The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday 19 April 2010

Day 27 - Staveley to Grisedale Tarn

Sunday 18 April
Distance: 16.25 miles (Tot: 470.25 miles)
Ascent: 4700' (per Anquet); 5000' (per Mick's watch)

Last night didn't feel as cold as all of those that preceded it, but that was deceptive (and perhaps based on a huge meal and a hot shower in a heated shower block before bed) as we awoke this morning to frost on the tent again.

Making use of the excellent backpacker's cabin meant that we could swing our arms around as we packed away, although the leisure to pack simultaneously didn't seem to speed us along, so it was our usual hour of 7.30 by the time we set out.

Reaching Staveley, lanes, tracks and paths (with a bit of the A591, which was reasonably quiet on this Sunday morning) took us north-west towards Ambleside.

The track from Town End to Ambleside gave us fantastic (if hazy) views of the fells and down to Windermere such that there was undoubtedly quite a high 'photos per mile' ratio along that section - although nothing compared to this afternoon.

Reaching Ambleside provided us with a re-stocking point not just for food but also for a new pair of X-socks for Mick. One of his pairs (quite an aged pair, not new for this trip) has sprung a hole where a hole should not be, so a replacement was needed.

Having run around all of the necessary shops (I always find that getting the right selection of groceries in Ambleside involves visiting both the Co-op and the Spar, and finding X-Socks was even more of a challenge), the final thing we needed to do before leaving town was to have a massive meal. Because a massive meal is exactly what you want immediately before heading steeply uphill...

It was always clear that this was going to be a day of two contrasting halves. The morning was a nice easy amble, with views giving a taster of what was to come, whereas the afternoon saw us leave the low levels we've stuck to so far and head up, up and up.

I struggled a little on the lower reaches of Heron Pike until finally I decided the answer was to remove my jacket. I may have been a bit chilly on the downhills and flat bits, but a t-shirt was all that was needed for the climbs.

Once in my stride the walk was not difficult on the motorway of a path that leads over Heron Pike, Great Rigg and Fairfield and as a contrast to the last couple of days over fields, navigation was not required. In such good visibility (and it was good indeed today) even the most navigationally challenged couldn't have gone astray.

How to describe that walk though? I'm not sure there are superlatives to do it justice. The skies may not have been blue (in fact the light was very grey), but visibility allowed us to see the sea and every hill and lake in between.

Even better, having not left Ambleside until gone 1pm, the stream of people coming down the ridge thinned the further up we went, and by Lake District standards I wouldn't say it was busy.

Gaping at the views, we made our way up to our high-point of the day - Fairfield at 873 metres. Our luck with the weather ran out at that point. We still had views to the south and west, but low cloud was covering the tops to the north and east, and as we reached the summit so the cloud came down upon us.

With the temperature collapsing, all of the layers went back on before we ignored our intended descent route and headed down a horrible eroded path to Grisedale Hause (despite the horrible scree-ish surface (or lack of a surface really) Mick managed to stay on his feet the whole way down; I didn't).

By the start of our descent the cloud had started depositing hail on us, and just as we pitched by the outflow stream of Grisedale Tarn the rain started. It was good timing (and we had made far better time over the tops than I had expected), as we dived into the tent whilst still dry.

Fingers crossed that the cloud has passed through by morning, leaving us with clear tops as we tackle the Helvellyn Ridge.
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  1. Good on you for getting down that path from Fairfield. I ascended that way a few years back so I don't envy you. It really needs some attention from those Fix the Fells folk.

  2. Horrible ascent when I did that a few years ago,and I didnt turn around when I started up because,as for descent, well, you know how it was :)