It’s an iconic photo that anyone who has ridden this trail will instantly go ‘Whinlatter!’ when they see it. The pinnacle of the Altura Trail’s South Loop in Whinlatter Forest is a pretty special spot.
The Altura trail has got what the brilliant, but different North Face trail at Grisedale Forest hasn’t. Even on a foggy day, the South Loop climb is rewarding when you arrive at the top of an icy, rocky ascent to breathtaking views across the neighbouring mountains. Even better is the prospect of the smooth, flowy, and surprisingly bermy descent back to the trail centre. It’s a descent echoed in the North Loop on the opposite side of the valley. The fun table top and steep switchback section of the descent makes the lung busting fireroad and precariously positioned trail climb all worth it.
Having started out riding DH on heavy full sus rigs, travelling to chair-lift assisted bike parks such as Whistler and Morzine, settling in to a life of riding in the UK wasn’t easy at first. It’s a shock to the system when you begin to realise that if you want to get anywhere without an expensive uplift or a hefty push up the mountain, the big rig is going to have to go. A new word enters your vocabulary, and a new bike is built. Welcome to the land of ‘trails’.
At first, I wasn’t interested in actually having to pedal to reap the awards of a flowing descent. What’s more, ‘flow’ doesn’t always come naturally to UK terrain. This is best represented in the North Face trail, where although purpose built for mountain bikes, with a considerable amount of man made features such as ladder sections and large paved bolder lines, it’s no A-Line, nor is it trying to be. The trail makes the most out of the natural rock and root features of the hill; ideal if you’re a seasoned technical climber and enjoy a good obstacle on your way up. For spoiled brat buttery smooth bike park trail riders such as myself though, similar terrain on the way back down doesn’t quite cut it.
This is exactly why the descents at Whinlatter put a huge grin back on my face. Rather than a trail which highlights and makes incredible use of natural terrain and course like at Grisedale, the Altura trail is bolder, carving it’s own path out of the mountain, and producing smoother, wider, more intentional feeling lines. It’s not the sort of descent that typically springs to mind when I think about heading out to ride ‘trails’, and a fantastic reward for making it up the hill.