Four Passes – Lakes- How Long ?

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  • Four Passes – Lakes- How Long ?
  • excitable1
    Member

    I was planning to do the four pass loop of Fleetwith Pike, Scarth Gap, Black Sail and Styhead starting at Seatoller. It’s only 24k but I appreciate it’s four big passes with plenty of bike hike. Can anyone let me know how long I should allow. I’ll be on my lonesome and don’t tend to stop and my average ride is 55k, so fairly fit.

    If it’s not too long then I was thinking of linking it onto the Borrowdale Bash. I normally tack that onto Lonscale and Skiddaw and park in Threlkeld so can anyone tell me where the best place to park in Keswick for the start of the BB (I understand it’s a bit of a nightmare).

    Thanks

    From the Seathwaite / Honister road junction, it takes around four hours to do the whole loop (depending on stops and fitness). If you’re riding from Keswick, and if you stick to the tarmac heading out and back, maybe add another hour / hour and a half.

    If you’re parking in Keswick, I’d maybe save adding any sections of the Borrowdale Bash for the return journey – see how you’re legs are holding up 🙂

    Parking can be tricky in town – this time of year, and if you don’t mind paying, your best chance of a space is in the car park down by the lake / theatre; that puts you right on the Borrowdale Road.

    excitable1
    Member

    Thanks, appreciated. I was thinking of doing the BB clockwise so it would be mostly tarmac anyway to Seatoller. Weather forecast for Sunday (so far anyway) is good 😀

    We’ve still got some snow and ice on the tops, but most of the snow that fell yesterday has washed away overnight. I can see Glaramara has a fair amount of snow still on it, but I can see any further towards where you’ll be heading from here – sorry !

    If it’s not too long then I was thinking of linking it onto the Borrowdale Bash. I normally tack that onto Lonscale and Skiddaw and park in Threlkeld so can anyone tell me where the best place to park in Keswick for the start of the BB

    Anywhere more than 5 minutes wobble for the fatties from the outdoors shops.

    excitable1
    Member

    parkedtiger (or anyone else)

    Plotted the four passes section of the route out last night and noted that the route of the BW from the top of the Hopper Quarry to Dubbs Quarry (the first part of the descent after the Honister Slate mine) doesn’t follow anything you can see on Google Earth or Bing. Is there something to follow on the ground, do you just follow the old quarry road or, is it better follow the dismantled tram line ?

    Thanks

    Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Subscriber

    Route:


    4-pass epic by ir_bandito, on Flickr

    We followed the black dotted line, the old tramway, through the mine up to the top as they were working on the main track further up.


    P3140004 by ir_bandito, on Flickr

    (tramway is to the left)

    As for the descent, its fairly obvious.

    More pics here

    Took about 6 hours IIRC, including one stop to bodge a snapped brake lever, but i have wondered about a figure-of-8 with the Borrowdale Bash. Bare in mind that every climb apart from Honister, is hike-a-bike which slows things down


    P3140021 by ir_bandito, on Flickr

    Keswick parking is free on the Portinscale Road which fts in with the BB nicely.

    excitable1
    Member

    ir_bandito – Thanks. The old tramway does look better from the images on Google Earth and the BW looks like nothing more than a quarry road.

    The figure of 8 is what I’m looking at. Came out at 50k when I plotted it last night.

    Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Subscriber

    The old tramway does look better from the images on Google Earth and the BW looks like nothing more than a quarry road.

    The quarry road will be easier riding though, better surface and shallower gradient. Just have to look out for quarry machinery. The tramway is steeper and has a few rocky and energy-sapping gravel bits.

    excitable1
    Member

    OK. Could also start the route from where you’re suggesting I park and do an out and back for the Cat Bells side of the BB. Depends how energetic I’m feeling !

    From the Seathwaite / Honister road junction, it takes around four hours to do the whole loop (depending on stops and fitness).

    And if you’re a 40-something knacker reckon on 6 hours at best allowing for a prolonged lunch stop at Wasdale Head and the ensuing beer-fuelled wobble over Sty Head Pass…

    excitable1
    Member

    OK – 4 Passes plus the Borrowdale Bash – Done !!!
    Was it worth it – Was it **** !!!
    7 hrs of none stop biking but a hell of a lot more hiking. A distance of 52k and 2300m of climbing. Not enough riding reward for all the hiking.

