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   Helvellyn: Hell's Ridge   Page 1

Helvellyn is the Lake District's ultimate high, so why not climb the ridge twice in a day? Tom Owen guided us expertly on the toughest ever MTB Britain route.

Total distance 28.5 miles but feels like more than 50!
Map: Explorer OL 5 The English Lakes North Eastern area.

Hell's Ridge Video

The chickens were out
The event details for this mammoth slog had been up for months and it was attracting a fair bit of interest but in the end only three of us were brave enough to go the distance. Except, Mark soon let on that he'd been the only one who hadn't read the Forum postings, so he'd signed up not knowing quite what he was in for! Fair play to him as he hadn't chickened out at the last minute. Also it clashed with the almost peerless Dyfi Enduro which attracted eight of our riders.

As with all mountain bike rides it seems, this one started on a steep gradient and we nervously quizzed Tom for a projected finishing time. We set out on the dot of ten and that put us returning somewhere between five and seven-o-clock! Nine hours of this was going to kill us. Soon however the climb relaxed and views opened out dramatically in to the spectacular steep sided valley of Grisedale. After a gentle trundle the trail bridges the stream, then splits in to multiple lanes of grass and embedded boulders. Even though the gradient is slight we were soon off and pushing whilst the weather began a schizophrenic, Jeckyl and Hyde routine. I was determined to ride as much of it as possible, which turned out to be not much. The embedded rocks would have been tough on their own but the park authorities have filled much of the rest with loose stone which defeated hard rear-wheel efforts in a trice.

Hail Mary! 
We kept up a good pace nevertheless and soon reached Grisedale Tarn where we rode a further pathetic two hundred yards along it's bank. Then we got right back to pushing, carrying and cursing our way up the increasingly steep mountain ahead. We'd been pacing ourselves against a pair of hikers who were a few hundred yards behind us, now they had it down to a hundred whilst we'd stopped to suck on energy gels, this gave us the impetus and energy to race for the summit. It was then that the loony weather began to get serious with volleys of white hail ricocheting from our helmets and stinging exposed skin. I'd been in short sleeves up to this point but this was hurting and my macho streak ended whilst Tom looked like he could make good use of his leg armour without falling off. The hail continued on and off, as we rode the first level trail on the top and doubled it for the summit.

Route canal work 
When we reached the summit shelter, the temperature had fallen to around two degrees and the wind chill was about minus twenty. We stopped to don more jackets and gloves and I discovered a slight flaw in my preparation, I only had one full finger glove. So it was that I came to be riding one handed, with the other frozen digits stuffed down the side of my shorts to bring back their feeling. The relentless wind bit cruelly at exposed skin leaving the left side of my face so numb that it was like a trip to the dentist, whilst having your mouth open to breathe meant eating hail and having that unattractive sky-diver 'blown wide face' look.

It was in this state of anaesthesia that we reached the top of Lower Man and looked long and hard at the steep, loose drop on it's North face: crikey. After five seconds I decided to give it a go and dropped my front wheel gingerly over the edge. The loose stones gave scant traction for a steep descent, I rapidly pumped the brakes with the emphasis on the rear and staying away from the huge drop on the left. A sequence of Zigzags and rocky outcrops followed with one huge step where I got my weight way back and kept rolling.

It seemed an age before I neared the bottom and my adrenaline had dried up as I whooped in to the last turn and asked some passing walkers to forestall that helicopter rescue, I was alive! Mark and Tom followed some way behind, they'd thought better than to attempt a couple of the hazards, smart chaps those two. Still, cleaning the descent in that wind left me so high I completely forgot about my numb face. As Mark led strongly up the next climb I was soon off and pushing and had chance to take a picture looking back at Lower Man > Next Page>

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