The perfect day of bikepacking?
WRITTEN BY:Luke Douglas
Outdoor Provisions co-founder
I've been asked this a few times, '...what's the best day of backpacking you've ever had?' There are some contenders. Some you knew were going to be good, some that were total spontaneous surprises and many trips that have been brilliant over multiple days but one single day stands out as being a banger from start to finish.
In 2018 we planned a first running of the Second City Divide having tinkered with and recced different parts of it for the last 18 months or so.
We mustered some mates and booked trains to Glasgow. The first few days were solid in themselves and no doubt set the scene for this one, not least the previous night. We arrived to an empty but very welcome bothy in the north Pennines way later than planned after hours in the dark and wet on a bit of the route we hadn't done before.
Everyone was hungry and tired and a bit on the edge; Manchester was a long way away and the dark was disorientating - no one really knew where they were.
When we woke in the morning it was misty but already turning out to be a stunner. Everything was still, quiet and calming.
It wasn't the best nights sleep but restorative enough and, excitingly, we'd been joined by two others in the darkness. Last night was forgotten.
Coffees and porridge was made, we packed up and headed into the clearing mist. As it did duly clear, we were treated to a mythical cloud inversion over the Eden Valley before us and HD views of the Lake District fells. The Solway and Criffel clearly in sight too.
We slipped and slid down into the valley that was waking up below. My Mum actually feature in this 'perfect' the day - she met us in Dufton with sausage butties.
Famers blocked the back roads with sheep before we rolled through a firing zone with actual tanks. Back then the route featured a different and very lovely way up to Tan Hill - since removed due to land ownership.
Dried out in the sun with crisps, still only a few hours in. We ripped down to Keld on pristine tarmac which felt great after plenty of off-road since Glasgow.
The Yorkshire section of this ride is beautiful but quite brutal and we had it all lined up as part of today. Probably too much in hindsight but we had a bed booked at Slaidburn youth hostel that night.
At the time, the route didn't feature Swaledale like it does now, that would probably have broken us. As it was, we crawled over Oxnop Scar, up Beggarmans road and onto Cam High road, the group ebbing and flowing, constantly snacking and always moving forwards.
It was getting late by the time we tacked across the top of Lancashire to hit the start of Salter Fell road and we knew we'd be finishing in the dark. Deep into energy/stamina reserves we weren't aware of.
Stopped at a tiny shop just before it closed. 'Where are you headed?'. Gasps and shouts back into the shop. Salter fell rarely fails to enchant but this remains the most stunning light I've ever ridden it in. For the second time that day we could see the sea.
Golden hour. Camaraderie at an all time high as we picked our way down in the dark fixing an awkward tubeless puncture after 12 hours of riding.
Missed final food servings at the pub but it didn't really matter. They let us order desserts instead. Ordered pizzas from a nearby town. Too tired to eat them - they became breakfast.
A huge day in good company and enough momentum to carry us to a much needed bed for the night, breaking the back of the whole ride in the process. Premium UK conditions. Lucky to share it and have the energy to photograph it.
You can see the full set of images from this ride on the Second City Divide site.