SMTBE Lakes 2017 Day 4 am – The Glenderaterra Traverse

SMTBE Lakes Day 4 AM  Glenderaterra Traverse – 15km 465m (Strava estimate) 

Day 4 in the lakes started with a cuppa tea, hearty full English breakfast and then loading the vans for our 40 min drive to Keswick.  Upon arrival the pre ride faff this time was centred around Craige’s seized forks!  They were totally locked solid, with a generous dousing of spray lube and oil and a lot of pumping from Craige we managed to get a whole 10mm of slow sticky travel… ‘You’ll be fine mate’ he was assured.

We had a few pleasant miles of quiet country lanes to get the legs nicely warmed up for the effort to come. The usual route up on to valley hillside was not viable as the bridge had been washed away in the 2015 floods, but Charley had found us a little ‘sneaky’ path that took us up onto the hillside. At the top of the path we had a great view of the valley and of the trail we were going to ride, high up on the opposite very steep hillside.  We set off along the trail and I was taking the opportunity of a smooth flat trail to take in the amazing view.  We stopped at a junction in the trail, our path now led upwards, following a stone wall.

This trail consisted of grassy and slippery rock sections which according to our guide Charley was all rideable, so I set off determined to clean this climb.  I was making good progress picking the easiest line possible, as my Cube Stereo isn’t the best tool for climbing, with a low bottom bracket and shock that won’t lock out.  I got about half way up and stalled in a slippery rock garden ‘game over’, breathing hard now I decided to stop there to rest and to watch the others attempt the slippery rocks.  It was good to see most attempt to ride it but like me without success, charley was up next and just proceeded to pedal straight through the rocks past me and on up to the top, at least someone cleaned it!

Regrouping at a T junction in the trail we could see the Glenderaterra Traverse to our left, Charley briefed us on what to expect …slippery technical rock sections with a sheer drop to the side in some places.  At one point the trail naturally takes you towards one of those drops, but Charley went ahead so that he could guide us across the more difficult sections. The rock sections were indeed extremely slippery and I tried just to focus on the trail ahead.  We now reached the piece of trail that was going to try and kill us, so Charley went ahead to physically block the left line that led off the edge.  What lay before us was a rocky ledge section  that looked a tad tricksy, my heart was in my mouth at one moment as Rob slipped towards the edge whilst pushing his bike across.  I decided to have a crack at riding it, I only managed about 1 pedal stroke and I had to dab straight away, it was so slippery, with a couple more dabs and a bit of shuffling I was across.  Charley had a go and got 3/4 across and had to dab!

SMTBE Lakes Day 4 Glenderaterra Traverse

With the technical steep hillside behind us the trail quickly changed to lovely narrow fast singletrack with fast flowy corners and I found myself trying to chase Dave down with Stuart in pursuit and I was soon spinning out in top gear… great fun!  A large farmer’s gate interrupted our fun.  All together again, Charley warned us that there could be a lot of walkers on this last part of the descent back to the vans. So we set off fingers covering brake levers, speed increased quickly on this wide fast descent with plenty of corners that progressively tightened to catch you out on the loose surface.  We did well to have some fun in-between having to slow down for the walkers; I can imagine they had a few choice words for us as we sped past them.  Another gate stopped us at the bottom, as we all queued up the smell of hot brakes filled the air, a great way to finish our morning riding the Glenderaterra Traverse.

By Matt Wadsworth

View the Relieve of the ride here

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SMTBE Lakes 2017 Day 3 – The Classics

SMTBE Lakes Day 3 – Classics Ride – 32km 885m (Strava estimate)

After bacon butties and for the more heath conscious of us gruel for breakfast bikes and bodies were transported from base camp to Hawkeshead where we climbed a stone bridleway for 2k into Grizedale forest. Beer and cold legs making the climb more challenging than perhaps is should. The first ascent of the day dispatched we joined the North Face trail for a short section and on to Moor Top to wait a few minutes for Charley’s mate Adam to arrive. Adam smug to have avoided the climb out of Hawkeshead, momentarily forgetting later he would need to retrieve his car, so the climb postponed not avoided!  It was at this time that a moment of faff fell upon Andrew whose brake pads were deemed to be border line metal so in need of changing.

