Fairfield & Seat Sandal from Grasmere

10th October 2021

I had to miss David and Rod's walk yesterday due to family commitments, in fact I wasn't even due to walk today but I couldn't let the forecast go so I planned an ascent of Fairfield from Grasmere adding Seat Sandal based purely on the views from its north and south facing flanks, aye if the forecasters were to be correct I was in for a fantastic welcome back to Lakeland walk.

Purely by coincidence I never realised that this was exactly one year ago to the day when accompanied by Tim and his son James we attempted the exact same route only to be beaten back less than 60 yards from Fairfield summit due to strong winds and instead we ended up doubling back and visited Alcock Tarn. I'm still taken back to the coincidence, which is absolutely mind boggling!

The plan today was to enjoy another lie-in, eat lunch then take the mountain bike for a spin given we'd had the same forecast but how could I turn Lakeland down after not visiting for over two weeks, how could I return to work tomorrow after 4 days away without a Lakeland walk under my belt.

 
Wainwright Guide Book One
The Eastern Fells
Fairfield, a grand mountain with grand satellites in support. No group of fells in the district exhibits a more striking contrast on appearance when surveyed from opposite sides than this lofty Fairfield group
 

Overview
Ascent: 3,176 Feet - 968 Metres
Wainwrights: 4, Stone Arthur - Great Rigg - Fairfield - Seat Sandal
Weather: Intermittent Sunshine To Start, Turning Brighter With Light Winds. Freezing Above The Summits. Highs of 17°C Lows of 7°C
Parking: Parking Spaces, A591 Grasmere
Area: Eastern
Miles: 6.2
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 4 Hours
Route: A591 - Greenhead Gill - Stone Arthur - Great Rigg - Fairfield - Grisedale Hause - Seat Sandal - Seat Sandal South Ridge - Tongue Gill - Mill Bridge - A591
 

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: LA22 9RF
Grid Reference: NY 337 408
Notes: Possibly the most convenient, and popular layby in Lakeland! The layby is found just outside Grasmere in between the village and the Swan Hotel. Despite this being a rather long layby parking here is very popular mainly because of the position and access to Helm Crag, Far Easdale and the Fairfield fells. Parking is free.


 

Map and Photo Gallery

 
 

Loughrigg Fell reflections.
While on route to the lay-by parking just outside Grasmere I noticed a few cars had parked up at an opening in the trees to catch this amazing view of mist lingering over a polished Rydal Water.

Loughrigg Fell reflections.
Even a white van man couldn't resist stopping to take a few pictures from his mobile phone.

Loughrigg Fell reflections.

Along with myself there was a couple of photographers who'd set up their tripods and after a friendly 'morning' we all commented how lovely the light was on the opposite bank.

I tore myself away after a few minutes feeling pleased that I didn't just drive past.


Helm Crag, Tarn Crag (Easedale) and a distant Sergeant Man from Michael's Nook 08:30am 7°C

Besides the odd camper a couple of cars I was able to park easily at the lay by nudging my car towards the top end so it would be easier to reach on my return. With the temperature in single figures and set to feel freezing above the summits with winds reaching up to 30 mph today I'm wearing my long trousers which I top up with gloves from the start.

The A591 is quiet with just the odd car passing whose engine I could still hear as it passed over the top of Dunmail Raise nearly a mile away before silence resumed, dare I say it feels very much pre-covid and I adjust instantly. With my beanie tucked into one of my packs side pockets I locked the car and crossed a deserted A591 then turned left towards Michael's Nook.


Silver How, Blea Rigg (ridge) Sergeant Man and Tarn Crag (Easedale)
The mist was still lingering at valley level as I pass Michael's Nook.

Silver How, Blea Rigg and Wetherlam.
Accompanied by the sound of Greenhead Gill I began the tarmac ascent flanked by the kind of cottages you look at after a lottery win.

Zooming in on Rydal Water.
Well, adding my gloves after the steep start made me feel like I was inside a pressure cooker so for now they too get tucked into a side pocket.

Mist lingering over Windermere and Coniston.
I'd spotted the mist over Windermere as I drove towards Grasmere then as I began to climb higher I could see mist was over Coniston too, the ground might be steep but the views are to die for.

Stone Arthur comes into view.
The sun hadn't yet rose high enough but from the corner of my eye it had just breached Nab Scar and was spilling light further up the fell side.

The view back towards Grasmere and beyond.
Taken just below Stone Arthur summit.

Greenhead Gill from Stone Arthur.
It's amazing how sound travels as I spotted two fell runners running across the top of Greenhead Gill sounding so clear I could almost hear what they were talking about.

A distant Great Rigg appears.
With the sun inching its way over Nab Scar the light over the fell side was just fantastic.

The Coniston and Langdale Groups from Nab Scar summit.
With Rydal Water and Silver How seen in the foreground.

Cloud begins to build over the High Raise (Langdale) Sergeant Man and beyond.
The forecasters had predicted gusts of up to 30mph at height but for now the wind is yet to break into double figures but that didn't stop waves of cloud rolling in over the central fells.

Great Rigg is just ahead.
The summits of Seat Sandal, Dollywagon Pike and Fairfield are all topped with cloud but it was on the move and with a strong sun over my shoulder I'm hoping by the time I reach the ridge the cloud will have hopefully cleared.

