I got back from TCRno5 a little bit heartbroken, quite disappointed and acutely aware of what I want to get out of my spare time. I could go on and on about the reasons I didn’t finish The Transcontinental Bike Race but the best way to reconcile these kinds of things is to launch straight into something else. So naturally, I went to the Peak District for a birthday campout on my own.
I loaded up my backpack with a tent, sleeping bag, bivvy bag, snacks, water and a beer and caught the train to Edale on Saturday evening when I knew the clouds were clearing and a meteor shower was on its way. It was birthday eve and I hadn’t got any plans so set about making my own, on my own. A quick search of wild camping spots in the Peak District lead me to Peak Routes, a blog with all sorts of useful information about my favourite national park. He’d taken his daughter up Grindslow Knoll and having done the Grindsbrook walk before, I knew vaguely where to go. To ensure I didn’t get lost, I downloaded the OS Maps app and signed up for a free premium trial (thank you British Cycling membership). This meant I could search for routes from other users and plot my escape all from the touch of a couple of iPhone buttons.
Since TCRno5, I’ve realised the need to expand my adventure portfolio. When cycling becomes a chore or not as exciting as I’m used to, I need an avenue (or muddy path) to take my mind off it. I’d done a walk with Lorna and Andy up Grindsbrook just a couple of months ago so for my birthday, I asked my olds for a pair of walking boots: I settled on Scarpa Ranger GTX boots from Outside in Hathersage. Giddily, I also bought myself some walking pants and a fleecy long sleeve top to complete my outfit and of course I wore it all to go hiking in!
The thing about doing more than one hobby is you get to expand your horizons, challenge your comfort zone and see sights you wouldn’t ordinarily. Since I ride my bike in the Peaks a lot, I’ve wanted to go beyond the roads and see what’s at the top of the hills or behind those stones. Now’s my chance and I’m really excited.
Once I’d clambered up Grindsbrook, bumping into a few somewhat disorientated walkers along the way, I reached the Knoll. The blue sky was dappled with cotton wool clouds but the biggest shock was the wind. Having come from a calm walk up, it was roaring at the top. There were a few others at the top soaking in the view which was comforting – I wondered whether they had the same idea as I did.
I pitched my tent right at the top, much to the horror of many of my followers who instantly demanded I seek shelter. Pfft, live a little! To be fair, the tent was flapping rather a lot and part of me wondered whether it would double up as a parachute overnight. More pressing matters awaited as I settled in for a beer and waited for sunset.
Just as it was getting dark, I heard a knock on my tent with an offer of a cup of tea. Not one to turn down a brew, I joined Hannah and Tim who’d come up from Leeds. We chatted for about an hour about what each of us did in our spare time and whatnot before I retired to my tent for the night (it was bloody freezing at this point!).
I mentioned earlier the meteor shower but I don’t have any pictures of the night sky because I slept straight through it further reinforcing the notion that I can actually sleep anywhere. A few notifications came through on my phone around midnight from well-wishers but I didn’t stir again until around 6am when I was desperate to see the view again.
Somewhat disappointingly, there wasn’t much for the eye to behold. Clouds had come in overnight, so all I could do was wait for the sun to burn them off and reveal the valley below. I tucked into my overnight oats and found a secluded spot in front of a rock.
Not content with one breakfast, I treated myself to Pollen bakery banana and peanut birthday cake while the fog burned off. It’s my prerogative on my birthday, right? At this point, Edale revealed itself and the valley below came to life. To think I’d climbed up from down there just 12 hours prior and had turned a year older in the process was pretty cool and I was stoked to have done it all on my own.
I made my way down for a third breakfast at Coopers Cafe, opting for the less rocky descent with a view to Edale most of the time. The world had obviously woken as a couple of walkers passed me with and without their dogs and as I merged onto the Pennine Way a whole flurry of eager adventurers set off on their ascent of whichever hill they’d chosen for the day.
The heather on the hills at the moment is stunning and has me singing D-12 as I meander around the Peaks. While I’ll often see it from the roadside while I’m on two wheels, there’s nothing quite like getting knee deep in it and foraging your way through the fern to reach higher territories.
My 26th year was quite a big one as far as adventures go. I’d done a hell of a lot on the bike: I did my first audax and subsequently got my super randonneur award, I rode to Copenhagen, I bivvied for the first time ever, I entered and DNF’d Transcontinental and now I’d camped solo on top of a hill in the Peaks without anything bad happening. I feel like I’ve got a bit of a new lease on my spare time. No longer does it have to be all about cycling (though I imagine a large chunk of it still will be) but I can now go off and do all sorts. I’m going to invest in some camping kit (get my own tent, stove, sleeping bag etc) then I’ll set up my CX bike with proper gears so I can pack it all in there and do all of this kind of thing with a bike. I cannot wait!
As the saying goes, “if not now, when?”