Great Rigg

Great Rigg, viewed from Hart Crag

Date completed: 4th June 2011.  This is the anniversary of walk 19 which took me up Glaramara & co.  In the 12 months since the end of that walk, and including today, I’ve done 55 fells.

Weather conditions:  What is it with Patterdale? Every time I have started or finished a walk there the weather has been worse there than anywhere else. Today was no exception. With the rest of the country, and indeed the rest of the Lakes, basking in a relative heatwave, Patterdale and everywhere up to Fairfield summit was overcast and humid. Once over to the Grasmere side of the walk, things got sunnier, though it was still hazy.

Windermere from Great Rigg

Windermere viewed from Great Rigg

Fells climbedHartsop above How (1870 feet above sea level, no. 113), Dove Crag (2603’, no. 114), Hart Crag (2698’, no. 115), Fairfield (2863’, no. 116), Great Rigg (2513’. no. 117), Stone Arthur (1652’, no. 118).

Distance:  7.75 miles approximately.

Total ascent:  2950 feet approx.

Start and end points:  Started at Deepdale Bridge, grid reference NY399144, which is on the #508 bus which runs from Windermere to Glenridding and on to Penrith. This is actually a very useful bus service, which is why Gaybashcoach limit its availability; it runs Saturdays from April – October and daily only during the six-week school summer holiday. I finished at the Swan Hotel just outside Grasmere, which has a stop outside served by the #555 and #599.

Wedding party at the Swan Hotel

Members of the wedding party entertain themselves in the field outside the Swan Hotel. Helm Crag behind.

Pub at end:  The Swan Hotel, or to give it its full title, the Macdonald Swan Hotel. Another corporate ‘resort’ establishment, but it is better than its spiritual brother the Castle Inn, that’s for sure: service wasn’t great, but that’s doubtless because I arrived in the middle of a wedding party. Lots of glamorous people in dresses & suits; I was certainly the sweatiest person in the room. (See the picture.)

Route card: Click here to download a route card which includes an elevation profile (how hilly the walk is), waypoints with grid references, and a summary map.  Route card for Walk 36: Fairfield

Route: Considering that six fells are bagged on this walk and it reaches an altitude of nearly 2900 feet, it’s actually relatively straightforward. The climbing is broken up into stages, and all the slopes end or flatten out before they get too wearing. The toughest bit is the descent from Great Rigg to Grasmere, two miles of continuous downhill that’s a bit of a kneeshagger.

From the bus stop at Deepdale Bridge, return back down the road for a few hundred yards until you see the gate/stile with the signpost “To Fairfield”, and then just follow the path up all the way over Hartsop above How until you reach the point at which Hart Crag looms up particularly steeply above you. If you are following my exact route – and it’s a bit artificial, but no worse for that – there is no need to climb Hart Crag twice: swing off the path to the left and follow the height of land until you see ahead of you the path that ascends out of Dovedale to the depression between Dove Crag and Hart Crag. At that point you are on the main ‘Fairfield Horseshoe’ route and will struggle to get lost as long as you stick to the path. I turned left to bag Dove Crag first, before backtracking.

Rydale and Windermere from Fairfield

The valley of Rydale, viewed from Fairfield. Windermere in background, Heron Pike and Great Rigg on the right.

Wainwright points out that Fairfield’s summit is confusing, particularly in mist: I was prepared to scoff at this (or at least, observe that the paths have been worn still further in the last 60 years and are easier to follow), but although things were clearing by the time I got up there I still nearly headed off in the wrong direction, down to Grisedale Tarn rather than Great Rigg. I corrected my mistake in good time but OK, AW was right – be careful in poor visibility.

After that you just have to remember to take the right-hand path just below Great Rigg’s summit, to go down to Stone Arthur, rather than straight on (which goes to Heron Pike – but I’ve already done that one, if you recall, on walk 22). The path is then clear all the way down to Grasmere.

View from Hartsop above How

View from Hartsop above How

Horseshoe commentary: Since I came down off Shipman Knotts on 2nd April, we have had five Bank Holidays, Brighton have won League One, I’ve travelled literally to the other side of the world (Brisbane, Australia) and spent a cumulative total of over 40 hours on planes, Prince William and my brother-in-law Adam have got married to respective new wives, Barack Obama and the Queen have both visited Ireland – but I’ve bagged no more Wainwrights. Enough of the hiatus.

Vale of Grasmere, viewed from Stone Arthur

Vale of Grasmere, viewed from Stone Arthur

The Fairfield Horseshoe is a popular walk and had I simply followed it I could have picked up eight Wainwrights in one go pretty easily. But there are these satellites poking off the main horseshoe at a couple of points – Stone Arthur and Hartsop above How – so for the purposes of this project I’ve had to chop it up into bits. This is the last piece of the jigsaw. Plenty of other walks still to do of course but this seemed an attractive option, not too long or difficult a walk, lots of fells, and I’ve done fewer from volume 1 of Wainwright than any other up to this point save the Western Fells (which I must catch up on). It’s a good walk to get restarted, therefore.

Ill omens affect the start of the day, however. You really don’t want to know about the dead black cat that lies in the road near Hebden Bridge station at 6.15 this morning, and the guard on that first train sells me a more expensive train ticket than I need, which (because the tea shop wasn’t open that early at the weekend) I’m too tired to notice. The weather yesterday was very hot, too hot to walk probably, but though I’m glad it’s a bit cooler today I remain bemused by Patterdale’s ability to always have weather that is worse than almost everywhere else. For the first two and a half hours of the walk it’s not exactly chilly, but I’m glad I dressed properly, and most of the people I passed were in shorts and T-shirts and not looking as comfortable as they would probably have liked.

Great Rigg summit scene

Scene on the summit of Great Rigg

This isn’t a bad walk, and it was certainly a time- and mile-efficient one, bagging six fells almost as quickly as I’ve managed up to this point. But the weather was  disappointing not so much as a walker but for photography reasons.  It’s difficult to do justice to the best sights of the day – the dramatic north faces of Dove Crag, Hart Crag and Fairfield – when the skies and the lighting are just flat and gray.  Walking on Saturday does make more of the District open to me, but it also means the place is pretty busy, and on a popular route like the Fairfield Horseshoe there are loads of people around today. Too many really. A walker I pass approaching Fairfield summit yells out, ‘it’s like a bloody railway station up there!’ (but says it very very loudly, thus exacerbating the problem) and Great Rigg’s summit cairn is draped with people, so I don’t bother taking a photo of it (though the Dalmatians are worth a shot). Only on the spur down to Stone Arthur and Grasmere is there a bit of peace.

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