Nab Scar

Published 23 July 2013

The summit of Nab Scar

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. And who was I to argue with that?

If you were in Ambleside asking people for suggestions for Wainwrights to do, you’d probably get a simple answer. Unless they were a Japanese tourist with absolutely no idea what you were talking about.

Ask someone who did know something about fells and you’d probably get a more sensible answer telling you to do the Fairfield Horseshoe.

It’s a classic walk, trodden by many a walker over the many years, and one whose popularity never wanes.

For those walkers whose interest lies more in the numbers rather than the scenery, it has an added bonus in that those walking the Fairfield Horseshoe can tick off a whopping eight Wainwright fells in one day of walking. That’s not far off a quarter of all the fells listed in Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Eastern Fells.

And (assuming you decide to walk it clockwise, like most people do) the whole thing starts with Nab Scar.

Nab Scar, seen from Rydal

As Wainwright takes care to point out, Nab Scar is not a distinct fell, but a mere end of the Fairfield ridge. But that’s not to say that getting up to its 455m summit is easy. Almost everyone walking to Nab Scar takes the path from Rydal, the tiny village on the road between Ambleside and Grasmere. It’s a good, solid path that takes the walker rapidly up in height. And when I say rapidly, I mean rapidly. So steep is the climb that an almost never ending series of stone steps have been put on the hillside, going almost up to the summit. I made my way up, panting and sweating in the muggy June sun; each step making itself known to my knees (Vibram soles? What are they?!)

The views, at least, made up for it. Not for nothing did Wainwright describe the ascent of Nab Scar as “a charming climb” for the views were spectacular, with the lakes of Windermere, Rydal Water and, later, Grasmere all charming the walker so much that they barely notice the fact that they left all their breathe several steps down.

At least it was a quick ascent. Staring at my watch, I momentarily froze in disbelief as I realised I’d done most of the climb in a mere forty minutes, and once my lungs had had a chance to re-fill, I was walking happily along the less taxing gradient that would take me to Nab Scar’s summit. Although as Wainwright also points out, Nab Scar’s officially the name of craggy south face, with the name merely being appropriated by the summit.

Grasmere Lake

But I didn’t care. Whatever it was called, I’d reached its cairn, and the views that came with it. Across the south and west, tarn after tarn, lake after lake, seemed to be present in one form or other,

I took my copy of Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Eastern Fells out of my pocket and thumbed my way through to the page on Nab Scar. Holding the page with his drawing of the summit cairn up, I tried to compare what Wainwright had drawn with what I was seeing now. It didn’t look that much alike. Although given Wainwright drew his version fifty nine years earlier, that’s perhaps not that surprising. Cairns change over time as people add and remove stones. But the fells, well they always stay the same.

And I still had quite a few of them to do that day.

Next stop: Heron Pike

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