Tuesday, 12 January 2010


Feels like it's always been this way. The white. The snow. The ice. The crunch under your wheels. The cold, hard tug at your lungs on the first steep climb of the ride. After a while you forget what's underneath it all – rocks and mud and line choices – and just tune into how it is.

The last few days' outings have kind of blended into one, time drumming on like something from a praire blizzard in Little House on the Praire. The odd run up the A57 Snake Pass where a vague notion to 'just go and have a look' predictably turned into a wind-beaten slog to the top, just because...

Windblown on the Roych - Dave's pic, my bike...

The three-hour trek across the Roych to meet someone because she was there, a strange mix of wading through thigh-deep drifts in sunken lanes, downhills powder skiing on two wheels and strange and delicate snow formations, cornices even, topped with frosted sugar-thin petals of glinting fragile snow. Stuff I'd never seen before, even in – clang – the Andes.

I like the people you meet out in the snow. The mutual recognition of a secret pleasure shared while the rest of the world dozes in front of the box and moans about the lack of milk in Tesco.

Chatting to a gnarled, weather-beaten SARDA dog handler – his dog died last year – gone puppyish in the snow. Chatting to grinning walkers who not unreasonably can't quite believe you've dragged a bike through 'this'.

But 'this' is fun. In a strange way. Though riding it would be better. Relax.

Then there was the ride that wasn't a ride because pretty much every trail I started was blocked by feet of thigh-high snow with the unforgiving consistency of wet sand and finished with a 60-minute push along the Pennine Bridleway below Lantern Pike that degenerated into actual carriage. And then wall climbing. And finally pushing up the minor road from Rowarth.

So finally I took the hint and yesterday went walking with mates from the front door. A brilliant, grin-inducing slog across snowy moorland paths you couldn't see for snow. Comedy sinkings into hidden groughs and cloughs and snow-filled bowls with Kinder all togged up in white looking positively alpine in a hulking, glowering sort of way. The path at Kinderlow End, which is normally a rocky staircase, had been banked out into a smooth, steep snow slope and the drop into William Clough, normally a grassy slope, looked like the entry to a high mountain couloir.

Which was about when my legs and feet and brain started to remember that I'm supposed to be a mountaineer and able to move fast and sure on broken snowy terrain and occasionally even did. Which was nice. But not as nice as the open fire, hot bread roll and soup and beer in the pub at Little Hayfield. And the warmth of friends and chatter heading home under Lantern Pike or the sausage and freshly-baked bread sandwiches in my kitchen afterwards.

All of which were immeasurably better just because of the unseen presence of the snow outside.

Cafe culture, Glossop style...

And now it's thawing. Like it always does. And in a few days time it'll feel again like it's never been this way at all.

Postrscript: snow's demise much exagerated and the Woodhead Pass is strangely beautiful. Without the artics. On a mountain bike. With ice tyres. In the moonlight.

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