To see in the New Year we planned two nights of wild camping up in fells around the Fairfield horseshoe. We started up Nab Scar in the in the dark and half way up it started raining. We met two people coming back down who said it was VERY windy up along the top so to be careful. We pitched the tent early as it was getting a bit blustery, cooked dinner and then drank wine and ate cheese. At midnight we watched all of the fireworks being set off around Lake Windermere and from behind us from Grasmere. It was a fantastic way to see in 2017!
Then the winds started. ALL. NIGHT. It felt as though we were going to be blown all the way back down to Rydal. Packing up the tent the next morning was a bit of a challenge between the gusts and it was freezing. We headed up to the summit of Nab Scar 455m and then onto Heron Pike 612m and I lost count of how many times the wind literally blew me off my feet. The 60L rucksack only aided the wind in knocking me to the ground. Progress was so slow and what should have been fun just became a bit arduous so we made the decision to turn back.
Almost two and a half months later we finally got back up to the Lake District and were blessed with PERFECT conditions. We stayed at Rydal Hall in an Eco Pod (luxury for us) rather than wild camp as we weren’t expecting decent weather and wanted to travel fast and light this time.
Our route didn’t include Nab Scar or Heron Pike this time, instead we took the Coffin Route to Grasmere and turned off up to Alcock Tarn before heading back down and all the way back up to Stone Arthur 503m before rejoining the Fairfield horseshoe.
From the moment we set off we were spoiled with absolutely stunning views. There had been a huge dumping of snow on the peaks earlier in the week so snow capped mountains coupled with bright, spring conditions made the views spectacular. Way better than they had been at New Year!
As there had been such a huge dumping of snow and the mountain conditions/fell top assessors advised of winter conditions we lugged the crampons and ice axes up with us along with choosing the B2 mountain boots. After the unexpected conditions we experienced in Wales earlier this year we decided that the conditions were not going to beat us again. Summit safely, obviously.
The snowline started on the way up Great Rigg 766m and continued all the way up to Fairfield 873m. That day, the Lake District mimicked Alpine conditions perfectly! It was warm, there was no wind and there was snow up on the peaks. On the way down Fairfield and up to Hart Crag 822m the snow got even deeper, knee deep in some places. It felt just as it had done on the way up Mont Buet. It did not feel how the Lake District normally felt.
The views continued to spoil us all the way to Dove Crag 792m and back down to High Pike 656m with a few snowball fights thrown in for good measure. After High Pike the snow disappeared and there was a lot of bog negotiating. The descent started to feel quite long and tiring after setting off around 6 hours ago. But descents always feel like this after long days going up. Hell, Mont Buet nearly finished me off! I could barely stand up when we got back to Chamonix!
The Fairfield horseshoe isn’t graded as easy by most walking websites, some say it’s moderate and most say it’s hard and around 11 miles so a full day out. Nab Scar is a steep ascent, as is the alternative route up Stone Arthur that we did. You do need to be pretty fit to get up there but once along the main ridge the ascents and descents are a lot more gradual since you gain the most height at the beginning. Getting back down does include scrambling down from Low Pike which at the end of a long day can feel a little arduous if you’ve not done much scrambling before. But it is a fully rewarding day out!
Just under 7 hours after we had set off and 2246 calories later (thanks, Suunto) we got back to Rydal. Mountain craving satisfied. Alps excitement reignited. A night in the local pub calling.
Oh, and a 7 mile trail run up and down the fells the next morning…