Alcock Tarn in a Blizzard!

9 03 2018

Tue 13 Feb 2018
Richard and I were staying at our favourite Grasmere Hotel. I’d had a walk just to Easedale Tarn the day before but my leg wasn’t good so we decided to just do a round of the quite high Alcock Tarn the next day. It ended up quite a day of two halves!

Easedale Tarn the day before

Click on photos for full size/resolution
The weather was dire in the morning and was due to be dire until dinnertime so we decided to stay put in the hotel room until then. However, by 1100, it was obvious most of the rooms had been sorted by room service and they’d be wanting to get into ours… we thought we’d best leave.

We got our stuff on and walked out into the persistent and wetting rain. I rarely put my hood up but, eventually, was getting so wet, decided I’d better – must have been wet. My leg was terrible and I was literally dragging it behind me and walking totally one-legged – very hard work even on the flat.

We soon crossed the main road and started the steeper rise on the track leaving the village for the northern end of the tarn. At this point, it started to snow heavily. At the point where we left the final house and went through the fell wall, we found the bridge had washed away (last year). We debated about using the bridge to the last house to cross the beck but I decided I wasn’t really supple enough to climb their wall afterwards – plus, if they came out to remonstrate, I could no longer run away!

I knew there was a dam a bit higher up the gill which crosses the beck but remembered a fence and a possible locked gate? There were a lot of people meandering around by the beck wondering what to do as I strode upwards into the heavy snow to the dam walls. The dams were easily crossed and they are wide and safe, however, on reaching the far end of the second dam, we found there was indeed a padlocked gate and spiky railings.

I asked Richard to hold onto the railings as I needed to hang along the outside of them and use the bottom of them for my feet to get past the locked gate and they were quite loose (probably from everyone doing just that) – a distance of around 6 feet or so. He grumbled at me but did as he was asked – I was sure he wouldn’t follow though. Luckily he did – and I braced the railings for him. Everyone else just looked on in dismay and set off elsewhere…

We set off on a slippery, muddy and snowy path up the steep gill side to the path above. I was a little worried on this section that I would slither all the way back down into the beck – I think Richard was too.

Soon we were on the path which, by now, had very thick, soft snow on it. We reached the path at a wall and found a load of sheep huddled there out of the now-blasting in our faces gale. It was by now a full on blizzard and was blowing straight into our faces so I, as the leader, could barely see a thing. Every so often, at a turn in the path (it’s a good zigzag), I’d put a hand over my eyes and squint into the snow to see where it went next.

Each time I stopped I looked behind to see Richard lagging and looking very unhappy indeed. He hates snow and bad weather and I was expecting, any second, that he’d announce he was going back down. Possibly only the beck crossing was putting him off…

I went very slowly and kept waiting for him and then making encouraging noises and chit-chat but was sure he’d give up any minute. I made very sure not to mention the weather! Him turning back would have been annoying as he had the map and my waterproofs in his bag so we’d have had to faff around in the blizzard swapping things around which I didn’t really relish. The annoying thing was that, now I was going steeply uphill on soft snow, my leg decided it was working well and I couldn’t make the most of it and push ahead quickly.

Sheep after sheep passed us coming the other way. I was hoping Richard hadn’t noticed the fact that, as we ascended, all the fell-hardy sheep were abandoning the fell altogether and looking for shelter down by the fell wall. If they couldn’t cope, conditions really were bad!

Near the top we lost the track altogether but I knew the gap ahead was the one housing the tarn and urged Richard to keep going. We were soon at Alcock Tarn and hiding behind the wall while I took a couple of photos. The snow had actually stopped now…

I would have loved to have continued up onto the ridge above but thought Richard wouldn’t wear it so didn’t bother mentioning it – funnily enough, he later mentioned he’d thought the same.

We didn’t hang around but set off to the far end of the tarn for a descent path marked on the map. We found it alright – we had to stay between the outlet beck which we’d just crossed and a ridge. I took a couple more photos…

Soon, the path disappeared and left us on steep, brackeny ground. We saw a little gate in the wall below us and scrabbled steeply down to it. The ground was wet and slippery as we were now more or less out of the snow so my leg wasn’t happy.

We had to climb over one fence and then found the main tourist path which soon reached the little gate – a very pretty path it was now…

From here we left the snow behind altogether and descended the good path. We were both enchanted by this tarn we came upon…

We reached the woodland on the edge of the old road to Grasmere and stopped for a quick coffee and biscuit. The sun was now thinking of coming out. We decided we’d add a bit on to our walk and have an explore of the old coffin route to Rydal and come back along the old road via a viewpoint.

The coffin route was lovely and we vowed to walk the whole length of it sometime – it took us above Rydal Water with great views to the lake and by now in full and warm sun 🙂

Rydal Water from the viewpoint above White Moss Carpark

By the viewpoint, there was a pond by a house with a heron on it. That meant lots of people with cameras (ourselves included) were sneaking around trying to get a good shot of it. There was also a poor, one-legged duck with her mate hopping around on the road.

We then descended to the carpark in the quarry where the old road starts back to Grasmere. This road was even sunnier and also yielded great views…

Grasmere (above) and Helm Crag (below)

We then descended back to Grasmere and went for hot soup and pancakes (I’d forgotten it was Pancake Tuesday until the cafe menu pointed it out – unusual for me!). What a superb day it had ended up!



7 responses

14 03 2018

Nice post. Looked a bit wild to start with though!


15 03 2018

I quite enjoyed the blizzard – just I was worrying Richard was about to bale any minute!


12 03 2018
Blue Sky Scotland

Nice account of your day out Carol. I’ve always hated hillwalking in pouring rain but snow never bothered me and I used to have a ‘thank god’ moment on hills when the rain would turn into snow if you climbed high enough. Snow I enjoy as it doent soak you as much..


15 03 2018

Yeah – snow’s alright really. I don’t really mind rain either – it’s gales and windchill I can’t stand… and ice!


10 03 2018
John Bainbridge

It’s a lovely area.


10 03 2018

It is – and I think that now my leg is too bad most of the time for the higher fells, we’re actually going to discover a lot of the beautiful low-level walks we’d have ignored in the past.

Liked by 1 person

11 03 2018
John Bainbridge

We mix them both too. There’s a lot to see on the low fells and valleys.


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