VC Melyd recently organised a late season long weekend riding in Yorkshire. Despite the obvious appeal of escape to different countryside, in the company of other cyclists, with bikes, with a variety of beer and foods to be consumed… we did actually get out and ride. Turning a good weekend into a great weekend.
Staying at the Green Dragon in Hardraw we planned our routes out from here. There is a grade of amusement and child like humour that can be gained ONLY from communal accommodation and good friends – making the sparse bunkhouse rooms pitched just about right. We were there for riding after all – not watching TV or sitting in chairs in our rooms! … however what is worthy of comment – great showers, and pies.
Simon Warren and his 100 Greatest Climbing Climbs was the companion for the trip. We are spoilt with local top 100 climbs – and the choice of accommodation put us in reach of five of Yorkshire finest.
– #51 Tan Hill / 206m / 2% / 9.9km / 12%
– #49 Buttertubs / 223m / 9% / 3.6km / 25%
– #50 Fleet Moss / 323m / 9% / 3.6km / 25%
– #57 The Stang / 241m / 7% / 3.8km / 17%
– #57 Park Rash / 238m / 10% / 2.1km / 25%
Other points of interest included sustenance at the grumpy but welcome stop of Tan Hill Inn (the highest pub in England), and the uncategorised by Simon Warren – but aptly named by Strava Alp D’Hurtz (489ft / 9% / 1 mile / 17%) which is quite the stand out lump on a profile that took in a bunch of named climbs.
What a fantastic weekend – 16 cyclists, plus family, the odd dog here and there – and unbelievable weather given the transition to November. This is certainly something I would be up for doing again.
Think big, and long may the adventures continue.
#45 Park Rash / 238m / 10% / 2.1km / 25%
Okay, so I walked. Reason – if I don’t get off now, there is no guarantee I will be able to get off safely if I go any further.
The road was beautiful. We turned out of the village off of the main road, and up a steep wet leaved ascent with corners, gaining height quickly – then a road panning out in front of us along a beautiful valley with a river to our right.
It was not long before we noticed the road ahead. The occasional car passing us wreaked of hot brake shoe and clutch. This is just about all you need to know about that. Then it started, each crank turn was followed by a pause and a fist full of height gained. The views were amazing – and welcome distraction from the MAKE IT STOP that my legs were screaming.
The road kicked up, and to the left, actually very reminiscent of Bwlch Penbarras. However unlike that – maintained that gradient, and continuing to arc and curve – like some restrained snake. This was taking no prisoners.
Walking – as so often is the case – was not the soft option.
It was hot. There was no breeze. While I have full time Speedplay cleats on my shoes – this is steep, so pretty much all of the walking is tippy-toes. A dream in carbon soled shoes on tarmac. You lean into the bike you are pushing up the hill. You can feel its weight – despite the wheels. Sheesh.
Eventually after a handful of bends I reached a spot safe enough to get my portly frame back on the bike.
Climbing more gently now I passed two riders by the side of the road who shouted an encouraging “HOW DO?!” and “GREAT EFFORT” (They really do seem to say that up here – for anyone who was on the Fred Whitton Challenge this year – we were finding that grating) … which I thought was very positive as they had a flat. Then – from behind me I heard “JUST THE LAST BIT TO GO NOW”.
Sorry… the what?
A wiggly, and pretty steady gradient stood before me shortly afterwards, erratic stone walls lining up either side – assumedly my comrades awaiting at the top.
Grovelling up this – more now fatigue than effort – sure enough there they were. We appeared to be ontop of the world. Again.
#49 Buttertubs / 223m / 9% / 3.6km / 25%
Yup, walked. More than once. Reason – simple – not up for it.
Having hauled my way around the days ride we ascended to a point where I could see switch backs with sharp high gradient corners.
I had a moment of ‘cannot be bothered’ – got off – took pictures, walked for a bit, got back on, repeat.
The ascent starts lower down but gets serous as a road edge Hay Barn passes on the left, then another, then a right hander at 90 degrees, and a hairpin back that then curves around the side of the hill where some of us regrouped to congratulate ourselves.
