Boxing Day on Fairfield

26th December 2023

With more storms on the way, I am not sure if today's walk could be my last of 2023, but that's not to say I won't be bringing in 2024 with a walk on New Year's Day. The forecast is so undecisive that it's impossible to commit even a week ahead. I hope everyone has enjoyed a great Christmas, whether it be on or off the fells.

I wasn't supposed to be walking today, but blue skies and sunshine had been forecast for the morning, and given how murky it has been as of late, I wasn't going to turn the opportunity down, even if it meant I had to watch the mince pies count.

Today I find myself climbing Fairfield from Grasmere, a much favourite route that qualifies as one of my 'go to' walks and has been for some time taking in the marvelous Stone Arthur and Great Rigg, and in return I was rewarded with epic views of the Fairfield Horseshoe plus grand views over the Rydal and Grisedale Valleys with todays cloud and light drama reminding me that that despite the present forecast it actually pays to get out between the storms.

Wainwright Guide Book One
The Eastern Fells
The outcrop occurs where the gradual decline of the spur becomes pronounced and here are the short walls of rock, like a ruined castle, that gives Stone Arthur its touch of distinction.

Ascent: 2,694 Feet - 821 Metres
Wainwrights: 3, Stone Arthur - Great Rigg - Fairfield
Weather: A Mix of Patchy Sunshine, Light Rain & Snow Flurries. Highs of 7°C Lows of 3°C Freezing Level Above Summits.
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 - Hause Gap - Hause Moss - Tongue Gill - 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 Easedale and the Fairfield fells. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Golden light post dawn here looking towards Helm Crag and Codale Head 08:45pm 3°C

Yet another storm had passed through overnight, which was reflected in the swollen rivers and tree debris that littered the road as I drove through Ambleside towards Grasmere, where behind every bend lied another section of road under water. Lakeland doesn't seem to be getting any healing time between the storms, and it's becoming more and more evident. I was the first to arrive at the layby just outside Grasmere and continued a little further on spinning my car around in the Travellers Rest car park, making sure I was pointing the right way for when I returned later.

There was little to no wind as I kitted up, and the only cloud around hung just above the summits, leaving wide open skies beyond. Just the odd car passes as I take in the incredible light currently gracing the upper half of Helm Crag, which has to be seen to be believed. With my car locked, I crossed the A591 before making my way towards Greenhead Gill, which was within earshot well before I arrived on its banks.

Looking back On Helm Crag and the familiar Sycamore Tree from my ascent on Stone Arthur.

With Greenhead Gill reached, I continued along the tarmac lane flanked by white cascading water to my right and, to my left, luxurious holiday cottages and private driveways.

At the top of the lane, the fell side below Heron Pike swallows up the gill and its contributories as I join the steep stone staircase towards Stone Arthur. I was only here back in July, and most of this path was still under construction by Fix the Fells, and I'm pleased to report that the new path is settling in well and already looks like it has been part of the landscape for years.

Stone Arthur summit appears.
I leave the new path behind in favour of swollen ground but at least the gradient is a little less steeper allowing the lungs to adjust back into my rib cage. By now the sunlight has caught the summit rocks and according to the forecast I should be enjoying winter sunshine but with cloud building up to the west I'm not so sure.

The Coniston and Langdale fells from Stone Arthur summit.

I had chosen to ascend directly by leaving the path and skirting below the summit crags, which are a lot drier underfoot. The downside to this was that part of the ascent ascends over slabs of wet, greasy rock, which I'd forgotten about. The good news was that these were easily avoidable. I continued my ascent, opting for tufts of grass to the side of the rock, and soon reached the summit, where I found a semi-frozen puddle.

For now, I had the summit completely to myself while I surveyed the cloud to the south west, which was linking to cloud forming to the east. With the sun still low in the sky, the light quickly faded, but there were, for now, gaps between the clouds that the light somehow managed to penetrate.

Brooding skies over The Langdale Pikes.

I left Stone Arthur's summit behind and passed the familar Fox Bield, where I spotted a young girl and her dog descending the crags up ahead. I figured she must have been up early to catch the sunrise passing with only a 'morning. I continued into the fading light as Great Rigg appeared, but there was still some uneven ground to cover before I reached its smooth grassy shoulder.

Over on the Heron Pike to Great Rigg Ridge, I spotted a solo walker who kept stopping, so I swung around to see what he was looking at. While Great Rigg and Fairfield were below blue skies further east, the Langdale Pikes had sucombe to cloud and what looked like snow showers. In the ever-changing light, I marvelled at the view, which I and my fellow walker were completely unaffected by.

Sunlight breaking through.
The cloud shifted east leaving a lovely mix of petrol skies and sunshine in its wake.

