Wednesday 26 November 2014

A Few Days In The Lake District

Camp at the head of Scandale

This has been a year for visiting the Lake District, somewhere I hadn’t been for a decade or more not so long ago, and last week I made my sixth visit of 2014. I was there to attend the TGO Awards in Kendal and then the Kendal Mountain Festival as the BMC Ambassador for Hillwalking (you can read my thoughts on the last in this piece on Grough). In between these events, which mostly involved talking with friends and acquaintances old and new, I found time to spend a night in the hills along with friends Tony Hobbs and, for the first day only, David Lintern who had both been at the TGO Awards (David’s account of his few days in the Lakes can be found here, with some kind – and amusing - words about me – thanks David!).

View down to Rydal Water from the slopes of Heron Pike
After a visit to The Apple Pie, a marvellous bakery and café in Ambleside (thank you David for introducing me to their delicious pies), to purchase lunch we set off round the Fairfield Horseshoe, a walk I hadn’t done for at least a couple of decades, other than an attempt at the same time last year that was quickly abandoned due to heavy rain, wind and thick mist. Having companions made for interesting conversation and an enjoyable walk on what was a dry but hazy day. By the time we reached Fairfield visibility had shrunk to fifty metres or less and we overshot the summit cairn slightly before remembering that we needed to backtrack a little and follow the cliff edge round to Hart Crag to reach the other arm of the horseshoe. Strangely, despite the years of absence and the lack of views, I could remember clearly that we needed to do this.

Tony and David pause for a snack

We started to leave the mist behind as we crossed Dove Crag but, due to a rather late start for the time of year, daylight was now starting to fade. Soon David left us to continue on down the ridge to Ambleside while Tony and I turned aside and dropped down to the head of Scandale where we found some good camp sites and made camp just as the last light vanished. The sky was still cloudy and a stiff breeze was blowing but it looked as though we could be comfortable here.

Tony keeping warm in camp

Later in the evening the wind ceased and the sky cleared. A heavy dew settled on my tent. The lack of noise from the wind had me looking out. Stars were appearing in the blackness. I thought I’d settled in for the night but the brilliant sky was best appreciated with a clear view all round so I was soon back outside staring up at the great white slash of the Milky Way and the constellation of Orion rising over the hills. Other than a faint glow on the horizon from the lights of Ambleside there was no sign we weren’t in a remote wilderness far from civilisation.

A chilly morning

Sometime during the night the cloud returned and dawn came dull and flat. It was still a marvellous place to be though, far removed from the hot stuffy hotel rooms of Kendal. Eventually we had to depart and set off over High Pike and Low Pike on rockier terrain than I remembered and down to Ambleside. We reached the town just as the rain began. Later in the day after Tony had dropped me in Kendal and was on his way back to Bristol I got soaked walking to the hotel. I’d stayed dry in the hills but the wet streets of Kendal were too much for me!


  1. Nice account Chris. Good to meet you at the KMF, and thankyou for your invaluable and much-appreciated advice. I too have decided to extend my stay a little for some wildcamps in the Lakes. The KMF is an annual pilgrimage for me, and something always crops up from it for future trips. It now looks like I'm going up Monte Rosa with my friend Steve guided by Twid Turner next year who I was reunited with at the KMF. Wouldn't have it any other way!

    Glad you, Tony and David got out there. I must admit, much as I enjoy the KMF, 10-12 hrs a day watching films/talks etc. one yearns for the outdoors.

    1. Thanks Jay. Good to meet you too. Hope the wild camps went well.

  2. The Fairfield Horseshoe is a great walk, with one drawback. Although I love dry stone walls the one that gets increasingly high that you follow down along the ridge from Dove Crag eventually means that views are obscured in one direction, depending on which side of the walk you choose to walk. I therefore try to alternate each time I do the walk. Mind you I am a little odd. If you want a horseshoe walk the next time you are down try the Kentmere Round. Apart from the fact parking can be an issue this is just fabulous.

    1. That wall is rather obtrusive. The path is much rockier on one side than the other. Last year I went up the easier side in thick mist. This year I came down the rocky side. The Kentmere Round was my first choice for this trip but David Lintern couldn't have got back from there as there were no buses so we went for the more accessible Fairfield.

  3. Yes, it is great to re-visit a classic route after such a long time. It's interesting that you still had an intuitive feel for the correct line after so long.

    That little Telemark tent is interesting. I had a good look at one at Bob Cartwright's tent show in Malvern earlier this year. I too liked the adjustable porch size. How does it compare in rough weather to the Scarp or Akto? I suspect it does very well considering you have been confident enough to use it for at least a couple of high camps.

    Dave Porter

    1. I guess my feel for the route is a reflection of how often I used to go to the Lakes Dave.

      The Telemark tent is astonishingly stable in strong winds and compares well with the Scarp and the Akto. I was very impressed with it on this trip -