Friday, February 3, 2012

The Fairfield Horseshoe in Winter

Date : 3rd February 2012  
Start/Finish : Ambleside
Wainwrights : Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag, Hart Crag,  
  Fairfield, Great Rigg, Heron Pike, Nab Scar   
Distance : 11 Miles 
Height Gained : 3523 feet

The route : anticlockwise from Ambleside

 Horseshoe routes are always an attractive proposition. You walk along a ridge to a summit at the head of a valley and then return via the ridge on the opposite side. They are usually easy to navigate and are a good way of stringing a few fell tops together while spending most of the walk high up and enjoying the views. The Fairfield horseshoe perfectly defines all the characteristics of a great horseshoe route. Fairfield itself is the highest summit of the walk and stands majestically at the head of the Rydal valley around which which the walk circumvents. It is a classic Lakeland walk taking in 8 Wainwright fells and is enjoyed by many thousands of folk from Ambleside every year. It's also a popular route in winter due to its fairly gentle gradient and its wide ridges with good paths throughout. Today was clear & calm but with plenty of snow visible on the higher fells. Perfect weather to tackle this classic walk in winter.

I decided to take the anticlockwise option for the walk today. It doesn't really matter which way round you go but the views of Grasmere and Rydal Water on the way back are a great tonic for tired legs.   

Approaching High Sweden Bridge

How does it not fall down ?

Views over Rydal Water towards the snowy Coniston Fells

Looking back to Windermere in the early morning mist

Looking over the other side of the valley to Heron Pike and Great Rigg

First fell of the day : Low Pike

 For the first half of the walk you are accompanied by a wall which stubbornly follows the high ground along the whole ridge.

Low Pike summit panorama west

Low Pike summit panorama east
The snow line was reached at High Pike and became deeper with height. Thankfully the gradient is easy and the snow was fairly compact.

The onwards route from High Pike

Views eastwards over the Scandale valley
Dove Crag summit panorama west

Dove Crag summit panorama east

Looking back from Dove Crag

Hart Crag panorama south over the whole horseshoe

Hart Crag summit views east along the Dovedale valley

Link Cove looking over to St Sunday Crag & Helvellyn beyond

Striding Edge & Helvellyn from Hart Crag

Views back to Windermere
 Fairfield is the apex of the walk but its wide summit plateau tends to dilute the otherwise impressive views. A wander over to the eastern edge is recommended for great views along the Deepdale valley. 

Fairfield summit

Fairfield summit view east

St Sunday Crag and the Deepdale valley from Fairfield summit

The route back looking down to Great Rigg & Heron Pike

Views over to Seat Sandal, Grisedale Tarn & Helvellyn

Great Rigg summit panorama west

Great Rigg summit panorama east over to the route already trodden

Rydal Beck snaking its way towards Windermere

Crepuscular Rays over Grasmere

In was at this point that the decision to walk the route anti-clockwise was vindicated as the views down to Grasmere in the low sunlight were really quite something. Unfortunately my little pocket camera struggled to capture the dramatic light but perhaps the picture above gives some idea of the stunning scenery which kept me company all the way back down.

Looking back up the Horseshoe from Heron Pike

Heron Pike summit panorama across the whole horseshoe

Past Heron Pike the snow thinned and at Nab Scar had virtually all gone, which was just as well as from here the descent path is quite steep in comparison to rest of the walk.

Nab Scar view of Grasmere

Nab Scar view of Rydal Water and Windermere

Rydal Beck at Rydal Hall


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Glaramara & Great Gable from Seatoller

Date : June 29th 2011
Start/Finish : Seatoller
Wainwrights : Glaramara, Allen Crags, Great Gable, Green Gable, Brandreth, Grey Knotts
Distance : 10.5 Miles
Height Gained : 4400 feet

The route : anticlockwise from Seatoller
This is a great circular route which weaves its way around some of the most impressive Lakeland scenery before culminating at Great Gable (2949 feet), the ultimate vantage point from which to survey the very best of the Cumbrian fells. 

The walks starts at Seatoller, a small village at the head of the Borrowdale valley and the foot of the Honister Pass. The route heads up Glaramara along a good path which reveals ever more impressive views with every step towards the summit.

Views back over the Borrowdale Valley

The glacial hanging valley at Combe Head

Looking over Base Brown to Fleetwith Pike & Dale Head

 The summit of Glaramara is a long rocky plateau with a few small tarns dotted along the wide ridge. It occupies a great position overlooking the Seathwaite and Langstrath valleys with spectacular views east towards the Langdale Pikes, west to Great Gable and south towards Bowfell & Great End.

Glaramara summit panorama west

Glaramara summit panorama east

Lincomb Tarn with Bowfell and Esk Pike behind

Great Gable & Green Gable

Glaramara then morphs into Allen Crags which is really just a rocky pimple between Glaramara itself and Esk Hause. It is one of those fells which has questionable merits to justify its inclusion into the 214 although it does undoubtedly occupy prime position from where to admire Great End.

The aptly named 'Great End' from Allen Crags

Esk Hause

Great Gable and Sprinkling Tarn complete with wild campers

As usual, there was the usual smattering of tents beside Sprinkling Tarn. These folk obviously forgot about the wild camping etiquette of 'pitching only when the last of the day hikers are off the fells and pack up before they return'.  

The mighty Great Gable

Piers Gill and Lingmell from Sty Head

Broad Crag and Scafell Pike from Sty Head

Styhead Tarn from the ascent path up Great Gable

The path up to Great Gable is a steep slog but the effort is well worth it. Great Gable summit views are just stunning in all directions.

Great Gable summit panorama east

Great Gable summit panorama west

Kirk Fell & Pillar from Great Gable

The Scafells from Great Gable

Haystacks, High Crag and Crummock Water from Great Gable

Allen Crags over Sprinkling Tarn from Great Gable

Views down to Wastwater from the Westmoreland Cairn

After spending 45 minutes exploring the summit it was time to move on. The steep decent to Windy Gap is an awkward affair on loose stone. There is a path of sorts but it is in poor condition and is no doubt on the radar of the 'fix the fells' team. 

Green Gable summit panorama west

Green Gable summit panorama east

Great Gable from Green Gable

The Ennerdale valley from Green Gable

Buttermere & Crummock Water over Haystacks, from Green Gable

Pillar & glimpses of Ennerdale Water from Brandreth

Grey Knotts summit panorama west

Grey Knotts summit panorama east

Final look back at Great Gable before descending to the Honister Slate Quarry