on my rigid Cannondale m300 (in mango). Yes is was hard going but i was new to riding then and now after 17 years and some upgrade to riding machinery I could make a better go of  this descent. At least that’s what I had in mind. Either my memory has been romanticised over the years or it’s just plain poor, or this trail is now more technical. Do we say technical for those parts of the trail we can’t or won’t ride? The parts where we don’t dare clip in for fear of bailing it onto something that would not only hurt but would put you out of action for a while. This was not my intention today. Live to ride another day is my motto. Beside I had a big ride ahead next month and accommodation is booked an paid for. As I surveyed the trail ahead I was met with regular should I or should I not moments, do or dies that that begged the question. What would Gee Atherton do here? Could he ride it. I figured he could but as I shouldered my bike down through the boulders and steps. When I say steps I don’t mean a tidy line of equal sized treads and risers, but steps that had be kicked about forming no discernible line to choose. I stood looking at the next place to put a foot. I was convinced Gee Atherton would at least find it tricky and if he took a tumble then I’d have to say I was right to walk this part.

The trail continued in this manner for some miles. Walkers were looking puzzled at me for thinking I could ride down here. One feels a need to give it a go a bit more when faced with a group of walkers anticipating your skills on the mountain. My only hope here is they catch you on a section that is knarly enough to rattle your teeth but not enough to knock them out with a spectacular face plant. I recalled Keith’s favourite entry for the blog in this scenario is to write, “it was at this stage of the ride I realised my bike was nothing more than a very expensive walking stick.”

Ruthwaite climbing Lodge at 373m.

Sure enough at this point I confessed to have carried my bike further than I’d ridden it. Reluctantly known as Dismountain Biking. Technically this was not true it just felt like it. I was eager to make some progress with my wheels under me and hoped for a trail to ride on. At Ruthwaite lodge (climbing hut) I took another break. The trail ahead did look civilised in that it was actually man made. A bumpy supersized cobbled path punctuated with rain channels. The path was steep and required a large amount of weight over the rear wheel as the front did it’s best to dive and send me over the bars. A new found technique that seemed to work well was the pedal slowly in a high gear with the back brake lightly applied. It felt strange to be pedaling down a path this steep in this way but was satisfying in that I was at least riding at last.

The start of “the ride” the end of the walking. From Ruthwaite Lodge along Grisdale Beck to Patterdale.  Place Fell is seen through the valley.

Boats at the coffee stop at Glenridding opposite St Patrick’s Well

The ride now was a pleasant cruise in Patterdale. From super knarly to clean buff broad track with a few gates thrown in. One extreme to the other, but fast approached Patterdale and Glennridding where I pulled into a fine coffee hut opposite St Patrick’s Well on the shores of Ullswater. I shared the moment with a few tourists taking in the tranquility of the day. A coffee and my own Soreen to replenish lost vitals to set me up for the next stage of the ride. A road section on the A592 along the shores of Ullswater to pick up the A5091 turn climbing toward Dockray.

Ullswater

Glencoyne

The road to Dockray is a slow climb and but offers up great views of Ullswater. From Dockray I turn left at the pub through High Row where the Old Coach Road can be joined.

I met a three mountain bikers taking break here and stopped for a natter. Typically the chat was centered around the disappointing summer we’ve had. They were on the way to Keswick planning to use the Old Coach Road too. I set off and they followed shortly after. The old coach road is a well graded track it remains relatively level as it contours below Clough Head but evidently it’s well used from the resurfacing work taking place, but probably more to do withthe heavy and persistant rainfall suffered in the recent weeks. A heavy digger trundled along taking up the full width of the track. There was more work to be done as puddle after puddle appeared, deep to the pedals were a measure of the heavy rainfall here. This should have been a hard packed dusty road. I promised myself a return when it dried out, if ever.

