5 am Saturday morning, the sun was shining and all was quiet, after a cup of coffee and a big bowl of porridge, I quietly extracted myself from the sleeping house and threw my bike on the back of the car then loaded my minimal kit into the back seat. At the back of my mind I was still debating whether a light bike without a granny ring was my winning ticket, versus the heavier full sus with a granny ring!? I picked Dan up at Junction 7 of the M60 at 6am and we hit the road north.
We met Jez in the car park shortly after Rob turned up and we were ready to roll around 8, pretty unprepared for the task that lay ahead. It was our intention that if we could maintain 8km/h average, we would have around 10 hours riding with lunch in Coniston at 13:00.
The day started in high spirits regardless of the constant route checking comparing Garmin data to Strava data, but the sun was shining…. For a time! It was around 11 when the rain set in, and it really set in, soaking us as we climbed the fells out of Ambleside. As the morning slowly turned to afternoon it became clear we weren’t going to be enjoying a pint and a pie outside the Black Bull in Coniston, an image that I had been enjoying for weeks leading up to the ride!
We finally made it into Grizedale Forest visitors center around 15:30 amidst the washed out scene very reminiscent of my last visit there a couple of months ago! Whilst we devoured beans, toast, pasties and anything else we could get our hands on, the cold really began to make itself felt, the thought of leaving the cafe wasn’t a very appealing one for anyone except for the ever positive Jez! There was talk of taxis, there was talk of going home, the one thing we all agreed on was that climbing Harter Fell wasn’t a sensible option, and an alternative road route to Eskdale was agreed on. I found myself standing under the hand dryer in the toilets for several minutes, much the same as last time I was there!
We left with gritted teeth and headed up through the forest in an attempt to pass over into the Coniston Valley. This we did, eventually arriving in Coniston around 16:30, with a lot of road miles left to cover, the rain however was beginning to abate.
The climb out of Coniston was slow, my legs were suffering and we still had a lot of miles to cover, energy gels didn’t seem to be touching the sides! The sky cleared however and the sun began to shine again as we crested the last big climb of the day and I found myself on the long familiar road down into Eskdale. It was getting on for 20:00 when we arrived at our B&B, tired hungry and getting eaten alive by midges! We got cleaned up and made our way to the pub for beer and food! We all agreed that we couldn’t survive until 3pm for lunch the next day, which boasted the biggest climbs of the entire route!
The next morning after an average night’s sleep but a great breakfast, we were greeted with sunshine and blue skies, we were away by 9:30, once Dan had “adjusted” his saddle bag!
The first climb of the day was stiff but not unpleasant, it was nice to get off the bikes and push whilst chatting, using a different muscle group to the tired cycling legs of the day before! The first downhill of the day was pretty rewarding with almost Alpine style trails over a quaint little hump back bridge.
The second climb up Black Sail was a different story though, from Wasdale head the trail soon steepened and the bike was soon on my back, and remained there for a good hour of climbing. The summit however proved to be little reward, since the trail down to the Youth Hostel was equally unrideable.
Pretty demoralising stuff, especially when the climb over Scarth Gap Pass was much the same. The last bit of the descent to the base of Honister Pass offered a little bit of action, but was small consolation! It was past 14:00, no lunch and we still had Honistor to climb!
After Paninis at the summit all round, we dug deep for the 30km we still had to ride to Watermillock, although tired and stamina running at an all time low (Except for Jez!) the scenery was beautiful. That evening saw us in pretty nice accommodation, good food, but we all had mad dreams, no one slept very well!
Day three saw the rain return, and a decision had been made the night before to make our way to Stavely via the path of least resistance, bodies were tired, but so too were minds by this stage. Rational decisions were becoming hard to come by!
The path round Ullswater soon became unrideable, and everyone turned to their own quiet thoughts whilst we battled through, looking forward to the conclusion of the route. From Patterdale the rain really turned savage again as we embarked upon Kirkstone Pass, the last giant standing in our way. Once we regrouped at the summit, we made our weary way back to Stavely, yes there were more climbs, it’s the Lakes! We arrived in Stavely around 2pm, and in that time we surpassed our Just Giving target of £1,000, it was for a good cause, but we worked for it this time, no messin’!