Monday, August 21, 2006

Jacobs Ladder (DH)

Yesterday a number of the Knobblies crew headed over to the Peak District for an assault on the knarly, rocky terrain that symbolises the region. Three locals had graciously offered to show us their "patch" and once prep'd our "pet" guides started crankin' out from Edale on a gentle road section towards a misty Chapel Gate...

From the valley floor, none of the ridges/peaks were visible so we had little idea how long the climbs would last. Nor were we prepared for just how technical, riding up "baby head" rock strewn trails would be and how much strength they sapped.

Consequently the 1.5mile Chapel Gate grind was a long, arduous assent with mucho portage of the machines that were designed to carry us! Although the locals rode with gusto and cleared many a tough section, even they succumbed to a foot slog which improved the morale of this wobbly legged visitor.

Our tough opener was rewarded with an initially cautious, jarring and rocky 2.5mile descent. The unfamiliar visitors initally seeked out the smoothest "lines" but soon relented as our guides effortlessly skimmed over the loose rocks'n'boulders off into the mist. I took their lead and ducked into the rock strewn gully, gave my 11 inch fully it's head and clung on after 'em ;) It had my eyes balls working overtime and my poor ol'5Spot was getting a right pounding.

This continued around the back of mount Famine, both up and downhill with plenty of lapses in concentration causing numerous near misses. Fortunately mrNixon was ably taking the full brunt of this onslaught. After a particularly long section of full bounce, the RP3 on my 5Spot was pogo'g which I initially put down to low psi. A quick check indicated the psi was fine but a few more pounds per were added to prevent any bottoming. After a brief smoothish section the boing, boing stopped so I assume that the oil had overheated - loosing the rebound control (x1 click from max!). Credit the locals tho, who were mostly on hard tails and rode like demons :o

The next three miles were a relatively steady and slightly less technical slog up the back side of Jacobs Ladder, gulp. I say "relatively" as I think I actually managed to clear one ! As the altitude was re-gained, the mist grew thicker and at the summit (marked with the ancient Edale Cross) the wind increased to a fairly unpleasant degree. So with saddles lowered and warnings of big drops issued we plunged into the gloop to began our descent back towards Edale.

With hindsight I ought to have been a little more cautious at the top, but speed is your friend right? Anyhow, I kinda baulked halfway though a serious of drops that mysteriously had me pogo out of my spd's and stop dead with my saddle thrusting up into my belly. Fortunately, no harm was done and everyone slithered down as best they could.

The remaining sections of the descent (there's plenty of 'em) needed 100% focus, sufficient speed (but not too much) and an ability to hang on whilst the bike bucks around underneath you. Trust was high on the list but I'd already disconnected my brain at the summit so I just piled on regardless :p

The boulders and stones just don't stop coming and it seems relentless over it's mile. The drainage channels were often "protected" with vertical, jagged edged, wet rocks that sloped diagonally across your path. So little hops and re-positioning kept making demands on bulging forearms and aching legs.

At the bottom you can clearly see that the walkers are taken up the Ladder on a winding staircase which gave us free reign of the rocky route down the same slope. As the riders re-grouped there were plenty of smiles and some finger flexing to get the blooding flowing again. The last few miles were cranked partially on the Penine Way and then onto asphalt back down towards a beer keenly glug'g back in Edale, at the Rambler

Before setting out we'd decided to tackle Jacobs Ladder as a DH, to which I am eternally grateful as it's one of the best, technical and most rewarding I've ever done :)

Although the mileage isn't huge, this ride should not be underestimated and I'd love to try it again - preferrably when the weather is more pleasant ! Then the only question left is "should we ride it the otherway around?"...

I'd like to offer many thanx to our "tame" Peakonians for putting aside a few hours to show complete stangers their sweet trails, especially considering the less than favourable weather. They more than welcome to join us on a compartively flat blat around my Woburn, although I suspect a more fitting ride would be around Cannock or Afan.

A Tracklogs file of the route can be found here.

Posse; John (FSR M4), Dave/Doug (D.Hinde h/tails), Rob (Flux), Roger (FSR XC), Farqui (5Spot)

Trailhead; Edale train station/overflow car park (£3-£5 per day)

Weather; Mild at approx 15C, light to moderate breeze with drizzle throughout 75% of the ride broken up with the occassional down pour and odd patch of broken cloud. But the sun shone brightly once we'd finished!

Mechanicals;John suffered a bent mech hanger and shortly thereafter a busted chain. Roger somehow managed to scrabble down Jacobs Ladder with just a front brake - the Peak sand taking its toll on a relatively new set of pads.

Offs; Most had a shimmy, a slither, and the odd "dab". Roger encountered around half a dozen "horizontal moments" - most down to using his new spd's. Rob fancied creating an alternative route to the bottom of Jacobs Ladder and dramatically busted an ancient stone wall in the process. Whilst trying to clip-in uphill, Farqui's tired legs acquired a dose of cba and failed to prevent a subsequent sideways "splat" on a slippery downslope. Farq's also failed to crank up a miserably small slope, stalled, neglected to brake and "reversed" into a perplexed Rob who appeared to be chompin' on mrF's mudguard! I think our locals escaped unscathed but the low cloud/mist/rain coupled with their tip-top fitness mostly hid them from view!

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