A Round of Greenhead Gill (or Fairfield Photo-Fest!)

15 03 2013

We were lucky for our latest trip to Grasmere as the weather was superb! This post is rather photo-heavy as Richard and I both took our cameras, Richard his digital and me my trusty film Zenith, and we both went completely mad clicking away. Richard came back with around 400 photos from 2 days’ walking and I took over 60 photos on the first day – unheard of for me. This was accompanied by much ooo-ing and aah-ing from me as I looked at the superb views all around – I hope I’ve done them justice! It was the best 2 days out in the hills I’ve had for years…

(click on photos for full resolution)
I’ll try to keep the words to a minimum and let the photos do the talking as far as possible but first I must tell you of the disastrous start to our trip. Richard and I had gone to stay at the fabulous Grasmere Hotel as, even after they’d had to throw me out of the dining room last year for attending breakfast in bare feet (I got up late), they sent me a ยฃ50 voucher off another stay. That wasn’t to be turned down so, at the end of February, we booked 2 nights there. So far, so good…

As we unpacked, I realised I’d forgotten to bring any walking socks – no problem though as we could just pop out and buy some in the various Grasmere outdoor shops in the morning. Anyway, Richard said he could lend me some… Then he clapped his hand to his mouth and looked slightly horrified… He’d taken our walking boots outside before we set off to wax them and forgot to put them in the car afterwards. So here we were, planning to walk on the snowy and icy fells, with crampons and ice axes if needed… but no boots!

In the end, we found a ‘Mountain Warehouse’ in Grasmere which, unlike the other outdoor shops there, was nice and cheap and we both looked for some footwear we could make use of. Richard fortunately found a new pair of lightweight walking boots which he said he could use as his next ‘town boots’ and said I could wear them and he’d wear his old and knackered current town boots on the hill.

We hadn’t envisaged a long time to do our walk so we were happy setting off post-shopping at 11. We’d strolled along the riverbank between the hotel and the shop and I took these photos of the peaceful river with Richard’s digi-camera

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and he snapped this imposing picture of Stone Arthur which we were going to descend at the end of the day

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We’d decided to do a round of Greenhead Gill for two reasons – I’d never visited Alcock Tarn and he hadn’t done the Wainwright peak of Stone Arthur (which is a bit of a sham peak as it is really part of a descent ridge of Great Rigg). Without further delay, we set off up the steep path out of Grasmere Village to Alcock Tarn.

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Greenhead Gill from the Thirlmere Aqueduct – taken by me at the end of the walk with Richard’s camera as I’d used 3 rolls of film by then!

Looking back down to the Vale of Grasmere…

09Helm Crag Round from Alcock Tarn with forest

10Grasmere from Alcock Tarn

11Twisty Trees Below Alcock Tarn

There was great excitement from us both when we heard the unmistakable sound of a Hercules ex-military transport aircraft passing below us up the valley and Richard, having a quick point-and-shoot digi-camera, managed to get a shot of it (on the left of the photo and below us)…

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We continued the long, steep climb…

12Greenhead Gill top
the top of Greenhead Gill with Great Rigg above

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Richard took one of these crags I liked near the tarn

Then we reached the tarn and its beautiful environs – there were rocky lumps and humps all around which made superb foregrounds for photos back down into the valley but I’ll just put a few of these out here…

17Alcock Tarn - First sight
Alcock Tarn (above) the entry gate to it (below)
19Alcock Tarn Entry Gate

22Helm Crag from Alcock Environs
Helm Crag (above) The Langdales (below)
20Langdale from Alcock Tarn

26Alcock Tarn

Richard took the next three digitally…

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Crinkle Crags over Silver How – showing what a superb zoom his little camera has!

We then set off to pick a route up the grassy hillside to Heron Pike – we exited the tarn’s enclosure by climbing over the 2 pole gap in the wall – not sure if that’s what you’re supposed to do but there was a path going that way so many others do…

27Snowy Mountains from Alcock Tarn

The path we were following headed too far back towards Nab Scar so we left it and headed straight up above the tarn…

28Alcock Tarn from Above

We soon reached the ridge and plodded up the final slope, by now on some snowy sections, to Heron Pike’s two summits – where the head of the Fairfield Horseshoe burst into view…

30Fairfield Head from Heron Pike

The northern descents were very icy but it was possible to pick your way carefully down them – the southern ascents barely had any snow at all at this height…

32Looking back to Heron Pike Summit 1
North-facing descent from Heron Pike (above) South-facing ascent of Great Rigg (below)
35Great Rigg

It was quite a puff up onto Great Rigg (which incidentally I think is the nicest-looking peak on this side of the round) but we started to get great views towards Grisedale Tarn and its hills…

37Dollywaggon Pike
Dollywaggon Pike and the snow-streaked slope of Fairfield

38Seat Sandal's Grisedale Face
Seat Sandal – one of my favourite little fells

The descent off Great Rigg was exceedingly icy and we donned our microspikes – there were many others with them on but no-one in proper crampons – I don’t think the conditions really needed them – there were also some just in boots but they were walking very gingerly indeed!

