Hindsight. Its a wonderful thing I'm told. So is common sense. Sadly my preparation for the much anticipated day out in Gods own backyard saw non of the latter and I paid dearly for it.
A last minute BBQ organised by Pikey on Saturday seemed a wonderful idea. Deb had cleared off the day before to Wembley to jump on the burgeoning Blackpool bandwagon and wouldn't be home till probably gone midnight, so I could pop round with the kids and partake of his hospitality. All was well, until Toss, the utter bastard, sat next to me and offered the use of a bottle of red that he had spare at home. I'm pleased to report that I resisted for about 30 minutes, however, inevitably I could not take being sober around loads of drunk happy people for much longer.
There then followed the frantic consumption of a bottle of red, closely followed by a few more glasses of another cheeky red supplied, very kindly by Pikey. Cue usual bbq behaviour which also included invading the neighbours garden to have a go on a trampoline. It was at this point that I remembered I was up early the next day for a bit of a trek and a long ride. So off to bed. Slept terribly for some reason and the alarm clock was soon ringing at 6.15. Hindsight here kicked in. As did a rather irksome headache. Oh well, bowl of frosties, chuck the bike in the car and head off.
The drive up was wonderful. Took the Garsdale Road and over Buttertubs, the views over Swaledale were stunning.
Pulled up at The Dales Bike Centre and most of the gang were already there. Graham, Mart, Nick and Keith all having camped the night before. The temperature was already in the early 20's and the cloudless sky promised more heat.
We set off up the long tarmac climb past Grinton Lodge and then off road up to Greets Hill. Fortunately there was a strong breeze blowing, which despite it being a headwind kept the temperature down.
Regrouped at the top and Dave kindly pointed out that we were now dropping a fair way down and after my moaning at Scar House, he polity suggested I change my specs. The down was a pretty straightforward doubletrack to Dents House, where we took a right and started to climb up Apedale Road. Pretty soon we arrived at a steep section of track, which from the bottom, looked pretty tough, even more so as the track was very loose.
A couple of the lads went in front but lost traction halfway up it. I, to my utter amazement, made it up, although I was panting like a bloody fish out of water at the top. Quite a few others also managed it, however I took great pleasure in taking THIS picture, as, lets be honest, its not fucking often you see this lad pushing. Sadly Craig told me that he failed the hill as he attempted it in the middle ring, which, if you ask me is just rubbing my face in it :)
The gradient up to Apedale Head was rather more relaxed after the brutal climb and the breeze was staying with us thank god. The heat really was building up and, given my dehydrated state this morning, I was concious to be topping up with water as much as I could.
I think I set off first, but was soon overtaken by John and Luke. The descent was great fun. Double track which at the top was quite pedally due to the increasing headwind, but as it got steeper with some tight turns thrown in, the big problem became grip. Had some "interesting" line choices, but managed to hang on to the tail of John and Luke, John being local knew the lines. It was full on 2 wheel drifts on some corners, just the right balance between outright speed and sphincter twitches.
Quick regroup at the bottom and a bit of a wait as there were about 2 pinch flats on the way down. Off down the tarmac of High Lane to a sharp left and the start of a cracking little run. I was well at the back having minced down the road (well you know me and tarmac :() so caught Mart up pretty quick and hung onto his back. The gradient started getting steeper as we entered a wall enclosed path and I managed to sneak past Mart, but this descent had a sting with it. It was fast and smooth at the top, then suddenly got a little more techy, but by this point you have plenty of speed, then a bit rougher and then BAM... full on rip your face off boulders. I was on them at full tilt before I knew what was happening. Barrelled down with a fucking mahosive grin on my face when I closed down on Andrea who was on the floor, she said she was ok so passed her, then Ton and caught Nick, who prompty went over the bars! I could have been real nasty with the boulders on this track but he got away with it. Typical Nick... either balls out fast or balls out on the deck! arrived at Low Houses and burnt my fookin leg on my rear disk!!! Buzzing, it was a cracker of a descent!
Spin along the river in idyllic surroundings took us out to Gunnerside and a lunch break. It was at this point that I started getting a headache. I check how much water I had left and realiased that in 2 hours of riding I'd only drank about half a litre, not good really considering the previous nights indulgences. Graham, I noticed had snaked off to the pub, the rotten bastard, but most surprisingly returned with 2 pints of orange juice. Nick, clearly wanted to maintain his reputation as a real man went to get some beer, however failed epically by returning with a half!
After lunch we headed up the steady climb to Blakethwaite Lead Mine at the head of Gunnerside Ghill. Impressive surroundings, I asked DJ if Blakethwaite Gill was a "Hush" as it seem so out of place, but no, it was natural. We all had a go a clearing the stream crossing, and once again, I was amazed that I actually cleaned it, although it cost a pinch flat. Tony had the genius idea of taking a dip here, I didnt see him go in but I fucking heard him. Sounded like a plane hitting the water :p
DJ pointed out the bottom of Bunton Hush, which, having seen his pics from the top, I had fancied a go at, however from the bottom I was fucked if I could spot a line. One for next time I reckon. I spotted the remnants of a mine cart at the exit of an Adit and remembered that one of the levels here about penetrated the hill completely by connecting with another level from the other valley. Bunting Level it was called (click here for more info). This is one of the things I love about Swaledale. It is such glorious countryside, but has a rich industrial history which I find fascinating.
The pain continued in the form of climbing up to ironically named "Merry Field" or more commonly referred to as the surface of the moon. Here, Dave had a good surprise for us taking us along a real rollercoaster blasting over the old spoil heaps on a singletrack path, culminating in a really loose descent and a quick step up. Dave got a good pic of me dropping down it, although I'm, not quite sure how my arse had managed to suck up my shorts so much.
At the bottom, Dave announced that he had lost 3 of his 4 chainring bolts!! Never seen that before. Fortunately someone, I suspect Trevor (although in my delirious state I cant recall) had a spare one.
At Langthwaite Dave gave me a couple of neurophen which I gulped down. My head was fit to burst and I was proper on my chin strap. At this point I should have cleared off down the road to Reeth with Trevor and Tom, but the promise of some singletrack was just too tempting. I was nice, but i realised that again, like the Pinseat descent, here was a prime opportunity for my to have a stupid off, being so tired so I just took my time and bumbled like an automoton back to the car.
Here Hinsight once again provided me with a kick in the bollocks. Note to self... "TAKE A SPARE SET OF CLOTHES AND A FUCKING TOWEL YOU COCK". In my rush to get out of the house I had just picked up a spare T shirt and for the first time this year, I didnt wear shorts with a line so I missed out on this!!
The guys and ladies kindly chipped in for a brew for me and so ended a real day of contrasts. A ride in GODS own back yard and a salutory lesson in common sense for yours truely. I was totally on my arse at the end of the ride and without the Pills from Dave, I suspect I would probably have expired on the last leg.
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