Thursday, 6 November 2008

A Grand Day Out

Just had a corking long weekend in the Lakes in the good company of Genesis rider Paul Errington. The idea had been to make it a Big One and do some reconnaissance for the Coast to Coast. I know the Lakes well but the idea was to ride a large section of the Lakes Coast to Coast as it will be done on the day of my attempt; something I hadn’t done before.

However, Friday was an eight hour meander around Claiffe Heights, Hodge Close, Grizedale, Tilberthwaite….. etc. etc. A sort of ‘pick and mix’ of some great low level stuff (this was deliberate as the weather was ‘borderline’). Saturday was forecast to be clearer; perfect for going ’over the top’!…. (Which we royally did!).

We set off from Coniston, up the wall like climb that takes you to the start of Walna Scar Road. We were going for an out and back along the Coast to Coast route dependent on time. The descent down Walna is an absolute screamer; smooth and flat out for about a third of the hill and then you hit the gnarl at full tilt! And it’s looong! Classic stuff! Across the dodgy slippery stepping stones on the Duddon River and up and over Dunnerdale fell… boggy and slow going (we were going ‘against the grain’). Past the bottom of Wrynose Pass…. (Not today thank you!). Up behind Boot and on to Burnmoor tarn, where we stopped for a bite to eat and took the chance to soak up the stunning view of Wasdale Head. The air was clear with the northerly winds and there was snow on the tops…. Autumn is the best season! It had taken us four hours to get this far…. We turned around with the unspoken knowledge that we were going home in the dark…

Incident No. 1. On Dunnerdale fell, like particularly stupid lemmings we both rode into a freezing bog and ended up to waists in freezing water…. And the sun was going down….By the time we started descending into the Duddon valley it was lights on.

Incident No. 2. My old Nite-Rider light bulb blew! (I stopped making jokes about being eaten by bears at that point). Luckily Paul had two lights and we plodded on through the murky boulder strewn forest… The climb back up Walna is a beast…. And we were freezing; the northerly wind was howling by this point and as we were wet we really had to keep moving.

I thought the descent back to Coniston would be an exercise in caution and reserve. But something magical washed over me… I rode better on that descent than I have done in years (even on a warm sunny day!). It’s a long, steep, fast plummet with some gnarly tech problems thrown in. But I was just placing my front wheel to the millimetre…. picking through rock mazes at speed… dropping of slabs; lights pointing skyward leaving a big black void under me… (Have you ever had that feeling that you couldn’t crash if you tried?) I forgot I was on a bike; I was just flying through boulder gardens like I was on air. Miles below us fireworks exploded from a bonfire…. The surreal view just added to the intensity of the experience. These were some of the most incredible moments I have ever spent on a bike. We dropped in Coniston, both of us literally shaking from the adrenalin! Back to Keswick for a curry and a pint of Cobra… perfect!

Respect to Paul for turning up with an ‘OK, whatever you fancy’ mindset… That’s the spirit!

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