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Fair enough on Fairfield

Fair enough on Fairfield

Postby The English Alpinist » Sat Dec 12, 2015 8:12 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Arnison Crag, Birks, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Hart Crag, Hartsop above How, Seat Sandal, St Sunday Crag

Hewitts included on this walk: Fairfield, Great Rigg, Hart Crag, Seat Sandal, St Sunday Crag

Date walked: 10/12/2015

Time taken: 6.5

Distance: 19.4 km

Ascent: 1690m

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My mission to walk all the Wainwrights in a single winter splutters into life again. It had been 2 weeks since my last outing, where I trod the sodden and sleet-ravaged heights of the northernmost Eastern Fells to Clough Head. I was proud of that effort, but it took a lot out of me, mentally more than anything. I did not see a soul, and the weather has been pretty damn miserable since October. Last week I ventured out to the Far Eastern Fells, in the sense I drove to them. I paused at Pooley Bridge to take a photo of the delectable view of Place Fell where I was headed. The weather was pretty stable. No excuse, except... I discovered I had forgotten my camera. This coupled with the sore throat I was suffering from and the bad night's sleep obliterated what morale I had for the walk, and I said to myself 'to hell with it' (or something worse), and did an about turn for home (Lancaster). That's not quite the full story, as I did try gamely to buy a disposable camera at the newsagents in Pooley Bridge at 8.30 a.m., and they would have had one if not sold out. I enjoyed the drive home on the A6 as far as Shap, which is pleasingly quiet compared with the normally taken M6. Two days later, Pooley Bridge was gone:

Photo courtesy of an local eyewitness to the sweeping away of the iconic old bridge.

The Walk.

It took another week to galvanize myself for action. In the wake of Storm Desmond, biblical amounts of rainfall and the tragic flooding of Glenridding, I headed out for where else but... Glenridding. Well, no, I'm not quite that crazy. The Eastern Fells from that side happened to be on the itinerary I'd already set for myself, but I only needed go as far as Patterdale to start the walk. Kirkstone Pass was passable, if a tad worrying. It was barricaded half way across at the top. There were signs of serious debris which had been cleared, and a shallow 'river' still flowing down the tarmac from a beck which had burst through/over the roadside wall. I didn't get up in time to do Helvellyn (a 14 mile day), and opted instead for Fairfield and 7 of its relatives (only 12 miles). Nevertheless, it was a naughtily late start, 10.30 a.m., and I had to set a brisk pace to get it all done by nightfall. I anticipated probably being on the lower reaches of Hartsop Above How as darkness came, and this is exactly how it worked out. Happily, I did not need the headtorch until I was down in the valley fields.

A nice perspective on my proposed descent route down Hartsop Above How (across the valley there, but the ridge was not as pleasant and smooth as it looks from a distance).

It was a day of nervous watch-checking, my mind also partly on whether I'd be able to get back up Kirkstone again (what if new landslides had occurred etc etc, and in darkness too, ugh!), but also a day of beautiful winter weather. There was full visibility at all times but interesting and moody cloudscapes above, half-hearted scuds of snow and strong but kind of 'fun' winds. The type that make you feel like a real mountaineer and you have to wrap up against, yet not very dangerous at all, especially on such a clear day. Ironically, the day after such horrendous flooding, this was my best weather-day since October, and the only one I have finished with dry feet (there's another reason for that, though, which I'll mention at the bottom). Furthermore, there were people! I'm not so insane after all. I was back at the car (which had not floated away into Ullswater) by 5 p.m. I easily drove back up Kirkstone, and was reassured to note somebody else doing it behind me. So, I still haven't done Helvellyn, but this walk was in football commentator's parlance 'useful' , and number 6 - 'six', ie one fifth - of the original 30 I had plotted.

Partially sane person says hello from the summit of Arnison Crag.

Finger points the way from St Sunday Crag to Fairfield.

Passing Grisedale Tarn en route to Seat Sandal, somewhat irritating little separate peak.

Me on Seat Sandal. The first people I'd met in 3 walks took this! A member of a party of 6th-form students.