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Ascent to Helvellyn

Weather conditions and injury thwarted this ride in April on Andrew’s and my recce weekend so while on holiday with the family last week I took a day out to test ride the route in readiness for September when weather permitting six hardy souls and guide will head to the top of England’s third highest Mountain at 950m and make the classic descent to Glenridding via Stick Pass East.

I met Charly my guide and good mate to the injured Nigel Piling (our guide in September), in the carpark in Glenridding. Charly came over as a really nice guy and proved to be, as well as an athlete and talented rider. At present he works for International Mountain Bike Magazine as product review, so turned up on a Polygon carbon DH bike at £5.5k load for a review. Nice job if you can get it. After a chat and kit check we headed west out of Glenridding up Greenside Road in glorious sunshine. The road giving way to concrete then gravel track that steepened to a point that proper bike on shoulders hiking was required for a time before remounting and passing Greenside and the grassy slopes of Stybarrow Dodd. Here to be met with a long but smooth packed gravel and grass descent littered in small rideable rock down to the saddle where Stick Pass crossed west and east from Therlmere to Glenridding.

Heading south Charly and I rode the lower skirt of Raise before once again bikes shouldered we walked to the top taking good note of the steep loose rock surface we would attempt to ride back down on our return from Helvellyn. This first true test of riding skill to come stuck in my mind as we rise and fell along the plateaued ridges of Whiteside and Lower Man before arriving to some surprised faces at the trig point marking the summit of Helvellyn. There we sat on the edge of the col and lunched in light winds and sunshine Red Tarn more deep blue in the reflected skies.

A few selfies and a one by a passing exuberant American tourist amazed to find 2 Brits with bikes on top of the mountain he had just puffed and panted up, we rolled back towards Raise and the 150m drop to the beginning of Sticks. Other than one tight turn where we had to wriggle between large boulders dabbing required  I was pleased with my efforts and descended back to the fast flowing lower section, where speed and indecision ended in a parting of body and bike through the side door. I foolishly opted at speed to leave a stone filled rut and make for the smoother walkers path, the transition between the two at speed looking much shallower than it actually was. I have learn from years of walking these hill to give them respect, a slide across the grass at speed avoiding the stones that litter the surface reminding me that on a bike this respect is just as pertinent.

Helvellyn8 Helvellyn9

The top of Stick Pass is smooth and flowing with natural berms and rollers, the terrain enough to trick the mind that one is riding a trail centre; The steep smooth descent lulling one into a false sense of security, as soon we found ourselves on rockier single track with pinch point boulders and cutting to ride over or between. Picking a line well ahead became imperative as the descent became more and more gnarly, hanging off the back of the saddle with speed enough for the front wheel to rise over the boulder littered path while picking our way through a moonscape the only successful way down. Of course Charly glided over all with ease while I managed with a few refusals at particularly large drop offs.  That is but for one particular line that I took on a tight bend that lead to nowhere, the actual line much wider around the bend avoiding a big drop on the rocky out crop I followed. Faced with a severe but ridable drop but the prospect of landing on a bed of ostrich egg sizes stone I anchored up, nearly saved the tumble off the ledge and the gravity bill paid with some large bruise. My advice to those in September, pick your line and full commit there is no room for bottling, ride what is in front of you look well ahead.

After my off it was the turn of my newly tubeless set up to fall fowl of the tough terrain, the tyre derimming and tube having to be installed before another section of gnarliness before the rocks. These subsided and gave way to fast flowing track to a gate that re-joined Greenside Road and the concrete to tarmac that lead to the Travellers Rest for a well-earned pint of Helvellyn.

To summarise: This ride is immense, the most taxing and technical I have ever ridden. Helvellyn is my favourite mountain in the Lake District and to have ridden it and Stick Pass gave me great pleasure. The route, terrain and weather conspired to make this the best ride of my life. What we do is called mountain biking. That is exactly what this ride is and it is truly awesome!