Saturday, 6 July 2013

Helmet Camera Disaster on the Devil's Staircase - Ass Cam saves the day

The 26th June saw me leaving North Devon early for a drive up mid Wales. The next couple of days would see me tackling 4 climbs with the first being the Devil’s Staircase. The drive to the climb itself was something else with the roads getting narrower and more remote before you reach the final run in to the base of the climb. At this point the road is single track and hugs the lower part of a rugged valley. It was a very enjoyable drive and very picturesque. The two logging trucks I met coming the other way when heading to the next climb also meant I got to fully appreciate just how narrow the road is.

The Devil’s Staircase itself is partially hidden in the trees but as you approach it you do catch a glimpse of an impossibly steep looking stretch of road. I drove up the climb in an attempt to find somewhere to park and as soon as I hit the lower slopes I was left in no doubt about the challenge ahead. This road is steep and the two tight hairpin bends, both scarred from the undersides of cars, are pretty fearsome. My underpowered little Fiat Qubo got as much of a workout as I would soon be experiencing. Once at the top I realised I’d be better off parking at the base of the climb and met a car trying to come up the climb as I was descending. I did the decent thing and stopped to let the other driver up. Once they managed to stop wheel spinning like a nutter as they attempted the mother of all hill starts they did finally inch past me but it was another hint that I was about to have a tough ride up.

After being in the car for a few hours I decided to warm up by riding back along the valley before turning and going at the hill as fast and in as high a gear as I dared. As soon as I crossed the cattle grid and on the lower section of the climb I very quickly started losing any speed that I had and after a brief and futile effort to maintain momentum by climbing out of the saddle I was soon sat down and winching myself up in bottom gear.


Once past the two steep hairpin bends the gradient relents a little but not enough to make the climb easy and it was a slow speed crawl all the way to the top. I thankfully only met one car coming down the hill whilst I was inching up it and it was on the upper section of the slope so I didn’t have to stop to let them past. The climb is relatively short and I managed to get up it in fairly decent shape. In fact I was pleased with myself for keeping going, albeit slowly, on the toughest sections. Feeling pleased with myself lasted right up to the moment when I tried to turn off my helmet camera. Put simply it wouldn’t turn off. It had lit up all of its little lights and beeped as it should when I started it recording at the base of the hill but something had clearly gone wrong. The only way I could shut the damn thing off was to rip the battery out and hope for the best. Unfortunately I was to discover in my hotel room later that day when I was able to get my laptop out and check the memory card that nothing had been recorded. The only footage I was able to save was that from Ass Cam. This is the sole reason why the accompanying video for this ride is made up of backwards facing shots. On the plus side you don’t have a soundtrack made up of me wheezing my way up the climb.

I managed to get a grainy stills shot out of my helmet camera. The valley below can just be seen in the distance.
Inexplicably the helmet camera then proceeded to work flawlessly for the rest of the trip but with six more rides coming up in the next couple of weeks I’m going to need to check it is functioning properly with more care. After cautiously descending back to my car it was on to the next climb of the day at Black Mountain. I have far better footage of that ride…

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