Great Dun Fell

We’d decided to have a ride up Great Dun Fell this weekend. The last real classic climb I’d done was Bealach na Ba, earlier this year. The Guardian article on “Britain’s top 10 toughest climbs” has this to say…

This is the greatest climb in England, this is our Mont Ventoux, it has no peers, there is no comparison: Great Dun Fell is simply unique. I’d waited a long time to ride this road, initially put off by its “private” status. I was to discover that there is absolutely no objection to cyclists riding it, although few would be mad enough. Approaching from either direction you see the radar station’s “golf ball” glowing like a beacon on the top of the ridge. Turn away from the village of Knock and begin opposite a farm gate. The climb is tough right away, then gets tougher still as you bend right into what is a small taste of things to come. Get through this, the first of many brutal stretches, and things back off for a while before ramping up to the first of two gates. Through the gate, straight over a cattle grid and into more hard work, the road bending left past a stone shelter, a sure-fire signal – although you are nowhere near the top yet – that you’re heading into truly hostile country. Up and up, and then mercifully dipping, or is it just levelling? Whatever it is, it makes the stretch of climbing ahead look terrifying. Approaching 20%, you crawl through harsh, boulder-littered scenery, a massive slog to the briefest of levels where the classification of the road changes – public cars are allowed no further. Now very narrow and lined with snow poles, the climb is so well surfaced it resembles a two-metre-wide carpet. And it’s so steep, close to 25% at the point where the tall valley walls disappear and the radar slowly rises over the horizon to sit above you, tracking the remainder of your progress. Through a second gate it’s easy for a while then bending right once again it’s leg-breakingly tough to the finish at the station, where, looking around you, you might as well be on top of the world.

While this is perhaps a little melodramatic, the climb up was pretty steep and hard work. However, we had great luck with perfect weather, so excellent views to keep us motivated.

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Beautiful views back over the Eden Valley
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The view for the next hour – generally steep road disappearing ahead

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Heading into the gully
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Rocky scenery hides a couple of 20% ramps
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The final steep ramps out of the gully, toward the col between Knock Fell and Great Dun Fell
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The worst of the climbing is over, and views out east of the pennines
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The radar station comes into sight

 

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The end is in sight
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Malcolm and Adam waiting at the top

Malcolm and Adam made good time to the summit, and I met them some time later, and despite the good weather, it was cold at the top. We quickly put on some warm layers, pointed the bikes downhill and took a rest from pedaling!

Shortly after leaving the summit, we came across Alistair, still heading upwards. He was happy to head up alone, so we headed down to some sun, and waited for him to reach the top and get back to us. It was good for all the team to finish the descent together. Then a quick trip to the pub in Dufton was in order to celebrate a nice “tick.”

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