Riding all the Lake District’s Top 100 Climbs in one ride 

The Lake District is the unsung riding area of the UK. Often overlooked due to its wet reputation, catch the Lake District in the sunshine and you’ll be blessed with scenery and roads that easily rival the South of France. Throw in all 6 of Simon Warren’s Top 100 Climbs in the Lake District and you have a fantastic ride on your hands.

This is exactly what our founder did on one sunny July day.

  • 112 miles
  • 12,700 ft of climbing
  • 9 hours of riding

List of all the climbs can be seen on this handy table below. Click through on the links to see a write up of each climb by national hill climb champion Tejvan Pettinger.

80. Honister Pass L. District 239m 7% 3.7 km 25%
81. Newlands House L. District 205m 11% 1.9 km 25%
82. Whinlatter Pass L. District 231m 7% 3.3 km 15%
83. Kirkstone Pass L. District 292m  6% 5.3 km 16%
84. Hardknott Pass Eskdale 298m 13% 2.2 km 33%
85. Wrynose Pass Langdale 278m 11% 2.5 km 25%

Details above courtesy of Tejvan Pettinger and his blog at cyclinguphill.com

Planning

Having never ridden in the lakes before, the roads, lanes and areas were all new to me so decided that basing my route on an existing ride would make the most sense. After some quick research, the Fred Whitton route took my fancy and seemed to take in most of the Top 100 Climbs I was hoping to tackle.

I started to create my route on Strava, basing it on the Fred Whitton route but in reverse, as this covered off the majority of the climbs I was tackling for the day. Without making the ride 150miles +,  some of the climbs needed to be climbed one way for me to only turnaround and tackle them again from the reverse, to match the orientation of segment and tick them off the Top 100 Climbs app.

Accommodation

We opted to stay in the Ennerdale Country House Hotel, as we managed to get a Groupon here for a price that couldn’t be ignored. The price did reflect the hotel but the staff were friendly, the bike was allowed in the hotel room and we would return in the future.

The main reason for staying here is it wasn’t far from the Fred Whitton route and we wanted to stay near the coast, so see some of the western sunsets.

The Ride

The ride started from the hotel in Cleator to the west of the Lake District, but the ride can be started at any point on the route. Whatever you do, make sure you save something in the legs for Hardknott Pass – it’s a killer and one of the hardest Top 100 Climbs in the Lake District.

Once riding within the lakes, the views are amazing and aren’t too dissimilar to riding in the Alps. The roads are in good condition by U.K. standards and were very quiet, only the odd sheep and quad bike for company. 

From Cleator, I headed out to Ennerdale Water, one of the smaller western lakes. From here the roads are undulating but none of the climbs are too energy sapping, you just need to take them in your stride. I was riding with a 34-28 and I found this fine for all the climbs on the ride, although I could have done with an extra gear when climbing Hardkott Pass – it’s a killer.

Whinlatter Pass

The first Top 100 Climbs I arrived at was Whinlatter Pass, a forested climb, very similar to the Col de Madeline. I arrived at the climb from the east but the real climb has to be taken from the west. Passing the centre on my left, where I topped up my water bottles, I then descended into Braithewaith were I would turn around and start the climb. 

The climbs starts with a tough right-hand bend and then in relatively consistent until the road bends right again at a white cottage, where it kicks up for a short period. Once passed a lay-by, the steepness lessens. There is one final kick of 15% before you reach the visitors car park where the Strava segment finishes. 

Turn back around and decent Whinlatter Pass for the second time. Now you’ll know the turns and you should be able to decent most of the way without touching the brakes, a truly exhilarating experience. 

Cafes to visit:
– Siskins Cafe
– General Store

The decent finishes in Braithwaite and then it’s onto the next climb, Newlands Pass.

Newlands Pass

The next climb on the route is Newlands Pass, another climb that will be ridden in reverse first. Once descended, the official climb starts at the crossroads in Buttermea and starts with a steep 20% section, levels out in the middle and then pitches up towards the end. A beautiful climb with a 25% sting in the tail. Crest the climb and ride a few more meters to make sure you don’t miss the official segment on Strava. The decent is good fun but the road is narrow in places. 

Cafes to visit:
– Syke Farm Tea Room
– Croft House Farm Café

Next on the list is Honister Pass.

