When I decided last month to enter next years Rovaniemi 150 I thought I’ve got all the time in the world to build up to it. Over a year seemed like an expanse of time in front of me to get fit (again), fettle the equipment and prepare myself for the rigours of the Arctic. The planned major ride / bivvy a month seemed a great way of keeping me committed and having something to constantly aim at. The problem is a month goes by pretty quickly if you’re not paying attention! To be fair it’s been a busy month and I expect things to get easier as we go along. The new bike build is coming along nicely, although seemingly drawn out waiting for niche bike parts to land from shores of far. The bivvy equipment has been dug and dusted off and I’ve even managed to find time to sort out GPS tracker to stop me from getting too lost.
Ok, confession time. I may have slightly failed this month, maybe. I had planned to get out on Friday 28th being the end of the month but with to much to organise and not enough time I put it off until the Saturday 1st. Now I know that officially this means I did the ride in March but to be fair if it was a leap year it would have been February. I blame the cosmos or who ever decided start doing leap years back in the 1500’s and getting it off by two years.
With the last minute preparation, an unfinished bike and bike packing gear still en-route from Alpkit I knew I was winging it before I’d even started. I’d have to use a rucksack, a full suspension MTB and a lot of straps to get anywhere. To be honest it would have been easier to bail but I was determined to not throw the towel in under any circumstances. I’ll need resilience to get through the next year so I might as well start getting use to the suffering now. I didn’t have a route per see but limited time meant riding from home and with a night of truly miserable weather forecast it seemed sensible to try and find some shelter. Finding a bothy in the Peak District is easier said than done. Thanks to the Mountain Bothies Association finding one in Wales or Scotland is only a click away but as they don’t cover England finding a local one is a bit more troublesome. With a little help from Google and a bit of savvy map reading I had a destination. It was a bit of a gamble as I wasn’t 100% convinced the shooting cabin I was heading to was the bothy I had in mind, what condition it was in or even if it was open. Hey Ho, that’s what adventure is all about though right?
Saturday afternoon arrived and with grey clouds over head and the sun starting to set I strapped my gear to the bike, through on a 15kg rucksack on my back and started pedalling. With maybe half hour of fading light it wasn’t long before I was riding on my own in the pitch black, taking in some of the Middlewood way, though to Marple and along the canal before heading up over Strines and taking the broken bridal ways over towards New Mills and onto the Sett Valley trail into Heyfield. Now things became interesting my planned route was just to go over Kinder in some fashion or other. A lack of any real route but knowing the area a bit found me just riding towards Kinder with no real direction relative to my destination. After slogging up some killer hills and taking some great lines I had a nosey at the GPS and decided to head back down towards Kinder reservoir, a bit of a diversion but a good one!
Flanking up the left of the reservoir I headed up towards the shooting cabins before I head east towards the Pennine Way. Now this is where things went a bit wrong. The Path I was following slowly disappeared into nothing and I spent the next hour or more pretty much pushing, dragging and carrying my bike up and down hills whilst trying to get over the 2km to the Pennine Bridal way. I knew that would be totally rideable and just told myself that this was all just good training for what lies ahead. The going was tough and totally exhausted I fell on to my back in the bracken starring up and cloud less star filled sky. All of a sudden I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be. Being maybe two miles from any light or noise pollution the only signs of existence were the occasional plane flying over head which drifted in as elegantly as they drifted out. Somewhere along the way I managed to lose a water bottle so I was stuck with replenishing the remaining bottle from the whatever running water I could find, thankfully there’s plenty of water in them there hills!
After eventually finding the Pennine Way I was thankful to be rolling again thanks to the solid stone clad path and made good time on to the Snake Pass. Spotting a PH on the map was too difficult to resist so at 10:40p.m. I was belting down the road chasing last orders! I Stumbled in to the Snake Inn just in time to grab a pint of coke and a couple of mars bars to energise myself before heading back out into the dark leaving the regulars wondering where on earth I’d fell in from.
Heading up on to Alport Moor it was the last slog and push up to my bed. It seemed to go on forever and being totally exposed I was taking a battering from the wind. Please let this cabin be open!! The cabin finally came in to view about 20meters ahead of me and thankfully it was the bothy I was hoping for and unlocked to boot. Result! Out of wet clothes and into my sleeping bag in record time before boiling a pint of Kinder’s finest water and the biggest and best brew I’ve had in a long time. As I lay there in a cold bothy with 40mph winds kicking up the heavens opened up literally 15 minutes after I’d walked through the door. I love it when a plan comes together…
The wind awoke me in the morning at about 9:00a.m. to beautiful clear skies. After devouring a tin of tomato soup and a mars bar for breakfast I was packing up and filled in the visitor’s book before heading back out into the hills. What a view!!
Now this may not be the most accessible accommodation, it certainly wasn’t the warmest but as they say it’s all about location, location, location.
Last nights ride in was pitch black so I had no real sense on my surroundings. Probably a good thing looking at some of the hills and tracks I was riding and the drops to the side.
Last nights climb up this hill made me want to weep so I smashed it down the rolling singletrack back down to the road after promising myself I’d at least enjoy the descent.
In contrast to the way here the journey home was a total pleasure. At the start of Ashop Moor I had a nice chat with one of the park rangers who was doing some repairs to the Stone path of the Pennine Way. This path had been the greatest thing on earth the previous night, over 3500 meters of heavy stone laid across Featherbed Moss, so I left him with some of my home made flapjack as reward for his endeavours.
Heading along the path over to Mill Hill I was tempted to go and find the wreckage of the liberator but decided to plough on as I still had a fair few miles to go. The liberator was a B24 two man aircraft that crashed landed in 1944. Both crew managed to walk off Mill Hill despite being injured and raised the alarm from a nearby public house (the one that saved me last night perhaps?). The Liberator is one of the many plane wrecks on Kinder, I’ve yet to see this one but it’s a good excuse to come back.
I’d originally planned to head up on to the Kinder Plateau and past the downfall but with a slight wrong turn and then an amazing rocky descent I found myself on a path that followed back down into the gully leading back towards the reservoir. Standing at the bottom of the descent in two minds whether to go carry the bike back up or carry on two walkers came up and shared their astonishment at seeing me ride down the rocky path they were looking up at. Not wanting to lose the Kudos and pats on the back from the pair by admitting I’d cocked up I just carried on ahead.
Annoyingly I was actually on the minor path a bit lower down than the nightmare route I’d taken over last night. Now this certainly wouldn’t have been rideable going up in the dark but it would definitely been an easier hike that the one I did. Live and learn eh. That said it was a totally awesome piece of singletrack though, why head into Wales to visit a trail centre when you have this kind of riding on your home turf???
The singletrack spat me out at the base of Kinder reservoir and I knew it was an easy journey home from here. I took the rest of the journey at a mellow pace pondering over my first ride out. It has been hard, I’d seen may share of hiking and pushing. I’d lost a water bottle and rear light some where along the way and found a new place to hang my hat when out in the Peak. I’d covered 60 miles and came up with loads of little ideas en-route to help make the next journey easier. For instance don’t sit on a trail bike with and extra 20kg and expect it to ride the anything like it usually does!!
All being well I should have all the parts for the Fat Bike to finishing building it ready for next months (this months) adventure so it’ll be back to the drawing board in many ways. I’ll have the frame bag by then though and with nothing on my back it should be a little less painful on the back but maybe more so on the legs.
So 1 down 11 to go. At some points I wondered what the hell I was doing. Now I’ve done it I can’t wait to get back out there! With just one picture of the bothy I stayed in I’ve already got a mate salivating and wanting to get out with me so come the next chapter I’ll have company for the journey ahead…