Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More Cycling Progress - Honister and Newlands

top of first (and hardest) bit of Honister Pass
I'm lucky enough to have some really amazing cycling routes close to where I live.  The Fred Whitton route probably comes within about 10 miles of my house.  

I've been wanting to do Honister Pass for a while.  I tried it when I first got my bike but didn't have a good strategy, putting a bit too much pride into pedalling past a group of kids who were out orienteering and wearing myself out before the end of the first part.  This time around, I had a few things in my favour: I was fresh from some recent victories up Whinlatter Pass and Newlands Pass (other way) and I had worked out the, almost karmic, strategy of spinning up a hill, monitoring my exertion levels, making sure to never fully burn out.

We parked at the Bowder Stone Car Park.  We got there for about 9.30 but the place was already busy with climbers who I imagine shared our level of interest in the jubilee festivities.  Still, nice to get an extra day off.  This was a great starting point as it meant we had a few miles to Honister Pass to warm our legs up but not too much so we got there pretty fresh.

Honister Pass is immediately steep.  I would say that the hardest part is right at the start and it climbs along the side of Hause Gill from Seatoller to the cattle grid at the top where the road levels out.

cattle grid marking top of first hard section

From the cattle grid (where we had a rest) the road undulates mildly until another climb to the Honister Slate Mine and Youth Hostel.  This is no where near as tough as the first part and is actually quite a pleasant spin up to the top.

A sign by the Youth Hostel warns of the 25% slope coming up.  The hill down into the valley and on to Buttermere is fairly technical to begin with, there are a few corners, particularly over the bridges, where you need to be really careful and not get carried away.  You also need to be careful of cars coming the other way.  It's a beautiful part of the Lake District but there was no way I was stopping for pictures, well at least not until I got to Buttermere Lake.

Haystacks over Buttermere

Newlands Pass
We didn't have that long to admire the view before we had to make a vital decision.  Once you are in Buttermere on a bike, there's not an easy way out (unless you phone your wife, which is what I did the last time I tried to go over Honister Pass).  The main options were a longer but less hilly route over Whinlatter back to Keswick or a more direct but hilly route over Newlands Pass.

Well, we don't get a sense of achievement out of doing things because they are easy so Newlands it was.

Now Newlands Pass starts off immediately very hard.  Cycling up past the church where people park is probably the steepest part apart from right at the top.  This doesn't last long and then it gets a bit easier and then it levels out and even goes downhill for a short period.  You can see a big stretch of the road ahead and, to be honest, it doesn't look too bad.  Into spinning mode and chugging away, it gets a bit steeper right at the top but only for a very short while.  Before too long:

top of Newlands Pass

Going down from Honister Pass, the road is bendy and technical.  Newlands Pass is not like this, you can really cruise down.  My top speed at this point was 41.8mph.

the way down

From this point, we went through Newlands, around the base of Cat Bells and on through Grange before a short section back along the Borrowdale Road to the car park.  Altogether 18 miles but two major Lake District Passes conquered.  Stoked.

self portrait

route - 18 miles

this is distance in miles.  You can clearly see the peaks of Honister and Newlands Passes

...and this graph shows the time taken.  Any flat bits are where we had a rest.  It should be no surprise that this was at the top of the climbs then!

Back at the car park, bikes were thrown into the back of the car and we were off to the Lakeland Pedlar to refuel with a curry.


  1. Good blog post.

    Newlands Pass is my favourite climb at the moment, I've just got back from doing it about an hour ago. Did Winlatter from Braithwaite round to Buttermere then Newlands. I reckon I must have done it about a dozen times in the last month, I do it for the training but in reality I just love going up that hill.

    Honister is just a killer from either side, I have to really want to do that to give it ago.

    1. Thanks mate. Honister the other way is on the list, then it will be onto Wrynose and Hardknott. Serious stuff?