Helvellyn Weekend – 2nd Aug 2013 to 4th Aug 2013

This trip was to replace our usual annual trip to Coed Y Brenin, and it was the first time our partners were coming along, rather than it being just a blokes biking weekend.  24 people were supposed to be going but only 21 of us actually went, and not all would be biking. I’d choose to stay at the www.grasmereindependanthostel.co.uk , and what an excellent choice it turned out to be.

On the Friday of our arrival some riders chose to go to Whinlatter trail centre before checking into the bunkhouse, some turned up late, and Emma and myself got there early but rode towards Grasmere and up a bridlepath towards Easedale Tarn, this was quite a push upwards at points,  but had excellent views of the surrounding area and the waterfall along Sourmilk Gill that it was following.  It was Emmas first ride on natural trails and I think she was surprised at how different it is to the groomed trail centre of Sherwood Pines.

Eventually the 2 of us arrived back to the bunk house and checked in. Slowly, the others started to arrive and were shown around the accommodation. Pete and Elaine had agreed to do the cooking for the weekend and the food on Friday night was Chicken Curry and Lasagne (I must stress that I don’t mean together mixed on one plate). Bellies filled, we went up to the Lounge to relax although naturally some disappeared to the local for a few drinks.

The next morning came and Chef and Cheffette had cooked a full English for us, just what we needed to start the day’s activities off. Our starting point for the ride was in Glenridding and the finishing point was at the bunkhouse, so we knew planning was needed around which cars to take so we could collect them again afterwards. Luckily Emma and Ginette had decided to do a circular walk from the same starting point so we managed to get about 6 bikes round easily in the two cars they would drive back. Just getting to the start location was proving too much for Pat, who needed an urgent stop less than a mile from Glenridding as he was feeling a little ill already …. a victim of the Kirkstone Pass more than the previous night’s drinking I think.

All ready for the off, I gave directions to Emma and Ginette to set off on their walk, “you need to go up there but with the river on your right, so you’ll need to walk down there first and come back up” and off they went. We were heading in the same direction to begin with but as we were finishing with toilet stops etc. we were 5 minutes behind them ….. still I was surprised that they’d managed to get past the point where our path was going to split from theirs before we reached them. We (err I)  struggled to find our path up the mountain but once we got it, it was an easy to navigate, well it would have been if I as the only person with an idea of where we were riding had been at the front, instead a breakaway group (Julian and Marv) had sped ahead going the wrong way, we all stuck to the same direction but eventually had to break off the path and find a way to cross the stream so we could join the path we were supposed to be on which we could see running parallel to us just 100 metres away. We’d tried to contact J&M but with little phone signal they weren’t answering, both paths headed to the top so I thought we’d just eventually meet up there, as it was they must have got my voice message and eventually they crossed the stream further up and waited for us. In the meantime whilst we were crossing, Emma and Ginette walked up the path we’d just left …… this was much to my surprise as (a) how had they got there behind us especially without us passing them and (b) they weren’t supposed to be on that path anyway. I went and had a chat with them and apparently they went wrong within 100m of leaving the start point, they’d concentrated on me saying keep the river to the right and so never came back on themselves (I expect a comment, no …. that should be, I’ve been warned a comment will be left claiming I never said to come back on yourself)

Anyway, back to our separate ways, Emma and Ginette start walking up towards Swirral Edge (or Squirrel Edge as I thought it was called …. Doh!) in the same direction we last saw Julian and Marv, and we carried on up the bridlepath towards Keppel Cove. After about 3/4mile we got to the point where Julian and Marv  were waiting or us. I’ve got to admit I’d looked at the contour lines on the OS map, but was surprised the path was so steep once we got to the zig zags of the cove …. Hats off to anyone who can bike up here; with my triple clamp Shivers (forks) fitted on the bike I’d got no chance as it permanently tips over backwards on steep climbs, and the others were pushing up as well, so I didn’t feel guilty