The Old Puddle Path (Old Coach Road)

There are good views of the North Pennines to the north east with little in the way . Great Mell Fell and Little Mell Fell the last of the Wainwrights signifying the edge of the Lake district. Clicky this link for some HD video… Eventually the road begins to descend and dirt and puddles give way to hard stone. Gravity builds and builds as the track opens on the approach to Thelkeld common. Blencathra is massive to the right and my ride is now nudging grin factor ten as I’m blasting down Hauswell Brow. It’s on trails like this where I feel the Nomad works best, encouraging me to leave off the brakes and attack the descent. It’s a brilliant trail and I’m buzzin at last.

Great Mell Fell and Little Mell Fell from the Old Coach Road

I arrive at Wanthwaite and grab breath totally pleased with myself and in love with the riding today as the slog of the previous hours blend into the experience of the whole ride. It’s a Tour of Helvellyn. It’s got it all. I descide the tour has three experiences. The first is a hard and frustrating grind to Patterdale. Secondly, pleasant, fun and adrenaline fueled to this point where the third section begins as a tame and tranquil road ride around the back of Thirlmere Reservoir.

The last section of the Old Coach Road descent to Wanthwaite

I pick up the grassy single track bridleway at the Foot of High Rigg through St John’s in the Vale. It’s a roller coaster trail of short up and down blasts. A good workout for the fingers and thumbs as well as the legs. The weather now was ideal. The sun was out. I was reveling in the surroundings taking a step back for the riding giving more time to look around. At Sosgill Bridge the bridle way comes to and changing to a footpath so I turn left onto the B5322 as far as the Green where I cross the A591 and head for the dam, the head of Thirlmere Reservoir.

Thirlmere Reservoir

The Reservoir was built in the 19th century to supply Manchester with water to keep up with the increased growth of industry.  The reservoir and surrounding forested valley is owned and managed by United Utilities, a private water and waste water company.

Dam plaque.

From here the sun dipped behind the fells that make oy the likes of Bleaberry Fell and High Seat, I decided to take the quieter back road the edges around Thrilmere. I nice meandering section of tarmac if the was ever such a thing. Actually after the strains of the day I didn’t mind the easy road back to the Travellers Inn espcially as I could look across the reservoir to admire the back of the Helvellyn range, the Dodds and Helvellyn itself lit brightly by the late afternoon sun.

Overall I was feelling very pleased about how I faired against the test of this tour. It was intended to bench mark my riding condition and I was now confident that I could attack the 4 day epic dispite what it had in store. All I needed to do now was continue to putin some regular distance rides from home and I’ll be ready. I finished the day with £5 odd worth of goods from the Travellers rest in exchange for parking there all day and took home a snickers and bag of crisp and some nuts. Should have gone for the cream tea.

High Street North -22 miles – Hartsop – Saturday 19th May – Week 1

High Street has long held a certain appeal to me. Ever since I was asked to tackle Helvellyn on a my bike just weeks after buying my first mountain bike I knew it was the high mountain rides that I would always grab my attention. I first rode High Street back in 2004 shortly after I got my Scott Genius. With a bloke named Dave, from Blackpool. I met Dave on a ride heading for the Garburn Pass in Kentmere. For some reason Dave and I refused to settle for the obligatory knod that bikers do when they pass by each other. We ended up riding the whole route together. I remember clearly that he wore a disturbing combination of Lycra shorts and a full face helmet. Later in the ride I found a way of asking him about his opposite apparel. I casually asked, “Are you not hot in that big lid?”.  It turned out the fall face was in reaction to a major crash that resulted in surgery to his face. He wasn’t taking any chances but still wanted to ride fast. It made me question what could happen. Dave said it wasn’t like he was being daft, quite and innocent off really that went bad. We seemed to get along well, he rode an old Scott Voltage with a Stars and Stripes paint job. It was a tired looking bike against my spanking new Genius but I admired his carefree just ride and get on with it and use what you have approach. He had just been married and had just moved into a house which needed a load of work, added to this his wife was expecting their first baby. His ride out that day was a means to clear his head and recharge. Well after that first ride Dave and I agreed to meet up again in Hartsop so he could show me the thrills of High Street. I was as keen as a badger.

