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>pass storming

  the tandem

Les and Dick - St Johns in the ValeThe picture on the left shows Les Nelson and Dick Whinnerah in 'St Johns in the Vale', a lovely alternate route to Keswick, via CastleRigg Stone Circle.

Pass storming was in vogue in the 1930's-40's, well before mountain bikes and '20-odd' gears (in fact our dynamic duo were still mainly on fixed wheel).

This involved riding your bike when you could, and carrying it when you couldn't, over some of the steepest most inhospitable places in the Lake District.

A book of the time (The Lake District by Ward, Locke & Co.) had the following advice for cyclists with regard to the Lake District Passes...

"Those who are only acquainted with Honister, the Kirkstone, Whinlatter, Buttermere Hause, Dunmail Raise and even Wrynose and Hardknott are warned that for the most part, the passes are not metalled roads, or even cart tracks, but mountain paths, some of which are exceedingly rough and in places steep, e.g. the Sty, Coledale, and, worst of all, Rossett Ghyll.
Kirkstone Pass, Honister, Buttermere Hause, Whinlatter Pass and Dunmail Raise are all rideable.  Hardknott and Wrynose Pass are negotiable, but the surface is very bad.   The descent from the Garburn Pass toward Windermere could be ridden in parts.  The others are emphatically not rideable.  Many cyclists have carried their machines over Scarf Gap and even the Sty and Esk Hause, but that game is a thing apart and known as pass-storming"

It's worth remembering that road surfaces have changed since the 1930-40's.  One of my favourite rides takes me up the Duddon Valley and over Wrynose Pass (from the Cockley Beck side).   When the ride over Wrynose was done in the 1940's, the army used the area for tank practice and the road was basically a series of foot deep ruts, gouged out by the tank tracks, and for the most part unrideable. That same book begins its account of Wrynose Pass as follows...

"We begin the ascent of Wrynose by one of the worst roads practicable for vehicles in the district..."

Kirkstone Pass Inn

Another club run - this time at the Kirkstone Pass Inn (still there and well worth a visit) via Ambleside and the aptly named 'Struggle'.

Joan is third from the right (at the front), Les taking the photo.


Below is a list of some of the passes that Joan and Les 'stormed' together.
Dunmail Raise 782 feet
Whinlatter Pass 1,043 feet
Buttermere Hause 1,096 feet
Honister Pass 1,190 feet
Wrynose Pass 1,270 feet
Hardknott Pass 1,290 feet
Scarf Gap 1,400 feet
Garburn Pass 1,450 feet
Kirkstone Pass 1,476 feet
Stake Pass 1,576 feet
Sty Head 1,600 feet
Scardale 1,750 feet
Black Sail 1,800 feet
Coledale 1,800 feet
Grisedale 1,929 feet
Gatescarth 1,950 feet
Walna Scar 1,990 feet
Greenup Edge 1,995 feet
Rossett Ghyll 2,000 feet
Nan Bield 2,100 feet
Windy Gap 2,200 feet
Sticks Pass 2,420 feet
Esk Hause 2,490 feet
Foot of Rosset Ghyll with Esk Hause in the distance.

At the foot of Rosset Ghyll, with Esk Hause in the distance
and a light dusting of snow on the ground - on the way
over to Sty Head and Wastwater.

Les reckons this was one of the hardest runs he ever did.
They rode out from Ulverston to Dungeon Ghyll (Great Langdale),
up Rosset Ghyll (with Les carrying his own bike then coming back
for Joans), up to Esk Hause, Sty Head and then on down to
They then rode back from Wastwater, over Birker Fell, down the
Duddon Valley to Broughton and home to Ulverston.

and some of the runs that included these passes...

  • Dungeon Ghyll, ROSSET GHYLL (2,000 feet), ESK HAUSE (2490 feet), STY HEAD (1600 feet), Wastwater
    (see picture above).

  • Patterdale, STICKS PASS (2420 feet), Thirlspot.

  • Kentmere, NAN BIELD (2100 feet), Hawes Water.

  • Coniston, WALNA SCAR (1990 feet), Seathwaite.

  • Kentmere, GARBURN PASS (1450 feet), Troutbeck.

  • Cockley Beck, HARDKNOTT (1290 feet), Boot, Eskdale.

  • Langdale, WRYNOSE PASS (1270 feet), Cockley Beck.

Remember with the last two (Hardknott and Wrynose) that these were dirt tracks then, not the paved roads we know today.