A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 20 August 2007

Windermere To Ullswater

Sunday 12 August was my last day in the Lakes. I wanted to end with a big climax. So I decided, not on the usual circular walk, but on an airy 10 mile high-level linear traverse connecting Lake Windermere with Ullswater. I would start from Ambleside, negotiate the Fairfield massif, and head north-east high above Grisedale to Glenridding. I thought there was something neat about this - connecting two lakes. Perhaps there's a germ of an idea here for a grand future expedition - linking two Lake Distict lakes each successive day in a great circle till you arrive back at the starting point? Doubtless it's been done before. But would you include smaller stretches of water such as Esthwaite Water or Grasmere? A thought to ponder... Meanwhile I was up to my old tricks of trying to find free parking. Not easy in Ambleside, but I managed it by parking in the minor road signposted "Under Loughrigg" by the river Rothay on the west side of town. You have to be there fairly early to secure a space. So I set off, soon striding quickly along the farm track to Rydal where I picked up a very steep path up Nab Scar, the start of the classic Fairfield Horseshoe. It was very hot and I was out of breath almost immediately. However the angle of ascent gradually lessened. There were cairns on Heron Pike (612m), Heron Pike North Top (621m) and Great Rigg (766m) where I had a break. The temperature had now dropped considerably. It was cool and breezy with rain clouds rolling in from the west. There was a temperature inversion as the mist streamed off the eastern side of the Great Rigg-Fairfield part of the ridge - the western side was quite clear. The flat top of Fairfield (873m) soon came into view as the cloud dissolved. It's a confusing place, with a stone wind shelter and a number of cairns littering the summit plateau. It would probably be difficult to route-find here in the clag. I took the scrambly path down to the col on the northern side of Fairfield, up and over Cofa Pike, then down to Deepdale Hause, passing high above Grisedale Tarn before climbing the ever-narrowing ridge up to St Sunday Crag (841m). Superb views from here of the Helvellyn range on one side and wild Deepdale, with its awesome crags and buttresses, on the other. I stopped for a while at the summit, but not for long as the wind was blowing hard. I took in Gavel Pike (784m) then rejoined the main route and went down, down, down - it seemed to go on forever - to Patterdale at the junction of the Hartsop and Grisedale valleys. My legs were aching and my troublesome knee twinging after all the extreme up-and-down. It was a short walk along the main road to Glenridding where I called a taxi to take me back to Ambleside. It had been a tiring but magnificent day on the fells. (The photo shows St Sunday Crag from Cofa Pike. The snatch of blue is a tantalising glimpse of Ullswater.)

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