Wild Camping at Hard Tarn, below Nethermost Pike, near Helvellyn, Lake District Walks

Wild Camping at Hard Tarn, Lake District

Some photo highlights from my Hard Tarn Wild Camping trip:

Wild Camping at hard tarn, lake district. Sunrise from Nethermost Pike looking east to Patterdale, Ullswater and the Pennines.
Sunrise from Nethermost Pike looking east to Patterdale and Ullswater where the mist is and the Pennines in the far distance.

Wild camping at Hard Tarn, Lake District, near Helvellyn.
Wild camping at Hard Tarn in the lake District, with High Craggs in the background.

Wild camping in the lakes at Hard Tarn

Wild camping provides a completely different experience on the fells to regular day-walking - and is a great chance to get away from it all and unplug from the world. It's perfect for getting some time to unwind, as other than the scenery there are no distractions. It also makes you appreciate a little more the basic things we take for granted in every day life, such as running water and electricity!

On this occasion I was looking for somewhere where I may well be able to see a brilliant sunrise, and after a bit of digging around on the web I found the perfect place - Hard Tarn! It sounded a good little remote spot - tarns do usually seem appealing for a place to stop - and from previous walking experience in these parts - I knew from the mountain range above (High Craggs / Nethermost Pike / Helvellyn) you can get a good view east - so a good place for a sunrise. So the location was set - I just needed some decent weather, relatively clear skies and a space in my diary - the time come on 10th August 2012.

The map route to Hard Tarn, Wild Camping in the Lake District
The route (highlighted yellow) to Hard Tarn, up through Grisedale Valley then off the beaten track at Ruthwaite Lodge

The walking route to Hard Tarn:

I'd walked these parts a few times before - so knew the route up to Grisedale Valley from Patterdale well - and had stopped at Ruthwaite Lodge a few times for a bite to eat as you get a superb view down the valley from it's elevated position. However once you get to the lodge along the well-marked path - it's a case of going off the beaten track- making your own path and following the river and cascading waterfalls up towards Hard Tarn - and using a map, the surrounding mountains (and an iPhone GPS as fall back plan) as your guide.

The path up Grisedale Valley towards Ruthwaite Lodge. You can make out the peaks of Dollywagon Pike to the left and Nethermost Pike just off centre to the right (where we would see the sunrise from!)
The path up Grisedale Valley towards Ruthwaite Lodge. You can make out the peaks of Dollywagon Pike to the left and Nethermost Pike just off centre to the right (where we would see the sunrise from!)

Ruthwaite lodge - we will be heading up to the heights behind it.

It's a good idea to stay close to the stream to use as your guide as it eventually leads to Hard Tarn if you follow the right one. The stream also makes a good place to have a wash in the morning :-)

The difficult thing about Hard Tarn is going up this way - you can't actually see it until you are level with it. A few times I had doubted that we were heading in the right direction - but just kept walking in good faith that we would stumble across it if we kept heading in the right direction - using the peaks of High Craggs and Nethermost Pike as a guide and also staying close to the stream that also headed in this direction.

location of Hard Tarn using the surrounding mountain range as the guide
The location of Hard Tarn using the surrounding mountain range as a guide. Keep High Cragg to your left - Nethermost Pike to your right - and follow the stream and you will get there, eventually :-)

After a longer, steeper and higher than anticipated walk (it had been a while since I had walked with a big back pack on!) - Hard Tarn appeared. It proved to be a perfect little spot to pitch a tent - with a bit of flat space that wasn't boggy - and also some flat level rock face to sit on for when the grass is a little damp in the morning. It may not be the most accessible tarn in the area - but that can be considered a good thing - as then there is a good chance that you will get the space to yourself!

perfect spot for a wild camp - my tent pitched next to Hard tarn, Lake District
A perfect spot for a wild camp - my tent pitched next to Hard Tarn, Lake District

To the far left of this picture - you can see the path leading up to sumit of the Mountain Range (in between High Crags/Nethermost Pike) - which is the route we took to get as high as poss to witness the sunset and sunrise. It's not an official path - but just about manageable, although a bit steep.

A perfect spot for a wild camp - my tent pitched next to Hard Tarn, Lake District Stunning views of the surrounding Lake District mountain range from Hard Tarn
Stunning views of the surrounding Lake District mountain range from Hard Tarn wild camp. A great place to get away from it all.

The fading light & sunset:

Here a few pics taken around the Hard Tarn area as the sunlight was fading.

Looking down Grisedale Valley as the last drops of sunlight reach the distant peaks.

Nice warm glow on these peaks from the setting sun.

You get a really good view of St.Sunday Crag from Hard Tarn.
You get a really good view of St.Sunday Crag from Hard Tarn.

A sunset from the top of the Nethermost Pike Range - in the distance you can see the Solway Firth and Bassenthwaite lake I think.

