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

 

No comments:

Post a Comment