Saturday, 20 December 2008

Reeth - Harkerside

5 of us today in what promised to be quite fine and bright conditions “until 3 O’clock”. We set off from Reeth with a bit of easy roadwork taking us to Grinton at which point began the 3.5k uphill slog. Easy(ish) at first, being on tarmac, it soon turned off road and onto some quite slippery stuff. Still rideable though if you kept your back wheel away from the really slippy stuff.

On and on and up and up it went, offering a little respite in the form of a high-speed descent and a gratifying splash through the ford at Grovebeck Gill.

It's a short-lived bit of fun as we now continue the ascent, another mile and a half and 500ft of climb on stony track until we attain the summit of High Harker Hill.

From here it's a lot more easy going and undulating and we make good progress before stopping for lunch at Green Hills, from which there were amazing panoramic views over Swaledale down below.

A few meters more of ascent now before the fun starts with the plummet off Whitaside Moor. Almost 100m of drop on the fast, stony track before a short bit of roadwork brings us to Birk Ends. Here we got a bit confused.

What appeared to be the right of way also appeared to be a stream so we went through an adjacent field instead. It turns out that the legal route was indeed via the stream and we met up with it at the other end of the field. At least we kept our feet dry, though it’s lucky the farmer wasn’t about!

Back on course now down the precipitous track to Low Houses, where one of our members came a cropper and ended up stuck on his back like a dying beetle, the impact squashing all of the water from his Camelback. You had to laugh.

We’d now lost 270m of height in a very short distance and there’s always the niggling knowledge that what comes down must go up. After a couple of easy km on the road to Feetham the tough, lung-busting climb up to Surrender Bridge began. This was made even tougher for me because all the shit we’d picked up so far was giving me chain suck on the granny ring, so I had to use the middle ring. I’m sure I’ll feel all the fitter and stronger for that.

When you get to Surrender Bridge there’s an annoying little plummet down to the stream that only serves to lose you some height that you have to gain again.

On and on, up and up again until we’re eventually at Fore Gill Gate, where we go off-road once more.

A climb up to Cringley Hill and then begins another fast and very satisfying plummet down to the valley floor. It begins on wide grass/stone track with the odd muddy rut thrown in here and there to keep you alert, the track being so wet in places it's like riding in a stream.

It eventually joins the road at Thirns after which things just get daft, the tarmac and gradient tempting you up to hair raising speeds despite the hairpins… and the things that might be just around them… and the gate at the bottom… (which caused many a glowing brake disk and the smell of cooking pads).

The final road drag back to Reeth now, and our tea and scones. Or crumpet in my case, easily the best reason for visiting Ivy Cottage Tea Rooms.

This was a good all-weather route, being for the most part on stuff that doesn’t clag up too much when it’s been wet (and when hasn’t it been wet this year?).

24k in 3 hours elapsed, with plenty of time spent stopping for photos and laughing at Tony rolling round on his backside when he should be riding. Oh, and right on 3 O'Clock, when we were just leaving the Tea Room, it started to rain. Uncanny.

Reeth - Harkerside - Surrender Bridge
14 miles, 2200' of climb in 3 hours

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