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Travel by yourself, you won't be lonely

Saturday, 22 October 2016 17:59

Sometimes you can spend your whole life waiting for other people to be free, to be ready or to turn up. We probably miss out on many of our best experiences due to a desire to be accompanied. This weekend does not fall into this category.

James and I had talked about a day trip up to the Peak District to get out on the mountain bikes. I've been determined to get him up to the Peak for some real biking for ages. But unfortunately, due to adult life catching up with us and James needing to get the tiling in his bathroom finished, I was left without a partner in crime and with the prospect of a weekend with no plans. After much personal debate I decided to come alone anyway, the weather was looking good, so why waste the opportunity. With James unavailable my plans became more flexible so I was able to get a bed in a dorm room at the Youth Hostel at Edale, rather than the original plan of a day trip (which with at least a three hour drive is a long day!). Unfortunately the hostel was fully booked for the Saturday night, but one night was still better than a day trip. My mood for the trip was definitely lifted with this photo opportunity as I loaded the bike onto the car on Friday morning.

Leaving work at 4pm on a Friday meant only one thing, the prospect of a long drive. Four hours later and I eventually pulled into the car park, worn out already and I hadn't done anything particularly adventurous yet. On my arrival I was greeted with the great news that actually they did have beds available on the Saturday night. I'd make that decision on my return based on how tired I was and how little I fancied the return drive. Although I've been using YHA hostels for over 10 years, I have only ever been in private rooms, never staying in a dorm. Being alone at a hostel is a surprisingly social experience and I was sat chatting to a few guys over a chili and a beer fairly soon after arriving.

The next morning I got out on the mountain bike ready to pedal off into the chilly morning air, clouds just covering the very tip of the Mam Tor ridge. I had downloaded a set of routes to my garmin, with the intention of being able to link them up to form one big loop. Turn Garmin on, Menu, Courses, Scroll through the list. Failed at the first step, none of them were there. Make it up as I go along it is then. Here I am fairly lucky in that I have an almost eidetic memory when it comes to maps, so I could recall most of the route I had planned out. 

The first section saw me pedalling up to Hope Brink, and when I say pedalling, a fair portion was walked. You really find the limits of a 1x9 setup fairly early when riding this sort of terrain. I find the limits of my mountain biking head fairly soon after as I head down Blackley Hey, also known as potato alley, due to many of the rocks apparently being the size of potatoes. All I can say is I'm being short sold on potatoes, because I've never seen any that big. I rode as much as I could, but regularly ended up stepping off and walking the hardest sections. Many would consider this cheating or even disappointing, but I still had a good time and I'm slowly getting better, so who cares.

The next section of my planned route saw me riding up Hagg Tor and down through Gores forest, round the tip of Howden Reservoir and then on to Whinstone Lee Tor. A stop at the bridge at the tip of Howden Reservoir and I made the acquaintance of this overly friendly lady.

As I approached the climb to Whinstone Lee I caught up with another guy riding the same climb, an impromptu team formed and we stuck together through the climb and descent down to the Ladybower Inn. His skills far outstripped mine, yet he waited a few times and we had a good chat along with the riding. I have no idea of his name, but it was great to have someone to ride with, cheers whoever you were! The climb up to Whinstone Lee Tor gives some of the best views I've experienced mountain biking, including the video below. The full video of the day can be found at the very bottom. The descent down to the Ladybower Inn across the moorland is fast, flowing and great fun. Thankfully, and especially considering it is late October, it was relatively puddle and mud free.

 

Next the ride took me down the Thornhill trail and up a byway hill at Brough. The descent into Bradwell was a little disappointing, it was so rutted I couldn't get any great flow, once again my lack of ability is to blame here, but I ended up walking much of the descent. I took the path that passes through the Hope cement works, whose concrete structures and huge chimney dominate the area. The chimney up close really is huge, I'm fairly sure it outstrips the chimneys at the sugar factory I used to work at.

After lunch I then rode through Castleton and a climbing loop beneath Mam Tor gave me a quick rocky descent back round into Castleton. I finished with a walk up to Hollins Cross and the following descent over the other side down to Greenways and Edale. This descent was great, well worth the long trudge up beforehand. Finish off with a few miles on the road back to the welcome sight of the hostel building. The details of the ride can be found in the Strava Widget at the bottom. Absolutely knackered and I've decided to take the impromptu offer of the bed for the night, might as well make the most of being up here after all. Back at the hostel and I'm soon having a conversation with a couple about the route to walk to Hathersage the next day. I may have travelled here alone, but haven't felt it the whole time, hostels are great like that, everyone with a similar sense of adventure. We'll see what tomorrow brings, but today will be hard to beat.

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