Wednesday, May 20

Lake District: 3 Tarns Wildcamp: Sat May 16th

With a brief respite around 5am the night was wet and windy (mostly outside the tent - I blame the cafe's pizza topping!)

Donning wet weather gear, chilled from the previous evening, I headed off into the rain cloud. Visibility was still virtually nil.

Crossing the wall at the tarn inlet to the east I picked up a slight track heading right, which turned out to be an easy route onto the wide Fairfield Horseshoe track around Lord Crag (GR: 354 076)

On a past trip I'd headed left from the inlet wall heading straight for Heron Pike. Rereading those trip notes earlier in the week I'd marked that down as "hard going-don't repeat". The new path was a doddle by comparison.

The first hour or so I had the rainclouds to myself. As the morning continued the poor weather started to clear, and with it came an occasional small group of hardy walkers doing the Horseshoe.

Despite the rain easing back to the occasional shower my waterproofs stayed on. The Paramo smock now doubling as an effective windcheater with the increasing wind gusts. The backpack's waterproof cover at times feeling like a candidate for manned kite flying, with me as the unwilling passenger.

I continued meandering ever upwards over familiar ground. The sight of Great Rigg rising high above me less of a challenge, merely another obstacle to pass over before the rigours of Fairfield.

(Fairfield ahead)

I kept an eye out for a traverse around Fairfield's western flank, but with the wind and rainsoaked grass I decided to err on the side of caution.

Around the 825m contour line I spotted a safe path left which whilst missing out the summit cairns, also avoided the wind. Or so I hoped. No such luck. The slippery shale surfaced descent towards Grisedale Tarn (GR: 340 120) zigged and zagged me face first into a wild blast of air funnelled through the pass, drowning out Terry Pratchett's 'Small Gods' radio drama on my MP3. More like Yee Gods I thought as the gusts strengthened.

Down by the tarn the winds's ferocity was undiminished. Plans for a leisurely lunch were quickly abandoned as I hurriedly resupplied with water and headed down the Patterdale track to join a few hardy souls in the sheltered lea of Ruthwaite Lodge Hut (GR: 345 135)

At least the rain was continuing to hold off. I stoked up on carbs aware that the last stage for today, was going to be 'interesting'. A 300-400m steep ascent straight up from the valley, following Ruthwaite Beck, to Hard Tarn (GR: 346 138).

The next hour was a slow and sweaty slog ever upwards. Especially the last 20 minutes hunting for what seemed to be the increasing elusive tarn. Despite pre-research on the net, and some photos of the spot, this one is a real bugger to find on a first visit. I eventually spotted it 50m below me as I moved along the final ridge below Nethermost Pike (GR: 346 139)

Hard Tarn - I'm still not sure whether its so named because of its rock bound surroundings; Or the fact its so bloody difficult to find.

(Hard Tarn)
Web photos had indicated some likely wildcamp pitches, but the combination of very wet ground and gusting wind led me to look for a sheltered spot. Not ideal. But not likely to suffer from flood or rock fall either.

It's a quiet and special place. Far from a path from or to anywhere. Unvisited unless for its own existence. Perched on the edge of a crag, today the heavy rainfall forming a small waterfall as the excess rainfall was blown over the bare flat rock down into the valley below.

Tent pitched most of my gear was strung along the guy lines in an attempt to dry it out. Or at least make it less sodden. Moving southwards around the ridge I found an erratic mobile signal, and checked-in at home. Despite the wind I spent a few minutes savouring an unusual view straight across to St Sunday Crag, and down the Patterdale valley and onto the distant hills beyond.

(St Sunday Crag)
I checked the next day's weather forecast via the MWIS internet/mobile service) Not looking good - more of the same.

My original plan was a return to Grisedale Tarn, down to skirt the foot of Thirlmere Water and onto Blea Tarn (GR: 290 140) A night there before moving over High Raise (GR: 281 094) and Grasmere with a wildcamp at Codale Tarn (GR:296 088), another favourite spot of mine.

This central region of the Lakeland Fells has wonderful views. Supposedly. Every time I've covered the ground it's been in rain cloud and high wind. Judging by the weather so far, and the prediction for the next few days, it would be a fruitless trip. Best left for another time.

Maps spread out in the tent I came up with an alternative, and texted home the route changes.

Whilst I replanned the sun finally poked its head out for half an hour, before being chased away by the gusting wind. No rain though. The fell tops all around me stayed gloriously clear of cloud for many hours. But I suspect clear of people as well, as the evening light started to fade. (Panorama East to West)

As I cooked the evening meal I had entertainment in this solitary spot. A surreal sight. A wetsuit clad individual (and dog) suddenly appeared at the far side of the tarn, leapt yelling into the water, casually waved, and headed back into the crags above (Nope - I've no idea either)

In warm and sunny weather this would be an idyllic spot to spend a couple of days wildcamped, using it as a base to explore the less visited parts of the Helvellyn Ridge.

But today with wind gusts increasing in frequency my trip notes record "It's likely to be a noisy night, if this wind continues to pick up. Thankfully me and the Akto tent are old friends trusting of each others capabilities based on our shared hill experiences"

These would turn out to be prophetic words.


Good report, John. Nice to see the Akto out in pitches like that, and the matter of trusting in it - and the reciprocated trust that you'll not pitch it somewhere unsuitable. A nice note that.
Sounds like a fun trip, John, I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

Have you considered setting up a focus-group for folk who habitually wildcamp at obscure tarns? :-)
Aktoman- the relevancy of that will become clearer on the next few posts. It got hairy!

BG - I semi-jokingly commented a couple of years ago about a new Lakeland Challenge - to spend a night at every tarn. Now the more I think about it the better that idea gets. More satisfying(and more difficult?) that the Wainwrights. I've done a few of the better known spots, but the 14 tents at the last one sort of flies in the face of the solitude Ienjoy so much. And there's so much more satisisfaction in the wildcamp in a truly remote spot. Pity there's so few people who really get the idea behind it.
Grand report john, but you're another one who can sure pick 'em weatherwise!. At least it will be highly memorable.
We have camped at some of the little known tarns, they can make terrific pitches.
Just doing some catching up John - I thought that Hard Tarn was a well kept secret! Cracking spot isn't it. Scoat Tarn is another favourite of mine. I like the idea of ticking off the tarns and have copies of the Nuttalls books (but don't out me as a bagger - this is strictly on the hush-hush)
Your secret is safe just between us two

And thanks for the further ideas
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