#62: Red Tarn

I’m staying in Langdale tonight, so I got my maps out this morning and had a look at the options in this area. I chose Red Tarn on the side of Pike of Blisco and set off, the sun shining, for Wrynose Pass. It was a long drive from home but totally worth it. There are still enough tourists around for Wrynose to be pretty busy but I got up it without any problems and found a parking space right at the top. The sun was shining and it was very warm in the car, but the moment I opened the door the wind hit me. The path was a little way down the road but easy to find and I set off into the fells. It was a very nice feeling to be so high up even though I’d only been walking for a few minutes! The landscape around the path was so beautiful, the sun going in and out of the clouds. At first I could even see right down the valley to Hardknott Pass. There were a few other people on the path (and one very excitable dog called Holly who REALLY wanted to be my friend) and as I got higher I saw the high crag on the side of Pike of Blisco was covered with climbers. I could hear the clanking of their gear as they climbed and could even see a couple of very triumphant looking figures stood on the top.

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It was a fairly short walk up to the tarn and not too steep. It was pretty windy and I was wearing a dress (for easy changing) but I had shorts on underneath for swimming so it wasn’t too much of a problem. As I came around a corner, there it was, rippling in the sunshine. I could see straight away that it was going to be pretty shallow. The edges were reedy and there were random weedy patches in the middle – always a sign that the water isn’t deep. I left my things by some rocks and set off around the edge of the tarn.

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I’d brought a long-sleeved top to wear and was immediately very grateful for it. The wind really picked up as I stepped into the far end of the tarn and started to make my way towards the middle. It was pretty sludgy on the bottom, but the further in I got the rockier it became, which in one way was a relief and in another meant that my feet hurt. Luckily, by now they were almost numb with cold. It really was very cold. And windy. It was very windy. I looked at the reeds next to me. They were bent double with the wind. There were waves being blown straight at me (why do I always end up swimming with the wind in my face rather than at my back?). I waded in until I was about waist deep and then stood there for a couple of minutes trying to build up my courage and hoping that I was acclimatising. The wind got a bit stronger.

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Eventually I decided I had to just go for it and I slid forwards, getting my whole body into the water and starting to swim properly. It was very cold. Archibald said it was 14 degrees C which was the same as Stickle Tarn but either I’d forgotten how cold that had been or the wind was making this feel colder. For the first minute or two I just felt horribly cold but, as ever, I did start to adjust and feel ok. When I’d been swimming for a couple of minutes I looked up and saw a couple come into view. They stood and looked at me for a while and then walked on without comment. Although I was getting used to the water it still took a bit of courage to put my head under for the underwater selfie. When I did it though it felt great and I actually wished I’d brought my goggles with me.

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I scrambled out at the other end and ran over to where I’d left my things. When I rubbed my towel on my skin I could feel that it was slightly numb. And now I realised my bad planning. I’d been wearing my shorts under the dress on the way up but now I’d been swimming in them and I had no intention of wearing wet shorts all the way back to the car. Although I was well supplied with warm tops I didn’t have anything else for my legs. So, once again, I had to go with a trend-setting new look which may have looked amazing but did involve me having to hold my skirt down against the wind every time I saw anyone.

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I hurried back to the car to try to warm up, alternating walking with the sort of half-stumbling jog that is the closest I ever come to a run. The sun continued to drift in and out of the clouds and although it didn’t take long to get back to the car I’d stripped off most of my warm things by the time I got there. I took a moment to appreciate the view from the top of the pass and then headed down into Langdale where I stopped at the Sticklebarn for chilli, tea and gossip. Such a good day, yet again!

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