I met Paul at the little cricket club carpark just east of Rydal water, one of the rare places you can park for free in the Lakes. The drive down had been rainy and cloudy, but I trusted Geoff and his team of meteorologists to come up with the goods. We set off on an excellent track which passes one of the current rash of mini hydro-electric plants that are springing up all over Scotland, and now apparently the Lakes too. Eminently preferable to the blight that are wind turbines in my opinion, blending in as they do with local agricultural buildings.
Our route then took us through Rydal Hall, outrageously twee and pretty in the way only Lakeland establishmenst can be, and past a stile respendent with freshly baked mince pies being sold for charity. Most festive! It was then onto the hill properly, up a steep but very well made path where we sweated out our weekend's excesses. We were still in thick mist, which repeatedly showed the promise of thinning, and we stuck to our hopes for an inversion as we ascended ever higher along the ridge towards Fairfield itself at 873m.
The intermediate tops came and went, and as we were motoring, the summit of Fairfield soon emerged from the mist to welcome us with many cairns and shelters. I had read what a confusing place it can be, and Paul and I took our time to calculate the correct descent route to the next destination, he having had to escort people off the top before. Confident in our navigation, we set off briskly. Within a few minutes, we passed two people in the murk, and greeting them, realised we had passed them earlier - We had missed our path junction. Out came the compass, and a proper navigaton leg ensued to put us back on route. It's amazing how the plethora of paths that abound in the Lakes can be more bewildering than a bare hillside.
Hart Crag was the next slightly confusing top, again needing a bearing. From then on it was just a case of following the impressive and meticulously constructed dry stone wall southwards back towards Ambleside, often through deep bog. The sun did of course break through just as we got below 200m, revealing a brooding and incredibly still day, more reminiscent of autumn than winter. The sting in the tail was a small down scramble on the path that was intimidating where the smooth, worn rock was covered in a slime of wet lichen. I have only experienced rock this slimy and greasy once before in Glencoe, and suspect it's the mix of temperature and dampness that leads to such an incredibly slippery co-efficient. Worse than verglas! We had a giggle at how embarrassing it would be to take a slip on a Lakeland path at 200m alongside some of our normal exploits.
So a Lakeland classic done in 5.5hrs, and not a sniff of a view. Boo. Still, it means I will have to go back when there's a good forecast........er, wait a minute!