With Grace away for the weekend and nobody around to play with i decided on a solo mission to the Lakes...
Helvellyn was the mountain of choice as the route i had ridden before so no navigational issues and i knew the descent down sticks pass was worth the 'hike and bike, to the top.. plus the chance to ride in snow is always fun and since we rarely see snow at low level these days the summit of Helvellyn at this time of year almost always has inches of the stuff.. its a given.
With an early start from home the first scare of the day was not on the bike but in the car.. turning from an A road into a minor road in the lakes i wasn't ready for ice and was taken by surprise as i turned the wheel left and the car was still going straight.. luckily i got traction back to steer away from oncoming stone wall.. low gear and driving with due care was the order of the day.
Getting ready in the car park it was cold.. i hate the cold... i have bad circulation so drop a degree or so and i can't feel my hands leading to much pain when they warm up.. to try and combat this i have invested in some thick ski like gloves.. i can't really change gear or brake properly but its a price worth paying to try and keep them warm.
The ride starts up a valley flanked either side by steep slopes... the first hour of the ride is fairly rideable, the hiking starts as you make towards grisedale tarn... alot of careful stepping up seriously icy rocks... didn't want to ruin my weekend before it had started so i took my time. When i got to the tarn it was spectacular... looked like glass surrounded with snowy hillside... amazing..
From the tarn you make towards dollywagon pike.. this is a bike on the back and slog up the step like stones that have been laid.. getting passed this section it was rideable as you pass the pike... a nice pole was used for a good photo moment..
From here you drop down a few rises climbing the other side with the summit almost in site..
at this point riding was in snow with the descending plenty fun sliding about in the snow... shoes and pedals had packed solid with snow so clipping in was difficult.
A brief lunch was had at the shelter near the summit of Helvellyn then off again.. the descending from the top to bottom of first rise is steep and twisting so saddle was lowered and one leg used to hang out there and steady on the turns.. leaving the front brake well alone and steering with the rear wheel... so much fun.
After another rise or so the start of the sticks pass descent began.. this descent is technical and in places way beyond my ability.. i may learn to descend one day but can't see it happening soon... i was hanging a foot for most of the descent in the snow.. there was a brief reprise as the trail levels to quite flat before the final tech section which i rolled into with confidence.. then realised i was on sheet ice..panicked.. and ejected over the bars running out and leaving the bike behind... first battle scar tot he Genesis Altitude.. scratch to the fox forks:(
After this section its fast switchbacks then full on speed all the way down to glenridding.
I made the ascent and descent in such good time i decided to lap Ullswater to finish... its a road ride to Pooley bridge then an off road climb.. with a few more ups and downs you get to the lakeside final 3-4 miles which are amazing singletrack.. very technical with great views when you dared take your eyes off the trail.
This finishes at Patterdale and back to the car and get changed.
I had decided to just camp as i was on my own it seemed the easiest option... campsite was only a few miles down the road and was reached just as it was getting dark... showers were plenty powerful enough and hot which was welcome.. food in pub was more than acceptable.
The nights camping can be summarised as being an acceptable temperature to eventually being really cold.. sleeping in all my clothes with blanket round my head made sleeping possible:)
Sunday, After such a big day saturday i wanted an easy ride so decided to go lap North Face trail at Grizedale forest... was a little concerned about the wooden board walk sections and the ice.. my concern was realised when i had to stop on a cambered icy bit of board walk.. i had a foot down then realised i had no grip on , my feet either, i tentatively reached down to hold the wood and steady myself and as i took hold my feet went from under me and i decided to call it a day at one lap... the rest of the trail was great.. other sections of wood were rideable... the rest of the trail was fast and flowy and the crisp air and great scenery made for a great short ride out...
Drive back to manchester and back to the reality of having to work tomorrow:(