Wednesday, August 12, 2020

August BAM

 It's rare when social media actually (I mean *actually*) inspires me to put down the TV set and go and do something more interesting but this weekend it happened.  

On Saturday I worked on a new project before packing up my bike packing gear gradually.  I'd planned to do a 40k ride and a 50k ride this weekend but, after a trip in to town to post some bike stuff, I didn't leave home for number 1 till 8pm.  It was me and Mr Landslide again, fuelled by home-cooked pasta.

We rode over to Hillsborough at which point my left crank dropped off at an awkward pedestrian crossing.  I limped over to the pavement and kicked it back on as best I could and tightened the bolts.  The cap nut was long gone.

Hoping the bike would stay in one piece, we threaded our way along the Trans Pennine trail as far as Penistone where we needed to put lights on properly to ride through town to the big Tesco for a toilet trip before hitting the Peak district for the rest of the night.  After Penistone, the sky was dark enough to warrant front lights - even if the back ones stayed off.

Wildlife 1 - a hedgehog.

We cut across the moor to Langsett.

 Wildlife 2 - a moth beating out its pattern on the wing.

 Landslide realised I was dragging him the rocky way.  I had not even thought of his "skinny" tyres (in the modern sense of the word) or lack of bouncy forks.  

We briefly mused over stopping near the woodland but, fuelled by enthusiasm for a classic summer evening with resultant glorious sunrise, we proceeded into the heather in search of a better morning-vista and another stop that I had in mind.

I enjoyed the little pool of light in front of me, watching the purple heather bouncing back in the light.  In fact I enjoyed it so much I failed to notice the dark orange blood moon rising over Sheffield until it was almost too late.  As a cloud bank dropped over it, we slowly watched it disappear as we, too, scrambled into the dark.  It made puddle-dodging more challenging, trying to remember the deep ones.

Somewhere along the way, Landslide's tyres started to let him down.  Whilst he faffed with that, I sorted out my cleats which had been bugging me all week.  I finally got them into a position I could ride some power in and L continued to struggle with rocks and rolling.  I took the occasional hike - partly to make sure he was still there and partly because my skills weren't working in the faded light and fatigued state.  We were both making mistakes.

For a moment we considered camping on the peat bog (currently dry) near the summit but concluded that the breeze we had been seeking out to keep the midges at bay was actually a bit too blowy for comfort.  We agreed to descend to the planned stop to get out of the wind.  

The planned stop never came (at least I shot past it in the dark) and before I knew it, we were at another spot I have covetted for a while.

(c)Mr Landslide: High Speed Trep

We both tarped-up with backs to the wind then just as we were about to get comfy, the gusts started coming from 135 degrees anticlockwise, just enough to grab the edges of tarps and ruffle them thoroughly.  Still, we persevered - it would keep the midges off.

I lay awake for some time, then some time longer.  Eventually I started to snooze but it felt like every time I dropped off, the tarp would rustle and wake me up.  I re-pegged and pinned down my ground sheet with everything going but nothing would silence the damn thing.  I went for a walk - partly to have a week and partly to suss out if there was any shelter nearby.  

In a few places, I could have got out of the wind in the bracken but recognised as that a really stupid midgey idea.  I reached a stream with the tarps on the other sideand, figuring I'd got back to camp, toyed with the idea of crossing the stepping stones to get back to my bed.  Thankfully I realised I'd probably fall in the water so retraced by steps back to L sleeping soundly behind my pitch.  I had decided to re-pitch the tarp into a tunnel to get low profile and cover all the bases of this swirly wind pattern.

Amazed that I didn't wake Mr L, I snuggled down into my tarp tunnel and really appreciated the extra warmth.  Unfortunately, the midges joined me in there so I got my head net on and started the process of quietening my groundsheet again by littering shoes and my rucsac around the place.

I did at least get some sleep but as this was all happening at 3am, it was only about 3 hours sleep before the sun was up, my cosy tunnel was too hot and I found that most of my mat and bivi bag were poking out from under the tarp and I was happily (yet painfully) curled up on nothing more than the ground sheet and a 12 inch long rock.

My first words of the day to my bivi buddy were, "mats are for losers anyway".

L informed me that there was another camp just across the stream - luckily I hadn't crossed the water last night as I would have stumbled into the wrong campsite.

I insisted on scrambling together my kit and heading about 100m down the trail to a known picnic spot to brew up breakfast in the shelter of the trees.  It was midgey but at least the breeze was low enough to ensure the stove would work.  I wasn't in the mood for riding any further than home that day, on the basis of my limited sleep, but I knew that food would make me feel better.  I viewed the whole thing as a mini-exercise in keeping on keeping on.  I stuck it in the category of "How will I finish the highland trail if I bail at the first sign of difficulty?"  I tried to stay positive and just focus on the job of making the brew.  I was very buoyed by measuring exactly the right amount of fuel we needed.

