Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dales Ride (Horton - Hawes - Horton)

I'm behind with my blogging got quite a few started posts but haven't finished them! This is for last Fridays ride, 30th of August....

Being on call for the bank holiday weekend meant I was pretty limited in what I could get up to, I have to be able to log onto the systems within an absolute max of an hour so I am kind of tied to my laptop. However, on call doesn't start til 5.30 pm on Friday so I had the day free, albeit with a time limit of sorts.

Plan was a 30 mile ride in the Dales, one I have done a few times before though not for a few years, one that is very rideable and should have few navigational challenges (though I always seem to be able to make one). Forecast was appalling I have to say, heavy rain, gales....still decided to go. I plotted the route on the Garmin, printed a map out from Memory Map, marked the route on it and laminated it.

A bit of discussion with Jez about the exact route showed that I had picked up the bridleway out of Burtersett which would be a push at the top at least, possibly more. We normally head up the road a bit and pick up the Roman Road further down. Rather than faff around and change the map etc I just thought I would remember it wasn't that difficult a detour.

Friday dawned, I had prepped everything the night before intending to get away at about 8:30 am. The rain and wind had other ideas and it lashed down, if I squinted really hard and stared across at my neighbours palm tree it looked like some tropical storm. No point getting drenched so I stayed in the house, made another coffee and waited.

As suddenly as it started, rain stopped, sun out so car packed, coffee taken with me before I had time to change my mind. I got off about 9:40 am soon on the A59 heading for Horton. I impressed myself by remembering the way to Horton (I'm normally a passenger and retain nothing of the journey) and parked up in the lay by just outside town. Noone else there and it was getting on for 11am, an indication of how crap the weather was.

It wasn't raining there but it was threatening so I put full waterproofs on, the strong wind was cold so it helped keep the windchill off. Off through town to start climbing first on the road then on the Pennine Way. The first 9 miles of this route are basically uphill to Dodd Fell. Pretty easy riding and I was sheltered from the wind and apart from a brief shower was missing the rain.

Steady plugging away to the junction of the Pennine Way with the footpath to Old Ing. I got the map out rather than just follow the Garmin. Only a choice of two possible tracks and I chose the wrong one, luckily it said it was a footpath. The embarassing thing was I put some thought into that decision.....

Onwards and I could hear this roar of water and I eventually got to what must be Calf Holes where a torrent of a stream suddenly dropped down a large hole underground. Not a day for caving then.

I passed a few walkers here and there on the continued climb and jumped out of my skin twice when I opened a gate to find a bunch huddled behind the wall on the other side having tea breaks. The second time I was giving myself a running commentary...well no one else to talk to! The wind was pretty noisy so don't think they heard me.

Nearing the top of the climb I joined then end of a tarmac section of the Roman Road, this was a cut off point I could ride from here across to the top of Fleet Moss and then head back but I felt fine and carried on towards Dodd Fell. Just leaving the road I soon realised how much I had been sheltered from the wind up to now as all of a sudden I was getting the full force of it as a crosswind, with a slight tailwind bias. Which was great until the track changed to two ruts.

Under normal conditions they are fine, wide enough to easily ride but definitely noticeable ruts and the wind was doing its best to try to throw me against the edge of whichever rut I happened to be in. It was hard work keeping control of the bike, the wind was so strong I had a Vulcan death grip on the bars, was leaning over against the wind and could only concentrate on the foot or so of track in front of me. Slow progress.

I missed the turn for the grassy bridleway down to Hawes I was having to work so hard against the wind I just didn't see it or notice the Garmin but I realised quickly when I started losing height. The track I was on apparently becomes an unrideable rubble strewn mess so I had to push back up as I couldn't get going against the wind. Onto the grassy bridleway, I rode a short section, then it became very narrow singletrack with a drop to one side that just wasn't wide enough in the scary strong wind.

After a bit the track became a lot wider and riding recommenced. The descent was very, very wet and muddy. It was the kind of bog that's quite deceptive, you roll through a few sections that are surprisingly firm then just when you get confident your front wheel sinks past the hub and you stop dead. By the time I got to the bottom I was sprayed head to toe with mud and grinning.