As the zig zags ended we rested before reaching ‘White Side’, and on reaching the top of White Side we’d put a bit of gap between a few riders,  so as we descended to the col before ‘Lower Man’ we’d split into 3 groups. The wind was really starting to blow at this point and it was difficult to make a right turn as we descended the path, and when the gusts hit it was difficult to even stay on the bike. As part of the first group, we started pushing up ‘Lower Man’ bracing against the gusts, but as we reached the top, the wind calmed a bit. I turned around and could see all the other riders on the ground; at I first thought a rider had gone down but then realised they were anchoring down from the wind. A few riders eventually decided to carry on and met us at Helvellyn trig point, but 4 of the riders decided against the final push and turned back, descending back down Keppel Cove to the car. At the top we met up with Emma and Ginette again, and after a 15 minute rest we headed off, E&G were going down Striding Edge and us bikers towards Nethermost Pike, this was a mixture of surfaces, one minute it’s path like, then it’s a rock strewn field riding between around and over the small rocks then a complete rock fest to ride over, before the bonkers descent of Dolly Wagon Pike. We’d watched videos of this section beforehand but video’s really didn’t do it justice of just how steep, rocky and long the descent was. I can’t say too much about how the others got on but I do know that Guy had a jump over the bars moment, landing on his feet a considerable distance forward and down; Little Chris had an over the bars roll, which apparently upset one miserable walker who moaned about the dangers … yawn!!; Pat walked most of the way down; Marv partly walked, partly rode, I’ve no idea about Rocket Dave; Julian rode most of it, although he did go off into the grass leaving the steps a few times, I managed to stay on the path, although I did have a few moments where the wheel stalled in rain gutters, it was that steep we all said that it was impossible to pull up on the bars to get over them, and one particular spill to the side on a grass bank that I then couldn’t seem to move from. Reaching the bottom I waited for the other riders to arrive, and it seemed like an eternal wait, before Rocket, the first of them, came into view, comically, he’d done the hard part, and then right at the bottom managed to stall the front wheel on a rock and go over the bars. Once he reached me, I asked where Julian was as I expected him by now; apparently he’d had a moment and snapped his chain device so was doing a temporary bodge. Slowly but surely the others arrived, leaving just Pat, who’d taken a while to walk down, but he did make it to the bottom in one piece so that’s all that matters. We all set off again, heading around Grisedale Tarn and taking the alternative route up to Grisedale Hause instead of along Grisedale back to Glenridding which is the usual route for bikers. At this point, Marv was starting to suffer his now infamous leg cramps, which gives us some amusement as he hops and curses along. Setting off from the col of Grisedale Hause I warn the front riders that the path splits in two and we need to take the right hand path. Julian set off first (you can see what’s going to happen here can’t you) followed by Rocket, I set off third followed by the others, as we reach the path that splits off, we noticed that Julian and Rocket carried on downwards and by a fair distance as well (you knew it didn’t you!!) shouting down at them they finally stopped, realised their error, and slowly started the slog back up the path to the rest of us. Questioning them when they arrived, Julian declared he’d seen the path but dismissed it. There was one last push before the descent down ‘Great Tongue’, this was just steep grassy fields, which was hard to curb speed even with the rear wheel locked up, but we all reached the bottom safely. We were only about 700 metres away from the bunk house now, but this didn’t stop us finally having our lunch, although approaching 4pm. Finally setting off for the last section, I reached a gate and stopped to hold it open for all riders to blast though, until Pat arrived nursing a puncture! I can’t believe he’d managed the ride all this way along rocky sections, steep steps, and sharp lose slate, only to then puncture right at the bottom on a smooth gravely trail; there was no point fixing it so he just carried on riding/pushing it back.

We’d all had an excellent but tiring day, and we’d fared better than expected for broken body and bike bits, although looking at Ian’s car, it was a little worse for wear after being wedged in a driveway (he wasn’t driving it). Everyone apart from Emma and Ginette were now back at the bunk house, and after a couple of hours we decided to go retrieve Julian’s car which was the only one that was left at Glenridding with nobody to drive it back, so Julian, Marv and myself set off, and at that moment I received a message from Emma to say they were back down and in a coffee shop, I half expected to get to the car-park before them, but about 1 mile from Glenridding, they passed us on their way back to the bunkhouse.

Once all back, it wasn’t long before dinner was being served, and tonight’s cuisine was roast dinner with pork and chicken on the menu.  Again, after eating, just like the previous day we retired to the lounge to chill out and watch some of the footage I’d taken of the days ride, although it’ll be a lot better after being edited; naturally some people went off to the pub instead. I think it was fair to say we were all fairly tired so nobody seemed to be having a late one, although a fair bit of alcohol was consumed by certain members.

The next morning we were all doing our own thing; some were off to Grizedale Forest to ride the trail centre, some were just going for a meander around Ambleside/Windermere, and Emma and myself went for a walk into Grasmere to locate the YHA I stayed in as a kid during my first visit to the Lakes. I didn’t want to set off too late for home, so by about 13:30 we were back at the bunkhouse loading the bikes on to start the journey home. Unfortunately, we’d not even got to Ambleside before the car suffered 2 slashed tyres from slate that had washed into the road, so we had to wait for the AA to get us to Kendal to sort them out. On arriving home we heard about everyone else’s calamities of the day. Al had run over a carcass in the road and a bone went straight through his engine sump so he had to call out Volvo Assist …. they just don’t make Volvo’s like they use to; but worse was Rocket Dave, he’d gone to Grizedale trail centre with some of the others; during a fast section over what I hear to be quite cobbled his front wheel washed out, normally you get away with these things, unfortunately he managed to break a finger, fracture his elbow and also slice a hefty deep flap of skin on his arm, this resulted in long walk back to the trail centre hub followed by a visit to Kendal A&E who eventually moved him to Lancaster Hospital, where he developed an infection in the wound which was eventually diagnosed as being caused by his own stomach juices, he’d been sick on arrival at hospital so some of it must have splashed  into the wound; it was 10 days before the hospital finally discharged him. Luckily he was in fairly good spirits and Guy did the good deed of going to fetch him.