The Nomad out with fresh new rebound cartridge for the fork and wider bars. Despite it’s racked stance it climbs superbly.

Hayes Water Gill

8 years later Mick and I arrived in Hartsop carpark amass with muddy puddles from the recent rain. It was cloudy Saturday morning we were full of excitement for what I described as a full on Lakeland mountain biking experience. I’ve known Mick since he started riding about 2 years ago and was aware he’d not tackled anything like a high mountain pass. I tried to paint the right kind of picture for Mick so that he’d look forward to it, emphasising the 5 mile descent, or did I say 6. How many of you always add a mile for descents when inviting your mates out for ride. I think I take a mile off for climbs as well. But I needn’t bother where Mick is concerned he’s always bang up for a good climb.

We set out on the well graded bridleway after checking to see I was’nt going to take the

Is that not the Knott? I’m off!

footpath instead. There’s absolutely no chance to warm the muscles or stretch the lungs before launching hard into a grueling series of gated bursts. Ascents that have you hanging down hard on the bars, and butt perched down hard on the nose of the saddle to get the rear tire to scramble some traction from the loose trail. From the off we were egging each other not to dab. Breaking the peace of Patterdale was the sound of rushing water of Hayeswater Gill and that of two southern wide boys growling out ‘Goo on mar san’. The leg burn was immense as ten minutes ago they were couped up in the car for an hour and a half so this was a rush of blood to the legs. Every gate was a goal as we sectioned our way around Gray Crag towards Hayeswater. The trail eases before turning into Hayeswater Reserviour.

G.O.A.P mar san!

The next goal was the Knott. A slippery climb and a 350 metre G.O.A.P ascent was the only way to go. Along the way we crossed an Australian dude in his late fifties, sporting long blonde hair that hung out from under a black wooley hat and looking fairly relaxed. He opened up with, “I thought you brits were crazy, now I know you are.”  I’m not sure what’s crazy about taking a mountain bike on a mountain, it’s been going on for a while now and I’m sure he’s heard of mountain biking. Anyway I’m not the one that hails from a hot country finding himself plodging about in mud. It turned out he was from Perth and reminded me that Lesley’s uncle Ray was due over and has passed on a message to me to get a good walk ready.  We exchanged our intended routes for the day and parted company and I set off for a quick sprint towards the next unrideable section and lofted the bike again and now was set to go non stop to the Knott and no holding back. I just wanted to ride again!

Mick passing along the Straits of Riggingdale and the Knott seen left.

High Street summit.

High Street was in view with a cloud just skimming the top. The slog up this far had made me reconsider the climb over onto High Street itself, knowing we’d plan to have a look around then turn around and come back down again. We agreed to swing left away from Haweswater towards High Raise.

The trails was sweet for riding. Firm with plenty of obstacles to negotiate. Step ups, raising rock gardens and sharp slices of stone like racks of toast to slip between were all entertaining and the added height of our position all went to make up that high mountain ride I had been looking forward to. We cut left over to the cairns at Ramsgill Head to get a good look into Martindale. Mick was preoccupied with the workings of his front mech. A tinker was on the cards for certain. Out came the lube and Mick was satisfied it had restored it back to normal operation, while I was admiring the moving cloud getting caught on High Raise.

It was much cooler up here and the perspiration from all the up hill exertion was now chilling on the skin so time to move on and warm up again. We looked out for the trail I nosed ahead searching for a suitable line onto the old Roman road known as High Street which would descend for about  6 miles to Loadpot Hill over crossing over RedCrag and  Wether Hill.

The Northern Fells from High Raise

A quick burst up to High Raise for a sit down for snackages and to soak up the view. Though we were already doing enough soaking up ourselves. My shorts were feeling a bit heavy without a mud guard to catch the rain. Mick did a 360 video from High Raise at 802 meters while I needed to send a picture to absent friends, just to show them what they were missing of course.

