The ultimate Peak District ride
100 miles and 5060 metres of elevation
Photo: Win Hill from Bamford Edge.
100 miles (162km) | 16,601ft (5060m) elevation | 21 hours | 26 descents.
Every classic (and many others) MTB descent in the Peaks - self supported with no pit stops.
A little context
A few weeks ago I competed my fundraising 15k ft elevation challenge. Despite the ride totalling 85 miles with over 16k ft (5000m) of elevation, it didn’t take me to my limit like I thought it would. While I was proud of raising over £1000 for mountain rescue, thanks to the generosity of the 45 people who supported it, I wasn't fulfilled.
It wasn't long before I conceived a new idea I was sure would take me to the edge - to ride every classic MTB descent in the Peak District in one outing. The prospect of riding the entire Jacobs Ladder circuit and the Cut Gate loop (difficult routes in themselves), as well as everything in between in one go, was ludicrous; it was the perfect challenge.
I looked at The Peak 200, an established 136 mile loop of the Peak District that clocks 16,345ft (5000m) of climbing, but the route doesn’t include many of the most iconic descents in the area (or my personal favourites) and involves more road riding than I'd want to do on a mountain bike.
The route I had in mind was much more raw, with hike-a-biking, off pistes, secret loamy tracks, and all of the fun, fast and gnarly classics including Cave Dale, Jacobs Ladder, Potato Alley, Lockerbrook, Cut Gate, Les Arcs and Stanage Steps - with very few of the 100 miles being on road.
In my eyes this was the perfect local ultra-endurance mountain bike loop, and simply thinking about it got me stoked.
'I was buzzing; on a high from having come this far and still able to give it my all - completing the Cut Gate loop in a speedy two hours, returning to Slippery Stones at 9.30, just before dark and in time for clouds to piss on my bonfire.'
Photo: On the way to Bamford Edge at 07.10. From here you can see the Cement Works factory, which later that day I'd ride past on the climb towards Cave Dale, above the sheep is Mam Tor, and behind that and going to the right is the full Jacobs Ladder route.
Learning from the first challenge, I was actually excited rather than nervous - psyched by the prospect of riding so many amazing descents in one ride, and seeing so many different parts of the Peaks in one day. I was confident I could handle 20 or so hours of riding, and I was prepared; equipped with water purifying tablets, two bike lights and a phone battery charger case (game changer - thanks Martyn, I did not know they existed).
And It was exciting, despite slicing a tyre, the heat and humidity, sunburn, countless rock strikes to my lower limbs, crowds, crashing and being soaked for the final three hours.
'At midnight, 19 hours in, soaked from heavy rain, exhausted, barely able to see the rocks in front of me or the edge to one side due to fog, and violently shaken by gusts, it was difficult not to question why I'd stuck to my plan of returning via Stanage North - the most exposed and technical way back'
Photos: Top: Bamford Edge, looking to Win Hill to the left, Lockerbrook in the middle, and Cut Gate way out behind Derwent Edge on the right. The woods photos are of a new track on Win Hill with jumps and incredible berms, my front tyre after being sliced by a rock at the bottom of Win Hill on the way to Hope, and in the photo of the sky the black splodge is the famous Red Bearded Vulture, who overshot mainland Europe to spend some time in the Peaks - he knows!
While absolutely flying down the Cat Gate descent to Langsett reservoir after 8pm, on my twentieth descent of the day, 15 hours after I’d ridden BHDH with a headlight before sunrise, I was buzzing; on a high from having come this far and still able to give it my all - completing the Cut Gate loop in a speedy two hours, returning to Slippery Stones at 9.30, just before dark and in time for clouds to piss on my bonfire.
At midnight, 19 hours in, soaked from heavy rain, exhausted, barely able to see the rocks in front of me or the edge to one side due to fog, and violently shaken by gusts, it was difficult not to question why I'd stuck to my plan of returning via Stanage North - the most exposed and technical way back from Ladybower to Redmires. I could have just easily gone home on the road, but I wanted to do it right - staying off road as much as possible.
By this point my legs and hands were really hurting and I was emotionally transient - laughing one moment, angry the next, but mostly just vacant; concentrating only on what was in front of me and blanking out everything else. I felt indifferent towards what I had accomplished and just wanted to be home.
I was done. I was physically and mentally broken, and I had noting left to give. I’d ventured into the periphery of my limit and that was far enough. Going further would have only taken me to a dark place. Finally I was content and able to close this chapter of endurance challenges.
Photos: South Head Hill at 13:15, a detour with a fun descent off the Jacobs Ladder route and near the first furthest away point from home, and the view from Mount Famine, another hill that distracted me from the same bridleway and one I hadn't explored before - looking towards Kinder Scout.
16 hours moving time, 30 minutes fixing punctures, 10 minutes responding to the old man who wanted me to explain my route, while frequently saying ‘that’s chuffing far’, 9 litres of water, 2 Red Bulls, 1 bottle of orange juice, 1 apple, 2 carrots, I miserable sandwich and 24 cereal and chocolate bars, 1 Bearded vulture spotted, 26 descents including 8 classics and 3 secrets on Win Hill, 260 feet more elevation than The Peak 200, but 35 fewer miles, 10,000 + calories burnt, 2,500ish calories consumed, 1 37lb, 170mm travel, mountain bike, 3 hours spent in the rain, 11 gears, 500 gates (that’s what it felt like), 2 tracks/50 minutes bag free, 3 water fills at streams, 0 track repeats, 1 wrong turn, 1 crash, 1 slashed tyre, 5 shin/ankle/toe loose rock strikes, 3 hours spent craving a Pizzas R Us, 4 hours in the dark, 4 descents ridden in the dark, 1 plate of tortellini and cheese after I got home.
Video: On the return home along Stanage North, recorded at 23:53.
Photos: Langsett reservoir, the second furthest away point from home, at 20:18, and Cut Gate - a true classic.
BHDH, Blackbrook Wood DH, Lodge Moor to Rivelin dam, Wymingbrook roots, Stanage Steps, Bamford Edge to A57, Les Arcs, 3 secrets on Win Hill, Win hill decent to Hope, Cave Dale, Rushop first DH, Roych Clough North DH, South Head Hill, Jacobs Ladder, Mam Tor North DH, Loose Hill to Hope, Potato Alley, Lockerbrook, Cut Gate to Langsett, Cut Gate to Slippery Stones, Cable Ridge (Derwent Edge to A57), Stanage North, Redmires Plantation descent, Porter Clough descent.
Photos: Yes this sign cracked me up whenever I saw it - perhaps a very basic sense of humour helps when you're otherwise struggling, and the trig point of Stanage North at 23:46.