Saturday, 3 November 2012

Alcock Tarn, The Hard Way.

I've steered clear of routes that seem short through a desire to use the fells as a fitness regime as well as to expand the minds horizon, through experiencing nature and mans influence on his environment. Routes that seem short, as Alcock Tarn does, have not figured in my 'I'll have a look up there' logic when planning an excursion. With careful thought these lower areas can be opened up to my experience and a decent trek also covered. The solution decided on was when we had finished a half decent walk, to tag a short one on it's end and this we did on Monday 29th October 2012.
 The car was loaded with my colleague, myself and the two trusty cockers, Dillon and Holly ('The Beast', she doesn't mind). We set off from outside Carlisle and true to form, once the mountains were skimming past the rear window of the estate car, the dogs howled aplenty to get among the fells. We parked in the lay-by on the Keswick bound side of A591 between Grasmere and The Travellers Rest and were the first car there. We were lucky to catch the clouds still enveloping the fells, at times wrapping around them, then allowing the summits to peak through before moving to some other natural yet beautiful order of nature.

Looking toward Dunmail Raise with Seat Sandal on the right.

Looking to Grasmere with Silver Howe peaking through the morning mist.

 Alcock Tarn was always in my sight for this walk but we wanted a leg stretcher too so headed toward The Travellers Rest across the road and taking the Tonguegill Force path through the farm and sweeping up the valley toward the force.

Looking back from the path to Tonguegill, Steel Fell to the right with Helm Crag on the left.
Head down and push on for Tonguegill Force, Seat Sandal in view ahead, with Great Tongue in the foreground.

A final look back to Helm Crag, still shrouded in the valleys morning vapour.
One would think that a more gradual valley path would be easier to walk than a steep incline, but boys being boys you just end up not wanting to be the one who slows the party down so this was a hard slog at heart thumping pace which only the dogs seemed not to mind. This valley was new territory for us and I was much impressed by this change of scenery and we could see the waterfall below Grisedale Hause increasing in our view as we neared.
The waterfall below The Hause.
The weather didn't know what it was doing but had generally kept dry and suddenly it looked promising with the mist receding and blue sky beginning to display itself. A debate followed to remove waterproof jackets which was agreed when the cloud descended on us again before we even got them in the backpacks. On they went again and deeper into the thickening cloud and now rain.

Grisedale Tarn, the view of.
We finally achieved the head of the hause, expecting some view of the tarn and this was it. There was no point hanging around to be awestruck by this panoramic view, so without a stop, hearts pounding ever on, we drove our legs up the steep gradient for Fairfield. This is a slog by any account and with no views it was time to bury the head to the chest and watch the ground slowly get eaten away by time and pace until the scree and the incline slowly recedes to a flatter and firmer track. Suddenly the cairn line was in view and Fairfield's summit was reached. With no one else present we had the choice of cairns and plumbed for the best shelter from the westerly wind. Time for bait and coffee.
 Fairfield may be high, have it's classic horseshoe and gorgeous views through 360 degrees, but in clag it is a barren landscape with little indicators to assist people off, so the use of a compass and a map and the ability to use them is essential in limited vision. The wrong decision here will see you go 'off piste' so take time to navigate in cloud on this fell, if you are not familiar with it.
Fairfield's nondescript summit.

Two cairn lines, the left leading to Hart Crag and the right, to Great Rigg.
You can see in the above picture how featureless the ground is off the fell. Fairfield being familiar ground, we headed on our intended route to Great Rigg and Heron Pike. We could have gone off to the right to Alcock Tarn at Heron Pike and shortened the walk considerably, though we had set out for an 18-20km walk and that would have been too short a route.
 We came out of the cloud on the journey down and were rewarded with a view of Windermere in all it's glory.
 We headed eventually for Rydal Mount via Nab Scar and turned at Wordsworth's former residence in his later life, onto The Old Corpse Road. It's always intriguing to come across these roads and I know of three in the National Park. This was a busy section of the walk, being just above the car parks of Rydal water, but the views were lovely and I was pleased we opted for it. With  a good walk already in our legs the steep uphill to Alcock Tarn was tiring, but it was to be the last climb. Having never been to this tarn, I wanted the experience and it was worth it, though I made a mental note to return in good clear weather.
Heading for Alcock Tarn, Grasmere and Helm Crag in view.

The Tarn with a clip of Windermere in the distance.
Here we had the last of our food and having achieved everything we set out to do that day, it was time to head down to the car and polish off a couple of pints in Tweedies bar in the village to finalise the walk. There was one final surprise ahead which was unexpected, an above ground section of the Thirlmere Viaduct that takes the water to Manchester. This was a wonderful feat of engineering and you have to stop and admire it, though I could not initially work out what this 'bridge' structure was, but finally the penny dropped.
Thirmere Viaduct crossing Greenhead Gill.

In ten minutes we were at the car, changed, in Tweedies and happy bunnies we were too. This was a good walk, new paths and features covered, of 18kms with 1300m ascent. It's there with my recommendation to try all, or parts of it.

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