High Pike (Scandale)

Published 13 August 2013

Stone cairn from the summit of High Pike

The rocky, pointy cairn at the top of High Pike

The Fairfield Horseshoe is a well known walk, and a classic one at that. It takes in a whopping eight Wainwrights. The usual walk is to start at Nab Scar, pop via Fairfield in the middle, and end on Low Pike. Fell number seven is Heron Pike.

The ridge walk from Dove Crag to High Pike is “one of the easiest miles in Lakeland” according to Wainwright; a statement I’d have more respect for if he hadn’t also said it about the Fairfield to Great Rigg ridge walk. And for that matter, also about at least three more other ridge walks in other volumes of his Pictorial Guide. Part of me wanted to scour the books and get a definitive number of “easiest miles”. However first I needed to walk that easy mile.

It started off easy. Funnily enough. Dove Crag is a simple fell with simple tastes, and High Pike was almost all downhill. However the latter fell was also a bit more craggy. Indeed, given there’s little that’s craggy about Dove Crag, you’d wonder if someone got the names mixed up.

Navigation was easy. The path followed a clear wall that had arrived in a less distinct form on Hart Crag. Paths weaved their way down on each side, the main path being on the east side. However as the mile went on, it became also the more steep and rocky. After some tentative scrambles down, I took advantage of a gap in the wall to skip over to the clearer path on the west, before hoping over again in front of a giant muddy puddle in order to make sure I could get to High Pike’s summit cairn.

"One of the easiest miles in Lakeland"

As I’d come down, I’d slowly lost most of the crowds who’d pottered off along various side paths, but it seemed impossible to escape a group of six walkers and two dogs. My attempts to hold back a little always coincided with the exact point that they all decided to stop and rustle around in their rucksacks for sweets and cakes; if I pushed on faster, the two dogs would end up rushing ahead in front of me. At least it meant I could intermittently listen in to their conversations, even if they were broken a little. One in particular sounded most intriguing.

“‘So you never go away because you’ve been away twice, and it’s been crap weather both times?’ I said to her. ‘You live in England for goodness sake!'”

What the rest of the tale was, I never did found out; the wind changed and it was cut off forever.

It was only as I reached the summit that I finally escaped their clutches. Like me, the group had been doing the Fairfield Horseshoe and had been loitering at as many cairns as they possibly could. However High Pike passed them by. They’d jumped over to the easier path on the west side of the wall, and so missed the cairn completely, pottering off with barely a glance.

The mush of High Pike

Not that I had the cairn to myself. As I approached I found a lone hiker taking in the outstanding view of Lake Windermere, and Ambleside down below.

I shuffled over, gave the statutory walkers greeting and found out he was on a trek to Scandale Tarn. By the looks of the bed roll attached to his rucksack, he was planning on wild camping at the side of the tarn, and I had an hint of envy at him; to be waking up and popping out of the tent in such beautiful surroundings, who wouldn’t want to start the day that way?

On the other hand, I had a comfy bed and an extensive collection of local beer waiting for me back at our rented cottage, so life wasn’t perhaps all that bad.

High Pike was also my final new Wainwright of the day. My next stop, down below, was Low Pike, a simple but steep downward walk to a fell I’d first visited in September 2011, when terrible weather had seen us abort our walk there and head back downhill for reviving cups of tea. This visit to its summit would be a bit easier; the views far better.

With my final fell of the day being a revisit, I tarried a-while on High Pike, munching on a Chorley cake, enjoying the view and being determined not to rush my descent. And then I thought of the beer down below, and headed home.

The eighth fell on the Horseshoe is Low Pike, and I visited that in 2011.

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