    Some parts of the passes were un-ridable because of the sheet ice in places but other parts were un-ridable because they would result in death ! The descent down from the Honsiter quarry being the worst example of this, it just doesn’t flow like say the Nan Bield. The Black Sail Pass being the exception to this and I did rate that, some proper arse on tyre break locked descending. And the West side of the Borrowdale Bash as reward at the end ?…..nahhhh)
    Box ticked – Never again (well maybe in the summer) !!!

    Was the descent from the Honister affected by ice or did you just not like it? We did it in October and I thought it was excellent (couldn’t ride it all)!

    GaVgAs
    Member

    The fleewith descent is one of my favourites, but I wouldn’t go anywhere near the big passes if ice is forecast..Like all lakes riding Its much better in summer or even wet conditions.

    Premier Icon colournoise
    Subscriber

    Which of those lovely pics (if any) is the Black Sail pass, and does it descend into the end of Ennerdale?

    excitable1
    Member

    Shortbread/GaVgas – there were ice patches on all but the Black Sail near the tops. The Honister/Fleetwith had the most of it. The top half before it turns into the valley was more ice than rocks. Couple that with just how challenging that descent is made it my least favourite, it was stop start all the way down.

    Colournoise – picture 7 is the Black Sale (Orange string on the post). It descends down from the right and then follows the valley floor to Wasdale Head. It’s then up to the sorry climb which is Sty Head but you could head off to Wast Water and beyond. I’m going to look at some alternative ways to link up the Black Sale with other routes round there.

    mangatank
    Member

    Great work. A massive ride at this time of year especially.

    I had an experience like that three years ago on a High Street ‘loop’. Looked like a 2 to 3 hour ride. Ended up a 7 hour living nightmare, carrying a Marin Wolf Ridge most of the time. Night was falling fast as I dragged my bike from ledge to ledge in the pouring rain on the final summit. Terrified to the point of feeling sick, out of phone reception and out of energy gels…no lights, and with the knowledge that I was well and truelly out of my depth. Made me question my whole commitment to mountain biking. I knew that if I was killed on the decent in the near dark, it would be because of my own sheer idiocy! What was I trying to prove, and to whome?

    Fantastic photos incidentally. Absolutely love Fleetwith and Buttermere. What camera did you use?

    Premier Icon justinbieber
    Subscriber

    Blimey! I love the four passes route, but wouldn’t dream of attempting it with the possibility of ice!

    As Shortbread said – we rode Fleetwith in the summer and it was ace. I’m going to head back some time later this year and ride it again

    bjj.andy.w
    Member

    Having done most of the south lakes passes these four are on my “to do” list this year but as Justinbieber says I’ll wait until the weather is a bit more kinder.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    Was on my list but never got it done before I left. But honestly February?? are you mad?

    Fleetworth is an awesome descent but not in bad conditions

    b r
    Member

    We did a couple of rides in the Lakes where we decided afterwards that its far better to be able to ride a rideable-route than it was to scale a pass/summit.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    We did a couple of rides in the Lakes where we decided afterwards that its far better to be able to ride a rideable-route than it was to scale a pass/summit.

    It’s not a lakes ride if you don’t carry your bike!

    excitable1
    Member

    Mangatank – Believe it or not the photo’s were taken on my Blackberry ! Are you talking about the big High Street Loop in the Essential Trails Lake District book ? – I’ve had a stern warning about that one. Sunday I was up before dawn and on the trail for 9:30am so there was enough of the day to finish the route and change in the daylight. Mrs Excitable is a bit peeved though !

    mikewsmith – I was planning to go last weekend in that glorious sunshine we had but discovered my rear wheel bearings were goosed the night before (ferkin Easton pre loads). You know what it’s like in the Lakes the ice depends on the exposure, Watendlath Tarn was frozen over at a fairly low level where as Sty Head Tarn near the tops was ice free. Certainly a lot more of it would be rideable had it not been for the ice. Also agree with you about the bike carrying but with this route… I’ve got a friction burn on the back of my neck I did that much of it !!!

