Eugh. 4.30am. Why do I keep doing this to myself?
I roll out of bed, pull on my clothes laid out from the night before, and crawl downstairs to put the coffee on. My bag is packed and my bike is waiting in the hallway - at this time of day, I need all the help I can get! Once breakfast is done, I load up the car, down my coffee and drive across town to pick up Tony. We have a short drive to get to the Lakes and at this godforsaken hour, traffic is non-existent so we make good progress getting there and meet the other fools who I've managed to sucker in on the faint promise of a mountain top experience from another world!
Our target is Grizedale Pike with sunrise due at 7.19am, and even though it's only just October, it's damn cold, so our pace is pretty rapid in an attempt to warm ourselves up. As we climb, we catch glimpses of stars above us through the clouds and our hearts quicken. The forecast is good, but until now we've been shrouded in fog so my reputation is on the line. I don't want to be the one who tells these guys that their missed beauty sleep has all been for nothing!
My fears are soon allayed though when we look to the east and see that we are comfortably above the clouds and the skies above us are crystal clear, peaks floating above a sea of fog. As we climb, we can't help but rest occasionally and take in the ever-changing view. Bursts of orange and pink flood the sky and even though we're meant to be climbing, I just have to get a shot or two of the guys descending into the pre-dawn light.
Hitting the summit about 5 minutes before sunrise, everyone whips out their cameras to get the best 'mountain bike leaning against a rock at the top of a mountain
' photo that they can, and an eerie calm descends as we pause to watch the sun make its full appearance.
Once the sun is up, we drop our saddles, engage fun mode and I go crazy with the camera - the already epic views are bathed in the most glorious golden light, making everything look insanely good. The guys are happy to entertain me and keep riding sections "just one more time
" - we haven't got far to go today and we're making the most of the conditions.
We pretty much have the trails to ourselves, and although we pass a lonesome tent on the next climb, its resident is presumably still buried deep inside a sleeping bag as we can't see anyone nearby.
We carry on like this for the next few miles, riding high above the clouds in a wall to wall sunshine, before reaching the saddle of our last descent. The fog is closer now, and we realise that very soon we'll be out of the warmth, and back to reality in more ways than one.
The world that awaits us beneath the cloud is cold, grey and damp. A stark contrast to the surreal conditions we were in not moments before. We swoop through the final valley of the ride and meet our first group of walkers just setting out as we reach the road. A quick spin back to the cars, and we're done. Things are slowly warming up down here, but it is nothing like what we've just experienced. The sun threatens to burn off the cloud for the rest of the day, but fails, and if we'd chosen to stay in bed or gone out on a low-level ride, we would never have known how good it was.
I'm tired by the time I get home, but I'm absolutely buzzing from the ride. That 4.30 alarm call is a long way away. Like a fool, I'm already planning the next one...#forjenn