Sunday, 17 August 2014

Bike and Hike

Well, Saturday was a first for me, I rode to the summit of my first Lakeland Fell! Actually I managed four.

With just twelve fells in Wainwright's list to do I noticed that those in the Northern Fells section had bridleways or vehicle tracks passing close to their summits but getting to the actual summits would be a little bit cheeky. Plan on!

An early start meant that I was the first car at Latrigg car park which was ideal as I didn't want to be annoying walkers by biking past them. I'd only ever been to this car park when running this leg of the Bob Graham so it was a bit odd to be starting off from here. One thing - it was bloomin' freezing! After the warm weather of the past month or two you really felt it. It was also blowing a hoolie, on with a long sleeved thermal. I wasn't sure where the path up Latrigg went - there were several wide trimmed areas through the grass but then I noticed a gravel path that had been put in for disabled access to the viewing point. Looked good to me. Five minutes later I'm on the rather non-descript summit, a quick look at the view (which is very nice) and then blast back across the grass to the car park.

There's a bridleway up Skiddaw, it's just rather steep on it's way up Jenkin Hill. I managed all of 100 metres before I reckoned it was just as easy to push. About halfway up there's a footpath that cuts off right, most people won't notice this as it's only faint, and heads up to the col to the west of Lonscale Fell. More pushing up this before I can finally ride again for the last few hundred metres to the summit. With the cloud down there's little to see so it's payback time!

Back down to the col is wide and grassy so little problem, the footpath is slightly harder as it traverses a slope so occasionally has slipped away leaving an off-camber surface, then it's on to the main track. Basically this is as fast as skill, nerves and the number of walkers allows. It's not particularly technical, well it isn't technical at all, the only real difficulty is not focussing on the loose rocks. Today there's very few walkers but a strong side wind that constantly threatens to push my front wheel to the left. Even with my cautious descending it's just four minutes to the bottom of the hill (from the summit of Lonscale Fell it was eleven minutes).  Part one done.

The next two fells were Carrock Fell and High Pike which lay in the north eastern part of the group so a drive round past Mungrisedale was needed. A quick bite to eat and then I was away. A bit of road work first since I'd parked at the wrong sharp bend in the road but not a problem. Then turn left and head up on a bridleway following an old mining track. This was right in to the wind so was quite hard work.

Even harder work was the climb up to the col: the first bit was just a steep push but the remainder should have been rideable but for the wind. After a hundred metres or so I resorted to pushing. Despite the recent rains the summit ridge was still quite firm so I made good time until I got to about two hundred metres from the summit of Carrock Fell when it became too rocky and much easier to continue on foot.

Carrock Fell is unusual in the Lake District as it's the only one composed of Gabbro and is the only one with an ancient hill fort on its summit. Today though I could hardly stand up in the wind so it was back to the bike and press on.

Now it was much harder riding as I was heading straight in to the wind. At one point as I headed towards the track contouring High Pike I was blown to a standstill, a bit of pushing required for a hundred metres or so. Riding up the path to the summit I was having to aim the bike windwards and lean in to the wind so that I had a chance of staying on the path. Once again the summit was wild and no place to hang around. There were two paths ahead, I figured the right hand one was the one I needed and so it proved.

Lovely and grassy, just worn in enough to give bite to my tyres, I had to stop once out of the wind to clean my glasses as the rain and steam meant I couldn't really see where I was going. Then it was downward to the contouring track. I knew that I had to leave this at some point to pick up the upper part of the track I'd used on the outward leg. For once it was quite obvious and after dropping over some of the old spoil heaps I was on the track.

Nowhere technical it was just a blast with the occasional slowing down for a tight corner or a section of loose stones. Without realising it I was soon on the outward leg as I began to recognise features I'd passed before. For a track that I'd thought was only slightly uphill on the outward leg it seemed rather steeper and I was going at a decent speed. Just ten minutes after leaving the summit of High Pike I was at the road (that included the stop to clear my glasses), average speed of around 22mph!

All in all an interesting experience. It's hard work getting up on to the tops when you've 12Kg of bike to push/carry but once you are up there then provided it's firm underfoot it's great going and of course the descents are just a hoot especially since you aren't putting any strain on your knees. It's just a shame that out of two and a half hours on the go there was just 20 minutes of descent.

So, another book completed. Just two books to do now with eight fells remaining, six in the Central Fells and two in the Southern.

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