The expression of a person summitting Fairfield, who knows he'll backtrack that way again in 45 minutes for the sake of bagging Wainwrights.

Looking down from Great Rigg towards Ambleside, before I re-spool back up to Fairfield.

King of all I survey on Fairfield (summitting it for the 2nd time): another person was met!

The people! (6th form party with teacher). I know not which way they descended. Was getting rather late. I was heading for Hart Crag from Fairfield.

Questionable morale. I've done all the peaks but light running out, Hartsop-Above-bloody-How seemed to go on forever.

Dramatic views off Hartsop, if only I'd had more time to enjoy them.

I know, not a great pic, but just for the record it's how I finished. The light is the hotel at Patterdale.

A couple of notes on equipment. For the first time this year I complete a walk with more equipment than I set out with. I found a glove on the summit of Hart Crag, which had clearly been left there before this day (it was drenched) so I decided the best chance of it finding its owner again was for me to take it. See my post in 'lost and found'. Thinking it might be pretty cold for feet up there, what with all the water around, this was my first outing for my Scarpa winter boots. In the event, they proved too heavy and uncomfortable for this distance, and scraped a patch of skin off my heel by the end of it. I stayed warm and dry though. I'm now trying out Compeed's '20% extra cushioning' blister plasters. I'll report back if these have enabled me to do the next walk, Sunday 13th December (Red Screes probably, Helvellyn just maybe).

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Last edited by The English Alpinist on Sat Dec 19, 2015 6:19 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Fair enough on Fairfield

Postby dav2930 » Sat Dec 12, 2015 10:03 pm

Quite an adventurous day out all things considered! The Deepdale Horseshoe (the real Fairfield Horseshoe) is one of my favourite walks in the Lakes, though I know what you mean about 'Hartsop-Above-bloody-How' seeming to go on forever :lol: Must say it's never occurred to me to add on Seat Sandal and/or Great Rigg. Nice one! :clap:
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Re: Fair enough on Fairfield

Postby ChrisW » Sun Dec 13, 2015 3:44 am

Another good day TEA, so glad to see you still getting out there and chasing the target. I know it's been bloody miserable over there so kudos to you for ploughing on, it actually seems like you got a good day weather wise excluding the wind of course :roll: Shame about the blister but those compeed things are incredible, you don't even know you've got a blister with those beauties :thumbup:
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Re: Fair enough on Fairfield

Postby trailmasher » Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:42 pm

Another great effort TEA, good report and pics :clap: Thanks for the info on Kirkstone Pass as I may be heading that way in a day or so :) Re Hartsop - above - How, a long drag down but worse of a one going up :roll: Well done again in your venture :clap:
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Re: Fair enough on Fairfield

Postby The English Alpinist » Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:58 pm

Thanks Trailsmasher, I'm glad I didn't start with Hartsop! The news on Kirkstone is different already. I was up there today, everything is now a snow zone! I got down it easily enough at 8 a.m the day after all the snowfall, but it was a bit nervy. I decided not to drive back up, and returned via Penrith instead (the Lake road is fine now). Keep an eye on the snow, it should be ok unless there's any more sudden big downfalls.
@ Chris - you're right, the Compeed was superb! I did my Helvellyn walk today, I wouldn't have thought possible with the raw wound back there. I'm amazed the patch stayed on, and I was using the same winter boots too.
@Dav - the main attraction of Seat Sandal is the interrupted view of all the Fells west. Maybe not worth bothering with if there's no visibility! Fairfield and companions is very satisfying, it's no dwarf but lots of pleasant walking.
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Re: Fair enough on Fairfield

Postby simon-b » Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:49 am

A nice walk on a fine range, TEA.
The English Alpinist wrote: the main attraction of Seat Sandal is the interrupted view of all the Fells west.

Let's hope there is an uninterrupted A591 along the bottom of Seat Sandal again before too long.
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Re: Fair enough on Fairfield

Postby The English Alpinist » Tue Dec 22, 2015 1:21 am

@Simon. I'll need to cross that road (on foot) for one of my walks soon. It will be interesting.
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