    Here’s how I’d rate the passes:

    Fleetwith Pike – worth another go in the summer so I can ride the top section but the valley section is still stop start because of the big massive drop offs and rocks – I’m thinking Rangers path on Snowdon on steroids (and I think it’s weathered a lot since the photos on Google and Youtube footage).
    Scarth Gap – Crap & not worth the effort (apart from the view), just a line of slabs.
    Black Sail – Yes, awesome but a difficult bike hike up – reminds me of the tight switch backs on the Nan Bield Pass.
    Stonethwaite – I could take or leave it because the climb up is another killer and the top section is flat, undefined and boulder strewn but the bottom section through Black How was a good technical challenge.
    Borrowdale Bash – Huge disappointment (again(never rated it TBH)) after doing all those passes but I still rate the first descent before the passes from Watendlath to Hazel Bank as big smile gainer.

    E-mail me if anyone wants a GPS of the route.

    Premier Icon lowey
    Subscriber

    Good effort mate. 🙂

    mangatank
    Member

    Are you talking about the big High Street Loop in the Essential Trails Lake District book

    That’s the F*cker! It looked like a good challenge and i was at the top of my game back then. I went prepared…but not for that. I’m not inexperienced out-doors either, on bike or foot, and I know the Lakes very well, but that last section was like getting the Ring into Mordor.

    Blackberry! I thought you were going to say a Sony RX100 or something. Bloody impressive.

    Premier Icon yoshimi
    Subscriber

    Loving Mangatanks descriptive writing – sounds like the sort of article I’d like to read in a mag 🙂

    Oh, and well done excitable 🙂

    excitable1
    Member

    That’s the F*cker! It looked like a good challenge and i was at the top of my game back then. I went prepared…but not for that. I’m not inexperienced out-doors either, on bike or foot, and I know the Lakes very well, but that last section was like getting the Ring into Mordor.

    Mangatank, consider yourself nominated for the ferkin Pulitzer Prize 😀 ! Great writing indeed !!!

    Premier Icon justinbieber
    Subscriber

    I have to disagree with you (well I don’t really, but I’m going to!) – the Stonethwaite descent is one of the best in the Lakes. Yes the top is a bit of a boulder field, but the rest of it just rocks!
    You should try linking it up with the descent from Sprinkling tarn. Nearly an hour (maybe more) of solid, techy, borderline rideable descending 😀

    XXX
    Member

    Even more fun in the ice or snow….. One of the best in the uk?
    snow and ice photos here

    mangatank
    Member

    Haha! 😆

    djglover
    Member

    Why spoil a nice run by taking a bike!

    NB – I did this route in 1991 when I was 15 and my dad had to carry my mates and his own bike round. He wasn’t a happy man.

    This is a great route, one of my favourites, though I normally bin off the descent into Wasdale and go onto the top of Great Gable, there’s a great descent off there, though the very top bit is a bit tricky! Warnscale Bottom is probably my favourite descent in the Lakes, but you definitely need the right bike and to be on good form for it.

    Need to find some time to come back up and ride, I miss being in the area after having to move back to Manchester 🙁

    b r
    Member

    It’s not a lakes ride if you don’t carry your bike!

    Then it’s a either a walk or ride spoiled…

    Premier Icon justinbieber
    Subscriber

    Descent off the top of Great Gable? Tell me more!

    If you miss Wasdale you don’t get Black sail pass descent, or a pint of Loweswater Gold at the Wasdale Head Inn.. 8)

    Premier Icon tomaso
    Subscriber

    I think it helps to have the weather with you when you are going over the top of passes and ice never really enhances tricky rocky routes. But I’ve always found it to be a really enjoyable challenge and the whole hike a bike thing takes you to places you wouldn’t get to ride your bike unless you put in the effort.

    But more importantly…

    I’m off to ride in the icy Lakes tonight and think it will make some sections a bit too difficult but I have renewed optimism as the Church House Inn at Torver always has Loweswater Gold on tap. Must remember not to get distracted by the Jack Russell as I’m leaving, bend down to stroke it and then turn to leave and smack into the low beams – I’m sure it laughs at me…

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