Fairfield Horseshoe – Lake District 2015

Surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland… no other so exquisitely lovely, no other so charming, no other that calls so insistently across a gulf of distance. All who truly love Lakeland are exiles when away from it. – A Wainwright.

We were back in the Lake District for one whole week at the end of September this year.

Day one was a lovely clear day. We decided to walk the popular Fairfield Horseshoe. We started and finished in Ambleside. The walk is 16 kilometre / 10 miles and 1100 metre / 3609 feet ascent, according to Wiki.

Fells along the way: (Italic text are quoting Wainwright. By the way, quoting Wainwright always makes me regret not reading him thoroughly before the walks. Because now, a month later, I can’t remember the landscape in detail. Was it really a “strategic position overlooking three valleys”? Was there really a column shaped cairn like a work of art? But I tried reading him beforehand for previous journeys, I usually couldn’t think much of his words when I was struggling to lift my feet or groaning about my knees. I also tried carrying his books up hills all the way to the top. It was usually too windy or wet to read…)

Nab Scar (422 metre / 1450 feet): “Its associations with the Lake Poets who came to dwell at the foot of its steep wooded slopes have invested it with romances, and its commanding position overlooking Rydal water brings it to the notice of the many visitors to that charming lake.”

There was a lovely view of Grasmere and Rydal.

Going up from Nab Scar, the west arm of the horseshoe. This is the view looking south, back towards Ambleside and Windermere.
Going up from Nab Scar, the west arm of the horseshoe. This is the view looking south, back towards Ambleside and Windermere.
Looking down towards Grasmere (right) and Rydal (left) from Nab Scar. They glitter like crystals. The view (and the steep ascent) is breathtaking.
Looking down towards Grasmere (right) and Rydal (left) from Nab Scar. They glittered like crystals. The view (and the steep ascent) was breathtaking.

Heron Pike (610 metre / 2003 feet): “From no direction does it look like a pike or peak nor will herons be found there… it is climbed not, as a rule, for any attraction of its own, but because it happens to lie on a popular route to Fairfield.” 

Two paragliders floated effortlessly along the valley of Grasmere. Our topic began with "I'd love to try" and ended with "I wonder how much the insurance would cost" and some extreme sport disasters on the news...
Two paragliders floated effortlessly along the valley of Grasmere. Our topic began with “I’d love to try it” and ended with “I wonder how much the insurance would cost” and some extreme sport disasters on the news…

Fairfield Horseshoe - Lake District 2015

Great Rigg (765 metre / 2513 feet): “Few people will climb Great Rigg without also ascending Fairfield, for the former is a stepping stone to its bigger neighbour. Whilst providing this humble service, however, the fell manages to retain a certain dignity…”

Fairfield Horseshoe - Lake District 2015

A great view towards the west.
A great view towards the west.

Fairfield (872 metre / 2863 feet): “Climbers from this direction (south) get only the merest glimpse of its best features; many visitors to the summit, indeed, return unsuspecting, and remember Fairfield and its neighbours as mountains of grass. The few who know the head of Deepdale and the recesses of Dovedale, intimately, have a very different impression.” 

Take note! This is not the first time I was told by Wainwright that we actually missed the best bit.

We walked pass it without knowing its name a few years before, when we first got married and just started to do walking, on an early spring morning, when the whole land was covered under thigh-deep snow and Grisedale Tarn was frozen like a skating rink. See our lovely memory here.

Hart Crag (822 metre / 2698 feet): “The ascent from Patterdale is far superior to that form the south.”

Not again…

At the mid point of the horseshoe! The top was fairly broad. We were running around looking at the views towards all directions and kind of lost the direction instantly...
At the mid point of the horseshoe! The top was fairly broad. We were running around looking for the views that Wainwright recommended and kind of lost the direction instantly…

Dove Crag (793 metre / 2603 feet): “Dove Crag is most often ascended from Ambleside on the popular tour of the ‘Fairfield Horsehoe’ – but the climb from Patterdale, by Dovedale, is far superior.”

Really…

High Pike (656 metre / 2155 feet): (talking about the wall) “it accompanies him all the way and its intimacy becomes a nuisance…However, it is well worthy of notice, particularly on the steepest rises south of the summit, where the method and style of construction, in persevering horizontal courses despite the difficulties of the ground, compel admiration: it should be remembered, too, that all the stone had to be found on the fell and cut to shape on the site. Witness here a dying art!”

The volume was published in 1955. And it was delightful to see that the impressive wall was still there! But we did notice a few collapses and holes in the newish-looking wall. It looked like someone was emptying his shoe and stabilising himself by putting one hand on the wall and pushed through.

Low Pike (505 metre / 1657 feet): (talking about the rock-step) “It is unusual for a distinct track to have so formidable an obstacle… there is no dignity in the proceeding, either up or down.”

Of course, we came across this rock-step as well. There was a lot of kicking and screaming (an exaggeration of course). I was glad there wasn’t anyone around at that point.

I always aim at the highest point of the walk and feel triumphant but forgetting that's only half way and the descent is just as hard work. Some boulders were seriously big.
I always aim for the highest point of the walk and feel triumphant when I get there but forget that’s only half way and the descent is just as hard work. Some boulders were seriously big.

By the point we strolled down the gentle slope of Low Pike, my spirit was lifted again. We could see our hotel hiding under the shadows of the trees on the west shore of Windermere. So we had a voice massaging and waving session with my parents who were chilling on a bench in front of the hotel, straining their eyes to find us. I wasn’t sure they were even looking at the correct mountain range. But anyway, this was their introduction of this wonderful place and we had fun.

 

 

 

 

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