In 1993 my friend Rab and I decided to take a road trip around UK, taking in the Lake District as a central part of our tour. I told Rab about Hardknott Pass and what a challenging drive it was and being a driving enthusiast he was keen to try it.
As we drove up the small lane that goes along Eskdale I warned Rab again of the dreadful driving conditions of Hardknott Pass but he seemed to relish the challenge and we both got excited at heading up this spectacular pass.
Reaching the bottom of the pass we checked for traffic coming down and there was none, so Rab put his foot down to get some speed up the ridiculously steep hill so that we had some momentum to get us over the stretches where traction was going to be an issue.
The first few corners were fun, with Rab wrestling the steering wheel as we flew around them, both of us cheering as we rounded each one; sheep staring at us as we raced along, threatening to rip off their wool with our speed, whilst narrowly missing rocks protruding into the narrow road. The drop into a stream bed on our right didn't bother us at this point and a bit of wheel spin on one corner with a loose surface was a little alarming but added to the adventure.
However, suddenly the car was not behaving as it should and was REALLY struggling for traction on the hairpin bends which were on 1 in 3 gradients and had loose gravel on them, so much so that Rab had to reverse back a little and have a second go at one. Hurrah! We got past that one.
The next corner was different story though.
We ended up with the same problem, wheelspin, but this time with the added amusement of sideways sliding - towards a steep drop into a gulley! Thankfully Rab stopped and we were stuck there. A little reversing and a second try resulted in the same mess; this was not fun any more! Our previous grinning and whooping faces had now turned into worried looks and a catalogue of swearing.
Not only were we struggling for any grip but the clutch on our dreadfully abused hire vehicle was slipping and burning. I urged Rab to go back to somewhere a little flatter and less loose but steam coming out of the engine made us realize that we were not going anywhere else, certainly not uphill. We found ourselves obliged to park the car as best as possible and expose ourselves to the amusement of other drivers managing to negotiate the road successfully.