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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Not Quite The Fairfield Horseshoe

Not Quite The Fairfield Horseshoe


Postby Christo1979 » Mon Dec 30, 2019 3:55 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Dove Crag, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Hart Crag, High Pike (Eastern Fells), Low Pike, Stone Arthur

Hewitts included on this walk: Dove Crag, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Hart Crag

Date walked: 15/12/2019

Time taken: 7

Distance: 15.6 km

Ascent: 1038m

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It had been over a month since I'd been out, I was disappointed not to have met my Donald-bagging deadline in aid of charity (the challenge has been extended, so I really will get them done in January), and I was generally out of sorts. I was beginning to make plans for Christmas and New Year, and reminiscing about last Christmas when I went to Mull, and the fact it had been a wet and cloudy winter escape rather than the winter wonderland I had hoped for. That in the year since, my ice axe and crampons hadn't really been needed or used. Well, other than a slightly icy day on The Cobbler.

But then, the snow came. And with a sudden burst of enthusiasm and optimism, I hopped on a train and found myself in Ambleside for the weekend. After an afternoon exploring Loughrigg Fell and Rydal Cave on Saturday, I left the hostel at about 6am on Sunday and made my way up towards Low Pike. A glorious start to a day - still dark, moon bright in the sky, owls hooting in stereo, the crunch of fresh snow under my boots before I'd even left Ambleside. I'd decided to have a wander up the Fairfield Horshoe, having tackled half of it in the summer from the Rydal end, and not making it to the majestic fells at the high point of the walk.

ImageUntitled by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

The sun was up by the time I had summited Low Pike, a gentle pink glow on the snow making for a beautiful early-morning landscape. The snow was about calf-deep on the trudge up to High Pike, and a couple of fell-runners overtook me, doing the thing they always do - make me feel like a slow, overly-laden packhorse. Turns out they were only going as far as the cairn at Scandale Head, so they soon passed me again on their way back down. By which point the snow had become so deep it was quite difficult to walk in. I opted to walk on top of the stone wall, and it was crampons on for a long, precarious, but slip-free trudge up what felt like miles of wall to the summit of Dove Crag.

ImageWalking in the Eastern Fells by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

I was overtaken by another solitary walker along this wall (do I really climb that slowly? :lol: ) who appeared out of nowhere, gave me a nod and raced up to Dove Crag and out of sight. Conditions worsened from Dove Crag, visibility was poor, and the wind howled. As I made slow progress through the now thigh-deep snow up the ridge towards Hart Crag, the walker came back down and told me it was a complete whiteout 'up top' - he'd decided to return the way we'd come. This led me to a mild crisis on the slopes of Hart Crag. My first walk in proper winter conditions, and I knew where I was going. But the weather was definitely worsening, and perhaps this other chap was more wise and experienced than me. I turned around and looked back at where I had come from. It had taken ages to get here, and though I couldn't see it, that damned wall walk all the way back to High Pike wasn't something I wanted to go through. I plodded on.

ImageUntitled by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

ImageWalking in the Eastern Fells by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

On the way to the summit of Fairfield, a hazy figure materialised like something from Scott of the Antarctic. A fast walker, again making my slow progress look slightly comical. My snow virgin fears and doubts evaporated as we stopped for a brief chat. We agreed it was beautiful despite the visibility, that it was great to be out, and I made that running joke I seem to resort to on all my walks in interesting weather - 'nice to see I'm not the only mad person' etc etc. That brief chat with someone who came across as being a much more experienced walker than me, put a spring in my step and after leaving Fairfield the conditions calmed a little and some nice views opened-up below.

ImageUntitled by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

ImageWalking in the Eastern Fells by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

I stopped at Great Rigg and sat down a while to enjoy the views, and toast the loss of my snow virginity. This was the point I had reached in summer, and once again I opted to stop short and 'exit' via Stone Arthur - partly because I wanted to check the bus situation from Grasmere, and partly because I didn't feel I could face any more snowy ascent today - no matter how modest that ascent on the last two fells might be :lol:

The lessons I learned that day were that walking in snow is harder than I had imagined, walking on walls in crampons is quite good fun, fortune favours the brave little plodder, and, most importantly, that the Fairfield round in winter is simply sublime.

ImageUntitled by Christopher Watson, on Flickr
User avatar
Christo1979
Walker
 
Posts: 223
Munros:15   Corbetts:40
Grahams:35   Donalds:89
Sub 2000:101   Hewitts:170
Wainwrights:190   Islands:25
Joined: Oct 21, 2017
Location: Gateshead

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