Great Rigg and Fairfield.
The smooth grassy southern shoulder of Great Rigg was reached which has always been a favourite section of the walk for me. I still can't believe those blue skies up ahead while all the cloud drama is unfolding behind me.

Downpours over Tarn Crag (Easedale)
The cloud seems to be pushing south east affecting the southern tip of the ridge, Rydal and Ambleside.

Within minutes the cloud had cleared revealing more sunshine.
It had taken only minutes for the cloud to push through and for the sun to come back out.

Looking back on Heron Pike and Nab Scar.
As the cloud pushed south east it thinned allowing the sun to penetrate through leaving this spectacular light show.

Peering down into the Rydal Valley.
With Rydal Beck shimmering in the light below.

Windermere beyond.

Blue skies momentarily appear.

Allowing the Winter sun to break through.
Here as I look back on Great Rigg's southern shoudler.

I continued my ascent on Great Rigg.
But the unfolding views behind me were impossible to ignore.

Rydal Beck.
With Windermere beyond.

Fairfield, Link Hause and Hart Crag.
With the summit of Great Rigg reached I paused for a few moments to take in the view back down the ridge and the cloud continued to link from west to east. Looking north towards Fairfield it looked like I was in for treat with clear skies directly overhead.

One last look back along the ridge.
The contrast between south and north was amazing.

Fairfield ahead.
I crested Fairfield's shoulder sadly knowing that I had just minutes of beautiful blue skies to enjoy.

The view over the Rydal Valley.
Towards Hart Crag and Dove Crag with High Street seen in the distance over on the left.

It looks like the cloud has finally caught up with me.
My plan had been to make the slight descent over The Step and return the same way while exploring Black Buttress and Cawk Cove but I think I may have to put those plans on hold.

Fairfield summit.

I couldn't help but let out a slight 'arghh' as I crested the summit into a freezing wind and advancing cloud. The solo walker I'd seen earlier was sharing one shelter, while two fell runners shared the second. Beaten by just minutes, the cloud was still advancing on the summit as I made my way over towards the head of Cawk Cove, just in time to see The Step dissapear behind a wall of cloud. Behind me, another solo walker, a young lad, sat in a snug-looking down jacket with the hood drawn tightly, leaving his eyes and nose just visible. I passed with a' morning' and got one in return. From the west side of the summit, a solo walker appears who also makes his way towards one of the summit shelters, and from across the way, we nod at each other.

I leave both shelters behind and track north west, sighting a succession of cairns that line the path towards Grisedale Hause below. By now, my face is freezing, almost to the point of being painful, when flurries of snow appear between the thick gloom. Within minutes of reaching the summit, I was reminded of how quickly conditions can change as the clouds thicken and the wind speed increases.

Grisedale Tarn appears.
The further I descended the snow turned to rain then drizzle before fading away to droplets of water carried in the air. I'd not only stopped taking photos but I'd packed my camera in my pack during the descent which allowed the two fell runners to pass me with ease. Below the cloud now as Grisedale Tarn appeared half a dozen walkers trekked along its shores towards the base of the Dollywagon zigzags.

Descending Tongue Gill.
My choice of descent today would be via Tongue Gill, a scenic route, rough in patches before easing once the upper falls are crossed. Adding to the pleasure the sun decided to come back out.

Looking back on Grisedale Hause and Hause Gap.
With Tongue Gill falls below.

Grisedale Hause.
With Seat Sandal appearing towards the left.


Seat Sandal, Grisedale Hause and Fairfield from Tongue Gill.

The sun continued to shine as I descended Tongue Gill, while cloud further south-west still dominate the Langdale Pikes. Passing hoards in ascent now one Scottish lady and her Jack Russell, who I hoped the cloud would clear for, further down two more ladies who asked about 'conditions up top' "It was snowing while I was on Fairfield, but judging by the present sunshine, it should be clear now" who thanked me for my advice. More walkers heading up; one family with mum and dad up front and kids clearly not enjoying the excursion lagging behind. Enjoying the sunshine now while regretting a possible ascent on Seat Sandal. I was half way down the gill now and there's now't I can do.

The gradient eased while at the same time the terrain underfoot was smooth as the path came into line with Tongue Gill. Sunshine on Steel Fell, but not Helm Crag, where I spotted the silhouettes of two walkers who had climbed The Howitzer. I descend and crossed the footbridge over Tongue Gill, then passed through the ford, rinsing my boots in the process. Continuing down the sound of a ravined Tongue Gill is overcome by the traffic on the A591, when all of a sudden my stomach twists and I return to reality.

As it turned out the forecast let me down with more wind and rain set for the New Year weekend, so I've set my sights on walking on New Year's Day instead. Sharkey's Dream is fourteen years old and still going strong. I want to thank you for keeping the website going for the last fourteen years and for continuing to inspire me to put words to keyboard. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being part of this website, and I wish you all a Happy New Year for 2024.


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