The Eastern Passes
Stats: 11 miles, 3,000 feet of ascent
The contents of your ‘sac. This is important – if you aren’t equipped for this ride, you’ll starve.
These are lonely daleheads populated by frontier folk. There’s the slim chance of an ice-cream van at the Mardale road head but that’s your lot.
A good tour of the south-eastern lakes, taking in three of the main passes.
Start in Kentmere. Parking is extremely compromised. There might be room to stash a car by the church (try to avoid disrupting services) or, to save yourself some pedalling, at the end of the public road at the bottom of Stile End.
1. Take the right signposted to Longsleddale and climb steadily on a good gravel track. This climbs Lakeland’s most rideable pass – Stile End. The descent into Longsleddale is excellent, with a couple of awkward rocky steps early on followed by a glorious rattle down to the farm at Sadgill.
2. Over the packhorse bridge, turn left and follow the track up cobbled zigzags onto Gatesgarth Pass.
3. A rough descent into the drowned valley of Mardale follows.
4. Turn left at the bottom and pick up the narrow bridleway signed to Kentmere via Nan Bield Pass. Unless you are a trials expert, much of this will be in traditional Lakeland push’n’carry style but that’s OK as it’ll give you a chance to scope out the mountain scenery.
5. Cross the outflow of Small Water and ascend past the stone shelters to the notch in the skyline (where you’ll find another rudimentary shelter)
6. Drop steeply at first, and then follow the winding trail south over moorland, dropping into the gentle pastures of the Kentmere valley.