It’s much easier to think of the hardest descent you’ve done, but stangely pointing the question upwards is different. Talking to a good friend of mine recently, all either of us could think of were plenty of climbs we either couldn’t do, or have nearly done. It reminded me of my years bouldering in the Peak District, where problems were impossible up to the point that you solved them, and suddenly they weren’t hard anymore.
I’ve had a good go at numerous hard climbs scattered over the country – Jacobs Ladder, Peak District; Snowdon, North Wales; Lonscale Fell, Keswick; Gwyrne Fawr, Black Mountains; Cockit Hill, Llangorse and many other unnamed trails. I cleared a few of those, but some required the tiniest of foot dabs to deny me that clean ascent.
There’s one climb, though, that for the last 5 years I’ve tried on and off. Above Talybont Forest, the final piece of track that brings you onto the Bryniau Gleision steepens beneath it’s covering of medium size loose rocks. The gradient is sustained, but the surface changes from loose rocks to fixed rocks and a maze of steps and wheel swallowing grooves obstructs what little momentum you have left from the lower section.
Saturday’s sunshine was warm on my back, and I had the feeling that I could ride all day. My tyres rolled easily over everything and my legs felt great after the 45 minute ascent through the forest. The lower section looked more loose than normal, and it was difficult to keep any kind of momentum up before you get to the steps. They looked like they aways did – an awkward maze with no obvious line. The left hand side looked marginally better, but had the most difficult entry. I fluffed the first attempt and returned to the bottom. The lower section was better second time around as I got the measure of floating over the loose material. I cleared the step that stopped me first time, only to find a wheel swallowing groove. I was annoyed – a stupid error ended what was otherwise a good attempt. Back at the bottom, I recomposed myself. It’s a maximal effort to complete this climb, even though it’s only about 70 yards long, so recovery was important. I had an audience now, too. A group of riders we’d passed earlier had caught us up and pushed their way to the top to watch.
I was getting good at the lower section, coming out of it smoothly with more speed. The first big steep cleared, and keeping away from the groove, I muscled the bike over steps two, three and four. Everything was a blur and my planned line now somewhere over to the left. I picked the front up over the final step, but I was tired now. The back didn’t follow. Bugger. I stepped off the bike, having lost my balance at critcal moment. I looked back down the maze of steps and grooves, and then at the (comparitively small) step I’d failed on. Gutted. The assembled crowd dispersed.
I’ll be back for another go soon I expect, having come so close. For now it remains the Hardest Climb I’ve Nearly Done 😉