Friday, 5 July 2013

3 Peaks By Bike - Day 3: Scafell and on to Prestwick

A decent morning at Wasdale Head
A very early start to today but Wasdale was still fairly busy with fell runners (apparently some were up and down Scafell Pike around the 2 hour mark! Impressive) and marshalls for what appeared to be leg 2 for numerous Fire Service 3-peakers.

Thankfully the low pressure weather system and shifted eastwards and patchy high clouds allowed rare glimpses of the Scafell summits. The route up from Wasdale Head is fairly short but relentlessly steep. My legs felt a bit stiff for the first half of the climb and so I just settled in to a steady plod as far as Hollow Stones by which time I'd warmed up nicely and the legs began to feel good.
View up the Mickledore scar

Patchy sun
The summit was deserted save a couple of marshall's recording the Fire Service 3-peakers and a  Scandinavian lad trying to fit in as many Wainwrights as possible over a few days. Bruce's knee had started hurting (sounded like tendonitis to me) near the top and he was wincing in pain on the descent. Not fun. He wisely decided to knock the subsequent cycling on the head in order to protect his knee for Ben Nevis.
An unusually quiet summit cairn on Scafell Pike

A splash of colour on a drab grey summit ;-)

Traversing the boulder field to the top
My cycle to Prestwick was long and a bit of a blur really. Much of it was on main roads with surfaces as rough and pock marked as an acne-ridden teenagers face so my focus rarely got a chance to move towards enjoying the views. The A76 was particularly miserable!

Energy levels were dwindling around Thornhill and for the first time on the trip I resorted to a can of Relentless energy drink with about 35-40 miles to go. Boy, did it do the trick. My legs were GO, GO, GO after that!

My tired legs rolled in to Prestwick around 9.45pm at the wonderful Appletree Guesthouse. A friendlier B&B you would be hard pressed to find. They knew I'd be on the road by 6am the next day and so happily made a packed lunch for me to take along and told me to help myself to any breakfast before I set off. They also advised on routes towards the Erskine Bridge. I forgot about this the next day (I blame this on tiredness) and wished I had paid a bit more attention! We'll definitely stay there again should we visit the area.

3 Peaks By Bike - Day 2: The bastard wind day

The plan for day 2 was to set off early, cycle the 100+ miles to the Lake District and do Scafell Pike in the late afternoon/early evening. The weather put something of a damper on that. Forecast for Scafell Pike for later afternoon was heavy rain, 50mph winds with 65mph+ gusts. Not fun at the best of times but when tired after 100 miles of hard cycling it could be a tad dangerous.

With some regret I made the decision to postpone Scafell until early on day 3 with a view to revising if the weather abated and we made good time on cycling.

Rain and strong cross winds didn't help for the first 30 miles and it was slow going. Approaching Lancaster I phoned Cath to check see was OK and had managed to pack the tent away in the vile weather only to discover that her car wouldn't start (she'd managed the tent fine). Nightmare! All I could do was plod on and hope that the AA could fix it and see her on her way again. It was a worry.

Shortly after Lancaster - which, by the way, was a total bastard to navigate through - Bruce became a ghastly shade of grey and had to resort to the train. I decided to put the hammer down and try and make up time to see if I could make Wasdale for an evening ascent of Scafell Pike. The rain had stopped but the wind was now horrendous. A 25-30mph constant headwind that had me grovelling. I knew that I would struggle to get there by mid/late afternoon.  The roads also began to rise in the southern Lake District and some ascents were long and relatively steep.

Plenty of these!

I became inventive with my cursing of the wind which at times was slowing me to a crawl. On one descent of about 6% gradient I attempted to freewheel only to find that the wind simply brought me to a stop. Demoralising! The last 20 miles took me 2.5 hours! One hour longer than I'd expect it to have taken me!

I arrived at the B&B a broken man after 104 miles of hard slog. The weather had improved to the point where an ascent of Scafell Pike was easily possible (Jo and Rich had decided to go up earlier in the afternoon) but it was late and I was knackered. Food and sleep was the only thing on my agenda for that evening. Leave the climb til early morning ...

Thursday, 4 July 2013

3 Peaks By Bike - Day 1

Bruce, Jo, Rich and me ready for the off ...
The forecast was spot on. Rain. And wind. And plenty of it. Bugger.

I've been up Snowdon in worse conditions but this wasn't a nice way to start the challenge. Personally I found it quite exhilarating but Jo admitted to hating it. The rain was heavy and persistant and the wind was particularly strong near the summit. I'd estimate around 50+mph. Enough to make you really concentrate hard on your footing anyway! Suffice to say that views from the point at which the Miners track kicked up to join the Pyg track were non-existent.  The following pics from Bruce will give you an idea of that. When we got there the summit was deserted. Unusual!
Snowdon penny post
Lovely views!
Not a busy day at the summit of Snowdon
Getting wet on the way down
The weather eased on the way down and the last (flatter) part of the miners track was a gentle stroll back to Pen-y-pass in nothing more than a stiff breeze.

After a quick change and stuffing some food down we were on the bikes at shortly after mid-day. Slightly later than I'd hoped but hey-ho. I forgot my bike pump but only realised at the bottom of the Llanberris pass and couldn't be arsed to ride back up for it. I simply hoped that the p*nct*re fairy was on a day off.
Just 100 miles to go today
The ride itself was a doddle. Mostly tailwind and plenty of downhill/flat with no serious uphill gradients. I'd worried that the A5 would be busy but no, it was relatively quiet and a surface as smooth as glass. Lovely.

It got a bit interesting after crossing the river Dee at Queensferry and trying to work out how to avoid the busy A41 dual carriageway towards Birkenhead (you couldn't for much of it) and how best to cross the Mersey. Original plan was to enjoy the ferry but that would have entailed a 1-1.5 hr wait so we got the train from Hamilton Square.

Nice skyline but no ferry
It was quicker and MUCH cheaper anyway. Was a bit worried about navigating through Liverpool but Bruce did a top job of getting us through the with his Garmin gizmo. I know Liverpool has some impressive parts but we managed to miss those and pedalled through some depressingly, Godawful shit areas. All cities have them I suppose.

After the drudgery of Liverpool the roads became a bit more interesting (and hilly) as we progressed towards the campsite near Chorley.  And then, shortly before arrival, the rain came again. Very heavily! I was mightily impressed (and very grateful) that Cath, who is not a seasoned camper, had managed to singlehandedly erect our tent in such foul conditions. I suspect it involved some swearing.

Chilli and rice cooked on the stove, a beer and a tot (or 3) of whisky and it was soon gone 11pm and time to try and get some Z's. I didn't feel particularly tired, even though it had been a long day, but was soon asleep. It didn't last long. Rain and an increasingly strong NW wind woke me regularly as I worried about progress on the following day ...