A fast drop down on the road, even against the wind and into Hawes and I had lost all the height I had gained earlier. It was like entering a parallel universe in Hawes. The sun was come out and everyone was wandering around in shorts and t-shirts eating ice cream having a jolly old time, even the wind seemed to have dropped down. There I was cycling through town in full waterproofs and covered in kack.

I forgot all about my detour and blithely followed the Garmin and my original route onto the bridleway at Burtersett. Having now swung round I was right into the wind and the bridleway was steep. I ground up in granny gear fighting the wind, I did well for a while but eventually it started to get difficult. The bridleway had a lot of loose stone on lower down and the wind kept blowing me across the track into it where I spun out due to the low gear I was in. Eventually I was pushing more than riding then I remembered I wasn't supposed to be coming up here, oops. Decided just to keep pushing up.

I pushed most of the rest, even on a less ferociously windy day it would be a challenge and some of the top section impossible with rocky steps and MotoX damage. Its one to be tried as a descent though, one day. Eventually I reached the top and joined up with the Roman Road. I took a leaf out of the walkers book and hid behind a wall for a food stop. Ominous black clouds were massing but I had been very lucky with the weather so far.

Back on the Roman Road and some easy riding was made very, very difficult by the stupidly strong headwind. Just as well the track was wide as I was being blown all over it. I joined up with the road and headed up to Fleet Moss where the wind was just getting silly. I tried to take some pictures of the black clouds I was avoiding but the wind was so strong I couldn't stand still and I did think that perhaps bringing a bike up here in this weather wasn't one of my best ideas, none of the shots were really sharp.

I did wonder if I was going to have to pedal down Fleet Moss? I had to wait a bit as flock of sheep were driven across the road, being sheep they were jumping around everywhere so I waited til most of them were across before heading off.

The wind was really scary heading down Fleet Moss, I was being overly cautious and the wind was wobbling the front wheel then it seemed to really catch it and I was pushed right across to the other side of the road. I let out a massive girly scream before deciding that speed was the order of the day and got down as fast as I could.

I always find it interesting which bits of a ride stick in my memory and which bits don't, I had pretty much remembered everything so far but I appear to have a complete blank about all of the tarmac section of Langstrothdale, which is not short.

I had forgotten it is mainly uphill, undulating but uphill. I really don't remember the limestone pavement, I love limestone pavement, I think its unlikely it has been placed there recently. I had forgotten how long it goes on for too and was convinced I had missed a turning. My luck with the weather finally ran out and the rain started. A brief shower at first which gave me an excuse to stop and take some pictures of the pavement. The wind was right in my face so I turned my back to it for a bit, the rain stopped and I got going again.

Then the rain lashed hard, I sheltered behind a building for a bit but it was only getting me cold, I only had about 6 miles to go. Off tarmac, onto fire road then off onto more interesting track (which I did remember), normally quite fun when its not a river and today it was a river.

Actually, more of a stream as the streams were now rivers. There are about three water splashes along the Birkwith moor track which were now pretty deep. I tried to ride the first one thinking that I could see the bottom so it should be ok, it was a lot deeper than I thought and I stopped dead against something. Luckily managed to get feet down before toppling, pretty cold!

The other two crossings were both very deep at the rideable parts so I walked though them, I was pretty wet by this point anyway. The track was quite sketchy and most of it wasn't limestone, what limestone there was was treacherous. The back wheel was slithering all over the place, I tried to avoid steering as much as possible which made for riding through some very deep puddles.

I know the last drop down to the car has quite a few rubbly sections on in, not as bad as I remember it but still difficult due to the water hiding everything. The sun had come out again and was shining off the surface of the water so I could only see the odd rock sticking up out of the water. If I picked up too much speed the water thrown off the front wheel blinded me. I pretty much got away with riding slowly but its not the best way to get through rubble.

Back at the car with a pretty clean bike but very muddy waterproofs, hosed the lot off with the Dirtworker before heading off home hoping not to get stuck in bank holiday traffic. All I can say is that I was glad I wasn't trying to head into the Dales.


  1. Looks like a fantastic location/ride. I've never MTBed in that region. This is something i've clearly got to rectify.

  2. Go! It's fab, I love the Dales.