Fairfield is another Lakeland fell I have often looked at but never quite got round to climbing. It sits to the south of the Helvellyn range and is most commonly climbed as part of the Fairfield Horseshoe, usually from Ambleside.
A few weeks earlier during our visit to the Lake District and trip up High Street, we had stayed at the Sykeside campsite near Brothers Water. I liked the site and so decided to climb Fairfield from there.
After a surprisingly good nights sleep in my old Terra Nova Solar, I woke refreshed and set off nice and early. It was a chilly morning and the cloud covered the fell-tops as I made my way along the valley floor into Dovedale.
The path follows the stream through a lightly wooded area climbing steadily and occasionally steeply out to the open fell emerging below Black Crag and then contouring around to the foot of Dove Crag.
The OS maps show a right of way passing to the side of the crag but the dotted line of the footpath ceases at about 530m so I was unsure what the climb up to Houndshope Cove would be like. What I found left me a little conflicted.
As I approached it became clear the route climbed a bouldery broad gully and I was a little nervous about the risks of ascending, but then saw their was a rough stone staircase meandering its way through the boulders to the top.
On the one hand, I was a little relieved that my route would be a little more straightforward than it might have been, and I recognise the great value of safe routes that help more people enjoy the hills and mountains in reasonable safety along with reducing erosion and environmental damage, but on the other hand I started to think about the value of risk and the sanitisation of our wild places.
I climbed relatively quickly to the top of the gully and emerged into the breeze in Houndshope Cove. I watched as the silhouettes of three figures moved along the Hartsop Above How ridge and disappeared into the cloud on Hart Crag. Time for a brew and a snack before I too disappear into the same cloud.
The poor visibility made routefinding a little more difficult as I picked my way through the rocks and boulders over Hart Crag before returning to the clearer path to cross Link Hause for the steady and seemingly long drag up and round Scrubby Crag and the intriguingly titled Flinty Grave to the wide flat and still cloud cloaked summit of Fairfield.
In the 10 minutes I sat in one of the summit shelters, the cloud began to lift and gave a hint of the surroundings. Time enough for a snack or two and a brew before retracing my steps to Hart Crag and by the time I reached there the cloud cover had lifted to give a good panorama across Fairfield and St Sundays Crag.
The improving weather made for a more pleasant afternoon as I continued across Dove Crag before dropping down to Bakestones Moss for a classic view down towards Brothers Water and Hartsop – Lakeland valley floor looking delightfully green and lush.
The hills and mountains of this National Park are rightly popular and it is a rare treat to enjoy solitude, but that is what I was treated to as I made my way around to the quietly deserted beauty of the Scandale Pass, descending down to return to Sykeside I saw no-one else from Bakestones Moss until I reached the campsite.
That was the end of my Fairfield tour and a great day it was.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and remember the reasons for my #14in2014 challenge, to raise funds to support the incredible volunteers of our Mountain Rescue teams all over the country. You can donate at anytime through the links here and when I have completed the 14 I will be creating a 2015 calendar from the photographs I take. This will be available for purchase and the funds will also go to Mountain Rescue services.
Thanks for reading, stay tuned for the next instalment!