Off-road maestro Libby Dykes opens beginners’ trail at Carlton Towers

Libby Dykes on the Carlton Towers estate near Selby.
Libby Dykes on the Carlton Towers estate near Selby.
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Climbing in through car windows in the middle of nowhere, digging out 4x4s with her bare hands during winter and changing wheels in mud and snow are the less glamorous side of an off-road instructor and trekker.

Libby Dykes, 27, of South Duffield near Selby, has handled all those incidents and more as part of the Ardent Offroad and Ardent Events team that has seen her leading expeditions across Morocco and the Balkans as well as the North York Moors, Lake District and Wales.

Libby and her dad Russ using a winch on one of the 4x4s.

Libby and her dad Russ using a winch on one of the 4x4s.

She knows only too well the look she gets from a number of those attending courses or tours when they see her the first time.

“You’re a girl is what they’re thinking and sometimes what they say. I’ve had it from the motoring editor of one of the national newspapers, but when they see me drive they begin to understand. Once they’ve seen me go up a mountain over boulders, rock climbing and fording stony streams and they know they have to do it next they hang on my every word.

“Lady drivers and complete Land Rover and 4x4 novices are my favourites to teach because they listen to everything you say right from the start. Ladies won’t generally also move an inch without you telling them to. Some blokes tend to think they know straight away and then go and mess it up because they haven’t listened.

“Driving on rock, which I prefer over mud, is more technically demanding and is all about taking the right angles, the right line and using the correct amount of momentum while operating good clutch control. When you’re on a steep gradient with just rocks and stones and you have those attributes plus you’re calm, you’ll do ok.

Libby regularly hosts off-road training for drivers of all abilities.

Libby regularly hosts off-road training for drivers of all abilities.

“My job is to get everyone to the top with no damage to their vehicles and that’s achieved by listening, concentration and keeping cool under whatever pressure you feel. I now run ladies’ days that means the ladies who come feel less intimidated than when they are with their partners otherwise when together it can easily lead to a domestic. We’ve had many instances where wives or partners drive better than their husbands.”

Libby’s off-road career already stretches back 26 of her 27 years. Her father Russell Dykes has been around Land Rovers and 4x4s all his life, has run his own garages and started Ardent Off Road and Ardent Events eight years ago with business colleagues.

“Libby was behind the wheel of a Series 1 Land Rover in a stubble field behind our house when she was one-year-old. She’s always loved Land Rovers and she’s a natural driver. Being so, makes a lot of things easier such as placing a vehicle when off road, choosing the correct gear, clutch control and momentum. She’s currently the only girl in the UK who takes 4x4 owners and drivers on guided tours.

“She will drive up the fiercest and most challenging climbs without wheel spin.

“When we hosted the nation’s top motoring journalists it was Libby who took them up on to Rudland Rigg, one of the biggest off road challenges in the UK.

“We’d put a sign at the bottom calling it Yorkshire’s Rubicon Trail. The journalists were blown away by Libby’s driving.”

Carlton Towers is home to Ardent’s new off-road experience that gives off road first timers initial training in 4x4 handling. Libby is regularly there hosting training for everyone from individuals and parties to institutions and businesses including drainage boards and mountain rescue teams.

“We also hosted the Pick Up of the Year awards there last year and drove the latest models of everything from Mitsubishi, Toyota, Nissan, Ford and others around the course.

“There’s one photograph that was taken of me digging a car out so that I could get a towrope on it. It was in the middle of December and it was freezing. The men stayed in the vehicle.”

While the lady drivers receive a good call from Libby not everything always goes swimmingly with all of them.

“We had a guy in an Isuzu pick-up and his girlfriend was driving when we were in the Lakes. Unfortunately, she got the vehicle wedged in a gateway and to be fair it was a tight fit. Neither of them knew what to do so I climbed in through the window and drove it out.”

Off road driving in Libby and Russ’s case when leading others isn’t all about driving. “We spend a lot of time helping everybody, walking alongside the drivers who are attempting to negotiate the rocks.

“We can sometimes walk up and down the same hill five times before everyone is through. That’s where my other passion comes in.

“I’m currently studying for my qualification as a personal trainer. I take part in the Tough Guy Event in Wolverhampton that was the forerunner to the Tough Mudders.”