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The Hope Valley Challenge 2011.

Checkpoint Charlie. Registration Desk at Hope Valley College.

What a day!

Number of slices of cake consumed = 6 (Plus a slice of Malt Loaf and a Banana)
Number of drinks of pop = Lost count
Number of punishing climbs = 8
Number of punishing climbs ridden all the way up = Not many!
Number of fast, dangerous, whooping descents! = Loads 🙂
Number of ‘over the handlebars’ incidents = 1
Number of portions of soup and bread roll’s consumed at the end = 2
Number of Mitchell’s minging farts on the way home = At least 53!
Number of gas-masks required for Mitch’s farts on the way home = 1

The sun shone, the trails were dry and everyone had a smile as wide as The Vale of Edale at the end! Read on…

The sun rising over the valley at Mitch’s house, sign of a good day to come!

The Hope Valley Challenge is annual event in The Peak District and this year was to be the eleventh such event. It’s very popular and upwards of 150 riders took part in either the 16 mile challenge or the 30 mile challenge. Not bad at all, and it’s all done to raise money for local charities. Mitch and I had opted for the 30 miler because we aren’t very bright. The other very nice fact about this event is that first & foremost it’s not a race, it’s done purely for fun, and the challenge is to try and consume more calories than you actually burn whilst taking part. They have ‘Cake Stations’ strategically placed around the route and you are encouraged to eat as much as possible. You really can’t ask for more than that can you? Ingenious!
I had arranged to pick Mitch up at 07.00am to get us there nice and early for an 08.30am start.
As usual Mitch was running late and I started to load his kit into the car while he messed about.
First priority was to call at the ATM for Mitch to get some cash so that he could treat me to a McDonalds Latte! 🙂 Then we hit the road for the lovely 45 minute drive to Hope. Is it possible to tire of the beautiful Derwent Valley and Peak District landscapes? Not for me, that’s for sure.
The trip was straight forward and as I started to unload the car Mitch shot off and sorted out our registration. I had cleaned and serviced Pegasus (My very beautiful Lapierre Zesty 314 Mountain Bike) the night before and she was looking resplendent in the early morning sunshine. Mitch’s scabby girls bike was looking a bit gay stood next mine if truth be told! Hahaha.
The actual start was about 3 miles away so we decided to pedal down and get the old legs warmed up a bit ready for the first climb of the day up to Shatton Moor (I told you we aren’t very bright).
A baptism of fire. It’s a long and sustained climb and like most climbs in The Peaks not much fun! 😀
However, the reward for all these arduous climbs is the variety and quality of the descents, very few of them would disappoint even the most particular of Mountain bikers. Some of them are actually truly great.

Mitch at the top of Shatton Moor.

The descent down from Shatton Moor to Brough is long and fast with a gnarly, technical section about half way down. We hammered it all the way to the bottom and hit the brakes hard and late to stop us whizzing across the road and getting splattered by a passing car or the wall.  Then the climbing begins all over again. It’s like this in The Peaks, there is very little in the way of easy riding unless you stick to the valley floors; and who’s going to do that? Not us.
And so we climbed again; up the road initially, past Highfields Farm and through Aston village, and then onto bridleway for the ascent proper up Win Hill, another long climb before a reasonable traverse across the top to Hope Cross. Blast down to Jaggers Clough, loose, often off camber, and fast again, with plenty of trail features to pop off on the way down. Splash through the stream, to the bewilderment of a group of hikers, and then a short sharp climb up and over Sheepfold before hammering again down another fast, loose and very steep drop into Nether Booth. We then had a couple of fairly easy road miles towards Edale, Mitch quickly dropped in behind a group of road cyclists and took advantage this ‘peloton’ for an easier roll. Mind you as he sat there grinning stupidly one of them asked him “if he was going to take his turn at the front?” I think he dropped back a little after that.
I lagged behind a bit trying to get a photograph and caught him up at the first checkpoint at Greenlands.

Sneaky O’Bryan, at the back, hitching a ride with the passing peloton!

Luckily this turned out to be the first ‘Cake Station’ too! And we tucked in, I enjoyed a very nice piece of lemon sponge cake with an icing topping and a very sugary piece of fruit flapjack, I snaffled a banana for later and guzzled down several welcome glasses of pop. I like cake and pop.
And so we set forth once again unto the breach, and knowing what lay ahead we stuck to a steady pace… Jacobs bloody Ladder!

The view from Barber Booth towards Jacobs Ladder.

A short roll down to Barber booth was followed by a long and steady climb up an un-made road to a pack horse bridge and the bottom of Jacobs Ladder. This is the most infamous climb in the whole of the Peak District, it’s reputed to have been cleared by only three or four people in the whole world! The whole world! Now’s there’s a challenge for you. I genuinely don’t know how it’s possible; I have enough trouble hiking up it!
Three or four riders somewhere in the world are superhuman, it would be a monumental challenge for even the most elite athletes. Not a single rider around us even attempted the start, all choosing to push or shoulder the bike up the first very loose and rocky section back on to the hiking path at the cairn; and the hiking path is no better until you get almost to the top where it becomes just about rideable. The hiking path is a long series of small flagstones set into the hill side.

Do I look knackered? Well I definitely was. Hike-a-Bike on Jacobs Ladder.

It sits in the saddle between Rushup Edge and Kinder Scout at the very west of the Vale of Edale. The packhorse bridge is the earliest known example in Derbyshire and dates from 1664, the ladder was reputedly laid around the mid 1700’s to allow easier access over Swines Back for the packhorse trains. Not only do I write you amusing stories but I feed you with useless information too. I’m not just an ugly face you know!

