Hardknott Pass

Length

Eskdale side – 1.4 miles.

Cockley Beck side – 1.09 miles.

Max Gradient

Eskdale side – 30%.

Cockley Beck side – maybe a little less.

Where do you find it?

You may not want to find it! If you do though don’t blame me. To tackle it from the hardest way make your way to Eskdale on the West coast, then follow the signs for Boot. There are also plenty of signs warning you of the climb and your impending doom! The roads to get there are narrow with passing places and can be quite busy during the spring and summer but on the whole are comparable to minor roads on the moors. You can get to Cockley Beck after taking on Wrynose first then following the valley road through Wrynose bottom, or by taking the scenic route through the Duddon Valley.

Description

Rock Hard! The king of the Lake District climbs, deserving of its reputation, aesthetically it fits the bill too, tucked away in the western side of the Lake District, the most remote of the big passes. Tackling it from Cockley Beck is hard as well, though thankfully not as bad as it looks.

Overview

Eskdale side – Where to start? Well after crossing the cattlegrid is probably the place! From here you are straight onto a proper 25% slope that will take you near to the limit, don’t think about saving your lowest gear for later get in it now because you will be going so slow you won’t want to risk a change. The surface isn’t great either, just stick in there as the road twists and turns is about the only decent advice I can offer, not that that’s going to help much. I’d say that this first section is nearly as hard as Chimney Bank, though shorter. Once over this the slope eases and the road widens, leave it in an easy gear and get as much life into the legs as you can because the next section is the killer, it’s as hard as anything I’ve ever done on a bike. The first really steep bit is a ramp that swings to the left. You can see this side on as you approach, just try not to think about it and keep the pedals somehow turning. If it’s wet stay in the saddle, otherwise your rear wheel will slip and you will be off, never to get back on again. This is the steepest section of the climb and is followed by another equally steep section to the right, it’s as much as you can do to keep moving. Eventually you get to flatter ground, probably around 10-12% then providing you aren’t in a state of collapse you know you’ve done it. Be careful on the descent down the other side, it’s just as steep, the surface is not good and it twists and turns quite tightly.

Cockley Beck side – the first half mile is a fairly easy slope of around 8%, use this time to gather yourself, no heroics here, best to conserve your energy. The first serious challenge is a vicious ramp of around 25%, maybe more, swing out to the right if you can to minimise the gradient. The climb is best described as lots of little steep sections, followed by mini breaks and the secret to conquering this climb, I think, is to keep it in a low gear, don’t attack it and so take advantage of the little breaks, which are mainly on the many corners. Once on the steep section of the climb you can’t see the top (probably an advantage!) and if you keep your discipline it will probably come to you easier than you think.

Ratings

10.5 (Eskdale side) – Difficult to compare to other climbs, true it’s not that long, but if you’re measuring this as a climb where you thought you might have to get off it’s harder than anything I’ve done – Great Dun Fell, Galibier, Glandon. The pain is a different type though and comparing climbs of such contrasts is almost pointless. Even Dave gave this 10, and he never gives 10’s!

8/9 (Cockley Beck side) – As you approach it from Wrynose Bottom it looks terrifying but thankfully it’s not as bad as it looks. It looks really steep even when you’re on it but the effort required to get up just doesn’t seem to match what you’re seeing, a bit like Caper hill reversed for those who have had the dubious pleasure of riding it.

Photos

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