The Lakes Trip September 2009Well Ian and I had planned a trip to Skye but after much deliberation and looking at the weather forecast we decided that the 7 hour journey just wasn't going to be worth it. The weather looked horrendous and we weren't sure of how good the routes were as there is limited information about mountain biking in the area. So I booked a B&B in Ambleside and we headed off to the Lakes on Tuesday. I was determined to take some video clips of the trip and they are included in this report!
Day 1 – High StreetOur first ride was going to be High Street. Ian drove up in his new van which added a whole new comfort level to our biking. We parked up at the side of the road and glanced up at High Street. The clouds were descending and it looked like we were going to be in for one of those rides! We procrastinated about what to wear and decided waterproofs! Off we set traversing the valley bottom through mud and water giving away to a flock of sheep which the farmer was bringing in.
The climb became steeper and steeper until we slowed and pushed our bikes. As we gained height the wind became stronger and the clouds came in from the west.
It began hailing and visibility dramatically reduced as we reach the summit. Which way now? We could hardly see our hands in front of our face as we tried to decide which way to go. The hail was battering our faces as we crouched behind a small wall on the summit to take shelter from the gale force winds to look at the map. We couldn't see any features or landmarks in order to get on the right trail so Ian fired up his GPS and it read battery low!
We managed to get the grid references and worked out where we were picking the path up which descended down towards the top of Nan Bield Pass. This was really technical and hard enough to ride without the strong side winds. Visibility was poor but breaks in the cloud confirmed that we were on the right track! You don't want to get lost up here it's vicious. We dropped down to the shelter and huddled in there from the wind as we ate provisions and prepared ourselves for the steep technical descent to follow.
We left the shelter, with gale force winds in our face, as we headed down the steep rocky zigzag path which tested our handling abilities to the limit. Once down the steep section there was an amazing long technical descent into Kentmere. Like two kids we played on some of the more difficult sections, re-running them until we could clear them. Some sections got the better of us!
In Kentmere the heavens opened as we toiled up Garburn Pass. Both of us were completely shot and this was really tough, on top of which I had flatted and had to change a tube in driving rain. We were glad to get to the top with a welcome downhill but this had become a torrent. It was like riding a waterfall, a two mile waterfall! We descended down through the campsite and back to the van glad to get wet stuff off and re-running the ride in our head. Once the van was loaded up we headed off to Ambleside and the guest house which exceeded expectations. The chip shop was calling as was the pub! We hit the sack early both exhausted.
Day 2 – WhinlatterThe following morning we decided on an easy day which was just as well because our legs were really stiff. We hobbled down to breakfast which was a banquet, not the kind of food to ride on to be honest, but I ate it! It did threaten to come up later on in the day! We had managed to dry some of the key bits of clothing and loaded up the van and headed out to Keswick and Whinlatter. This was a standard forestry ride with some great descents. We did the north and south loop and repeated the south loop because it has such a fun downhill section.
I took loads of video clips with my camera in my mouth! Some more successful than others! After completing one in North loop we headed back to the van to stock up. Ian's secret energy supply is found in jelly babies! I think Whinlatter is one of the top Forest Centre trails. They are well designed and flow, lots of fun with some boardwalk sections.
Exhausted we returned via Keswick to our guest house. Another great day.
Day 3 – Walna ScarWe woke up had another breakfast however I was a bit more self restraint with the fry up! We decided to head over to Coniston and get on to the Walna Scar road a well known downhill in the area. After parking up we headed up an unbelievably steep strip of tarmac and into a small wood. We followed the bridlepath, which was a narrow singletrack virtually overgrown, very wet and slippery due to exposed roots, but a lot of fun!
It joined the wide fire road and took this as far as it would go and then out on open moorland. This was boggy. We got hopelessly lost and trudged through water sodden ground. On top of this and it was raining so it was pretty miserable. After finding ourselves in Walna Scar mines we managed to pick up the trail again.
This was wide and had clearly been maintained in recent years and was nothing like that section I had written some years ago. It was a toiled to the top with the blowing wind and rain. We crested the top in the cloud and lowered our seat posts ready for some fun! Off we shot over the rocks and boulders and flowing over exposed rocks.
The top section was really steep which lessened as we continued. Ian was in the lead and I heard this huge bang as he's tyre exploded.
We naturally assumed it was just a puncture until he removed his tyre and noticed two inch gash in the side wall. Disaster! We had planned to turn round and drag the bikes back to the top and head off on a single track we had spotted, but that was now scuppered. The main aim was to get back to the van and try to keep the tire inflated. Ian put the toothpaste tube inside the tyre over the gash and inflated it. It seemed to work. We carried on, Ian going slowly so as not to flat his tyre again. There were still gnarly sections to do and Ian was a little frustrated in having to pass on these. We got into Coniston and then rode along the road back to the van, but we got there and the tyre held up.
We were both absolutely exhausted, changed into dry clothing and headed for home. These were three amazing days and really tested our endurance and handling skills. Proper trail riding! We will be back to do the section we missed.