You put your Soreen down for 5 minutes and someone rides over it!

The problem was as we soon found out, the path of which there are many are not so easy to navigate on a bike. The bridleway is not always as well defined as some of the footpaths. Mick sped off in front, launching huge rooster tails of rain water from his rear tire, giving me a power shower soaking. We soon found ourselves slipping down a vanishing singletrack off to the left of Red Crag slowing to a boundary wall at the head of Mere Beck. There was no definable path ahead. We checked over the map to realise our unintended position meant more pushing up onto High Street. We rejoined a trail presuming to be the High Street bridleway.  The going was soft to softer still to say the least. Short bursts of riding interspersed with technical meanderings around boggy sections that looked like they might but probably wouldn’t swallow you whole. I’m always way to cautious around deep puddles that I can’t see into. Ever since I trashed my Scott, dropping my front end at speed, square onto a stone edge buried on the far side of a deep bog. It was some years ago. Folding a front wheel like a pringle, stressing a head tube and busting a pair of forks then launching me into a superman grass slide on my face, well it just makes me edgy now. The damage to me had nothing on the damage to my wallet after that spill. A new frame, new forks and front wheel to put it right again.

The remainder of High Street was slow and frankly frustrating.  It just never gets going. It was flatter than I remembered but the flattness was only brought to mind because I needed to understand why it was so wet. It was much drier when I rode the roman road so many years ago, so never considered the geological aspects of the descent other than I remember it was very fast. So where was the fast bit today? It was there but it wasn’t being fast.  Just lots of hanging arses of rear tires to keep the front light to avoid ditching the front end into soggy quagmires.

Singletrack terrace for 3 miles down to Howtown with superb views across Ullswater

We eventually pulled up at Cockpit after finally getting some speed above Barton Fell but it was ill reward for the effort attained by pushing to over 800 metres. I don’t think I’ve ever lost so much height so slowly and ending with the feeling of fatigue in the legs at half way. I wanted to give more for the next section of the ride which was far more promising. The trail cuts back west and south west onto sandy coloured hard pack. A welcome contrast to the spongy grass we’d been subjected to for the past 2 hours. The sun was shinning on Ullswater inviting a cluster of white sporting boats out from the yacht club.

I set off hard, hungry to build some speed up and rid me of the ride experience so far. The trail does not disappoint here but sadly my legs did and began to feel the grip of cramp setting in. I lifted myself off my saddle and found holding that position was not helping but the terrain said I should. I figured I’d ride it off and pushed on eager to turn a bigger gear. The stiffness eventually eased as the trail descended ever quicker. The rhythm of the track inspired more speed and and an attacking position. The trick now was to make out the details in the trail between what were deep puddles and what could be ridden through at speed knowing that the wrong decision at pace could result in a big off. The trail narrows and broadens. In parts it’s smooth and others it’s sketchy. We learned the area was subjected to 2 days of hard rain. We were pleased we’d just missed it but it still made for a very wet ride turning sections into shallow streams. This path was also enjoyed by walkers too. We came upon a couple of families out for the day and slowed to a crawl, they ushered their little people as well as their nana to the side of the track. Having fitted new bars on this week I’d forgotten to replace my bell and was beginning to miss it. The squal of a disc brake is not nearly as polite as the tinkle of a bell to warn walkers of your presence. After a couple of nice fast kickers for long jumps, we throw out an anchor and swerve into Howtown catching our breath grinning about what had just been a great mountain biking experience. All over too quickly, but then great trails like this are never long enough. Clicky here for some HD video that includes a short view of the High Street bog section to start with some accompanying drum and bass i’ve been listening to recently.

Dirty boy!

