exo : rides


Fri, 30 Aug 2019


“Everyone knows that the route isn’t way marked and you need to use a GPS?”

I am clearly not alone in regarding this as news. I do have the route on my GPS but I might have looked at it a bit harder if I’d know I’d be relying on it.

The day had already got off to a bad start when I realised I’d left my camelbak at home so I’d be heading out with just a water bottle and whatever I could fit in jersey pockets. The likelihood of fairly toasty weather isn’t entirely welcome given the water situation.

However, we head out and initially it’s all fine. Fire tracks and some reasonable climbs make me think my four and half to five hour guesstimate is going to be about right. The first sign of trouble is a large bunch coming back down the track, claiming the trail just runs out. A bit of discussion occurs and we all head off again.

The trail does not run out but the GPS track is a bit out. However, it’s fairly clear where we are meant to go so we press on and the plaintive “off course” message on the Garmin soon goes. There’s a few more occurrences of this before a fast grassy descent takes us to a farm and we head up a small valley on what seem like a decent enough road.

The road runs out at a cottage and it’s on to a bridle way which is fine on a mountain bike but is clearly a bit more challenging in places for the people round us on gravel bikes. It also goes on for a fair old way.

The end of the bridleway coincides with the bottom of one of the stages of the Enduro that’s taking place on the same weekend. It is insanely steep and I am reassured that I made the right choice not to enter. After a bit of boggling we press on and are back on to gravel and another hill. At the top the event photography people point to a farm a bit down the valley and say it’s all down hill to the feed station there.

It is not all downhill.

The staff at the feed station are full of tales of navigational chaos and people arriving from all directions. They point us up a reasonably steep grassy climb with the reassuring words that most people are walking up it. It certainly doesn’t look ideal for a gravel bike.

It’s at this point that one of our group decides that enough fun has been had and heads back down the road to the start. The rest of us, or at least the other two of us, press on up the hill.

It is quite hard work and I can see why you’d not make it up with the somewhat taller gears of a gravel bike. We get to the top and it’s obvious that it is not the top. There is really quite a lot more to go.

After a while we’re reduced to pushing. Quite a lot of pushing. We’re only half way round and already getting on for four hours.

There’s a cairn at the top, some sheep and two people we recognise from earlier. The odd thing is that they were behind us, didn’t seem to pass us and are now in front. We all agree that the GPS maps have not been stellar.

We head off more or less at the same time and before long the Garmin chirps up to say we’re off course. It’s not obvious where the other path is so we press on a bit, especially as one of the other group has a GPS that says we are on track.

At the point where the choice is a substantial downhill or a short backtrack uphill to check for missed paths we turn back. The other two head off down the hill. It turns out there was a trail we missed and it seems to be the right one as the Garmin is happy again. I don’t expect the two who headed off down the hill are.

The path is pretty boggy and the already slow progress takes a hit. After a bit we hit a junction with another bridleway which looks like it might be headed back in the direction of the feed station. A bit of checking of maps on the internet in one of the small windows of phone reception confirms this and we make the decision to cut our losses as there’s clearly a big chunk left to get back to the feed station on the proper course and water is becoming an issue.

It’s still a good forty five minutes across to the feed station on the shortcut and by the time we reach it we’ve been out for getting on seven hours.

We head back down the road before we lose our sense of humour.

posted at: 21:50 #

all the usual copyright stuff... [ copyright struan donald 2002 - present ], plus license