Packrafting and hike-a-bike: An MTB adventure with a twist

Bikerafting. Sounds interesting, right? That’s why I was up for giving it a go when my adventurous friend, Nikki Read, suggested a multi-sport outing combining packrafting, mountain biking, and wild camping. But as I stood on the shore of Lake Coniston, my stomach doing somersaults at the thought of being on the water, I knew that MTB is the sport for me. Getting lost on the trails of an area I haven’t set foot (nor tire) on before, with just the right amount of gear strapped onto my bike frame — enough to keep warm at night but still have fun riding some more technical trails — that’s the kind of adventure I love.

Chuck in a lake and a raft and you’ll find out I was in deeper (water) than I thought. Turns out motion sickness + a deep fear of my bike sinking into the depths of Lake Coniston didn’t make for super high stoke-levels. For me, the fun really began when we touched dry land again, re-built our bikes and headed for the hills.

Our three-part adventure in the English Lake District incorporated Lake Coniston, and some epic MTB trails surrounding the lake. Part one would have us paddling our bikes across the lake in packrafts. For part two we’d do a tough-but-worth-it hike-a-bike up to a beautiful camping spot, and in part three we’d be ripping up the MTB trails on our way back down to our starting point.

Safely back on the shore after coaxing my way through part one on the water, we met up with another adventure wonder woman, Jenny Nuttall. After loading up our bikes we set off, heading up to Goat’s Water tarn. Up the Bridleway we went and onto the footpath where the going got pretty steep: The hike-a-bike section of the Tour. It was a pretty epic, lung-busting climb up over some huge embedded rock, made especially intense with my bike fully loaded with adventure equipment.

The toughness of the climb was soon forgotten though as our spectacular camping spot came into view. Goat’s Water is a classic English tarn — a rounded mountain lake formed by ancient glaciers, surrounded by hills or mountain sides. It’s an inspirational spot to set up camp, and after taking in the view and catching my breath, I spent some time sussing out the best place to pitch my tent, trying to avoid large rocks or uneven ground.

Once I’d found it I eagerly pitched my tiny tent. I was hungry and sorting out my shelter was the only thing standing between me and my dinner. Shortly after setting up camp, it began to rain. No bother for this adventure trio: We found a massive rock to take shelter under, got our gas stoves fired up and huddled together contentedly, waiting for the cottage pie camping meal to heat up.

An hour or so later, belly full, I filled up my hot water bottle (a mini one which a friend’s mum lent to me – probably the best idea I’ve ever had) and called it a night.

During the night, we experienced rain of biblical proportions, the sound akin to a jet wash being sprayed directly at my tent, while someone repeatedly smashed a broom into the tent walls. I’m happy to say that come the morning I was alive and well and, very surprisingly, dry, in my £48 tent (I knew covering it with waterproof spray and NOT wiping away the excess was the best idea ever!)

Before emerging from my tent I planned in my head how quickly I could get out of it, pack all my kit and get the heck off the mountain without completely drowning in the rain. Plan formulated, I clambered out and went straight over to Nikki and Jenny, who were completely unfazed by the rain and in super high spirits. They had also devised a plan of action, and I was quite happy to go along with it. With the promise of dryness and a hot meal ahead of us, we set off back down the mountain.

Needless to say, the journey back down was pretty wet. The path which we had hiked up was now a river, making for a soggy experience.

But as we descended, the clouds gradually cleared until – eventually – we caught a glimpse of the sun. This ray of sunshine was the boost my spirits needed, and my riding mojo came back in force! The terrain was super technical: a mix of loose and embedded rock and some really sharp and spiky corners! I love technical riding so although I was soaked through, I had such fun trying to put my bike where it needed to be. Navigating the route with a fully-loaded bike definitely added another level to the adventure, and the little bit of sunshine combined with the beautiful views and long descents had me stoked on life again in no time.

Once we made it to the bridleway the ride down the rest of the mountain was marvelous and the views flippin’ delightful as ever. We rode down to Coniston on a wide, swooping track, a great relief for my arms after the bumpy singletrack section. We finished out the trip with a classic full English breakfast, and a vow from Yours Truly to keep embracing adventure, as long as no packrafts are involved!

Photos: Nick Kowalski
Words: Kelly Emmerson

Kelly used Premium’s sport-specific maps and multi-day planner to find those trails and plan her trip.

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