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The 5 Musketeers have a few up’s and down’s.

Once upon a time in Derbyshire, England…

 Well! What an epic day I’ve had today. Are you sitting comfortably children? Then I’ll begin.
Yesterday, after an especially busy morning, I gayly trotted up to England’s finest National Park (The Peak District) taking in the scenic route across Beeley Moor just to make it all the more rewarding. I arrived in Hathersage about 4.00pm, and thinking that my riding buddy Mark Franklin would still be still be out and about plundering the peaks finest descents, I called in at the Outside store for a coffee and a look at all the shiny wonders in their lovely shop. Why I even treated myself to a splendid new tee-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Optimism can take you anywhere”; and if I do say so myself I look particularly dandy in it. Oh yes indeed.
Feeling rather pleased with myself I then detoured around to the crags of Stanage Edge and Upper Burbage to see if it might be worth and hour or two’s climbing later in the evening. Unfortunately the sun was shining and the car parks were full so I trundled down to the Hardhurst Farm Campsite near Hope; to set up home for the night and to meet Mark. With the formalities dealt with we headed to the nearby Travellers Rest for a couple of beers and some trail fuel. Mark had a delicious looking Chicken Tagliatelle with Blue Cheese Sauce and I opted for the Home Made Lasagne and Salad; well eventually I did, because I kept getting distracted by the very attractive bar-lady and kept forgetting what I wanted. It’s just a shame she didn’t seem so distracted by me! I should have worn my new tee-shirt that would have turned her head let me tell you.
We spent the evening talking nonsense as only blokes can do, especially when helped along by a couple of flagons of fine ale, before turning in for a restful night under the stars. The local sheep however had other ideas and decided amongst themselves to hold in impromptu, and most likely illegal, Rave Party in the adjacent field. I’m pretty sure they were drunk too and were having a jolly good giggle at our expense. That will teach then for eating our kids I’ll bet they were thinking! The Rascals.
What with me snoring away in the next tent poor old Mark must have had a terrible night.
Dawn came and went, (lovely girl) and news filtered through from the rest of the gang; Mitch Bryan was definitely coming and  Mark Bishton and his mate Charlie were going to be a bit late. We were prepared for this though because Bishy is always late.

To avoid any confusion with the two Marks, Mark Bishton shall henceforth be referred to as either Bishy, Captain Slow or simply The Captain as whichever is my wont.
With the team assembled, a mere 45 minutes late, we forged gung-ho out of the campsite. Mark Franklin had devised us a devilish route for the day and we’d be damned if we didn’t succeed.

The only obvious ‘spanners in the works’ to this audacious plan were twofold; I hadn’t had a proper ride in anger for months due to extended holidaying and a niggling leg injury and Charlie hadn’t ridden since last August due to an interesting 6 month stay in West Hollywood, California; generally cavorting and partying for the whole period, and had only arrived back in the UK a few days ago. Such trivial banalities weren’t about to dent our enthusiasm though.
The climb up Win Hill was merciless and no kind of a warm up I can tell you. Charlie and I even laboured behind Captain Slow and that really is pathetic. The reward for this purgatory is one of The Peaks’ classic descents; The Beast. A rocky, loose and fast blast down through dense woodland. On the way down this triumph of nature I managed to park my bike in a dead stop against a gigantically large pebble, and flew gracefully over the handlebars. Taking a quick look around I realised nobody has spotted this so decided that discretion was the better part of valor and kept my mouth firmly shut, omitting to mention it to boys waiting at the bottom. The Captain wasn’t so lucky :D. Mitch, Mark and I waited for an eternity for Charlie and The Captain to appear and when some time later The Captain trundled shakily around the bend our giggling began. Battered, bloodied and bruised; The Captain sheepishly told us of his spectacular ejection from his bike. Sympathy not being one of our more gentlemanly traits we amused ourselves for ages at his expense.
Immediately following this hard but heavenly descent is another punishing climb; up the opposite side of the valley past Hagg Farm. Once at the top the going gets a little easier for a while by traversing the ridge across to a very fast (Mark clocked 41mph) fire-road descent down to Fairholmes Visitor Centre at the top end of Ladybower Reservoir. Several miles then skirt around the banks of Derwent Water and Howden Reservoir up to the Slippery Stones bridge. Then the fun begins again.

