Monday, 29 July 2013

A Horseshoe Holiday Part Three: The Coledale Horseshoe. . .

. . . and then the good weather ran out.

Almost next door to the Newlands is the Coledale Horseshoe.  The day's weather was calling for rain around noon, but we started early and hoped for the best.  Visibility was good for the first climb of the day - Grisedale Pike.  Whew, this was a painful ascent.  Though it does flatten out partway up, the last bit is very, very steep.

Views from the top:

On Sandhill which is near the head of the horseshoe, you can see over to the other side and just glimpse Crummock Water.

And then the cloud and mist came down for most of the rest of the walk.  I can tell you we did go up Crag Hill with minimal visibility of the path and definitely nothing of the views, hence this will be a short blog post.  I was a bit worried about the descent in these conditions, but perhaps due to erosion, there's a brand new zigzag path that has been created (it's not on the ordinance map, but once you get on it, trust it - it will take you safely and gradually down and is very easy on the feet).  

You then follow this valley and the last easy climb is Barrow which you can see in the distance.  It's a very gentle descent from there.

I was happy to have done the walk safely, but I don't really feel like I've done it.  It stays on the bucket list anticipating a sunnier day.  Yes, even if I have to go up Grisedale again. . . 

Friday, 26 July 2013

A Horseshoe Holiday Part Two: The Newlands Horseshoe. . .

Here's the thing about the Lake District:  Just when you think you've done one of the best walks ever (the Fairfield Horseshoe), along comes another that tops it.  Sometimes it's just the weather or how your legs are feeling or the prospect of tackling a new fell. And sometimes the views are just so, so beautiful they take your breath away.

After a few days in Ambleside, we drove to Keswick to conquer a few more walks and on a perfect summer's day, we set off for the Newlands Horseshoe.  First up is the relatively small, but picturesque Cat Bells.

It's the perfect example of how gorgeous the Lakes look from any height. You don't have to scale the highest peaks to get the best views.  From halfway up Cat Bells you can look towards the lovely Borrowdale Valley . . .

. . . and gaze on ripples upon ripples of fells. . . 

. . . with a backdrop of Keswick, Derwent Water and the Skiddaw range behind them both (this photo is taken a little further on from Cat Bells but the views are similar.

But leaving this behind, we had the biggest bit of the horseshoe to climb.  Here we're ascending on one side with the highest bit, Dale Head,  and the other side to come.

But wait!  The Newlands Horseshoe is cruelly deceptive.  See that tiny tarn down there?  This is where the path lead.  Down and down and down.  Which could only mean a huge steep climb to get back up to Dale Head.  Darn it. 

On the head now looking back at where we've come.  Cat Bells, that tiny little point on the far left of this range looks very far away.

But the Newlands Valley below looks lovely.

And on the other side you can see Buttermere and I believe that pointy bit on the range to the left of the water is Red Pike which I climbed on the Coast to Coast last year.  Again, the geography of the Lake District is becoming more and more familiar to me with every trip. 

One thing to note about this walk if you are doing it clockwise as we did - there's a very, very steep descent with a lot of loose stone, and one I would not like to do in bad weather.  Looking down, it's a series of bumps upon bumps that seem to drop off into space until you get to the end of them and see the next one. 

There's no doubt that this was extremely challenging but I loved every moment of it and THIS is now my new favourite walk in the Lakes.  Photos just can't do justice to the wonderful 360 degree views that you get from almost every step.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A Horseshoe Holiday Part One: The Fairfield Horseshoe. . .

Compared to all the rain we got in the UK last summer, these last two months have been quite glorious, if a bit hot at times.  Which means we've gotten pretty lucky with the weather on the many walks I've done on my recent vacations.  At the end of June, the Liverpud and I had a week's holiday in the Lake District.  We visited friends in Kendal, then stayed a couple of days in Ambleside and a few in Keswick, doing several walks from each base.  From the start, we knew we wanted to tackle three walks in particular, three horseshoes, taken from The 12 Best Walks in the Lake District by Paul Buttle, which I highly recommend.  You can find it in all the local bookstores, outdoor shops and touristy places and it's a good introduction to the different areas of the Lakes and very useful for pinpointing the best walks if you only have a limited time in the area. The maps and directions are clear and concise (but don't just rely on the book, bring your ordinance map and compass along) and they offer challenging and very rewarding walks.

First up was Fairfield Horseshoe which can easily be tackled from Ambleside although we decided to do it in the opposite direction from the one suggested by Buttle as we wanted to finish the part of this walk we had to abandon due to weather, back in February.  Here you can see the left or west side of the horseshoe from the valley below.  First up of the several peaks is Nab Scar.

After a somewhat steep ascent, you not only get lovely views, but some relatively flat ridge walking, which I love doing.  After all the work, you want some time to enjoy the scenery (and the sheep) without having to tackle much more than some gentle (more or less) undulations. 

One of the things I loved about this walk was how many fell ranges you could see in almost every direction.  Once on the top of Fairfield, you can look west to Helvellyn and St. Sunday's Crag and even catch the tiniest view of Ullswater.  To the east you can see as far as Kidsty Pike.  Having done the Coast to Coast last year, I can finally start to slot the different fells into position within the Lake District and doing this walk just reinforced my growing familiarity with the area, which was quite thrilling.

And of course being a horseshoe shaped walk, you can not only easily look back at where you've been (you can see Lake Windemere in the distance off to the left)

but also look ahead to what's next. . .

 The way down followed a long stone wall with lovely twists in it that from afar looked like part of a castle.


And then soon it was down into the meadows and back to the B & B for a nice hot shower and a delicious dinner at the local Thai restaurant. 

It's an absolutely super walk which I would definitely do again.  Here you can see the whole horseshoe from afar (this was taken on a more low level walk that we did the next day to Grasmere and back).