A Travellerspoint blog

August 2010

In The Coniston Fells

5 Wainwrights from Coniston in South Lakeland

semi-overcast 19 °C

This is a walk along the length of the Coniston Fells in the Furness region of South Lakeland. As described the walk takes in 5 Wainwrights though there are options to extend it to take in all 7 of the Coniston Fells - a long day - or shorten it into a circular route visiting 4 summits. My own chosen variation visits 5 tops including the remote summit of Grey Friar at the northern edge of the range, this being the only fell in the area I hadn't previously climbed.

Setting out along the stony track of the Walna Scar Road - a track closed to traffic - I passed the path turning right up the steep hill to Coniston Old Man - the Boo Tarn route. This is a quiet and pleasant way to that peak that is much to be preferred to the traditional way via Low water and it is described in full on my Coniston Old Man page. The way is now signposted by where a quarry road leaves the Walna Scar route. There is more on the traffic free status of that route at the end of this post.

After three quarters of a mile I left the Walna Scar Track to follow a path up to the right leading past the deep blue waters of Goats Water, a mountain tarn beneath the soaring rocks of Dow Crag on its far shore where several rock climbers could be seen ascending the cliffs far above. Now the path climbed steeply over rough terrain to gain the col of Goats Hause which separates Dow Crag from the Old Man. Here groups of walkers rested after the warm steep ascent.

The steady stream of people now headed off to either one of these peaks though my route followed the fainter path that after the initial right turn branched off to the left to contour the slope at an easy angle towards Swirl How with my own objective of Grey Friar seen across the deep valley containing Seathwaite Tarn. This path simply saves climbing up over Brim Fell which marks the main ridge and would be my return route.

With little effort I reached the col before Swirl How and began the ascent again. The views now opened out to Levers Water down the opposite side of the ridge with Coniston Water below and the green expanse of Grizedale Forest beyond. After the false summit of Great How crags was passed I made my way - with the groups of walkers - over to the cairn marking the top of Swirl How. Though overtopped by a matter of a metre or 3 feet by Coniston Old Man, Swirl How is actually the main peak of the Coniston Fells and it is fom here that the ridges connect to each end of the group.

One such ridge falling in just north of an easterly line to connect with Wetherlam is the Prison Band and this is an option for a circular route. If you had ascended by the Boo Tarn - or Low Water for that matter - route to the Old Man and followed the ridge here, descending the Prison Band to Levers Hause and going down to Levers Water gives the choice of returning to the Walna Scar Road via "Boulder Valley" or continuing down to Coniston.

I had a rest and some more water on the top of Swirl How watching the various groups milling their way along the wide ridge - most were going no further than this - when I got chatting to a girl who came and sat on the next rock to my own. Turns out that she'd set off from Langdale that morning and had already climbed Pike o' Blisco and Cold Pike on the far side of the Wrynose road before arriving here via Grey Friar. Her plan was to continue to Dow Crag and the Old Man and return to Langdale via Wetherlam so climbing all of the Coniston Fells. Impressed? I was!

Jaqueline was doing the Wainwrights and had set off that day to see how many summits she could reach - a few more than I would today - but at least I had done most of them already! We compared Munros and Wainwrights for a while before heading off on our separate ways into the hills. What a thoroughly charming girl!

The way from here to the next summit, Great Carrs is simply a matter of a few minutes walk with spectacular views into the Central Lakes. The crowds had gone and as I set off for Grey Friar pretty much everyone had gone. Grey Friar stands in remote mountain country separate from the main Coniston Fells overlooking the beautiful and unspoilt Duddon Valley and the lonely country above Cockley Beck - Upper Eskdale and the Scafell Range which was topped with grey cloud - one of the finest views in the Lakes.

I finished my lunch on the summit in the chill wind that had sprung up before heading back. Another easy path contoured the hillside around to the right from the depression between Grey Friar anf Swirl How so avoiding re-ascending those fells I had just climbed. The path joined the ridge again just before the ascent to Brim Fell which was an easy steady climb past several cairns to the broad expanse of the summit. Despite the increased cloud, the air remained clear and the Isle of Man floated surreally over the top of Harter Fell. Coniston Old Man was only a short way from here and soon I had rejoined the tourists on its summit who milled around taking photos of each other by the trig point.

I strained my eyes looking across the silver expanse of the Irish Sea in search of Snowdon - yes perhaps a dark smudge was just visible on the edge of things. Occasionally one can see as far as the Welsh Mountains from the Lake District but it is not so common. No sign of my companion of earlier - she must already be on her way back by now.

