Just how bad
can it be in the Peaks in Winter? read on to find out...
to Peak Route Guide
Peak to Peak Feature
in your pockets
The thaw set in and rain had seen off all but the last smudges of snow, we thought. Driving up the long hill from Chesterfield in to the Derbyshire Peaks gave a hint of what was up ahead. There were one or two deep pockets of snow, just in the hollows and tucked up against dry stone walls. By the time we dropped in to Peak Forest we were back in a Winter wonder land. The first climb was the iciest we've seen in fifteen years of riding.
The comedy aspects of mountain biking on ice were soon the order of the day. On a good day it's possible to ride straight across flat, smooth ice and not fall off. This Ice surely was smooth but it was nowhere flat! The recent thaw had sent ice cold water cascading over every rock, then set solid in it's tracks when the sun went down and temperatures plummeted. The only way up the hill was to abandon the traction-less bridleway and take to it's snowy verges. The going was heavy on snow covered undergrowth but at least moving forwards was an option.
Eventually the trail levels out and here we were forced back on to the ice. In a novel twist the entire
frozen trail, no, I'm not exaggerating, was covered in sheep manure. They must have driven a flock through here big enough to
shock a Kiwi Shepherd. Seriously, this raised the bar on staying upright. Strong motivation got us through that hundred yards without a single
dab. The next steep section was ride-able so long as you stayed on the rock strewn centre of the trail. Normally the lane to avoid on here, it was the hot ticket to the top in January.
Eventually we crossed the frozen moor top and began the long descent in to Hope. Lulled in to a false sense of security by a less slippery start we sped off down the Kamikaze at a good click. The sun was up and our spirits were high until dead ahead we could see a vast sheet of ice formed where melt water had changed sides from left to right on it's way downhill. I squeezed the brakes as much as I dared then let them go and coasted upright across the deadly, glassy surface. We made it! Two seconds later I was down, foiled by a much smaller but rather more
difficult off-camber ice flow. In slow motion, all crashes happen this way, the bike ducked out from under me. Left hand out-stretched to catch my fall but cruelly there was no grip here either and it was shoulder forward, face down on the hard glassy rock. Much to it's credit my Polaris Stormlite jacket was intact and I was straight up for some more, masochist.
It was about then that we first saw the fog in the valley below. It was lying thick and filled the valley almost to it's brim. Being far colder than the sun warmed air above, it was trapped in this natural hollow and the result was a view like that from the highest mountain peak. As we dropped at high speed down the ice-free dentist's grade (so called because back in the day riding rigid down here could cost you fillings) we dipped under the almost palpable top of the mist. The temperature dropped instantly and seeing where you were going was the challenge on
the rough ride down Pindale.
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