Double Fairfield Horseshoe

15th Feb 2009
18.5 miles 6,700 ft

My first venture into the real hills this year was to be one of many stepping stones in the lead up to my 3 main undertakings this year. The Ramsay Round was always going to be my number one priority, closely followed by the TMB and to a lesser degree the Highland Fling.

Converting mainly road running fitness to mountain fitness takes regular trips to the “real hills” to achieve. Ideally I would be going to Fort William and running on the actual RR route to gain this. But due to the length of drive (10 hour round trip in the car) I will have to gain most of this fitness in the lakes, with the odd foray to Scotland.

So I put it to Ian, Will and Bill (Will and Bill are keen on an atempt at the RR with me) that we could complete a double horseshoe of Fairfield. Up until now most of our runs together had been based on the BG or PB, so I thought it was a good idea to do some runs that aren’t one either of these routes. The idea was to start at Ambleside and go through Rydal Hall ascend Nab Scar, onto Heron Pike then Great Rigg Man. Top out on Fairfield then traverse across to Dove Crag in order to descend via Hartsop above how, and join the road into Patterdale. We would then ascend St Sunday Crag, then Coffa Pike, before topping Fairfield again. This would complete the horseshoe from the Paterdale side, we would then descend Dove Crag and High Pike to drop into Ambleside to complete the Horseshoe from Ambleside.

They decided it was a good idea so Ian Will and I travelled up to meet Bill in Ambleside main car park; we bit the bullet and paid the extortionate parking before heading off. We started off at a good steady pace through the flat terrain of Rydal Hall and then ascended up 1,000 ft onto Heron Pike. Then up another 1,000 ft onto Herron pike and through the first patches of frozen snow. The ascent of Great Rigg and Fairfield were made tough by the ever thickening snow and an increase in the chilly wind. I started to question shorts as my choice of leg wear.

We didn’t hang about on Fairfield, and quickly descended then did a short re ascent through the snow onto Dove crag. In the cloud it was tough to pick out the ideal descent line, so after a quick, cold look at the map I decided to lead us and ended up on a rocky ridge, not the ideal line but we soon made it to better more run-able ground.

After a while of descending towards Hartsop Above How, Bill decided the mile of road around to Patterdale was best avoided. So Bill and Ian decided to cross directly over to St Sunday Crag. Will and I carried on, on the planned route. After about 1 ½ hours and a tough snow strewn ascent of St Sunday Crag we joined up again. A fast descent of St Sunday Crag in the yielding snow led us to the tricky ascent onto Cofa Pike, following in Wills Kicked in steps made it a bit easier. Soon we were back on Fairfield at which point the clouds cleared and for the umpteenth time I got asked by some walkers, if my legs were cold. They were, so we quickly took some photos and made our way down. We waved goodbye to Bill, whose knees were a bit sore and slowing him down, and carried on with our descent. We arrived back at the car 5 hours 50 mins after setting off. We then met Ian’s wife who whisked him off to Keswick for the weekend.

It was a great first stepping stone and I didn’t wait long for the next one. The following Weekend I went on my own to repeat the run this time with a quicker trip in mind, so I noted the timings.

Fairfield 1h 24m
Patterdale 55m
St Sunday Crag 1h 6m
Fairfield 2nd time 35m
Ambleside 57m
Total time 4 h 57m

The weather was similar but slightly less snow on the ground. I wore shorts and was asked numerous times if I was cold. At times I was. But moving fast it was o.k as I didn’t spend too much time in the high exposed areas.

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