Paddles with an Anas acuta...... unashamedly biased toward the sea kayak of that name (actually the voyages of two boats, one 'traffic over gold', one 'quill')

Saturday 4 June 2011

The Howgills

The good thing about the Howgills is that they are nearly 100% ridable and the bad thing? -that they are nearly 100% ridable! On the way up the steep gradient, often coupled with energy sapping soft grass or gravel, is punishing; but seldom gives a sufficient excuse to stop or push.

Once on the tops it looks like plain sailing, but there are some spectacular downs and tough climbs. Today was a half day ride from Bowderdale farm, climbing Green Bell, Stockless and Randygill Top over smooth grass. From here I took the steep downhill and trackless hillside towards Kensgriff. This is too steep to ride in a straight line, but can be ridden at speed in zigzags, just watch for an extra deep peri-glacial striation or an over-size tuft of Narduus stricta. The descent from Kensgriff towards Yarlside is the same. Climbing Yarlside, which looks to be overhanging, does require carrying and pushing, initially a welcome relief; the joy of which soon palls.

Nearing the top of Great Dummacks, a mixed push and pedal. Yarlside is in the background, the trackless drop to Cautley Spout (middle distance) requires some strategic planning of the zigzags since the steep slope is uneven and rough in patches. Contouring around to the top of the waterfalls is narrow and technical with a small stepped section to practice carrying the bike. West of Bowderdale/Cautley the hills are within walking distance from Sedbergh, so some attention must be given to hikers. However, the obvious paths could be a welcome aid to navigation if the cloud was down.

An easy pedal over Little Dummacks and Bram Rig Top to join the main drag up from Sedbergh to the trig. point on The Calf.

Then the descent via Bowderdale. I've heard tell that this some of the best natural single track in England. It is true that the initial run down is a fine way to lose 276m in a couple of km; linked and fast curves with quick decision making required on lines and whether to bounce or swerve around rocks and eroded sections. However, once along the bottom , despite some nice sections like the one below,

there is too much slow speed negotiation of rocks and boggy patches. Nevertheless a good way back to the car. About 15 miles and 1108m of height gain. I would recommend the off-piste to the east of Bowderdale over the 'Howgill classic', just follow your nose.

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