How wrong we were. The road then drops away, faster now, before curving around the back of the hill for the rest of the ascent. “oh” and “oh dear”.
Grovelling up this we regrouped at the top before a screaming descent back to all but where we were staying in the Green Dragon, Hardraw.
#50 Fleet Moss / 323m / 6% / 5.3km / 20%
On fire – I am good for the first 10 or 20 miles while everyone else is warming up still. I know I am clear of cramps, and I am still buzzing like a fridge on nitros mix of espresso and the sheer mass of dried fruit I have with my porridge.
Do not get me wrong. This is a monster. However – it was by far the easiest climb for me this particular weekend despite backing the highest difficulty rating.
As you approach it – only about 4 miles out of where we were staying you see it. All of it. In one go. No hairpins, no nothing, just a strip of tarmac glistening in the morning mist – every visible inch – every undulation on the unending ascent towards the hill top.
For me – this is ideal. Sit in, plod, occasional grovel… just chipping away… and seeing measurable progress forwards. You can see that you are always moving forwards… even if your backside is up and your nose is down… and your Garmin is disappearing under sweat and making all manner of config changes… its always closer to the top.
Looking back from the top is quite the thing. It is clear. It is quantifiable. You see the upper climb beneath you. Done.
I am not sure whether it was knowing exactly how far you had to go to the top that allowed me to meter effort, or the time of day… either way – by far the best / most achievable climb for me that weekend.
WHAT A DESCENT that followed. No steep bends, and a wall like massif on the opposite side of the valley, draped in that all to familiar fuzzy grass draped hillside, chequered with a patchwork of dry stone wall squares and hay barns. The road slowly coming up to meet you, as the gradient decreases, before dropping you into the nicest of river valleys.
#51 Tan Hill / 206m / 2% / 9.9km / 12%
A slow uncomfortable drag towards an advancing weather front across uber exposed more land. What a dream.
Reminiscent of crossing Denbigh moors… but with difference scenery. Every brow of the hill reached seemed to unleash another meandering strip of tarmac – up and down up and down, and then kicking up out of site… promising a descent – or more specifically the Tan Hill Inn that we were looking to stop at for lunch. Alas, every time just rewarding us with another chunk of moorland to crawl across.
Spread out as a group, and with the terrain changing, there was much catching the same people, then them moving away from you – and repeat.
This is a long drag that takes it out of you more than anything else. While we had a block headwind – I can imagine this being like purgatory if there was even the slightest rain or cold – as even in relatively fine conditions it went on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. .
We stopped at the pub for the ground who took on The Stang to catch us – looks like that was still in the segment. Ooops.
#57 The Stang / 241m / 7% / 3.8km / 17%
Yeah, I bailed on this one.
“Who wants to ride up a huge hill for no reason other than to come back down again and then play catch up into the wind over a moors road for miles?”
“oh please please – let it be me!”
So – yeah – hanging back from the main group less through choice more through metering effort unaware of what lay ahead quiet frankly stunned by the climb that was not on the list of…
The Alp D’Hurtz
For some reason that I cannot fathom this is not on the list. Looking at the profile it is the biggest single lump we have traversed over the time we were in Yorkshire. The two clues where when leaving the village at the foot of it – they said “oh, you are going up there… that hill” … and triangle signs for “Danger: Tanks“… I don’t envisage tanks getting to play in well populated or less bleak areas… more is the shame.
Afterwards I noted that the segment was called Alp D’Hurtz – and what a fine name that is.
A proper up and down, with a stop at the top to take in the views. …and what views they where.
It is November – grouse being loud, flapping and posturing – its clearly getting it on time for them.
What an amazing climb, with land to the right, and views off to the left over rolling dales. It just kept giving from the bottom to the top, and nothing that was not achievable – it was just a case of keeping on chipping away. No hairpins, no flat out in-front of you sections, no crazy gradients – but a real test. This is one of the ones that got away. I swear we gained more height in this than we did in any of the named ones this weekend.
Dropping down from here through a town before heading past The Stang, and heading up to Tan Hill.
What a weekend.