By the time we reached the top I was just about knackered! And to top it off I was starting to suffer the effects of cramp but not just in the one leg, oh no… both legs! Oh the joys of mountain biking for fun.
A quick stop and good rub… (Not that type of rub you saucy lot!)… a massage!, and I’m almost good as new.

Having a quick rub; in full view of the hikers too!

We continued climbing up Swines Back before resting briefly at the top for a slice of Englands finest ‘Soreen Malt Loaf’ and a banana; followed immediately by a good rocky and fast descent down to Coldwells Clough. Straight into a short, sharp climb before picking up the path to Hayfields, this was fun; it was a fast path with plenty of little humps to pop off and we steamed down it before skidding to an abrupt halt at a perfectly placed Cake Station! YES!

Probably the most splendid Cake Station ever!

Two pieces of delicious Rocky Roads and a slice of Lemon Drizzle and I was a happy man indeed (along with a cup or two of pop to wash it down with obviously). We chatted for a short while with a few of the other riders before leaving for two of the longest climbs of the day. The first, although steep, was tarmac up and out of the village before picking up the Pennine Bridleway  across South Head and onwards & upwards towards The Roych, a very long climb for tired legs.

However the ride down to Roych Clough was much better and Mitch & I absolutely nailed it as fast as we could flying past quite a few other riders, who seemed to think it was a bit steep and gnarly (which it is) and who were clearly much more intelligent than we are. It was ace!
We whipped through the ford at the bottom and straight into the climb up Green Low and ultimately Rushup Edge. I had been having a bit of trouble with my chain jumping cogs on the rear cassette and it did just that as I started the climb leaving me to push up the first steep section, while Mitch cleaned it in one go and waited for me at the top. Further along the trail at the Junction for Rushup edge we once again stumbled upon a Cake Station, Yippee 🙂 Although by this stage I was just about caked-out to be honest so I had only the one piece, a very nice Bakewell slice, and a couple of cups of pop.
We continued on our way up the punishing climb to Rushup Edge; now this is a great trail to ride down, huge gritstone slabs, steps and drops, natural berms, the lot, fantastic, but it’s a right grind to go up. Mitch almost cleared it but luckily I had a couple of gear slips and had to push up some of it. Thank God.
We cut left down the Chapel Gate path and started what once used to be probably the gnarliest descent in The Dark Peak. Unfortunately The National Park Authority have repaired it recently due to excessive erosion and it is now somewhat sanitised and tame. Very smooth though and very fast; it also has a series of water drainage bars laid across it and some of these are dangerous if you get it wrong. I’ve no doubts whatsoever that the air ambulance will be making a few trips here in the future 🙁
We rolled out of the bottom into Barber Booth and had completed the Hayfield loop.  A quick whizz along the road had us back at the Greenlands checkpoint (where, incredibly, we both declined cake!) and ready for the final climb up to Hollins Cross on the The Great Ridge saddle between Mam Tor and Lose Hill.
Another grinder this one and especially so after all the miles we had covered today, it started with a steep switchback climb up tarmac before cutting onto an equally punishing upward traverse across the hillside to Hollins Cross. I was glad to get to top knowing that all we had left was a particularly good down hill into Castleton. And we made the most of it! Once again we put the hammer down and laid waste to trail. In the wet it’s crap but in the dry, like today, it’s a corker. Full steam ahead captain 🙂 Yeehaw! I’m not really familiar with this path having only ridden it once before (in the wet) and about half way down going balls out I got caught out on a blind and deceptive mud filled hollow, It was too late to take evasive action and I stuck my front wheel right into the middle of this muddy pool, came to a very abrupt halt and flew ungraciously over the handle bars and in to the marsh grass at the side of the trail. Unfortunately Mitch was very close behind and saw the whole thing, bugger. No denying this one then. Mitch obviously wet himself and kindly took a photograph of me for posterity’s sake. Thanks for that buddy.


No point wallowing, as it were, so we set off again at apace to enjoy the rest of the drop. Further down the trail turns into rocky chutes and natural berms before one last sting in the tail; a lovely tight path full off rock drops and pops! Wicked fun. We smiled and laughed all the way into Castleton before the last roll along the road and back to the college for the finish line.
At the finish we were presented with our finishers tee-shirts and the lovely people in charge had also laid on bowls of soup and bread rolls and we gladly polished off two each. Home made Minestrone, just the ticket.
I was glad it was over with though; I’d struggled to find my mojo all day and the climbs had really taken it out me, that’s not say I hadn’t enjoyed it though because I always do, even a tough ride is still a good ride and I’m certain we’ll be back again next year for another go.
We sat around relaxing and chatting with other riders when one chap suggested to us that the final descent had been a bit of a nightmare, I laughed and told him how quick we had just come down it. By the look on his face he clearly thought me a complete idiot! He’s right of course, I am, but it was still some of the best fun I’d had all day. I’d do it ten times if I could get a lift back up in a helicopter!
And that was that. The toughest part of the day was still to come for me unfortunately. Mitchell clearly has some problems with his digestive system because all the way home he subjected me to me to a barrage of the most foul smelling farts imaginable and I reckon I’ll still smell them in the car when I get back from my holiday!
Next time he can walk home.

Thanks for reading and please don’t forget to sponsor our Himalaya  Quest using the links at the top of the page.
I’m off on holiday now for a couple of weeks and if I get the chance I might even blog from Indonesia! See you soon 🙂

Mitch at the registration area.
Mitch smiling away at the start gate.   
Me and Mitch at Shatton Moor.   
Mitch smiling at the gate before the drop into Hayfields.
The view from Hayfields village.
Hungry cyclists perusing the cake selection at Hayfields.
Me and Mitch smiling at the finish line.
The soup kitchen!
Mitch showing off his dirty ankles!
Hikers ascending Jacobs Ladder.

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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