The Deepdale Horseshoe
Endorphins free flowing a day set up with great promise the weather forcast looked amazing with the high pressure still maintaining a presence over the UK after several days. This High was the cause of the bright clear weather last Saturday and the fantastic clear views from Place Fell and the still cold air in the valleys. Arriving in Patterdale at around nine am the outside temperature, according to the car’s computer, was -6°C and everything was white and icy.
A burst of activity and the steep slope up to the 1st shoulder of St. Sunday Crag is reached; the views into the eastern crags of Helvellyn group is fantastic, it’s so clear and you can see for miles, except the for the haze. The view over Ulswater is worth the climb in itself. I just manage to capture the steamer on its way across the lake, it’s wake making increasing patterns on the surface.
The cloud which is streaming over Fairfield is being held at bay by the mass of relativley warm high pressure air sat on top of the colder layer below.
This inversion layer looks dramatic with freezing fog/cloud billowing in the strong wind, seemingly following the contours of the fell as it over Fairfield, Cofa Pike and down into the hollow at Grisdale Tarn. Eventually it seems to escape and breaks out over Dollywaggon and Nethermost Pike.
The route I plan to take takes me right into the cloud layer as I climb steeply up over Cofa Pike and on to Fairfield. As I pass those coming down everyone mutters something about how cold it is and judging by their appearance, they’re all covered in a white frost they are not joking.
The temperature gradient is dramatic as is the change in visibility. From a almost warm 0°C in the sunshine on St Sunday to what feels like -8° takes almost no time at all and by the time I get to the top of Cofa Pike the visibility has dropped to just a few metres.
Navigation on the summit of Fairfield is notoriously difficult, the place is flat and relatively featureless. Even the cairns only add to the confusion in the fog as they are too close together and too many in number. Several times along the path to Hart Crag, the point at which I turn left to follow the path down to Bridgend, I’m asked for directions or confirmation of where we are. At one point I get the GPS and the compass out to make doubly sure as a small group of walkers, obviously on some form of organised walk are completely disorientated.
The remainder of the route follows the ridge down from Heart Crag over Black Crag and Hartsop Above How and the transition from the cold inversion layer back into the warmer one is almost as dramatic.