I just qualified for Ride the Lobster. Sort of by mistake on purpose.
Well, what happened was, this Saturday was our mountaineering club Christmas social, which was held in a bunkhouse/mountain hut in Hathersage in the Peak District (UK).
So, anyway, we were planning to go up on the train on Saturday night, but then this Tuesday, I discovered that we had booked the hut for Friday night too.
Friday 7th Dec (Day 1)
The hut was about 2km from Hathersage train station, but I figured that it would be more fun to get the train to Matlock, which is a place much closer to me, right at the south end of the Peak District, and ride there. Hathersage being at the North end of it, about 25km away as the crow flies. I’d been looking at the map of this bit recently and I’d seen a whole bunch of trails that either didn’t really fit nicely into a ride from a train station, or were a bit cheeky to ride so best suited to riding at less busy times.
The night before, it pissed down with rain for about 6 hours. Being a cunning type, I didn’t think anything of this.
So, I finished work and got on the train to Matlock. Half way there, I looked at the map, and remembered a couple of decent trails from Cromford, which is a couple of miles before Matlock, and I figured I’d take them in, and got off the train early. By this point, it was 5 PM, and totally dark. Fortunately I had 3 spare sets of batteries for my lights. I also had my lovely GPS, which is totally cheating, but I was kind of in a hurry, and having the proper OS maps to hand always centered on where you are is pretty handy.
So, I got off at Cromford, rode past the bemused commuters, and started up the first hill, which is a super steep singletrack going up near a quarry. Usually this is just about rideable, but today it turned out that what with all the rain, it was a bit slippy slidey, so it was a bit of a get on, go a bit, fall off fest. It was kind of raining a bit too, which was lovely. I climbed up (and up and up) until I got to the tiny village of Bonsall, then up some more, until I got to the top of the first hill, 200 metres of climbing and 4 hard kms later. At this point, I considered that I might just have bitten off more than I could chew, it was almost an hour into the ride, and I’d only gone 4 km! I thought about it and figured there wasn’t much choice, I’d missed the last train to Hathersage anyway, so I kept going. I bombed down the hill to Snitterton (what a lovely name!), this was all on a grassy hillside, covered in tussocks, and the trail itself wasn’t all that clear, but the GPS said it went straight down the contour lines, so I basically just had to head down the fall line at speed. This wasn’t helped by my first set of batteries dying half way down the hill, putting my lights into emergency get home mode, or by the wind deciding now was a good time to turn gale force on me, but somehow I got myself to the bottom of the hill and found the gate onto the road.
At the bottom, There was a welcome return to the road, although the rain was getting a bit hard, which sucked, and I rode as fast as my tiny little legs could spin my 26" muni wheel, through Darley Bridge, Stanton Lees, and over to Rowsley, where I was to rejoin the trails. On this bit, I only stopped to talk to someone who wondered if I was lost and needed a lift anywhere (which was pretty tempting at the time!)
All this time, I’d seen one person and a few cars, then I rode into Rowsley, a tiny little village, and suddenly I rode right through the middle of a small carol concert, which was a bit random. At this point, it was back off the road, on what would not be super duper technical singletrack in summer, but in muddy winter conditions turned out pretty hard, especially cos there was a darned big hill in the middle. At one point I took a big rolling fall off a pile of rocks which was not so good. The final descent overlooked Chatsworth House http://www.chatsworth.org/ which was all lit up and pretty, and was a super tight singletrack about 5 cm wide, like muddy scalextric.
Then it was a bit more road, up a big hill, into Baslow and then up a hill to the tiny hamlet of Curbar. Now, if I’d been cunning, I’d have considered that the British University Cycling Hillclimbing Challenge was held in Curbar, and that maybe the trail I was intending to ride, along ‘Curbar Edge’ might be up a hill. Even missing out that cunning, you’d think having been there about 20 times I’d have remembered the pain of this hill. Anyway, so I headed up the stupid steep road up to Curbar Edge, which was indeed a long way up, and very exposed, and jolly windy. Oh and covered in rock slabs. With a sheer drop to one side if you go too far off the trail. This section involved quite a battering from the wind blowing me off, me falling off rocks, and generally being quite cold and wet, but the goodness of the riding made up for it.
I came off Curbar Edge down a trail into Grindleford, of which I shall say no more, as it was too hard, and I got a bit caned going down it. Then 4 km on what I thought was a flat road to Hathersage, but turned out to go over some more hills, then I went off towards the bunkhouse, only to discover that the ‘easy 2km walk’ from the town was 2.9km and involved another 150m of height gain, which was not something to make me a happy bunny at this point.
But I was a happy bunny to get there and discover a warm shower, and nice people purveying beer. Especially because it was 11.15pm, just after most of the pubs had shut, and I’d had to ride past several lovely looking pubs on my way, thanks to being in a bit of a rush.
Saturday 8th Dec (day 2):
On the Saturday, my wife Penny turned up on the train, so I rode down to the train station to meet her, and back up to the bunkhouse. Then, she had some silly idea of going for a run, despite it being really rainy, windy, cold etc. We looked at the map, and planned a big old loop, heading up from the bunkhouse, up to Burbage Moor, and on to Stanage Edge (which is a famous climbing place). The climbers in our club had all decided that the weather was too bad and dispersed to pubs and to go gear shopping and stuff. So, anyway, Penny and I headed off up a (muddy again!) bridleway from the bunkhouse, which seemed to be increasingly turning into a stream, then across several fields on really quite sneaky little single tracks up to the moors, all uphill. At this point, we got to the moor, and onto the path up to the moors, and suddenly it was super windy, raining like mad and we could see about 5 metres. So we went up onto the moor, following a tiny little singletrack, which turned out not to be the path on the map, but we couldn’t really see the GPS in the rain, so we followed it, as it was good riding/running anyway. It was really rocky (the Peak District is famous for its gritstone), so I was falling off lots, but still kind of fun. After a couple of kms, our sensible side kicked in, and we decided to retrace our steps home rather than doing the full loop, the weather was just too minging, and we kept getting blown over.
So, we turned downhill and headed back. Up to this point, we’d been going uphill, and I’d been being beaten by Penny, unicycles being way slower than runners going uphill on muni terrain. So I raced after Penny in a vain attempt to prove a point, unfortunately only to discover that doing this over rocky singletrack just means lots of falling on your arse and getting very very wet. We got off the moors though, and onto the last bit of trail, and I was finally able to overtake her, thanks to a wider section that was pretty much a rocky stream that somehow was nicer to ride than run!
We got back and showered, and ate lots of food and drank a bottle of wine each and stayed up super late which I guess kind of celebrated this, although it did not make me ready to be woken up at 8.45 this morning for yet another muni ride, which was fun tastic if somewhat hangover ridden.
Final Rating: 186