The Cut Gate Special as it is known is a rite of passage for Peak Mountain Bikers. The climb up to the summit cairn at Howden Edge is practically impossible and the bike has to ‘Shouldered’ over several sections.
We took a break at the cairn and waited for poor old Charlie catch up, he’d suffered a couple of bouts of cramp and was really struggling, he even enlisted the help of a passing hiker at one point to wobble his legs for him! We tipped up the goodies we had in our bags and had us a picnic; out of the headwind that had plagued us all day. A banana and a couple of Kelloggs Elevenses bars did it for me, Mitch had one too because he has an enormous appetite and finds it impossible to refuse any offer of food. In fact he once ate a poor blokes entire stash of flap-jack at Cannock Chase because the kindly fool kept offering it to him, much to my amusement of course.
Charlie threw in the towel, enough was enough; and he and Bishy rolled back down to Fairholmes to recover and await our return. We marched on. I was into the swing of things now after a slow start and took off to enjoy the long, long descent down to the oddly named North America, overlooking Langsett Reservoir.
My arrival at North America was greeted enthusiastically by a group of children, on a field trip from school, as I came leaping and bounding down the hill at full tilt over rocks and drops to the bottom of the run.
Unfortunately they stopped to have lunch at our usual meeting point and I spent and age fielding curious questions such as “What’s your name Mister?”. “Alfred” I replied. “Alfred???” came the bemused response. and “Can you do a wheelie Alfred?” or “Can you do a jump over that rock for us?” etc etc. My favourite one though was “Would you like a Midget Gem?” and even though I really did want one I politely declined.
Where were Mitch and Mark? I kept thinking; hoping they would turn up and save me. So out came the mobile phone. “Where are you?” I asked. “Mark’s had a Puncture” replied Mitch. “OK, well hurry down then”.
10 minutes later, still no sign of our intrepid heroes. Out comes the phone again. “Where are you now?” “Mark’s had another puncture” came the amused reply. “OK, well please hurry up!”. The downside to riding rocky trails as fast as you can is the inevitable Pinch-Flat or Snakebite as it is known to Mountain Bikers everywhere. It is caused by the tyre pinching on the edge of a rock and causing a double split in the inner tube, hence the moniker “Snakebite”.
In the mean time hunger got the better of me and I’m ashamed to say that I ate all 3 of my remaining Elevenses Bars which I had intended to share with the other two. Never mind.
Mark and Mitch turned up just after, luckily, and we traversed across North America and climbed the alternative route back to Cut Gate and up the final rocky and technical section back to the cairn. As tough as it is, it’s a great climb and we all really enjoyed it setting a fast pace all the way to the top.
And then what was earlier a punishing climb up with the bike on your back turns into a flat-out avalanche of fun and terror in equal measures all the back to Slippery Stones. Properly Awesome. We whooped, hollered and smiled all the way down; through the stream and back around the Reservoirs to pick up Bishy and Charlie at Fairholmes.

We had a break for coffee at the Visitor Centre and Mitch fed the semi-tame ducks with the last of his flap-jack. He must have been full!.
We had planned yet another climb/descent over Whinstone Lee Tor but we were done-in, it had been an epic ride and the impossible climb up to Hurkling Stones was one too far. And so we opted for the easy miles skirting the bottom of Win Hill back around to the camp site. The recovery shakes flowed like Champagne and we smiled and laughed and chatted about the day we’d had.

Mark has a cool app on his phone called MyTracks and it plots your progress using Google maps, we had done 34.5 miles of tough off-road riding and had climbed 5372 feet (1637.4 metres) that’s 963 feet more than Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain! How cool is that 🙂

If you want to view some more photo’s of today’s ride feel free to view our facebook page via the link at the side of this home page.

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

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