2012 is drawing to a close and the weather is about to get too bad for more big mountain riding, so it's time for this year's installment of "A Year in Mountains" following on from these threads-
Having finished university and got a real job as a geologist I thought this year would be rather mountain-free. On the contrary I've somehow managed to cram in more mountains than ever before- turns out having your weekends back opens some doors!
Sadly I've also moved back to England which has meant smaller mountains and access laws from medeival times. It wasn't long til I took the policy of riding where I fancied if the trails looked good enough and as a result although the height gain this year hasn't been as significant the trails have been as much fun as ever, ranging from really nadgery Lake District footpaths to fast and flowing Alpine singletrack. It's been a great year for mountains, even with the weather, and I've really enjoyed it.
We started the year with a plan to go over Gatescarth and back up over Nan Beild for one of our team's birthday. However, a late hungover start courtesy of the White Hart in Bouth and ensuing fry up to chase the grog away meant that by the time we got to the top of Gatescarth there was some bonking and we headed back down Nan Beild pass the easy way, heading south. It's not the best way to do it but it was a cracking day out and a wonderful way to get warmed up for the year. The southern side of this trail is fun, nothing too hard but still a big mountain feel. It starts rocky and fast before opening up and getting flowy.
I didn't get any photos of this, but Rob Jackson of this parish and myself went and did a sneaky night ride on Kinder to mark the anniversary of the mass tresspass by walkers. Hopefully one day England will come out of the dark ages of access laws and follow Scotland's lead.
I think this is the most fun I've ever had at a race. A rough Highland imitation of the Mega in Glencoe starting on the snow before descending over bogs and rocks it was thoroughly good fun. 10th place in the middle final was about right I guess, I should've been a bit higher but fluffed it up a bit.
This is one that, although it's a bridleway, I don't think a lot of riders pay attention to as they pass it as they go over Scarth Gap. Combining Red Pike, High Stiles and Scarth Gap makes for a superb brake-cooker of a descent that gets more and more technical as you head down the hill. Scarth Gap itself is a nice tech-fest while High Stiles has a nadgery precipitous bit of riding on the top. I tackled this after work and the sun setting over the Irish Sea was stunning.
No, not that one. This is the one from Honister Slate Mine. It's a steep, slidey descent that then goes through a tiny abandoned slate mine- that woonderful sound of slates cracking under your tyres and then sliding into corners. The slate mine had a nice trail down some steep steps with nadgery turns, great fun.
May brought 10 under the Ben and the 10th anniversary of my old uni's cycling club and with it a trip north to Scotland. Scotland means riding wherever you like but after 10 under I was a bit too knackered to do the bigger Torridon loops so we lapped Maol Chean-dearg. They say one Torridon mile is like 3 miles elsewhere and I'd agree- it's hard work but the scenery, trails and everything else about the area is amazing. Thoroughly recommended- very, very fast rocky trails ridden at warp speed chasing my mate Kieran who was riding like a man possessed!
The following day we did an out and back on this one. A real blast of a trail, not the nadgery stuff I usually look for in a big mountain ride but fast, sinuous trails that really brought a smile to our faces. We didn't get to the top of this because we all had to go home but it was excellent.
European mountains don't really come bigger than the Alps. A good bit of lift assisted fun doesn't go amiss, despite it pouring with rain almost all the time we were there! I've been to Morzine 5 times now, and so this year I dug out a map and did some exploring. There is a lot of nice big mountain XC stuff out there that your average visitor is really missing out on and if I do go again I'll do it like this. My favourite was from Avoriaz to northern Morzine on a trail with a nice technical traverse to one of the little abandonded chalet villages before turning down the hill into the woods on a fast, steep descent for miles.
Having done Snowdon a couple of times before, this was next on the list to ride in Wales. It has to be one of the easiest mountains to climb in the country, it's very accessible and the trails could be ridden by just about anyone. If you've not done a big mountain before, this is where to start, although the precipitous drop to your right at the top focuses your attention!
I had an attempt at this on a rather unpleasant day in August. The trail was wet and slidey and when I got up onto the ridge it was too boggy to be fun and so I headed back. I would have to save this for another day. I got two photos just as the sun came out as I got to the bottom.
Nan Beild, again
It was a bit of a shame to miss out on the north side descent of this earlier in the year so on my birthday I thought I'd have another crack at it. The weather was rotten- vicious gusts blasting across the corrie, biblical rain meant the trail was a river but this trail never disappoints, it's very technical and can't help but bring a smile to my face.
I didn't get a mountain in during September, but in October there came an out of the blue invite to ride Helvellyn with Dundee Uni. I've not been up Helvellyn for about 3 years so leapt at the chance, and was rewarded with the best weather I've ever seen up there. We did the standard Dollywagon/Grisedale descent- super tech at the top then fast and bouncy from the half way point. A few spills along the way but everyone got down in one piece in the end.
At the start of last month I headed north for the Dudes of Hazzard Enduro. Wow. Easily the best setting for an enduro I've seen with excellent trails. Looking forward to next year already.
High Street, again
The trail I rode on High Street in August had been targetted by my friend Rosie, who had been waiting to ride it all year. A narrow ribbon of trail down Rough Crag that lives up to its name, this is a superbly nadgery bit of trail. Snow and ice meant few walkers to bother us on a lovely November day.
After our aborted attempt earlier the in the year I finally got to ride Gatescarth. What a waste of time- anyone heading to the Lakes to ride this head-achingly dull fire road is missing out on far more exciting things. Not recommended.
I've got a lot of value out of the Buttermere area of the Lakes this year, there really are some cracking trails out there. We saw Ben Haworth's bit about Warnscale in MBR and had to do it. The photos in the mag didn't make it look as rad as it actually is- from afar the lower half of the trail looks smooth and fast when really it's rough and exciting. Brilliant- we almost backed out after emerging from Honister Youth Hostel to pissing rain, freezing winds and fog but I'm very glad we summoned the stones, this was a highlight of the year.
Finally, this year involved the start of my biggest adventure- married life. However, when the wedding is at 4.30pm in the afternoon and only half an hour from Stainburn, it'd be rude not to, right?
A big thanks to all my riding buddies (including mafiafish, FortunateSon09, robjackson, hungrymonkey and jcompton on here) for making this the most mountainous year yet.