A rite of passes

A mountain pass, is to some riders, what the Munro is to many walkers: a place to which the eye and eventually the wheels are inexorably drawn. Or carried. It is the sort of riding that involves a lot of that.
Fleetwith Pike and the descent to Warnscale Bottom - the most demanding of The Four Passes 
But the rewards are rich. It is not just the fast and technical descents that such labour gives access to, but the unique experience simply of riding in such an environment.
That's your house that is.
And the heckling. Taking the bike for a walk - Seen it all now - Why don't you just walk? And simply - Err, why? The reactions from passers by, on just one of the carries that characterise this classic Lakes loop: The Four Passes.
Half way: The start of Black Sail
But then rather like climbing, if you find yourself carrying up Black Sail pass, 'why' is a question that has been answered long ago. Long enough that the answer has most likely been forgotten. Long enough that the question is once again unanswerable.
Going down
How can I distill the myriad of reasons why, into one breathless response, one witty retort that restores apparent sanity to seemingly pointless endeavour? Because it's there, said Mallory, a sentiment echoed across the centuries by all who struggle to define why they do what they do. It was fun, said Simpson. Following with the admission that every so often it all went horribly wrong. And then it wasn't. Very true.
Mallory also said: ...if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go...What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy...That is what life means and what life is for.
A little deep by way of response to the umpteenth walker's: 'you're mad'. But Mallory was a climber who knew a thing or too. And I like it.
One more climb: Styhead
And so with that little question settled, I keep on plodding. Up. Up a bit more. A bit further. Steep bit. Balance up. That's a scramble isn't it? Bit more. And then the col, the pass, the sweeping descent.
The last drop
But first a drink. A rest. Time to ponder where we are, but not why. For the Lakes rider, this route is perhaps a rite of passage. Yet as Stainforth said of The Cuillin, a more significant rite of passage for all UK climbers and Munro baggers: ...a disappointingly high number of those who succeed say 'Never again!'...The ideal, surely, is to do it so well that one would only be too glad to repeat it - perhaps many times.
I suspect I did not ride my route so well but I would be glad to repeat it. At least a few times. Perhaps in cooler conditions. Well why not?
We who have been have gone again, and advise you to go. You will not be disappointed.
Charles Pilkington.

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