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Grey around Grasmere
by The English Alpinist » Thu Jan 14, 2016 2:06 am
Wainwrights included on this walk: Heron Pike, Loughrigg Fell, Nab Scar, Silver How, Stone Arthur
Date walked: 09/01/2016
Time taken: 6
Distance: 16.5 km
Ascent: 1507m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
9 days into 2016, and this was my first outing since New Year's Day in my continuing bid to walk all the Wainwrights in 5 months over one winter. I bring a fleet of pictures out of all proportion to the quality of the experience, which progressed from dismal to drab. I'm not sure why I took so many, as it was also hardly an epic walk in altitude or distance. I suppose you could say it represents a typical Lake District Winter day, to be enjoyed with a kind of stoic affection. Well, I did not. Despite (or perhaps because of) being almost half way through my mission, and putting to bed the Eastern Fells with this walk, my morale is at its lowest ebb. I wouldn't have bothered to go out there if not for it being a fairly low-level route. It was a Saturday, and I needed to use it to get things moving again. I only just finished 2015 on schedule.
The intent was to do Nab Scar and Heron Pike (a fraction of the Fairfield Horseshoe) before descending and re-ascending to take in Stone Arthur. From there I would descend once more, cross the valley and do a horseshoe of Steel Fell, Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag (maybe in reverse). Nothing much above 2,000 feet, but fiddly and taxing. I set off from the car park at Rydal Water in steady rain, making a game (and perhaps illicit) slog directly up the flank of Nab. The reward was grey clag and wetness. Wetness everywhere. Wetness in the air, wetness on the ground and wetness in my boots. Further ascending along the ridge to Heron Pike was rewarded by greyer clag, sleet and a landscape which managed to be frozen yet saturated at the same time, I encountered, in the sense I saw them climbing about a quarter of a mile back, one couple out there. I believe they turned back after Heron summit, and only they know whether that was planned or not.
There is no cairn on Heron summit, so I wasted my time in looking for one. Just to be sure, I ventured a little further to the aptly named 'Blind Cove' and back, which at least I knew for sure I had reached because there is a wall going off at right angles. The fact I had no need to go up to Great Rigg (did it with Fairfield weeks ago) made for a real glimmer of happiness. The path directly off the top of Heron down the west flank, marked on the map, did not seem to exist in reality. It didn't matter too much, as I soon emerged from the cloud and the way down to the little valley of Greenhead Gill was obvious. The path up to Stone Arthur was clear enough but, need I say, very wet. 'Stone Arthur the fell' is a big nothing, merely another ridge that leads ultimately to Fairfield. Its collection of sandstone and breccia is its great distinction: a rocky outcrop sometimes known as Arthur's Chair. In the absence of a summit cairn once more, I placed a rock upon a larger rock (see pic). Anybody who passes there will now know that it was I, The English Alpinist, who did this.
I pottered around up there for longer than is permitted for one supposedly with a schedule. I viewed Arthur's Chair from all sides, even amused myself with a little rock-climb of it, then sitting down on top of it. Who was I kidding? These were merely symptoms of my reluctance to do part two of the day, looming there somewhere across the grey vale. The weather was grudgingly improving, but Helm Crag was still capped in mist despite how small it is. I felt no enthusiasm for it, still less the higher Calf Crag and Steel Fell. The civilized vista of the village of Grasmere beckoned to me, as I descended past the scars of December's floods. On the way down I deliberated with myself on a compromise: I could do Silver How and Loughrigg, which would definitely be a lesser undertaking and had the advantage of taking a useful bite out of one of my future routes. I did a first for The English Alpinist on this odyssey: stopping for a midway coffee. Heck, no rules were broken: it was still 100% 'a walk'.
The metropolis of Grasmere was something of a culture shock in my scheme of walks. Not as many people as summer, obviously, but still attracting visitors in the grey chasm that is winter 2015-16. I found only one coffee shop open, and will not embarrass it by naming it. Regretfully, the vanilla latte was lousy, even though more expensive (and smaller) than a medium-size Costa version. This was even after getting the thing topped up (because it was served with way too much froth). This was disappointing, as I felt I had earned the treat, and now I'd be flirting with the dark (yet again) having lingered as long as possible. I set off for Silver How, easy and picturesque in the extreme in season. Wet and grey out of it. In fairness, the views lower down were very nice, but some sun would not have gone amiss. The ridge-walk to Loughrigg, which AW waxes lyrical about, had an austere appeal on this day I suppose.
With light fading, and a twinge of an urge to cancel, I began the ascent of Loughrigg from the famed Loughrigg Terrace. There was no excuse for not bagging this, dark or no dark, as the climb from this side is simplicity itself on a stone staircase. There was enough light to enjoy the views and atmosphere at the top, and this would have been a pleasant end to the day had I not been so belligerent as to descend off-path on a direct line to the car park. I'm sure it saved no time whatsoever, and took me down an awkward slope of moss, bracken and rocks by head torch. Relieved to arrive on the Terrace path, things were capped off by a Blair Witch type walk through the woods. Apologies if the tone of this report was a little tetchy.
The forecast for the next day, when I could really do with accomplishing a much more sizeable walk (the Langdale Pikes), was very dodgy indeed.
by georgeaquaterra » Thu Jan 14, 2016 6:41 pm
Keeping going. It really is all downhill from here!
by ChrisW » Thu Jan 14, 2016 9:51 pm
I'm not laughing at your misery but 'with it' and remain absolutely impressed with your determination to go out there in that bloody awful weather when no views are going to be had and little joy could be found in any shape or form.
Well done for the effort mate....you may want to practise your cairn building skills
by The English Alpinist » Sat Jan 16, 2016 5:18 pm
ChrisW wrote:you may want to practise your cairn building skills
Thanks guys, much appreciated. I felt exactly like Shackleton at times (well, not exactly, not THAT cold!). Glad to report I had a better day the next day. No need to practise cairn building Chris. from now on looks like I can build snowmen instead!
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