Borrowdale Bash Ladies Ride
By Jen Nuttall
There is something magical about spending the day doing something you love with a group of like minded girls. Whatever that thing might be, climbing, swimming, hiking, skiing or on this day, mountain biking. Reliving memories from days like this one keep me going on dark rainy days in the office or just in those times in life when you need them the most.
This ride was the epic Borrowdale Bash, approximately 18m mile loop around Derwent Water. We started in Keswick, travelled south to Watendlath, through the beautiful Borrowdale valley before heading back along Derwent Water. I had organised the ride via the MTB Chix&trails fb group and on the Hopetech Women website. The ride was also sponsored by Flare Clothing Company who kindly sent lovely pretty prizes. On the day we were seven ladies strong, some of us had met before, others had met on social media, some came on their own without knowing anyone, but by the end of the ride we were all friends.
We started the ride from the edge of Portinscale on the River Derwent just north of Keswick. It was good to get the section of the route through Keswick out of the way, also to warm up on the 3 mile road ride before the steep climb towards Watendlath. Turning off the main road was a bit of a killer climb, but we were rewarded with the famous Ashness bridge about half way up followed quickly by the surprise view point looking down on Derwent Water. We stopped here for our first faffing / group shot and were suitably bossed around by a lady trying to shoot our picture in the best light, where we all dutifully moved an inch to the right, then backwards and left then right. It still came out a bit dark!
After another sharp climb the road turned into a gentle ride up the Watendlath valley. Although we were still on the road, it felt really remote and peaceful and was a great opportunity to ride alongside each other to catch up with friends and get to know new ones.
The route turned right at the small hamlet of Watendlath, across the river and up the steep bridleway. Only one of us managed to ride over the first step up, it’s an obligatory challenge for everyone who goes! From the step up there was a steep push up for about 5-10 minutes but the views at the top rewarded our efforts.
This was where the real fun began, with the start of an awesome single track descent. It started with half a mile of swooping open hillside to the first gate, followed by a mile of possibly one of the best technical descents in the Lakes. About half way down there was one super technical section of rock slab. We spent quite a bit of time helping each other to find our best line through it and encouraging each other to take that step to our personal next level. Whatever our individual level, we all had time, encouragement and respect for each other’s goals and helped each other achieve them, despite most us having just met. Some of us rode it, some of us didn’t. It didn’t matter. It was one of my favourite sections and memory of the ride.
From here the decent continued down to the Borrowdale valley floor, a rocky singletrack, steep in places and soo much fun, as you can see from our faces!
I then made every effort to keep the happy memories of the descent in the forefront of my mind, as the next killer climb took us half way up Honister Pass. I tried to get in the zone and forget how steep it was and instead tried to focus on being happy that I was climbing up such a steep elevation on a road not a grassy bridleway, there is a positive to be found anywhere right?! Once we reached the cattle grid we had made it, well almost, to the bridleway on the right that started the descent and journey back towards Derwent Water and Keswick.
Those descents were so much fun, wide open trails that turned into singletrack with beautiful views. The track turned into a fabulous natural rocky valley underneath Castle Crag providing an awesome rocky technical descent and despite 3 punctures in this section of the ride, we were left with big happy smiles.
A mile and a half later, having winded along bridleways and the road through Grange, the trail called for the final big ascent up to a singletrack with a stunning view overlooking Derwent water.
After our final snack, loo and faffing stop we chatted and laughed our way along the singletrack under Catbells. This trail lasted about a mile and a half and again, was so much fun. It was almost like a blue grade trail centre, with a section of natural small rolling jumps just before we popped out at the road. From here it was a gentle two mile road ride back to Portinscale and the cars.
For any ladies reading this and wanting to get into MTB, I can’t recommend enough finding a ladies ride and going for it. I’ve met some wonderful women through mountain biking and have made some amazing friends. Don’t let skills or confidence hold you back from joining a ride, even if you don’t know anyone. It has the potential to boost your confidence, skills, and hopefully you’ll meet more MTB buddies for future rides. I could be the ride that changes your MTB life. Rides are being promoted and advertised all over social media and hopefully there will be one accessible to you.