LAKE DISTRICT | VIRGIN GOES TO BOOT
When someone asks me if I know where there are any rocks and mountains in the UK, I know exactly the place... the Lake District...
Clementz and co on tour around England's highest
When someone asks me if I know where there are any rocks and mountains in the UK, I know exactly the place…the Lake District…the perfect place for an adventure, and a beer or two…
DIRT ISSUE 129 - NOVEMBER 2012
Words by James Richards. Photos by Steve Jones
We were meeting up at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Inn at the head of Langdale...mountains, sheep and gnarly tracks, oh and a few sound farmers. The bar and hotel has offered sustenance and accommodation to travellers for over 300 years.
I was bringing along Enduro supreme Jerome Clementz, fresh from his win at the first UK Gravity Enduro, and he’s always keen to hit new trails. I got to know Jerome at the 2011 Trans Provence (which he won). To ride with JC is awesome, effortless, smooth and lemming–like, this guy can truly ride a bike. True to form our accomplice's for the trip Jonesey (Steve Jones) obviously, and Spag, a joiner and mountain bike virgin, had not arrived and weren't due till after midnight.
As we spread out the maps on the table and ate a full English washed down with five or six cups of tea, I pointed out the route, “that doesn't look far. What’s over there? Is that Scafell?" Yes the highest mountain in England! The loose plan was to ride round Scafell via Wasdale Dale Head on legal tracks over two days and take a few rugged all–mountain shots.
The trail starts behind the pub and in no time at all you feel like you’re miles from anywhere, the flat valley bottom surrounded by high mountains, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Stickle Pike and Pike of Blisco, to name a few. This is definitely no trail centre, one minute you’re on a nice easy blue route then the trail follows Mickleden Beck and turns into a World Cup rock garden for 100m. On normal days even the track is a small stream. Today it was bone dry and the grip was unreal. As we neared the end of the valley and took the turn for Rosset Gyhll the track became increasingly technical.
Soon we were all off and walking uphill, shouldering the bikes for a short hike–a–bike, the increasing height revealed more impressive views. We could see Windermere in the distance, England’s largest lake, we took time to take in the view and could’ve sat there all day, it was simply stunning.
Wiping sweat from our brows we soon hit the top, two stunning Spanish girls caught our attention for a while, especially Spag’s, well he was on holiday. Switchbacks, ruts and man made stone pitching were the features of our first descent to Angle Tarn, as we stopped for photos and looked around the light was incredible, although for once maybe too much light for photos.
At the Tarn people were sunning themselves, there wasn’t a breath of wind. We then began the next short climb heading for the high point of our route near Esk Hause where the real fun was to begin. At 730m it’s not the highest place in the world, but the valley floor is at 100m and that meant a 600m of descent over 5 kilometres.
Jerome needed little encouragement as the playground opened up before us and the sinuous red stone trail disappeared in into the jumble of rocks that made up the surrounding landscape. We let loose into the rocks and left the others behind.>>
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At Sprinkling Tarn we took a breather, Great Cable was in full glory surrounded by a halo of crystal blue skies, it was like the Alps in summer and with the heat too. The odd walker stood and gazed as we picked our way down the trail towards the mountain rescue post. It’s a box with a stretcher in it, just in case I guess, a reminder of our isolated position.
From here to the valley floor it’s more mega terrain, a long pitch of loose singletrack, the odd massive boulder, stream crossings and speed. It was over far too soon…we rolled into Wasdale past the Herdwick sheep. At Wasdale Head it was refreshment time, Loweswater Gold!
A short ride down the shores of Wast Water, England’s deepest lake, we found our accommodation. Bikes were out back in a shed, an old cow shed now just full of junk, a gym and piles of muscle magazines, seemingly Jerome’s favourite read. Now the real sport could begin, but somehow Jones and Spag had the upper hand over the athletes, two or three pints not six, and I was out like a light.
More full English and tea and we hit the road again, destination Eskdale. We soon picked up a few ancient drover’s roads and classic northern dry stone walled lanes and moss covered walls were the only signs that this place is nearly one of the wettest in England…as the sun continued to shine. Shortly before Boot we found a maze of perfect dry stone walls that lead to the Eskdale to Boot railway station. We stopped for coffee and to watch mad Chinese tourists who obviously don’t have miniature railways at home.
A little farther down the road we spotted a field of awesome rocks and huge boulders, like bees to honey the photo hounds were imagining the shot, that elusive ‘ultimate shot’. At that moment I heard loud holler and whistle, it could only be a farmer. The Lakes is full of rugged landscapes and the people who work the land are hardy people, as I walked down the yard I was half expecting a “WHAT DA YA WANT!" Instead I was greeted with “awright LAD". “Can we go up those rocks on our bikes and ride around whilst my mate takes photo’s?" “Yeah no trouble, just don’t break any fences". “Grand", we were there.
We soon left Wha House Farm behind and headed for Hardknott Roman Fort and into the Duddon Valley, the Roman Roads leading us back towards Langdale, and even along the roadside the rock ribbons and giant slabs provided amazing technical rock terrain to test the best rider.
At Blea Tarn we took the cheeky option and found a barely used trail and permissive path with very friendly walkers and stunning reflections on the tarn. Our weary legs found the way and soon we were staring down into Great Langdale and the late afternoon sun drew us closer to The Old Dungeon Ghyll.
As we rolled into the ODG and past the start, a farmer fettled with his tractor in a field, never to miss a shot Jonesey was off and taking shots of topless farmer, meanwhile we got some more beers in!
This was no normal everyday route, and falls into the adventure side of riding, rather than your normal spin, but it has to be done. Get out your comfort zone from time to time and enjoy the wilder side of mountain biking, and you’re sure to find a few gems along the way.