Despite being based in Liverpool, which isn’t all that far from the Peak District, it’s generally easier, and quicker for us to head up the M6 to the Lake District than to brave the weekday gridlock of Manchester-bound traffic on the M62. So, as a result, we’ve hardly done much riding in the Peak at all.
Having been keen to remedy this for a while, the period between Christmas and New Year seemed like a good time to make the journey, when we figured that the majority of commuters would probably be on holiday. As hoped, the roads were clear and it was an easy one-and-a-half hour drive, but when we arrived in Edale, it seemed that everyone was there instead.
The not inconsiderably sized car park was rammed, and there were loads of walkers milling around. Unsurprisingly, we weren’t the only ones who wanted to take advantage of a beautiful, sunny day during the Christmas holidays.
After eventually finding a space big enough for the van, we set off on our ride. I’d planned a route that I’d seen referred to as ‘The Kinder Circuit’; a 23km loop that takes in Mam Tor, Kinder Scout and the infamous Jacob’s Ladder.
We started by climbing up to Hollins Cross where we made a sharp turn to begin the climb up to Mam Tor. It was a steady, but deceptively steep climb, and we received plenty of pitying smiles and words of encouragement from the walkers we passed. Instead of continuing to the summit, the bridleway skirts round the side, but you can push up to the top to enjoy the stunning views. On a quieter day, it would’ve been a good descent, but there were too many people around to enjoy it properly, and there was a bit too much stopping and starting.
At the bottom, we crossed a road, then began the climb up to Rushop Edge. After a while the gradient levelled out, but deep ruts and ice-covered puddles meant it didn’t get much easier, particularly with the distraction of paragliders launching themselves off the edge.
Other than the paragliders, there were very few other people around by this point, which would have made the next descent much more fun, had it not been for the patches of sheet ice that lurked in the shaded rocky gully. After hitting the deck pretty quickly, I decided to take it easy, which was frustrating as it was clear that it’d ordinarily be an awesome descent. As the gully opened up, exposing the trail to more sunlight, the ice became less treacherous and I was able to ride the final rocky section down to Roych Clough a bit more aggressively, and it was great fun.
The initial climb out of Roych Clough was a bit of a slog, but it eventually eased into a steadier ascent, before another fun descent around the side of Mount Famine.
Before long you begin the big climb, which ascends 300m to the top of Jacob’s Ladder. The path starts off fairly steeply, and is made of loose rock, which makes it pretty hard work, particularly at this stage in the ride. After having to resort to pushing up for a while, the gradient eased off, making it a bit easier to pedal, before increasing again for the final section of steep, natural rocky terrain, which, although more technical, was actually easier and more enjoyable to ride.
After arriving at the top, you drop down to start the main event: Jacob’s Ladder. With the sun just starting to get low in the sky, casting a beautiful orangey-pink hue over the surrounding hills, we seemed to have timed it perfectly, especially as most of the walkers appeared to have descended already. The top section was fairly steep and rocky, and what started as a neatly cobbled path, quickly became chewed up, leaving lots of loose rocks, deep ruts and big steps. To add insult to potential injury, there were also ice patches aplenty, which narrowed down line choices further still. Although the gradient levelled out further down, it was still fast, bumpy, and loads of fun. About half way down you reach a junction where the trail splits into footpath and bridleway. Turn right through a gate to follow the bridleway, which continues in much the same vein as the top half, but dog legs rather than continuing straight down. It’s a superb descent, and a great finale to an awesome ride. From the bottom it’s a pleasant cruise along the Pennine Way for a few kilometres, back to Edale.
With some big old climbs and thrilling descents, I really enjoyed this ride. Although relatively short in distance, it’s pretty tough, and I was definitely starting to feel it towards the end of the final climb, although that may have also been a down to a touch of post-Christmas lethargy. The only down side was the fact that it was that parts of it are clearly popular with walkers, so I’d definitely recommend trying to ride it when there are likely to be fewer people around. Unfortunately for us, travelling from Liverpool, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword; either busy roads and quiet trails during the week, or quiet roads and busy trails at the weekend. I’ll definitely be heading back to ride it again though, when it’s quieter, and the trails are ice free, and I’m also looking forward to exploring more of the Peak District.