What is the Skelp Blast?
The Skelp Blast is an off road timed challenge up over the Skelp pass and around a fabulous course at the back of Croagh Patrick. The routes terrain varies and undulates suiting virtually all OFF ROAD and gravel bikes. As for which machine is best for the course, well that’s anyone’s guess. Total distance of the Skelp Blast is 26.5k. There will be 11k of this neutralised with 15.5k timed. This is an ideal warm up for Gravel Grind West the following day….
About the Route?
The route is an old rugged bog track/road starting at the base of Croagh Patrick that goes over the Westport Ridge of the Reek. This route is also part of the Western Way and the Tochar Phadraig Walkways, making it one of those unique challenges to do. This little Gem is relatively unknown so it will be quite unique.
Starting at the Quay Westport the first 3.7k are neutral, (Use as a warm up) then its 3k of uphill (Some of it very steep) with the first 1.9k on road then it’s on to rough gravel with sections @17-22% the MTB or Fat bike defiantly has an advantage here for this section and the descent that follows. You are then back on road for 2k, all downhill, you should use this time for a breather as the next section is up and goes through the Owenwee bogs. This can be a very hard slog depending on the wind direction. The terrain is a mix of everything from gravel, tar, and bog. You then have another steep climb on rough gravel up the pilgrim path at the back of Croagh Patrick. The mountain rescue base camp will be a welcome sight as there are only 2 sections left. The first is a lovely fast 2k descent, this is usually wind assisted and then you finally you have the last pull to the finish line, this is a mix of grass track and rough mountain track but it will be well worth the effort……
Whether you want to race the route or just ride around and take in the spectacular views that surround it, one thing is for sure, nothing will beat the thrill of descending the Skelp. The final few km’s back to the Quay will be breath-taking as the Autumn sun sets on Clew-bay….
What is Gravel-Grind West?
Wild Nephin 100k
Starting out from the Quay Westport you use the Great Western Greenway to Newport. Once you leave Newport the official “timed” part of the challenge begins. You will trek through the magnificent Furnace lakes (the road is still mostly tared but more like a Dual Cabbage-Way with grass grown down the middle), then its onto the Western Way keep your eyes open to take in the unbelievable views of Lough Feeagh, Clewbay, Clare Island and Croagh Patrick in the distance….
The Western Way is where the fun really begins so once you turn off the Dual-Cabbage way you are on the Western Way trail heading towards the Bangor trail. This is a passage of gravel trail up through Shramore woods. You will pass the Bothy for the first time and along the banks of Black River, here the going gets tough, you will have a long pull up the drags on the local known Letterkeen walk route (its class).
The further into the forestry you go the more remote it gets; you will have no phone coverage and just the odd deer for company. At the 47k mark you will come of the Western Way track, here you will get a bit of rest-bite from the gravel but its short lived because after 4k you hit homeward bound and back into Shramore woods. The scenery here is unbelievable as you pass by the shores of a series of Loughs called Doo, Nabrock, Nambrock to name but three! You will eventually arrive back at the Bothy (Check point and refuelling station).
Once you come off the mountain-side it’s a fast sprint back to Newport which ends the timed part of the challenge. Stop in Newport at any of the lovely tasty cafes if you like as THERE IS NO RACING on the Greenway (11k) back to Westport so recover, enjoy and savour the experience you just had. Once you come off the Greenway at Westport it’s a downhill spin through Westport House to the Quay for a well-deserved beverage….
Gravel Grind West the Bothy 60k
If you are new to gravel or just want something a bit shorter than the Wild Nephin then why not try THE BOTHY? With most of the thrills and spills of the Wild Nephin but covered in 60k, you will get to experience the Dual Cabbage-way along the Furnace lakes then onto The Western Way (get picture) with those magnificent views of Lough Feeagh, Clue Bay, Clare Island and Croagh Patrick. This takes you to the Western Way which is challenging but allot of fun with a mix of terrain, This takes you anti-clockwise around the mountain where the mythical Jamies Wells are. Next up you have Shramore Woods and you will see the Bothy (Check point and refuelling station) here you will keep left and back onto the Nephin Drive.
From here its always direction Westport back on The Western Way again this time the climbs are on rough gravel and loose stone (line selection will be important here to avoid the clumps of rushes) with unreal scenery then back toward Newport, this ends the timed part of the challenge. Stop in Newport at any of the lovely tasty cafes if you like as THERE IS NO RACING on the Greenway (11k) back to Westport so recover, enjoy and savour the experience you just had. Once you come off the Greenway at Westport it’s a downhill spin through Westport House to the Quay for a well-deserved beverage….
With the Timing finished in Newport stop if you like You will be very glad of that drink back at the Quay….