Distance: 903 metres, Ascent: 128 metres, route map
You’re in your lowest gear, you’re standing on your pedals and you’re zig-zagging across the road trying to minimise the gradient. The sweat is streaming down your face and that rather unflattering vein in your forehead is pulsating alarmingly but you’re still going so slowly that you’re in danger of toppling over sideways. You must be on Trooper Lane.
The road is ridiculous. It’s narrow and it’s cobbled and it’s about as tough a hillclimb as you can find. It also has its toughest sections right near the top – just where you least need them. If you can climb this one you can climb any of them.
The route of this ride starts where Swan Bank Lane leaves Water Lane so you will already be nicely warmed up on some cobbles by the time you reach the turning right for Trooper Lane itself.
The first part of Trooper Lane though is tarmac and it isn’t at its steepest so my advice is to take it comparatively easy at this point because you’ll need every ounce of energy nearer the top. That may be wishful thinking though.
Once onto the tarmac you leave the industrial zone behind and after a sharp left turn you’ll find yourself amongst some attractive stone terraced housing. Ignore a couple of right turns and continue to the next corner which is a hairpin right. Upwards, ever upwards, squeezing your way between the parked cars the road suddenly narrows which did make you wonder if you’re still going the right way. Yes it is, so don’t back off.
The one place where you could go wrong is the next corner. Trooper Lane hairpins to the left and it would be tempting to go straight on, onto the cobbles of High Grove Lane. Fortunately you’ll be going so slowly at this point that you’ll have time to read the road signs and stick with Trooper Lane. After that sharp turn there’s a slightly gentler right hand bend by a row of cottages and then, joy of joys, the cobbles.
On my ascent I reached this stage and got it into my head that I must be near the top. I wasn’t. Sure, in terms of fractions of a kilometre there isn’t much left to do but in terms of not grinding to a halt there’s still a battle to be fought. Just ask yourself “What would Jens Voigt do?” and cajole your weary legs to keep pedalling.
If it’s any comfort I was all over the road by this point and I was extremely grateful that the car which came the other way had the sheer humanity to get out of my way. Thank-you.
When you see the newer houses ahead you’ll know that the end is nigh. Soon the cobbles end, the tarmac starts and you’ll be at the top. Congratulations. Once you have your breath back you should turn to admire the striking view across Halifax and beyond.
The annual Bluebell Trail is a race of about 10 miles for trail runners that starts and finishes at nearby West Vale Rugby club. One of the three main features of this race is the ascent of Trooper Lane. If you can keep running all the way up then you’re doing well. However, so steep is Trooper Lane that only the toughest manage to do so. The rest mix walking with that special kind of painfully slow jogging that is only fractionally quicker than walking. Commemorative T-shirts at the end of the race say “I trooped the Trooper”. Not quite sure what it means but it sounds impressive.
If you were wondering about the other two features of the Bluebell Trail then you’ll be interested to know that the race finishes with a wade across the River Calder. The year I did it, there hadn’t been any proper rain for months and so the river water was barely knee deep. I imagine that in full spate the wade across could be quite exciting. The third feature of the Bluebell Trail is bluebells of course.