Honister Pass

Out of all the Top 100 Climbs completed on this ride, this was the most beautiful and equally one of the hardest. This climb was ridden the correct way on the route, so no turning around needed. The climb starts as you say goodbye to Buttermear Water and takes you up all the way to Honister Slate Mine, still in use today. 

The most beautiful of the Lake’s passes, Honister offers a brilliant ride from either direction. Heading west from the village of Seatoller you face multiple sections of 25% gradient, however, the road rising from the valley heading eastwards will simply take your breath away. The towering sides of Buttermere Fell form a giant amphitheatre to ride through. Leaving Gatesgarth Farm the road climbs steadily for quite some time, passing over a small stone bridge, the real work begins as the rest of the road lies uncoiled before your eyes. Once past a jumble of huge slab-sided boulders you will cross a second stone bridge and onto a long, very testing 20% stretch leading to a mini plateau over the third and final bridge and onto vicious 25% slopes. Across the rough and rugged surface, you must eke your way through the imposing dark slate gates and on over the summit.

Decending from Honister Pass wasn’t very enjoyable, being very steep, tight and twisty, meant you couldn’t get into a rhythm.

There were no cafes on the climb so I decided to have lunch in Keswick. During the ride there I got overtaken by 3 members of Honister cycle climb. After a few pleasantries, I got onto the back of the group and got towed along to Keswick. What a place to base your local cycling club.

Cafes to visit:
n/a

Kirkstone Pass

Kirkstone Pass is a funny one, out of all the Top 100 Climbs on the ride, all I remember about this climb is how terrible the road surface was. The views were nice but not to the scale of Honister Pass and the climb wasn’t too hard, so I think in the grand scheme of the whole ride, Kirkstone Pass failed into insignificance.

I do remember the decent was brilliantly fast, and it continued like this until the next stop of Ambleside.

Cafes to visit:
– The Apple Pie Cafe
– Waterhead Coffee Shop

Wrynose Pass

Wrynose Pass is a beast. This was by far the hardest climb on the ride, harder than Hardkott Pass. Physically, Hardkott is worse, but mentally, Wrynose is a killer mainly due to how you can see the crest of the climb from the bottom, and it never seems to get any closer. Anyone who has ridden Ventoux will know the feeling once they have passed Chateau Reynard.

Once completed, look back and admire the view – this is what makes the pain and suffering totally worth it. Admiring over, it’s now time to descend to the base of Hardknott Pass. The decent is tight but you have a good view of the road ahead, so car spotting is easy meaning you can get up to a decent speed.

Cafes to visit:
n/a

Hardknott Pass

From Wyrose Pass you cross over a bridge, take a right-hand corner and you’re greeted with the usual take car road sign and one warning you of 30 degree gradient. Let’s say by now my legs were looking forward to being back at the hotel.

I can see why Simon Warren picked the west face of Hardkott Pass to feature as a Top 100 Climbs. The east side is hard, and it’s beautiful, but it’s difficulty really comes from tackling this climb to the west. As I tackled this from the east first time around, I descended down the climb I would be tackling in a short while, which gave me a good opportunity to scout to sections of difficulty that I should save my legs for. The decent itself wasn’t particularly fun as the road is so steep, you’re on your brakes the whole time.

Once over the cattle grid and bridge, it was time to turn around and face Hardknott Pass. I emptied myself in a bush (marginal gains) and then turned around, selected my lowest gear, and spun off in the direction of hell.

The climb itself is very hard, with some super tight and steep hairpins, including a left hand bend around 0.3 miles into the climb. I always make it my aim to ride up a climb, never walk, no matter how slowly it means I’m going. I failed to follow this manta. Bearly able to turn the pedals, I managed to fall onto a large rock at the side of the road. I lay there for a minute, made sure no one saw and got back onto the bike. Unable to clip in, I had to walk a couple of meters to find a piece of ground that would allow me to build moment up to clip in and off I went. My legs managed to make it all the rest of the way without stopping.

The views from the top were fantastic and made the sweat, sores and tears worth it. It was the right decision leaving this climb to last.

Cafes to visit:
– Woolpack Inn
– Ravenglass & Eskdale Steam Railway Cafe

Summary

To summaries, this ride is fantastic and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to do an epic ride, whilst ticking off the Top 100 Climbs in the lake district. There’s plenty of cafes to view on the route, just ensure you carry cash with you.

My favorite climb…Honister Pass

My favorite decent…Whinlatter Pass


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Link to my ride:

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