We were mud splattered, but beginning to dry out under the sun. The sky had broken up into blue and white in time for a pint and a sit down in the charming rear garden of the Howtown Hotel. It was fairly busy with walkers taking a well earned break in the sunshine. Mick and I provided some spectacle in our a riding garb looking like we’d been dragged across the moor backwards. Had the pace been any slower we may well have been going backwards! The rush of the Ullswater single track had perked us up and knew the rest of the ride was of a different character altogether.

Before we might be embedded into the garden bench we gathered ourselves together and attempted to start the legs up once more. We head out up the steep and twisted road. We made a quick pit-stop to apply some lube. The sodden trail so far had washed off any chain lube invoking that dry annoying squeak. Silently on then we searched about the roadside to pick up the next section of bridlepath above Sandwick continuing along the lakes edge. The trail again starts out buff and gives way to loose baby head boulders and some sunken stones to be hit square on or wiggled around into more technical decsions. Simply go for it or back off to avoid any over the bars dismounts? Hanging out over the rear wheel was the order and then let the brakes off to swoop down then up again. The dropper seat post was a god send on this trail as was a rapid rise gear shift. There are a few sections that just can’t be ridden. If only there was more time to carry some speed then maybe. The technical nature of the trail was not so much about what was on the ground and deciding line choice and such but just as much about gear management.  Although I was cursing some parts I sensed I was some way ahead of Mick now. I hadn’t heard from him in a while and turning round to see if he was behind, he was no longer there. I think I just got into a zone, enjoying the challenge of this trail, it was absorbing and must have stretched out a gap.  I pulled up a by an old fella that was out walking the fells, when he commented that it couldn’t be easy on a bike. I got talking and found out he’d been a moutain biker in his younger days before the term mountain bike was coined. He was fit looking old man and his walking pace was to be admired. Naturally walkers assume you have no interest in walking, considering it too laid back for someone wearing protective armour.  I’m always keen to set them right and recount a few fells recently SMASHed with friends and family. It always raises an eyebrow.  I sped off but not long before I figured i’d use another G.O.A.P section and the old guy caught me up a again.  I slowed and this time made it an excuse to wait for Mick to show. As I waited I had chance to take in the location and the peaceful surroundings. The time of day was perfect for riding here. As I predicted we would be riding in sunshine , though admittedly I wasn’t so sure on the sunshine part but it would light this side of the fell,over the lake. I’d seen it before from the other side as the sun made it’s way down behind Helvellyn catching one of  Ullswater steamers making it’s last pass of the day. It was delightful place to be.

After about 15 minutes Mick appeared over the grey stone. He wasn’t complaining but he was spent. As I was, but he admitted he was feeling it more an a hard tail. But credit due, he’d done well. My concerns about taking friends out on trails like this cause me to wonder how they will react. I’ve had some poor reactions in the past from friends I’ve invited on rides and I’ve never seen them for company again. Mick, I’m pleased to say is more forgiving  and made of better stuff, he relishes a chance to challenge himself. So when a couple of mountain bikers heading in the other direction come by I’m pleased because it reaffirms that I’m not making this up. In my mind I’m saying, ‘look we’re not the only ones slogging it out here.’

All the character of a footpath, great for riding.

After weighing up the technical merits of the ride after such a hard time on High Street we agreed we were not feeling as nimble as we might have been. That spring in your legs and the dexterity needed to pull the bars up quickly was not there. We were just a couple of miles from the finish and coasted down to Patterdale onto the tarmac return to Hartsop. After just 22 miles we were surprised how exhausted we felt. For me it was a big wake up call that shouted out to get more saddle time in before the big 4 day epic in July. This was the kind of riding I’d do with a bit more each day for 4 days. So I was pleased if anything that I’d at least put myself to test. With a tour of Helvellyn in June of nearly 30 miles I knew I had to get some distance training in fast. Mick would miss that ride on account of getting married on the same day. I’ll be sure to let him know how it goes. But if I don’t show at his reception party then I guess he’ll know why.

Tinkering Mick will me Married Mick next time out.