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The Jacob's Ladder     Page 1

"Let's do a classic mountain bike loop in the Derbyshire Peaks" they said. In February. "It's only seventeen miles" they said. Should be a doddle, only it wasn't. Wacky weather and personal injury don't even top the bill in this tale of MTB daring do.

Total distance 17 miles: Explorer 1 The Peak District ' Dark Peak area.

1.   124 853 Start at Edale Car Park.
2.   113 846 Turn right to Barber Booth.
3.   088 861 Turn left on to Jacob's Ladder.
4.   066 861 Turn right through single gate.
5.   054 879 Turn left on to road.
6.   048 869 Turn left and head uphill on road. 
7.   050 853 Turn left at bridle T junction.
8.   092 825 Turn left on to trail parallel to road. 
9.   125 834 Turn left on to tarmac.
10. 125 836 Turn right on to single.
11. 136 845 Turn left at Hollins Cross.

Abandon Hope all ye who ride here
On the drive up the weather was scintillating, pin sharp visibility showcased icing sugar dusted peaks in brilliant sunshine. We were like a pack of slavering dogs on the way to chase a shivering snow-rabbit. Winter traffic was kind and the ugliest courtesy car in the world (a lime green Nissan Micra we soon christened 'Kermit the Frog') nonetheless did the job getting us there almost as quickly as my pranged Volvo would have. We arrived a little early but were still surprised by the poor showing of regulars until Ben rattled through on the mobile, he'd been languishing in the car park at Hope four miles away wondering where we all were.

Wrong trousers
Occasional strong gusts of wind couldn't dampen our massed enthusiasm and even the stark realisation that I'd left my post ride clothes at home wouldn't dampen it for me, for a few hours at least! We set off in to a head wind strong enough to have us pedaling downhill in what was becoming a familiar pattern for the Winter weary MTB Britain crew. The approach to Jacob's ladder starts as a good tarmac road, which leads through gates to a worsening doubletrack and finally across a narrow stone bridge to the foot of the Massif itself. We already felt tired from our head down battle with the air and now the loose rock covered, slippery stones beckoned us upwards.

Laughing heartily at our rubbish attempts to ride any distance the ladder had us off and pushing in a trice. We pushed on up muddy ruts and over shattered rock steps, until we reached the snow line, then we pushed on over snow-covered mud ruts and shattered rock steps. Finally the summit was reached and as if to reward us for our excellent strenuous efforts the local Gods (a cruel and petty lot) summoned up a blizzard of welcome. It blew straight in our faces and reduced visibility down slightly, by about twenty miles. 

Cunning stunts
Having had a good snigger the Gods relented or so it seemed and we got rolling again cracking through sheets of ice and slipping on tennis ball sized lumps of stone. By the time we reached the top of the first real descent it was clear that danger money and a top-class insurance policy would be needed to tempt a well-padded stunt man over the edge. So with a cheery wave and gleeful call of 'someone's going to get killed on here' we slithered off to meet our fate.

Fate was feeling a bit sympathetic to me that day, what with the weather God shenanigans and me having no trousers for later. So it was that, despite oddly shaped lumps of bedrock, ice, snow-covered ice, ball bearings and mud (OK, I lied about the ball bearings but it was damn slippery) I chased off down the 'trail' without wiping out. We survived for so long that we dropped below the snow line and began to actually enjoy the super-technical hi-jinks without the roulette wheel of rubber on ice.

Give me a brake!
Now I really should qualify who I mean by 'we' at this point, because it transpired that Fate had another card to turn for Mark as we waited at the gate. After a short while I started to ride back up the broken slab trail, ostensibly to see if I could help but also because the idea of riding it again had begun to seem like fun. By this time I could see Mark descending slowly and he was clearly suffering. By his own admission he had gone too slowly and pulled hard on the dreaded front brake lever (which we should have disconnected or perhaps labeled 'Emergency use only, 200 fine').

In the resulting tumble he had interfaced spectacularly with his stem in the groin area and was developing a fine swelling adjacent to the 'family jewels'. Everyone winced and Mark continued to look queasy for the remainder of a now painful ride. Before the downhill ended we took a right turn through a small gate and contoured around the bottom of Kinderlow End. The going on here was soft to boggy with puddles of hidden depth, full of black peaty slime. Old silent movie images of plunging in to bottomless puddles leaving just a floating hat flashed through my mind and I resolved to loft the front wheel higher and further than the rest. This seemed to work quite well and I pedaled my way slowly towards the front of the group. > Next Page

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