The route can be found here.
This route involved a lot of road riding, which was good as my bike was suffering. However the road went over two passes - Hardknott Pass, which is tied with another road as the steepest road in England with a 33% gradient. Impressive. I was determined to struggle up it but alas, I couldn't do it. Sam had a great bit of banter with a roadie as I continued up without him in my own personal challenge. It went something like this:
Sam "Is this any easier on a road bike?"
Roadie "NO! HARDER!"
Sam "Even with 10Kg packs on your back?"
Roadie - says nothing, just rides on.
Sometimes, you just got to love the pleasantness of pure road cyclists. They just think they are in a different class to lowly mountain bikers. Mind, this is some, not all. Just to be clear.
|View from almost the top of Hardknott Pass|
While Sam was busy making friends I decided to take a breather as I was finding it difficult to keep my front wheel pinned down. The views were spectacular. The natural landscapes and also the tourists attempting to drive up and down the pass. AMAZING. Cars on 3 wheels coming around the steep hairpins, stinking of burning clutches and brake discs.
|Sam making his way up the pass|
We were doing this the "easy way" too, if we were travelling east to west, the climbs are steeper in that direction.
The next pass was Wrynose Pass, with more 1in 33 gradients. This one I was even more determined to get up in one attempt. And I almost did. In a manoeuvre to get a better line I over-cooked it and the front wheel slipped off the tarmac into the dirt/grass at the side of the road. I got back on and completed it, so I was pretty disappointed I had that one slip. Speaking of tarmac, some of the steeper sections were rippled where it had started to slip down the hill. Crazy. I continued over the summit and onto the descent. Just as I rounded the first corner, I ran into a family who had managed to get their Fiat 500 stuck. I'm not sure how, but the husband and eldest daughter and I got pushing and we got it free and away up the hill. The guy then informed me the clutch was burning so he stopped to let it cool and couldn't get any momentum again. That's a steep bank.
|Sam at the top of Stake Pass. Sweat or mist?|
The last pass was Stake Pass. This was more of the same as day 1, but by now were on the way home. Fatigue was setting in and we just got on with it. The summit was like some kind of lunar landscape and the mist certainly added to the eerie feeling. However the descent on the other side was the best bit of descending we did all weekend, it was just a shame it didn't last very long. Never mind, it was still a blast, despite the narrow trail. Concentration was key.
|That's me descending Stake Pass. The trail was 30cm wide and quite the drop on the right hand side!|
When we made it down, it was a simple case of following the river along to Stonethwaite to finish. We passed a group of lads on full suspension bikes heading the way we'd just came. I have no idea where they were heading. It would have been a canny haul up.
We made it back to the car and youth hostel where we were generously allowed the use of the showers. 6.5 hours and we were tired, cold and hungry, but a huge sense of accomplishment made it all worthwhile.