Like I said, I had big plans for Friday night. Rick, Andy and I met in Glenridding at just after seven with the aim of riding to the top of Helvellyn, setting up there for the night, and riding back down with the mountain to ourselves first thing in the morning. The weather didn’t look ideal, with rain and quite a bit of wind even down in the valley, but we decided to set out anyway. The forecast said that the rain was due to blow over by about 10 PM and we optimistically chose to believe the Met Office rather than just retreat to the pub.
It was an interesting haul up above Keppel Cove, over White Side and Lower Man. The video doesn’t really do the weather justice, getting onto the top in fifty mile-per-hour wind and rain was hard work, but once we reached the summit shelter and got our bags set up the clouds broke, and I fell asleep with a very good view of the stars.
The next morning we were woken by a couple of runners doing the Bob Graham round at just before 6 AM. They must have started out at around about midnight. Whilst we got our kit together a group of other mountain bikers summitted, they had already done Snowdon the evening before and were heading on to Ben Nevis for the afternoon. We were clearly not the only lunatics around, but apart from these two groups we didn’t see another soul on the hills during the entire ride.
The descent from the top was relatively smooth as far as Dollywaggon Pike, where the trail gets steep and has been ‘fixed’ with huge rocks and wheel-eating waterbars most of the way down to Grisedale Tarn. Below the tarn things are more natural, but still extremely rough as far as Ruthwaite Lodge. I confess I carried my bike down most of the descent, preferring to get down in once piece to trying to grunt and lunge the wheels over all the massive boulders with a heavy rucksack on my back. Rick and Andy managed to ride more than me but even for them I think the run down was very broken and sketchy.
We got back to the cars for just after half-eight, packed up and went to a nearby cafe for a well-earned full-English. This was the only big mountain ride I’ve managed all summer, but I feel like I got my money’s worth out of it. I’d love to go back and repeat the route in good conditions during the day, but I think that will now have to wait until next summer at the earliest.