Thursday 29 September 2011

A Classic Lakeland Walk: The Fairfield Horseshoe

Distance: 18.5km; Ascent: 1035m; with Adam, Jim & Rachel

When the weather forecast was looking so good earlier in the week, I had managed to book today off work for a hill walk in the Lakes and decided upon the classic walk of the Fairfield horseshoe, which I hadn't done for almost two years.  After picking Jim & Rachel up from their cottage we met Adam in Ambleside and set off walking at around 10:30am in glorious sunshine.

We opted for an anti-clockwise round and after trying to remember the correct road to take out of Ambleside we were soon walking along Nook Lane past the university buildings, which were rumoured to now be mothballed.  After crossing Scandale Beck at Low Sweden Bridge, we began our ascent through the fields on a good track.  By now the sky had begun to cloud over and it became apparent that we were likely to be spending some of the day in the cloud as some of the summits were covered.

After having stuck on the path to the right of the ridge, we reached the main ridge just north of Low Pike (Wainwright), which Jim & I nipped off to bag whilst Adam & Rachel continued.  The earlier cloud appeared to be clearing and there was plenty of blue sky visible on the way to High Pike.

The ridge leads on to High Pike
Soon we reached the summit of High Pike (Wainwright), where we passed briefly to admire the view into upper Scandale before continuing to the windy summit of Dove Crag (Nuttall, Wainwright).  Adam decided it was too windy here for lunch so we continued NW and soon found some shelter in the lee of the wall at around 1pm.

Summit of Dove Crag
After lunch, we entered the cloud as we ascended to the summit of Hart Crag (Nuttall, Wainwright).  We continued to the plateau and reached the summit of Fairfield at 2pm (Nuttall, Wainwright and also the only Marilyn of the walk).  The views from the summit were spectacular!  I had no idea that's what the inside of a cloud looked like :)

Fairfield summit in the mist
We had a quick break on the summit and Adam & Rachel set off a few minutes ahead of Jim & I as we were chatting to another group on the summit.  After consulting the map due to the misty conditions, Jim & I headed off Fairfield in the correct direction and soon descended out of the cloud with good views of the ridge ahead (together with Adam & Rachel slightly ahead of us).

Around 20 minutes after leaving Fairfield, Jim & I reached the summit of Great Rigg (Nuttall, Wainwright).  By now we were properly back in the sun and starting to get a bit too hot in our windproofs!

On the summit of Great Rigg
We continued along the ridge with Adam & Rachel powering off ahead, but still just in sight.  The views back north were excellent, with Helvellyn and neighbouring hills all out of the cloud; in fact it just seemed to be Fairfield that had a cloud cap!  Perhaps we should have chosen a different hill to climb?

Great Rigg & Fairfield from the south
After detouring to back the summits of Heron Pike (Nuttall, Wainwright) and its North Top (Nuttall) we descended along the ridge trying to catch Adam & Rachel up.  There were good views across to the Langdale Pikes, the Coniston Fells and Windermere.  On the descent we ensured that we visited the summit cairn of Nab Scar (Wainwright), since I couldn't be certain that I had been to it on previous rounds of the horseshoe.

Nab Scar summit
We could make out Rydal Water as we descended and could pick out Sunday's picnic spot on the north shore.  The ground soon became steeper as we followed the zig-zagging path down to Rydal Hall, from where we took the old "Coffin Road" through Rydal Park back to Ambleside.  We made it to the Rattle Gill cafe shortly before closing where we met Laura for milkshake and cake.  It had been a good day's walk and I was feeling a bit more prepared for next month's backpacking trip with Colin.

Tree above Rydal


  1. Very good, Alistair.
    So, how many Birketts was that?

  2. Well I make it 9, not that I'm counting! ;)