It was a grey overcast sky that greeted 8 riders that departed the hamlet of Staveley in Cartmel on a day that promised sunshine burning through the cloud and 7000 ft of climbing before returning to our base. Myself, Trevor, Leanne, Tony,Nick, Phil,new boy James and of course ride honouree Mal rode out Westward taking in Bouth and Spark Bridge before pleasantries were dispensed with when the first major climb of the day saw the climb of Subberthwaite behind us. It’s summit providing us with a teasing view of our chosen route. A fast descent into Broughton in Furness where nourishment was taken before embarking on the serious business of the day. A right turn at Duddon Bridge saw everyone reaching for bottom gear as the 25% slopes of Bank end gained access to the Duddon Valley though the usual fast descent to Ulpha was tempered by a liberal sprinkling of chippings forced us to ease our way down to Ulpha Bridge. Where here relief from the chippings was short lived as the ride again ramped up on the Climb of Bobbin Mill Hill which led us onto Corney Fell. Now the Sun had broken through and a tail wind helped the riders to the distant summit of Corney Fell, though gentle in gradient the climb is long and the scenery and views make this climb well worthwhile. The full splendour of the Lake districts highest Fells to the right and coastal views down to the left must have inspired Mal as he sprinted for the summit past me. Another breathtaking descent saw us rejoin the A595 Briefly before a winding lane took us towards Eskdale and the impending and intimidating Hardknott Pass. On a personal note. This hill has always fascinated me ever since I began cycling, trying and failing on several occasions to conquer its brutal gradients. Though not possessing the natural attributes required to climb hills after a few near misses I was always hopeful that brute strength might get me over it. Steady progress up the Eskdale valley past the Railway station the pass appeared above us. On first appearance it’s difficult to imagine a road can actually be plotted up the slopes ahead. But sure enough you can soon make out the glimmer of car bodywork and the sun shining off the Tarmac. Passing the phone box and the 30% gradient warnings I draw my weapon and engage my 30×28. A cattle grid signals the beginning of hostilities and immediately I get into survival mode. The first section consists of a series of steadily steepening hairpin ramps. Ridiculously steep in fact but I manage to get a rhythm going and thankfully no downward traffic which helps you to plot your line round the steep hairpins. Mal puts a foot down in front of me, quickly followed by Phil and Nick. I target getting through this first section as there’s a bit of a plateau were you can recover. First section complete I look ahead to the really tough upper slopes and especially the left hand switchback which is the steepest 30% section. James, Trevor and Leanne make light work of this and as I approach the “crux” of the climb I can see Tony Falter at the steepest points. I Decide to commit and go deep to give it my best shot. Luck is on my side and there’s no traffic so I can take the wider route round the crucial front now is a 50 m section of Tarmac which has to be the hardest section of road in his country. I force my weight right to the front of the saddle and grimace. The road surface is very poor and it forced me over to the left of the road and almost into the verge, i make one more big effort and get the bike forward to the right hand bend and brief respite. That’s the hardest bit done and I’m still on the bike but I know I’m deep in the red now and the road kicks up again. Traffic as well now but I just keep it going to another slight plateau. I look up and see the road kick up again and I know this is the last steep bit but I know I have got very little in he tank. I try to get out of he saddle but its useless. One more effort but the inevitable happens and I succumb 20yards from my goal. Maybe next year! We all descend Hardknott cautiously and then Wrynose comes all too quickly where at the top we all took a well earned rest. The route then followed the FW route to Coniston for refuelling before an ascent of Hawkshead Hills quieter lanes signalled the end of the days climbing efforts. A fast ride to Lakeside and Newby Bridge brought the group home where some tired bodies bid each other farewell and climbed into their cars vowing to return next year. Here’s to Mal and The Mal Ride now a firm fixture on the Lune calender.

ian Brez