39Icy Great Rigg-looking back
Great Rigg’s icy northern descent
42Snowy Great Rigg from Fairfield

and one of Richard’s shots below for a digital/film comparison…

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I think the digital bluey-tinge makes his a bit nicer actually…

Some great views of the Patterdale/High Street peaks hove into view in the Hart Crag/Fairfield gap…

44Hart Crag - snow-streaked

46High Street Range from Fairfield

And then Richard took these photos which amazed me when I saw how thoroughly astounding his zoom was, especially for a budget camera which he bought ‘on offer’! The first photo is a distant shot of Ill Bell…

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and then he zoomed in…

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and I couldn’t believe you could see (click on photo for full size) people stomping up the hill in front of Ill Bell, their snowy furrow up the hill and, on Ill Bell, the little bypass path which cuts across below its summit – astounding!

He zoomed the other way and you could see clearly the cars in Grasmere at a business convention!

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I’d actually noticed these as, from a distance and shining in the bright sun, they looked like a little shiny necklace!

When we reached the summit, he took this fantastic zoomed shot of the Nethermost Arete and Striding Edge/Helvellyn

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Now we’d reached the solidly-frozen snows of the summit plateau of Fairfield, I went into full enthuse-mode and was exclaiming at every view in joy at the superb scenery… First, more Helvellyns (with surprisingly little snow) from Richard

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We crept close to the stupendous icy drop off the northern face to see Cofa Pike just peeping below us (my photo again)

49Cofa Pike from Icy Fairfield

Richard again – frozen summit plateau
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Then we took very many photos of the spectacular ridge to Greenhow End – starting with Richard’s shot with superb frozen patterns in the snowy foreground

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and my photos of it…

51Greenhow End snows

52Greenhow End with Snow & shadow

Richard took this cracker towards the summit…

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By which time, the excitement had completely exhausted me and I had to sit down in the shelter of a pile of stones and have a good, long sunbathe! ๐Ÿ™‚ Richard joined me and we had a biscuit and a hot drink. We stayed quite a while sitting in the hot sun and out of the wind – unusual for us – and wouldn’t have moved at all for a long while but we noticed that the light was changing on a lovely scalloped cornice I was wanting to photograph…

The photo competition was on again – I’ll label up which are my (film) photos and which are Richard’s (digital) ones and you can judge which you like best – I actually like his bluey-tinted ones better for many of them…

The cornice from our sunny seating place – Richard’s shot with the lovely Ill Bell behind…

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and then closer…

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Mine…

56Pretty Cornice - Flinty Grave

His again (with some great frozen patterns in the foreground)…

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He likes mine best and I like his best! I think the light’s better on the film camera, warmer anyway, but the bluey-coldness of the digital looks right with the subject. Let me know which you think…

Mine again – don’t know how I ended up as a sharp point ๐Ÿ˜‰

57St Sunday from Snowy Flinty Grave
St. Sunday Crag (above) Greenhow End Footprints (below)
58Frozen Route to Greenhow End

Richard’s version of the footprints

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We then split up and I stomped off on the most perfect rock-hard frozen snow imaginable towards Greenhow End and took some more photos – unfortunately, coming back to the summit plateau, after the next shot I finally ran out of film…

61Icy Head of Flinty Grave

I looked around for Richard and his camera-to-borrow – he was nowhere to be seen. I wasn’t sure he’d know the right direction to leave the fairly featureless plateau and hoped he hadn’t gone off along the second arm of the horseshoe or we’d have quite some walk back. I set off towards the southern edge of the plateau so I could see both arms of the horseshoe at once but there was no sign of him. I hurried down towards our descent route and eventually saw him quite some way down. I shouted after him to ‘Stay where you are’, ‘Don’t go any further’ and suchlike – he must have wondered what disaster had either happened or was about to befall him!

I rushed down to where he was and commandeered his camera as I’d just been about to take a great shot before I ran out. I hurried back up to where I’d left off and took the photo I’d had my eye on with his camera…

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And then I couldn’t resist the lovely patterns in the snow for this next one but, when I looked at the viewfinder, could see nothing at all but bright light shining at me – I just pointed the camera where I thought it was and clicked the shutter – luckily it was fine…

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Then I rushed back down to join him and took this before giving him his camera back…

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We went back to the summit of Great Rigg (which we noticed had thawed quite a bit since we left it an hour or so before), had a quick chat with a nice old chap on the summit, then headed off to pick up the path which sets off down the other arm of Greenhead Gill to Stone Arthur. On the way down I asked Richard to take this…

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He did another super-zoom shot to Alcock Tarn across the gill (he loves that zoom, he does ๐Ÿ˜‰ )…

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We passed a very strange dry-stone walled enclosure – I think it’s just where the farmer keeps supplies but it seems a lot of work for a supply dump!

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and then we reached the ‘summit’ rocks of Stone Arthur where I had another sunbathe – looking at the bright-white legs, I need to do a whole lot more of that! Richard complained that the light was bouncing off my knees so I was told to cover them up with my hands! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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After another break, biscuit and coffee, we set off down the very steep descent back to Grasmere… I was fascinated by this beautiful side-gill and asked Richard to take a photo of it – I even dictated the grassy foreground!

