Let me cut to the chase on this one gang – Here are the DN summary tips on how to have fun in the Eskdale MTB park:
- Ride a 29er MTB
- Take a proper map
- Don’t walk through stinging nettle
- Make sure you’re fit and healthy
Regrettably I decided it was a good idea to rock into an alien forest and MTB park without any of the above and as a result, had a decidedly weird time.
The Doctor that I saw this morning agreed with me that the best way to get over the infection I have is to load up the Nomad and hit some MTB trails (97% chance that’s what I heard as opposed to actual medical advice), so given I was in the bay it was time to finally hit Eskdale MTB Park. I had read about it a lot and it was sounding good, so time to scope it out. A word up if you’re heading this way, you need to buy a pass from a local shop or on-line and whilst doing so, may I also recommend getting a Mother F Map, which comes in handy later on.
Under perfect H Bay conditions, the Panther and I headed out to the Eskdale MTB park, him to run and me to ride… But, who can resist a little carpark burn on the beautiful Carbon Nomad:
I had a route planned out from perusing on-line literature, which based on my recent experience in Craters and Rots would be an absolute cinch to follow! But, to be on the safe side, why not take a photo of half the map that I needed to follow. There is nothing more useful than half a map:
If there is one thing that the Nomad Carbon dislikes, its long and grinding climbs on soft terrain… This Nomad also dislikes the same thing, so it was a little bit hmmmmm when the opening stanza was dominated by this:
Adding to the slow quiet grind deeper into the forest, there is nothing like adding a circus to the scene… Perhaps a sign of things to come? Either way, fuck this as a form of cycling… If you can even call it that?
It did occur to me on the 14th badly sign posted intersection that I was spending more time checking my phone and directions than actually riding… But as per usual, it was a good chance for photo ops, which the Nomad loves:
I appreciate what the HBMTBC has done with the park here… But after a long grind of really earning that turn, the downhills seemed to lack flow… Sure, it was dry to the extreme of being slippery, but things felt a bit disjointed. Of course, Rots is always a hard act to follow, so that wasn’t doing Eskdale any favours:
The first proper downhill dropped me into a valley where I faced a climb to… well… somewhere… It was at this point that my photo map ran out and I had to guess. Also, there are no big signboard maps like at Rots and Craters, so once you’re in the middle of this large forest without 3G reception, you’re full solo. Luckily for me I chose to climb up a long, draggy and cunty fire road climb that was as Anti Nomad as you can find… Perhaps that was because I was going the wrong way? When in doubt, just keep climbing. Like a rat:
Not long after this shot, I decided to spice things up by walking through some stinging nettle bushes whilst trying to find a DH trail… Yes… yay… Its definitely earned its name, and a tip – Its an urban myth that if you piss on it the sting goes away. Turns out thats jellyfish. Anyway…. After more climbing than either me or the bike cared for, we eventually topped out at a photo worthy spot… Whilst I spent more time working out A) where the fuck was I and B) how the fuck did I get back to the car:
Yip, pretty awesome up on the ridge, did I mention it was 30 degs with a balmy breeze washing over me? Doesn’t get much better conditions wise. Now… You may be thinking that after all that BUCK I must have been in for some decent BANG right?! Epic flowing descents that tested man and machine, forcing us in unison to shred pine dirt, huck gnar and punch through rock chunder?! Well… Not really. I am sure that there are really good DH trails in here somewhere, but I didn’t find them unfortunately. There were good parts of course:
And narrow parts:
But by the time I was back at the bottom I was a little bit ‘hmmmm’… Perhaps I was spoiled by Rots? Perhaps I expected too much boom boom after my expensive effort to the top? Ordinarily it would be a good chance for me to be a drama bear, eat some hate cake and sulk a bit/start a forest fire, but you know what: I was in a forest, riding my bike, in summer, in the Bay and sort of healthyish. Whilst I’m not going soft, I did appreciate those finer points, but I would recommend this as a good place for anyone training for the XC MTB Champs – bring your 29er. For those that like elevation charts, here was today:
My only other recommendation would be to con a local into riding in here with you… There are a lot of trails and a lot of climbing, so you want to cherry pick the place for sure. I sucked on the lemon as opposed to devouring a bowl of cherries, so best to avoid that. Sign postage is also a little funky at times, so do some homework and make the map your best friend. Eskdale slots into a solid 3rd place behind Rots and Craters for ‘MTB Park of the trip’ award running…