Lakeland 200 – ish – Charlie, Alan, and Sally

It started inauspiciously:

a request on Singletrack for a 3 day loop in the Lakes produced a link to  and something called the “Lakeland 200” – 200 kms ish off-road with 7000m or so climbing, which is completed by ‘ard nuts self-supported (no pre-booked accommodation, no vehicle back-up, no drafting etc) in 40 hours. We elected for 3 days and accommodation grace de YHA.
Volunteers were requested, as usual met by a deafening silence. Big Al was in, so team 200kg was reformed; Mrs M (Sally) too, although as usual she had absolutely no idea what was involved.
I duly toddled off to Cotswold Outdoor to procure 3 super dooper dry bags to strap under our bars. These, combined with Camelbaks, would be our carrying capacity, and would provide different challenges to different members of our party.
And off I went to pick up Alan on the way to collect Sally from work.
“Bloody Hell Alan – what’s in your dry bag”. “My sleeping bag”. “But you won’t need that”. “Oh – so I won’t need the bag then”. “Where’s your stuff”. “In my camelback – pants, socks, toothbrush”. “Towel? Wash kit?” “In my water bottle”.
(Ladies – I present you an image of big Alan with a towel the size of a medium postage stamp which he had to flail himself dry…………..)
We headed off to get Sally from work, stopping off at the Better Body Shop to see if we could rent a large bloke to help us pick Sally’s bag up – she was planning to ride with 6kg strapped to her bars – then spent the journey up from Kent with Sally emptying stuff and Alan trying to find things to pack.
A pre-match curry in Windermere was considered essential – worst curry house music ever. Judging by the state of their speakers, held together with bits of duck tape and string, we weren’t the first to think this.
Friday dawned bright, breezy, and showery. Much last minute faffing and we were off – as far as the bottom of the drive. “Err Charlie – my gears aren’t working”, quoth Alan. Bent front mech quickly diagnosed. A quick tweak with my leatherman (which had thankfully survived the cull), a couple of Charlie style delicate kicks, and a bash with a large Lakeland rock and we were off, meeting our first rock garden after about 10 minutes – bit of a wake up call. Amazingly, this was our one and only mechanical.
Loaded up – s’easy

Early morning rocks – a wake up call for softy southerners

Fantastic riding, but constantly challenging, with steep rocky sections everywhere, and no really big climbs – but I was surprised we had climbed about 1500m by (late) lunch in Coniston, having perhaps foolishly added in a chunk of the North Face trail as an extra.  Sally duly ordered half the menu and a pint of Bluebird; Alan went for veggie soup and a lightly buttered roll. He clearly didn’t realise where we going next.

 Next – we go over that bit…….Walna Scar in the distance

So next up was the long trudge – half ride half hike – up over Walna Scar at 650m ish.  Then the wheels started to come off – I was having Garmin issues, battery running out (thankfully I had bought a neat supplementary battery)  and we elected for the long loop around Stevenson Ground. This turned into a bit of a bog slog, with some navigational challenges (including taking us 20 minutes to find a track which was just over a rise 50m away – the Garmin says we’re on it, but I can’t see the f***er)  then we had the choice of another bog trot across Harter Fell – general advice from the Singletrack massive seemed to be: good place to go if you fancy a divorce, so we decided to wimp out by road. Unfortunately this meant 5 miles at 8mph into a headwind, then Hardknott Pass. I must have been delirious by now, as at the first sight of a hairpin I went French and rode the whole way up on the right hand side. Good fun down the other side on fat rubber with decent brakes – a bit sketchy on a road bike I imagine.
Into Boot YHA at about 830pm, 55 miles, 2600m vertical, pretty knackered.
Saturday got worse. Realistically, we needed an early start. We managed about 945. A gradual climb up to Burnmoor Tarn either had us pushing, or heart rates going stratospheric and blowing like buffalo  up the short sharp rocky climbs. Then a bog trot and a disappointingly “improved” descent turning what was previously a technical challenge into a sort of scalextric track. Then a big long carry up Black Sail Pass, and annoyingly, half way down the other side as well, then similar over to Buttermere. By 3pm we had covered about 15 miles, lots of them carrying ) – hard enough when you are 15 stone, worse if you are about 9 stone 4 (and Alan, learning from the veggie soup debacle of the previous day, had consumed full English, cereal, tea, coffee, several cakes, an ice cream, and various scoobie snacks). Maps were scoured for short cuts………
The road ride up Honister Pass actually came as a bit of light relief then some fantastic riding across and then down to Derwent Water and onto Keswick where the mother-of-all short cuts was decided upon – straight over the Old Coach Road and then road to Ullswater, probably cutting 10 – 15 miles of heavy going.  45 miles, 830 pm again, over 2000m up.
MTB improvisation # 58 – if confronted with a locked gate, just take it off……….

Sod the turbo – ride this to blow your heart up instead

Sod the swimming – ride this to pummel your arms and shoulders  instead:  cracking descent to Derwent Water
So the last day. The longest hike-a-bike yet up to High Street at about 850m, some fantastic descending and a nice ride down the valley, before we were confronted with the big decision – 10 mile loop via the Garburn Pass, or straight back to the car. We opted for the latter………
Why do they call it High Street? 850ish m, and a long way to carry your bike.

So all in all, in pretty much perfect whether, we didn’t quite do in 3 days what some loony did in 33 hours or so! Fantastic few days though, and I’m sure we’d go a lot quicker if we ever tried it again, on the basis of knowing what’s coming as much as anything.

7oaks tri front row at the top of Black Sail Pass