Night time  – The Stary Sky & Milky Way

One of the great things about Wild Camping is that at night you are removed from a lot of light pollution - and with a bit of luck - if the skies clear then the views of the night sky from a remote spot in the lakes are some the best that can be seen. On this occasion we were very fortunate - in that not only where the skies clear, but without planning it also turned out to be the night of the Perseid meteor shower - so we were very lucky indeed! I'd been in the Lake District before when there had been clear nights and I'd never seen so many stars - but this was something else. Not a cloud in the sky - no light pollution whatsoever, and a wide expansive view of the sky. You could actually see a faint mist running right through the centre of the sky - which I knew to be the Milky Way Galaxy - it was absolutely spell-binding and an amazing sight.  It was one of those sights that just took your breath away. And there is just something about seeing a night sky like this with thousands of stars in it that really make you think and get all philosophical. To top it off - every now and then a shooting star would fly through the sky due to the perseid meteor shower hitting earth's atmosphere - I later found out we happened to witness the year's most spectacular meteor shower for viewers in the northern hemisphere! With the mild night we ended up just bringing the sleeping bag & matts outside, putting some music on the speakers and just soaking it all up - knowing it's not often you get chance to see such a sight. As you can imagine this is of the great things about wild camping!

This isn't actually my photo - I found it on the web after searching around for something that represented what you could actually see with the naked eye. You could actually see the Milky Way galaxy across the centre of the sky in a sort of faint white mist - it was absolutely awe-some in the truest sense of the word.  


As people who know me will tell you - I'm not normally one to jump out of bed in the morning - but with the anticipation of seeing a glorious sunrise - it was easy to wake at 5am on this particular morning - and well worth it.

It was a bit of a scramble to get upto Nethrrmost Pike - but it proved to be an excellent vantage point to see the sun rise. There was even a bit of mist in the low valley - so perfect conditions :-)

Sunrise from Nethermost pike
Sunrise from Nethermost pike

Sunrise from Nethermost pike
Sunrise from Nethermost pike
Incase you think I'm making this all up :-)

A warm glow lighting up striding edge and the Helvellyn range, sunrise, wild camp
A warm glow lighting up striding edge and the Helvellyn range

This time looking towards Dollywagon Pike

As it was around 6am by this time - these fellas were the only ones up there with us!

BACK TO CAMP & Grisedale Valley

As we were up at 5am - we were heading back to the tent quite early and were all packed up for about 6.30am!

Morning at Hard Tarn and it's time to move on from our wild camping spot.

As we headed back down to Civilisation and down Grisedale Valley - the mist seemed to be hanging around the patterdale area- and although maybe no more than 50m high - the mist did make you feel like you where higher than you actually where. I guess for those who were actually in Patterdale
 - all you had to do was climb a little out of the place and you would be out of the mist. It's something I will look to do if I'm ever staying in Glenridding/Patterdale - an easy way to be above the clouds!

Well there you go - another blog post wrapped up and an absolutely brilliant experience. I'd definietly recommend a wild camping trip to others, and everyone should do it at least once! Just make sure you plan the location right, pick a time when the weather is favourable to what you want to see, you know where you are going and you take the right equipment, warm clothes for those cold nights  & enough food and water. I've done a list below of stuff to take on a Wild Camp, and if you have any questions - feel free to post any comments and I'll try and help!

wild camping equipment list, lake district

Essential wild camping gear list

If this blog post inspires you to go on a wild camp - then here is a list of the essentials I take on a wild camp - and where possible the links take you to actual products I use that you can buy online. I'm someone who prefers the best value options for maximum technical quality so everything I take is good value.


• Phone - your unlikely to get signal - but on many occasions I've actually got a signal on various peaks because they are high up - and you never know - you might need to try and get a signal in an emergency

• Kettle / Cup / Pan / Frying pan - all travel versions which are light weight and make all the difference in making eating and drinking that little bit easier

• Knife/fork/spoon - don't forget something to eat with!

Food & drink

• Its vital to take enough drinking water with you on your trip - I always take a few bottles of mineral water but if you know you are going to be camping where there is fresh water - then there are quite a few good instant water filtration bottles out there - such as this water filtration bottle from Water to Go

• Snacks  - it's not good to be hungry out on your trip - so take plenty of snacks that won't perish easily such as cereal bars, nuts, dried fruit and bananas
• For evening meals I like to keep things simple - so foods that just need water really - weather thats noodles that you can add water too or boil in the bag stuff like pasta/rice or even meals you can get from outdoor stores
• For drinks other than water - I'll take some tea bags, and a little bit of milk/sugar, and for a treat maybe a couple of bottles of lager, or little bottle of wine or a can of G&T 
• For breakfast I'll take a porridge pot which just requires water and for a treat some bacon and bread buns :-) If I take bacon I'll pack it in a cool box with an ice pack- which is usually good to last the night.


• Insect repellant - it's an absolute essential this - often you'll get midges hanging around your tent - even more so if you are pitched up next to some water - so you'll want a repellant either with Feet in it (but may be a bit overkill for UK needs) - another option which comes with great reviews in the walking community is Avon Skin so soft which you can pick up online for about £5

• Ear plugs - always a camping necessity for me - I'm a light sleeper!
• Toilet roll - you never know when you need to go!
• Baby wipes - good for a little clean in the morning
• Sun cream - if it's sunny then you'll need this!
• Another little home comfort for me is my Tooth brush & paste


• You'll no doubt be travelling/walking in the right gear (walking boots, top/trousers/jacket etc) so here are a few little extras:
- Take spare socks - it's nice to put fresh ones on in the morning
- I also take flip flops - it's nice to give the feet an airing, especially after having boots on all day!
- Pack an insulated jacket and extra layers - it does tend to get chilly at night - even in summer - so best to have layers too put on - it's not fun being cold
- Depending on the weather - take thermals too to sleep in - long-johns and a top  again better to be too warm than too cold

So that's my list of essentials for a wild camp and I hope it help's you in planning yours :-)