Views into the Rydal valley.
With Rydal Beck gleaming in the sunlight below.

A distant Windermere from just below Great Rigg summit.

I crested the ridge just as the sunlight burst through huge gaps in the cloud leaving spilling light you only experience at this time of year over the ridge and beyond. Mist was still clinging to the surface of Windermere and over the rooftops of Ambleside leaving just the tower of St Mary's Parish church poking out above the mist.

I probably hung around taking in the view for too long and before soon I started to feel the nip biting the tips of my fingers so one handed I reached around to my packs left side pocket took out my gloves and put them back on, this time they'll be staying on.


The view back down towards Stone Arthur.
Time to head up towards the summit now.

Looking back on...
Heron Pike, Rydal Fell and Nab Scar with Windermere, Coniston and Rydal Water in the distance.

Fairfield from Great Rigg.
I was overtaken by a fell runner wearing just shorts and vest during the last few yards of ascent who by the time I arrived at the summit was long gone now making good progress on Fairfield. This I thought, is not to be rushed.

As I left Great Rigg the cloud topping Fairfield summit started to peel away.
 

As the light continued to change.
 

What a view.
 

Here looking towards Fairfield, Link Hause and Hart Crag.
 

At some point I'm going to have to tear myself away from this spot.
 

Not even wild horses could get me to move.
Well, that was some kind of special.

Here looking back on Great Rigg.
With Windermere seen left,,,aside the fell runner who was probably approaching Hart Crag by now I seem to have the ridge to myself which is very unusual given the forecast.

A break in the cloud.

The wind had increased by only half of what had been forecasted. I ascended into cloud passing a dozen grazing sheep whose heads lifted as I passed 'morning girls' By now the sun was over my shoulder struggling to break through the dense cloud but I could it was trying and that was good enough for me.

Another 'morning' from a chap eating a banana at the summit shelter too far away for a proper reply so I lifted my hand and nodded a wave instead. In order to descend to Grisedale Hause I knew I had to descend the summit to the left so I wondered right first and took in the view across Flinty Grave only just acknowledging the steep crags of The Step, peering right the same over Cofa Pike.

Wandering towards the left now as I made my way towards a succession of cairns the cloud lifted like a vacuum and suddenly there was light, luck was definitely on my side this morning.


Dollywagon Pike with Grisedale Tarn below.
The fell runner was the first and last person I'd seen all morning but I was about to be joined by a couple who were ascending from the direction of Grisedale Hause "morning, nice camera" she smiled "morning" I replied and thank you, the light is fantastic, more cloudier than expected but dramatic all the same" We agreed and chatted for a few more minutes before parting with "enjoy the rest of your walk"

The view into Grisedale.
With Dollywagon Pike, High Crag, Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Striding Edge and Birkhouse Moor.

Seat Sandal over Grisedale Hause.
Taking my time during descent it was noted how eroded the path has become where stone had been swept aside due to the number of foot traffic revealing the soil below which had been trampled smooth in most places.

Grisedale Tarn, Tarn Crag on Dollywagon Pike, Grisedale, St Sunday Crag, Deepdale Hause and Cofa Pike.
Despite the steep gradient I always enjoy this ascent simply because of this view.

St Sunday Crag, Deepdale Hause, and Fairfield.
It looks like the cloud has completely cleared from Fairfield now.

More stops to take in the view.
 

And changing light.
 

Time for one more!
 

Almost at the top.
The ground levelled to a certain degree and all that was left was a gentle plod towards the summit.

Seat Sandal summit.
I was unable to take a proper photo from the summit due to a young couple and their dog sat close by, it was no biggie as I passed on my 'morning' as I passed the summit cairn.

From Seat Sandal summit.
I took in the view over Raise Beck towards Dollwyagon Pike, High Crag (Nethermost Pike is out of view behind High Crag) Helvellyn and Helvellyn Lower Man.

Calf Crag, Greendale, Cotra Breast and Steel Fell from Seat Sandal South ridge.
It wasn't midday yet but I figured I'd earned myself an early lunch so I placed myself down on the most uncomfortable rock I could find and took in the view between the spells of sunshine.

Looking back on Seat Sandal South Ridge with Great Tongue and Fairfield seen right.
 

Helm Crag from Tongue Gill.

The sixth person, a fell runner seen in previous photo soon passes me as we each near Tongue Gill where I was thanked for holding the gate open. By now the windchill was confined to the tops while at valley level the temperature nudges towards the late teens, it's bloody bonkers for the time of year but you won't hear me complaining.

Accompanied by the sound of Tongue Gill I descend back to Mill Bridge passing a local couple who were cutting back a thorn bush at the rear of thie garden, "morning" the woman said with a warming smile. Despite having just gone midday I smiled a morning in return. Boots hit tarmac and the sound of Tongue Gill Force clashes with the sound of the traffic traveling along the A591 which brings me back to reality. By now I'm starting to overheat but I'm too lazy to de-shoulder my pack when the car is just five minutes away. Between large gaps in the traffic I cross the road while Grasmere falls silent with the exception of the sound of distant engines fading away on't other side of Dunmail Raise.


 

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