This rather ambitious mid winter ride attempted the two highest peaks you can legally mountain bike cycle in the England up in the Lake District – Skiddaw and Helvellyn and it’s been on my to do list for a while. It’s a ride that needs saving for a long summers day, when the evening light just lets you keep riding or so I had always said. However I finally decided to ride it in cold wet weather on almost the shortest day of the year. I must be crazy, a hiker told me on the hike a bike up to Skiddaw’s summit; that’s always the sign of a good plan in action I thought to myself!
The sun was going to be shining for the first time in weeks or so the weatherman said as I set off at 8.30am.
From Bassenthwaite I was headed directly up the summit of Skiddaw. I quickly rode up the steep climb to Dash Falls in the murky morning light cast in Skiddaws shadow. I had decided to take the direct hike-a-bike up from the North East rather than the more rideable bridleway but it still seemed to take forever portaging.
Finally the summit was in view and I rode along the rocky tops past the shelters and trig point. By getting up early and quickly you get the views to yourself as the cloud swirled around me like I was truly in the heavens. 10 minutes later I had dodged the hikers and was down in the flood ravaged centre of Keswick. Smugly I thought those groups walking up would scarcely be any closer to the top yet!
From Keswick I rode along a track then the closed to traffic due to flodding A591 to Thirlmere and after some lunch started the climb up to the summit of Helvellyn. It was another long slog ending in a cloudy summit. On a summers day with more time I would ride over the old coach road to Glenridding and up the mine tracks to the Helvellyn ridge.
It was a cold winters day so I opted to take the steeper more direct route up.
From the trig point the fun really begins as I descended and followed the never ending rolling tops bathed in winter sunshine back towards Keswick. Riding over Whiteside, sticks pass and Great Dodd involved more climbing than I thought but all on good stone singletrack. I finally dropped down to the old coach road towards Keswick from Clough Head. This rather rough track was carved out into canyons by the heavy rains making riding a lot more technical than normal.
It was then all about getting back to the start, but not the easy way. I rode up past Blencathra via the village of Threlkeld, the cycle path washed away by floods meant I was on the A66 briefly. I was climbing again but this time towards the back of Skiddaw and onto Skiddaw House YHA. It was a beautiful end to fantastic ride with just enough daylight to safely get home. While not the best endless singletrack in the lakes it’s a great loop just for the view of the next summit looking so defined in the distance.