SMTBE Day 4 PM – Whinlatter 20km 600m (Strava Estimate)
Monday afternoon we opted for a visit to the Whinlatter trail centre as a final session to our few days of epic riding in the Lakes. After a swap to hardtails for Dave and Andy, a quick bite to eat from the cafe and an essential browse of the shop (some nice Yeti’s on offer if you’re interested) we set off…. oh no, hang on, just a little more faffing while Sean replaces his hanger and reattaches his rear mech. We’re now ready and head out from the car park with the rain just holding off for a lap of the Altura South red trail.
A quick stop at the trail start for a photo opportunity sees a lady on an e-bike go bombing pass. A quick wrap up on the photos to give chase however she appears to be long gone. The trail starts nice and gradual with a fairly wide track through the trees before opening out on to a fire road. A short stint on the fire road before getting back on the single track for the first part of the climb. The trails are nicely built and are mainly hard packed surface with some small rocky sections and switchbacks taking you up.
Half way you cross another fire road and we bump into the e-bike lady and yes we all beat her to that part and even she took the fire road the whole way so not a bad achievement really considering we’re all starting to feel a bit jaded. A bit more climbing, with some tight switchbacks that almost saw Matt doing a complete 360 and we get to the top. Now starts the descents that initially have some really large rocky sections that now that it’s raining make them rather slippery and line choice that bit harder. Andy went first but wasn’t long until he was no longer rubber side down, followed closely by Dave who also decided closer inspection of the rocks was needed. After these rocky sections the trail opens up a little and starts to flow with some smaller rocky sections and the odd little drop thrown in. This brings us nicely back down to the midpoint fire road and the start of an awesome little section with a series of small table tops before leading into some berms and a really nice fast and flowy descent. A quick chat at the end to some local boys for directions on how to pedal back up so that we can give this baby another try – loved it, big grins (from me at least!). After a second run, we finish off the last small section of decent that brings up back down to the trail start.
A cross of the car park and we get to the start of the North loop. This starts with a tiny decent, like 2 seconds worth, before knuckling down to about 5kms of climbing, with a mixture of single track, fire road and a rocky technical climb that put Andy’s gear shifting to the test. On closer inspection we it became evident that the cassette on Andy’s bike was very loose which seemed like a relatively easy fix, however this proved to be fatal and sadly the end to Andy’s ride – by the freewheeling back down. Those remaining have a long section of fire road climbing that see’s Dave, Matt and Rob zoom off as though they’re on fresh legs while the rest of us take a slightly steadier pace up.
The decent on the North side starts in the forest and has some nice tight sections and turns with some drops thrown in for good measure, really fun. A little bit of a pedal though the trees brings us out to the final decent, although by this time the weather had really set in and I think we’re all just on a bit of mission to get back down, so a bit less chit chat and on to the final section. This starts in the open with a series of large berms with loose-ish, gravel surface that open out to some very large and steep drops if you were to overcook it – a little bit of the Alps in the Lake District, but not one you’d want to get wrong. The final section takes you back through the trees with a fun and fast descent that leads you back to the car park. For me, Whinlatter was a little bit like CwnCarn, but really really enjoyable and most definitely worth the visit. Still in the rain, a quick re-pack of the bikes brings to a close what can only be described as possibly some of the best riding you may ever do in the UK. Still, all good things must come to an end so what better way to wrap it all up than a pint of Cocker in the pub.
By Stuart Fisher.