What better place to mountain bike than The Lake District, one of England’s most picturesque National Parks peppered with lakes and mountain peaks. There are a great number of mountain biking possibilities to consider in this little area of North West England, ranging from a day on the lanes to all out mountain passes. As you will have gathered this trail description is for an all out mountain adventure taking in The Langdale Valley, Wasdale, Black Sail Pass, Scarth Gap Pass, Honister Pass, Borrowdale, Greenup Edge, Grassmere and back to Langdale. The distance is covered is only 38.2 miles but the gradients are severe with a total of 8,800 ft of ascent. This is definitely not for the faint hearted and is best spread over two or three days depending on fitness. The views are breathtaking and the downhills insanely technical.
Trail DescriptionI have divided this ride into three sections and you will see the links for hotels and Youth Hostels. The ideal situation would be to do this in twos or threes so that the load of equipment and provisions can be spread. I would keep away from panniers as they adversely affect the handling of your bike in the technical situations you will encounter. They also make shouldering the bike very difficult too.
First leg – Overnight stay at Wasdale Hall Youth Hostel
Great Langdale to Wasdale - 11.5miles Altitude gain 2630ft
1. Park the car at the Old Dungeon Gill Hotel (NY 28543 06059) at the head of Great Langdale. It is best to phone ahead and as if it is OK to leave the car overnight for a fee. They are very obliging and I paid £4 for two nights.
Head round the back of the hotel (320 feet) and left onto a wide track leading up the valley, Mickledon, with The Langdale Pikes on the right.
2. Continue for 1.82 miles with Mickeldon Beck on the left until you reach a footbridge (NY 26123 07369). Turn left and over the bridge.
In front of you is Rossett Gill. Continue along the path for 0.55 miles to the left of the Gill and begin climbing the steep zigzag track up the crag. You will need to shoulder the bike. This continues for 0.7 miles to 2004 feet.
3. You will see Angle Tarn (1863 Feet) on the left and a welcome downhill and over the outlet, Angletarn Gill. Climb again following the clear track for 0.73 miles to 2371 feet (NY 23507 08294).
4. The track heads on a great downhill following a gill on the right. This has carved a steep ravine in the rocks. The track heads down past Sprinkling Tarn and on to Sty Head at 1552 feet (NY 21815 09437). On the right you will see Styhead Tarn.
5. Here you will see the Mountain Rescue Box in front of you. Turn left and take the steep rock track which descends on the right side of the valley. Some of this is unridable for mere mortals but levels out. You can see the fields of Wasdale Head in the valley below. This path is called Moses’ Trod and follows Lingmell Beck to the valley floor.
6. The track levels. Turn left and past a small Chapel (NY 18857 08690) at 269 feet onto the tarmaced road. This skirts Wastwater with massive screens on its western shore. Proceed along the shore for 3 miles to the Youth Hostel at the other end of the Lake. Stay here for the night!
Second Leg – Overnight stay at Honister Hause Youth Hostel
Wasdale via Black Sail Pass and Scarth Gap Pass to Honister Hause – 11.7 miles Altitude gain 3452ft
1. Leave the Youth Hostel and go back along the lakeside as far as the road will go. There is a pub on the left. The Bridal path starts here (NY 18765 08727) and is signposted at 256 feet.
2. Follow the river and as it rises turn left through a gate and follow the valley Mosedale for about 0.9 miles. The track turn steeply righ and follows Gatherstone Beck. Proceed and cross the rocks over the beck and up the zigzag path. This is Back Sail Pass.
3. The track climbs steadily and then very steeply for 0.74 miles to the hause (NY 19165 11450) at 1791 feet. This plummets over crags and rocks down to Black Sail Hut Youth Hostel (NY 19477 12382) in a remote valley surrounded by mountain peaks. Take care! You may be lucky and get a drink there.
4. From Back Sail Hut follow the wide track. Do not take the gate on the left down the Ennerdale Valley but turn right and up following the fence on the left. Climb up for 0.55 miles to Scarth Gap (NY 18810 13335) and the amazing views of Buttermere in the valley below.
5. Drop down the insanely steep and technical Scarth Gap Pass to the head of the lake. Turn right onto the metalled road and head up Honister Pass to the Youth Hostel at the Top. If you still have some energy you could take the alternative route to the hostel going up Warnscale Bottom.
Honister Hause to Langdale 15 miles Altitude gain 2686ft but 3538ft descent!!
1. From Honister Hause Youth Hostel drop down the steep tarmac into Borrowdale and the village of Seatoller. Keep on the left road after the village for 0.85 miles and then turn left to Stonethwaite (NY 26253 13765) at 322 feet.
2. At Stonethwaite turn left through a gate and onto the track over the bridge. Turn right over the bridge and head up the valley with Stonethwaite Beck on the right. Continue up and the beck become Greenup Gill. The track gets steeper and steeper with no riding!!The landscape changes to moorland and the track approaches Lining Crag (NY 28340 11289) at 1632 feet! Yes it is rock climbing time. Be careful.
3. At the top bear left and up on the boggy moor to Greenup Edge (NY 28565 10553) at 2001 feet. The track plummets down a very difficult and technical descent with bogs. At the bottom it rises up and then descends again on a great technical and ridable track all the way to the village of Grasmere.
4. Follow Easdale Road into Grasmere where you can stock up on provisions. Turn right and follow the road keeping right. At the junction turn right and following this road with the lake on the left. Climb up the steep lane for about 1.5 miles and past High Close Youth Hostel. Drop down into Chapel Stile. Turn right and follow the road for 2.73 miles back to the Old Dungeon Gill Hotel.
Take the M6 north and exit at Junction 36 onto the A590 which becomes the A591 towards Kendal. Continue through Windermere and then on towards Ambleside. At Waterhead turn left and then left again over the narrow bridge over the River Brathay onto the A593 to Skelwith Bridge. Turn right here onto the B5343. Follow this road right up Great Langdale past the New Dungeon Gill Hotel and the old one is about 500 yds on the right. Park here.
When to Bike
This is best done in the summer months with warm weather and long days. Be prepared whatever the season as it can change in an instant. Waterproofs are essential as are maps and compass etc. Food can be bought at the Youth Hostels and in Grasmere.