Roger Swannell reports on an epic downhill challenge for 7 eager road-riders that took place in The Lake Disrict in November ’11…
The boards: three nosnos, two trampas, one mbs, and one no-tramp.
“Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?”, asked the reporter. “Because it’s there”, retorted Mallory, way back in the early ‘20′s.
The idea of the ‘challenge’, born in mountaineering, and quickly spreading to other sports like fell running, hiking & mountain biking, and then becoming the focus of charity fund-raising events like the Three Peaks Challenge, has now found it’s way into mountainboarding.
Starting, as these things often do, as a ‘we should do this’ kinda discussion on SurfingDirt Forum, the date was set, the maps printed, the accommodation booked, and the Five Passes Challenge was ready to go. We all piled in the car and headed up the M6, driving like James Bond in Octopussy, to arrive at the bottom of the first Pass.
Good to go.
Nice easy warm up. The road is two lanes all the way down so there is plenty of room for cars coming up. Nothing broken, but Brennigs wheel fell off. We gave it a score of 4/10 as it’s not too challenging but good to start with.
Starts out steep, with some tight chicanes, before mellowing out a bit. It was nice to get some thumbs up from vintage car rally drivers as we shot past them. And Chris’ flaming brake blocks gave us a reality check about what we were doing (but didn’t stop us). This one scores 8/10 for the super fast start and stunning scenery.
Two runs down, three to go
The sun was starting to set as we headed up the third Pass on our list. The run down was long, smooth and fast, giving us more melted brake blocks. Wrynose also gets a score of 8/10 for it’s openness, speed, sheer drops, and worryingly close passing cars that wouldn’t slow down for us.
The riders: Dave ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ McBean, Brenning ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ Hughes, Allan ’12 Inches’ Grey, Chris ‘Charles Bronson’ Bensted, Travis ‘Wizard of Oz’ Birdsall, Ian ‘Mash-up Master’ Hufton, Roger ‘Invisible Man’ Swannell
It hadn’t got any lighter as Allan wheel-spun his van up Hardknott Pass with the rest of us in the back, not being able to see the road and not knowing what to expect on the run down. This is the steepest of the passes with hairpin after hairpin making it difficult to pick up any speed. We gave it 5/10 because although it’s steep, you can’t let it go and pick up too much speed before you’re slamming into the next corner.
Cumbria at night
The last Pass, also in total darkness, was the highest. After Hardknott it seemed a bit mellow but we gave it a score of 8/10 as it’s long, fast, and finishes at the car park a short walk from the town centre.
After the riding was done, we went to an eastern European chip shop for dinner where the ladies behind the counter took a shine to Brennig, not only did he get table service but he even got a knife. We also had a great idea for a one-stop-shop where you could get therapy, have your teeth polished and rent a car. It would be called ‘Mental Dental Rental’.
A long drive down narrow country lanes took us us to the barn we’d booked to stay in for the night. We wondered around aimlessly in the dark for a bit before finding a room with a pile of mattresses. That can’t be it, we thought, and carried on looking, only to find another door with our name on, opened it to find the same room from the other end. Now we know where the expression ‘born in a barn’ comes from, didn’t matter whether the door was open or closed.
All-in-all, it was an awesome trip with a great group of riders. Its good to see more brake riders out there, and see collectives like this coming together from all over the country to ride some of the most awesome roads in the country, with the added degree of setting ourselves the challenge of getting them all done in a day. MVP of the trip has to be Brennig who was uncatchable and did it all with the nonchalance of someone with a great future in downhilling ahead of them…
And finally here’s a vid of all the decents (warning this vid contains some classic rock ;-) )
So, next challenge? !