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The Nan Bield Pass     Page 1

About time we did another route in the Lake District. This one is a high mountain adventure, with the toughest and longest carrying section of any of our routes. if you hate carrying your bike up loose rocks and indeed solid rock, don't do it. For the hardy minority who like to push their limits, the rewards include some of the best descents and scenery in the lakes. Another advantage is the relative accessibility of the starting point at Stavely near Kendal. We made it too easily from Leicester in just over two and a half hours, something of a novelty for a Lakes route.

Total distance 26Km

To open map link click on 'show'. To change to OS map select halfway between + and - on map size selector.

461 984 show Dead end road Stavely.
444 992 show Right, on to Bridleway.
450 035 show Descent towards Kentmere Hall
483 045 show Descent to Longsleddale.
474 093 show Top of Gatescarth Pass.
457 101 show Small Water.
464 057 show Descent from Overend.

Where is Stavely?

Small is not so beautiful
The ride starts out on the well publicised 'Kentmere Circuit' which is quite a nice little tour of the local foothills, but a bit short on distance and high mountain views for our taste. From the parking spot HERE you ride half a mile along the cycle path then a short tarmac climb leads to a grassy bridleway which soon provides your first little challenge as the trail narrows to a singletrack between hedges and the loose rocks need momentum to clear. This is only a hillock though and you're soon racing along easy farm tracks until passing through a gate leads to a straight, flat singletrack along the edge of fields.

Cowsty Pats...
By now the stature of the views has grown a whole league and you'll thrash your camera but save some film, you've seen almost nothing yet. You soon descend slightly to the first of many rocky fords (this ride doesn't break water crossing records, but it's not called the Lake District for nothing), don't be tempted by the singletrack heading left, unless you fancy a big drop off in to the icy water. Like most of the fords this one is easily rideable, just hit it with some momentum or risk an embarrassing wet dab. A short steep climb follows then a roller coaster cow pat track bags you the top of the first major descent. The only double track wide drop of the day it's a hardcore laced delight with high speeds until (those with a soul) come upon the superior view of the outcrop known as the Cowsty Knotts.

Wet and sticky
Cameras snapped again and only one annoying gate stood between us and the rest of the drop down to Kentmere Hall. A tidy blast that was and now up past the church, left then right for the grassy climb up Green Quarter Fell. This one's rideable with some grunting (and a food stop, bananas and M&S buttered sticky Malt Loaf: yum) all the way to the top and the massive change of character as you crest on to Cocklaw Fell. In November the moor was all golden grass and boggy streamlets but with a few sections of nice singletrack. This bridleway crosses the collecting system of Skeggles Water and if it's completely dry you can be sure there will be an awful lot of hose pipe bans in place.


A little deft diverting can see you across with only a short carry and on to the larger than life views and descent down in to LongSleddale. Keep your weight back and all the boggy depressions can be braved through, probably. A little slip sliding is inevitable but spare the trail and don't lock your rear up all the way down. After a steep section a small wooden gate on your right is the bridle continued, but we preferred the straight on past Sadgill Wood and right hander down the rocky BOAT to Sadgill. Lot's of nice line choices and rubbish unrideable ones too. A gate halfway down spoils the fun a bit but bunches the group to start the race again (watch out for the blind bend at the bottom...).

A dab or two is all it takes
Left across the bridge and you're heading North up towards the towering Gatescarth Pass, make the most of the views of Goat Scar and Raven Crag on the flat, as you soon run out of puff on the cobbled climb. Now, those of you with less than calves of steel will begin to suffer this hideously long climb. We had along our regular rider Matt Barratt, winner of this years Sports Category in the National Series. He made the cobbled section of the climb with only a couple of dabs, see if you can do better! Once you reach 1200 feet the cobble climb ends and a small bridge and locked gate lead to the next even steeper grassy climb. Matt joined us in the foot slog to around 1700 feet where we stopped, turned around and stood in awe of the immense view below us. 

Time for another sticky malt loaf and some malicious lies to the effect that we were only half way up the pass. Matt didn't fall for it and we were soon mounted up again and cresting the top on a rock studded grass track. Now the descent to Haweswater sucks you in with a series of no holds barred switchbacks festooned with loose fractured rock. Although there is a 'flat' bit in the middle there is no let up in the technicality of the riding. The second drop seems even steeper than the first but the whole lot is rideable all the way to the gate near the bottom. 

What a carry on
Before you reach here your hands will be aching even with hydraulic disks, this is a massive downhill by UK standards, 1000 feet lost in a distance of one mile. Hop over the gate (they keep it locked!) and there is still more descending down to the car park at Haweswater, fast and furious with a couple of natural ramps it's a hoot. Once you reach the car park wall a tight singletrack is visible back-tracking to the West and uphill. This is the way up to Small Water and it's 90% unrideable. We started determined to ride whenever we could and soon began the long carry up this tortuous, torturous, treacherous trail. (sorry, got carried away with the Thesaurus...).
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