Mr L pottered about birdwatching and dodging hungry ducks whilst I minded the stove and sat on the ground at protest to the really crap and uncomfortable bench.  My breakfast of porridge, honey and dessicated coconut did a lot to fix my mood, as did the coffee. 

We bimbled down the lake in the fog.

I took one photo

Just before we headed into Fairhomes to check out the toilets and, to our sheet joy, the cafe was open.  A sausage sandwich was consumed and I enjoyed sweet tea.  Moods even further improved, we started the potter home until such point as I had to send Landslide ahead in order to make his daddy-care duties on time.  I was having trouble keeping up with his increasingly anxious pace and his wife's gym sessions are just as important as my bike rides.  I am always grateful to her for letting me borrow his company from time to time.

As soon as he had gone, my pace slowed and I warmed into my movement a bit more.  Eventually I was able to park up, reinstate my clothing organisation and get rid of the warm stuff from last night - much to the enjoyment of a photographer that I hadn't noticed sitting on the grass well above the track.

I took the Thornhill trail to Bamford lights then set off up Shatton to take the pleasant route to Hathersage.  In the village, I felt the crank start to wobble.  I wasn't sure if it was a good or bad thing that I now knew when it was about to fall off.  I didn't manage to get my foot out of the pedal before the crank fell off but I did at least manage to carefully put my foot down before the  approaching big range rover came around the blind corner.  Thankfully it was being driven carefully and responsibly by an elderly lady and she did not run me over as I scabbled about on tarmac with a hunk of metal stuck to my foot.

As I torqued it on as tight as possible, another kindly Shatton resident came out to check if I needed any help.  

I'm amazed it held all the way up the long, relentless climb.  I'm also amazed I rode it all the way to the top.  The crank held on until the flat road where I tied it in again.

At a footpath junction I bumped into the lovely Marcus Scotney out on one of his long runs so we disrupted eachothers schedule a bit with some exchanged Covid tales then I dropped over to Hathersage.  The crank obliged by dropping off again and I started texting enquiries to TSK as to his whereabouts, toying with the tentative idea of a rescue call.

I decided to persevere, hope for the best, select walkable hill climbs and head straight home,soft- pedalling as much as possible.

I made it to Hathersage Booths before I felt the familiar wobble again, meanwhile TSK had just texted me I leant the bike against the wall reached into my bag for my phone, crank in hand. I said hello to a bloke and, a moment later his girlfriend but something was not right. She was making worrying sounds and at first I thought she had sudden brake failure. I ditched both phone and crank on the ground and as I turned to help, she fell off her bike into the road next to me, tearing at her face with her hands to remove her glasses. She had been hit and stung in the lower eyelid and her screams were an attempt to stop safely with her eyes shut on a 16% descent whilst trying to remove glasses and insect at the same time.

My first job was to stop the approaching traffic on the blind corner whilst she extracted herself from her bike.

The motorists were kind and offered 1st aid but we sent them on.

Next I had a look at the eye. Her lovely fresh young face had developed the dark circle of a more mature person and a tiny pinprick was visible near her nose.

I passed on my last remaining antihistamine and checked on her whilst she composed herself. I prescribed a cafe stop in Hathersage before continuing and she set off in pursuit of the boyfriend.

TSK was in Hope, out on his bike so that put paid to my rescue.  I did not expect today to be this much of a trial of my ability to keep going.

This time I took a lot of care over putting the crank back on, tightening the bolts incrementally in sequence. I made it past Burbage + up onto the summit then stopped at a Hawthorne tree to get out of the wind while I put a warmer jersey and a coat on for the descent. At the carpark in the Mayfield valley I stopped for a snack to celebrate the crank staying on then ended up in the caf with TSK, drinking coffee instead of anything sensible like eating lunch. And so my ride ended with a little tow home, watching a buzzard and wondering if it was the Vulture (it wasn't) and being motor paced by two roadie students who couldn't understand me thrashing them on the descents then fading to soft pedalling on the climbs. After I gave the bike and me a wash I went to sleep for 3 hours,and felt like shit for the rest of the day.

Well man alive! There's nothing like a pandemic to make you paranoid after a not-so-terribly-hard bike ride but, thankfully a few healthy meals and 9 more hours sleep saw me right.

We are go for the next one-give or take a few crank-saving devices.