A quick wring out of the socks and we were off. A few faster road sections and a steady climb in height as we pointed further north added a change in temperature as did the layers of snow we were now encountering. Some good open trails above Haydon Bridge and Haltwistle brought us to higher fells on the edge of Alston. Here the trail showed heavy signs of use by all means of transport and was deeply rutted, filled with deep snow and freezing water. A good spot for a photo shoot before dropping down to Alston for a quick refuel.
We were both freezing, especially with our wet boots so it was straight into Alston House hotel and in front of the fire for hot food. Thankfully we were the only ones there and they didn’t mind the wet muddy riders drying their socks in the dining room! We even managed to melt Greg’s Forma Boots.
With full bellies we set off again to what was described as Greg’s favourite lane, Tynehead. This in turn would lead to the highest trail in England Coldberry End. It was explained that if I was to fall whilst riding the trail, fall left (travelling up hill) as falling right would have slightly more serious conclusion as the trail hugs the side of a steep bank. Riding towards the lane via Nenthead the evidence of snow increased and the narrow single lane road was so hard packed with snow and ice that I slipped and slid until the inevitable happened. Thankfully I wasn't hurt and my bike survived, I wondered if my riding companion had fallen but there were no admissions.
Negotiating the road and riding through the village of Garrigill the road gradually became narrower and began to break up until it was an obvious track. Passing remote farm land we arrived at Tynehead via an access gate, right next to an unoccupied holiday cottage which would prove too remote for most. Another quick guide to negotiating the trail was given, fall left, there are two ruts, take the left one it's quite rocky and remember fall left!
I rode through the gate and straight away fell off. Picking the bike up it was hard to choose a line, the snow was maybe a little deeper than expected. Off again I chose to sit and paddle as the snow covered hillside wasn't giving any clues to the whereabouts of the best line, the drop to the right was a clue though. As there weren't any helpful tyre tracks to follow it quickly became apparent the little Honda was having a hard time of it, or was it me?
A quick recovery from an off balance fall and it was decided that Greg on his Ktm 450 would plough a trail to aid me getting through the snow, the more powerful Enduro specific bike and a bit of talent dug out a track for me to follow. Pounding fifty something year old legs and a spinning clutch were taking its toll, I fell for the second or third time… “Give it plenty of throttle, in a higher gear, let the clutch out and don't stop.” All good advice, “I am!”I said but the wheel wasn't for turning!