When suitably refreshed carry on up. Local wisdom has it, that if you can see the Isle of Man from the top, it is going to rain. If you can’t see it, it is raining. Descend to Calder Bridge and turn L onto the main A595 road. This road is busy but not very wide. After just over two miles take the L turn into Gosforth, pass through the traffic calming and at the mini roundabout go L and then shortly R to Santon Bridge. This bit is actually flat for a while, so enjoy.
The next climb is Irton Pike, brief but fairly steep and another of those “just for fun” hills that don’t really count on this ride. Descend off there towards the George the Fourth pub where you take a L turn signed Eskdale. Around here you may spot a small steam train, the “Lal Ratty” as it is known locally, that runs from Ravensglass to Boot where you are headed. “Lal” pronounced larl, is Cumbrian for small. At Boot the engine is turned round on a turntable to go back; you have no such luck and head on up the valley to the big daddy of climbs, Hardknott pass. This is the fourth top. If cycling is your weakest discipline be afraid at this point as you will need as much adrenalin as you can muster.
The start is signalled by the red phone box on the left. It kicks up pretty much after you cross the cattle grid and the thing to keep in mind as you see the road turn into a tarmac wall, is that you really need to look after your legs on this climb. Hammering this might cost you dearly during the next nineteen hours or so.
It kicks up hard round a couple of bends and traffic permitting you may find it best to use every inch of the width of the road. If you keep riding to the flatter middle section be proud of yourself but crawl along here as the worst is yet to come. It then kicks up again, round a sharp left hander onto the “ramp”, a short very steep switchback at 30% that will test both your strength and fitness possibly to the max or beyond. If you make it round the next right hand bend you are almost certain to get to the top although there are still two to three minutes of hard riding. Congratulate yourself if you ride it out!
The descent is wickedly steep. By the bottom your arms will ache as much as your legs from pulling on the brakes. Towards the bottom, in 2013 there was a short section that could only be classed as “loose track” – care needed. Over the small bridge turn L straight up the valley to Wrynose [top number 5]. This I would class as the third hardest of the climbs but is it relatively short from this side. What you see as you approach it up the valley is what you get. There are no surprises here.
Over the top sees a potentially very fast descent where heavy breaking is again the order of the day on several sections. You will sweep down to Little Langdale where you eventually take a R turn at the T junction to climb up to the main road. This is the A593 and a L turn will take you to Ambleside. Follow over the humpback bridge and round to the left but get into the right hand lane to go R at the junction to Waterhead and Windermere. The car park on the left at the head of the lake is good place for your second stop. It is pay and display and has toilets.