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I also dictated this foreground for a shot of Greenhead Gill – he was going to take one further up but I thought the broken-down wall-end looked nice…

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But he took this beautiful tree shot completely unaided ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Phew – bet you thought this post would never end – we were sorry such a superb day had to!

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18 responses

7 01 2014
Tarn Crag via Codale & Easedale Tarns | The Adventures of a Mountain Coward

[…] The day after our Fairfield Photo Fest walk (see my earlier post), Richard said he didn’t want to do another walk but I wanted to get another mountain in. I […]

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22 03 2013
smackedpentax

Superb photos…and a great article too…makes me want to head up there now.

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22 03 2013
mountaincoward

I think it’s changed quite a bit snow and weatherwise since those were taken a couple of weeks ago – I’d give it another week I think!

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16 03 2013
bob

Hi carol. Some great shots. Looks like a fantastic trip. I prefer digital but only because of the ease of capturing photographs. I wish I’d had one years ago when I was doing my trips abroad as a lot of those photos from then look washed out due to too much sun and the mountains always look tiny, even the Matterhorn.
That’s supposedly what the Arab oil families used to do. If they forgot something they’d just buy a new one.. houses; cars, helicopter’s.. Just as well it was only boots and socks in your case but its a slippery slope to start off on:)

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16 03 2013
mountaincoward

… and cameras… when I forgot my camera going to Jordan, I bought another one at the airport – was only ยฃ12.99 though! I found that over-exposed all the photos out there too!

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15 03 2013
chrissiedixie

Wonderful photos there, but I wouldn’t like to say which I preferred – digital or traditional! I know I certainly love the ease of just loading stuff on to the computer though ๐Ÿ™‚

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15 03 2013
mountaincoward

I don’t find it that much easier as I won’t keep the full-size files as they take up too much room. By the time I’ve shrunk and re-saved all the shots, I find it takes nearly as long as scanning them. Scanning is quite a relaxing occupation anyway – it’s quite nice to see your back-lit photo appearing from a rather dull-looking print! ๐Ÿ™‚

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15 03 2013
McEff

Excellent, Carol. My first SLR was a Zenith E and I’ve still got it in a cupboard somewhere. A chap I met in Scotland once told me that the Russians made them as secret weapons โ€“ when all else fails you can use them for smashing tanks because they are so robust.
How do you convert your pictures to digital? I’ve just bought a Konig slide converter but the results aren’t always as sharp as expected.
Cheers, Alen

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15 03 2013
mountaincoward

My mother has a Zenith B but that has an awkward lens size. They are supposedly tough – many a photographer’s laughed at me for being so ultra-protective of my Zenith – I won’t take it anywhere even remotely dodgy in case it gets hurt LOL – they’ve said they’re built like a tank. I know someone who dropped his down a 1000 foot steep hill and it was fine when he went to get it.

I scan my photos using a Canon scanner. Mine used to come out a bit unsharp so I asked the guy who dropped his Zenith for advice as he is a keen photographer – he said to ensure the ‘unsharp mask’ setting is ticked (i.e. switched on – sounds a bit backward to me but it worked).

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15 03 2013
McEff

Thanks for that Carol

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15 03 2013
fedupofuserids

Fab photos Carol. These hills certainly show their best side with a covering of snow & blue skies.

I would’t worry about forgetting your boots – it could have been worse you could have forgot your cameras ๐Ÿ˜‰ I once parked up in Langdale with blue skies & a nice drop of snow to find my camera was still on the kitchen table ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Yet to visit Alcock Tarn, the lure of the full ridge has always won so far – but an overdue visit is planned.

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15 03 2013
mountaincoward

Actually, you don’t have to miss any of the ridge out apart from the initial climb up Nab Scar. The path we started following from Alcock Tarn to the ridge was taking us along to Nabby but we just wanted to start from Heron so we switched to going straight up instead.

I’ve forgotten my camera many a time – most notably (and upsettingly) on a week of glorious weather where I did Munros in Glen Lyon and An Teallach ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Also setting off to Jordan for the first time so I just bought a cheap ยฃ12.99 one at the airport – it did the job, although the photos were a bit over=exposed – must have been built for dull Britain!

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15 03 2013
stravaigerjohn

Always a lovely area.

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15 03 2013
mountaincoward

I hadn’t been up to the Grasmere area for years until that trip – it was a lovely reminder of how nice it is ๐Ÿ™‚

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15 03 2013
johndburns

Great photos. 400 shots!, you’ll wear the light out. Good trick forgetting boots, done that one.

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15 03 2013
mountaincoward

It was Richard who took 400 shots – I only took around 100 – quite a lot for film! He went through a few sets of batteries I think!

The boots thing might not have mattered as much in summer but in icy conditions it was pretty bad!

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15 03 2013
jackie sowrey

Stunning photographs and location! The comedy of errors at the start made me smile.

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15 03 2013
mountaincoward

The Grasmere area is certainly extremely scenic โ€“ I hadnโ€™t been for ages when we did that trip. We always seem to go to the Keswick area or the Coniston range.

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