Ride no. 29 of the year dawned bright, sunny, and warm – with calm blue skies. Oh, how I could get used to this good weather malarkey! I woke at the Hawkshead Youth Hostel having slept very well indeed, and set off into the chilly morning air towards Ambleside for a much needed coffee.
Once in Ambleside I headed on over to the Giggling Goose for a spot of strong coffee and sunshine. I sat outside, at a bright red table, beside some little spring flowers that were just sprouting up. I enjoyed my spot in the sun so much that I ordered a second coffee and just sat and pondered life away for a long while.
I did eventually snap back to reality and remember why I was there – to cycle from Hawkshead back home to Keswick via Kirkstone pass! So I got on my trusty steed and headed straight up “THE STRUGGLE”!
For the unacquainted, Kirkstone Pass is a steep pass in the Lakes that connects Ambleside/Windermere with the Ullswater Lake/Glenridding/Patterdale area. There are two ways to ascend – a longer, gentler ascent from Windermere via Troutbeck … or the way I was going to tackle – a steep, no-bones-about-it climb straight upwards. Nicknamed ‘The Struggle’…. for obvious reasons. After a photo shoot featuring the sign that read 20% grades and ‘THE STRUGGLE’ on it, I began!
In my head, I always make these things out to be a much bigger deal than they actually are… so in reality I took it nice and steady and it wasn’t bad at all. It was even, I’d go so far to say, enjoyable! (This IS in retrospect … comfy at home, of course 😉 ). I kept thinking, “oh it’s going to be horribly, unbelievably steep around the next bend!” – but it was similar to the other passes in the Lakes/Dales I’ve done on my touring bike – steep, but doable. Especially if you take the snails-pace that I adopted up Kirkstone.
After many stops for photos, I laboured up the last little bit and emerged triumphantly at the top, yippie! I had a celebratory fizzy drink at the top, courtesy of the amazing, 14th Century, low-slung-ceilinged Kirkstone Pass Inn. I ate a lot of food quite quickly, too – and then felt very ill as a result :P. It was about 2pm when I decided to free-wheel into Patterdale and around Ullswater, then up past Dockray and Troutbeck, back to Keswick.
So I set off down this massive hill (weeeeeeeeeeee massive downhill!) while feeling really sick, it was horrible! I had this ridiculously beautiful valley unfolding in front of me as I enjoyed the benefits of gravity … and all I could think about was finding a bush at the side of the road to be sick behind. Eerrr. I wasn’t sick (fortunately), but still felt rubbish all the way home, and, yes, all the way up the more-significant-than-I-remembered gradient out of Ullswater.
Just outside Threlkeld, after I had enjoyed a amazing descent on the ‘horse road to Troutbeck‘ , my stomach started to feel better. Good! So I could relax and enjoy the last few miles home from this wonderful little local trip of mine. I was even treated to some newest members of the North Lakes sheepy community … more lambs :).