I set off leaving the tourists to do touristy things and headed south towards the top of the Boo Tarn Route. A faint path was soon picked up and I followed it down to the Walna Scar Road. If descending by this route do not stray too far to the right - towards the valley containing Goats Water - the ground is much steeper with crags there. Once the path is found it becomes more obvious the further you go. In mist - which is most of the time at Coniston - it is perhaps better to go down by the normal way past Low Water. Here even the most navigationally challenged would struggle to lose their way. All in all I would rate this as a good day out in the hills.

Pete Buckley August 2010

Summits Swirl How 802m/2632ft Great Carrs 785m/2575ft Grey Friar 773m/2536ft Brim Fell 796m/ft Coniston Old Man 803m/2635ft

Essentials >>> Up 860m >>> Down 860m >>> How Far? 15.4km >>> Start and finish at the sart of the Walna Scar Road or from Coniston

Postscript: As I reached the car park there were 2 guys from ITV News filming at the start of the Walna Scar road. As it turns out they were covering the story that the road had - that very morning been closed to traffic. I had been under the impression that it was anyway but no - it had been opened and closed at regular intervals and todays news was the latest in the saga. The road goes to the Duddon Valley via a 2000 foot pass and driving over it would almost certainly result the destruction of your car but the issue here was use by 4 wheel drive vehicles and off road motor bikers.

My own view on this matter is clear - the road should remain for use by non motorised transport only with the exception of essential traffic related to the quarry, use by farmers and the mountain rescue service. There is more on the Walna Scar Road in an article I have recently published.

Posted by PeteB 08:04 Archived in England Tagged mountains lake_district walking hiking foot Comments (2)

In the Caldbeck Fells

4 Wainwrights at the northern edge of Lakeland

all seasons in one day 11 °C

Here is an easy circular walk of eight and a half miles into the Caldbeck Fells at the northern extremity of the Lake District. The walking is easy and generally on grass apart from a fascinating ravine walk and 4 summits - all Wainwrights - are reached. The route perhaps lacks the dramatic scenery of the central Lakes but the empty spaces and far reaching views that typify the Caldbeck Fells, you will have to yourself. The start is from just south of the small hamlet of Orthwaite reached up the minor road about 5 miles north of Keswick on the A591.

The previous day had been one of the warmest of the summer with temperatures in excess of 30C in the South of England and 26C at home 200m above sea level. This was not the case today however and the thermometer stood at 11 degrees while ragged grey clouds hid the top of Skiddaw and a thin rain blew in on the fresh north westerly wind. From the almost tropical warmth of yesterday the weather now reminded me of the damp chill of Reykjavik in Iceland which was hardly surprising really as that was where it was coming from.

Hood up, I set off through the gate opposite and up the bridleway on its far side. I was about seven and a half miles north of Keswick and just south of the hamlet of Orthwaite above Bassenthwaite Lake and the path here was signposted to Burn Tod though I'm not sure why because there's nothing there. After a short distance the path left the farm track (which goes to Dash Farm) and climbed gently up to the left across the slopes of the fell known as Great Cockup which has to be one of the funniest names ever given to a hill. After passing a small summit which is actually a great viewpoint, the path meandered its way along the slopes towards a great grassy hollow in the fells ahead with views on the right of the Dash Valley and falls. These remote hills are known as the Ulldale Fells and join up with the (slightly) better known Caldbeck Fells the northernmost range in Lakeland. The character of the area though is not typically Lakeland but has more in common with the Howgills or the Southern Uplands of Scotland - vast sweeping slopes and rounded summits, the exception here being the northern aspect of Skiddaw fronted by the shadowed crags of Bakestall and the spectacular Dash Falls.

My path descended into the hollow surrounded by clouded hills and at an area of tall foliage the path disappeared and the rain started up again with renewed vigour. I crossed a stream and by passed the reedy area to its right and just beond a ruined wall, the path was rediscovered up to the left. Here I entered an exciting steep sided ravine which was a change from the open grasslands but didn't stop the wind which funnelled up behind me. The path mainly keeps on the left side of the river on the ascent and though rough in a few places is not hard, climbing steadily up the ravine which makes for an interesting walk.

As the top is neared the ravine splits in 2 with the main river descending from the left branch while the right one is almost dry. A path does exit up to the left but the far easier way is to keep on up the right branch which soon ceases to be a ravine at all, emerging on the grassy ridge at the top. Here I turned left and followed a faint path up the wide ridge in dense mist buffeted by an icy wind and horizontal rain which - just for good measure - was mixed with face stinging hailstones.

After a cairn on the ridge, the path climbed again indicating that the cairn hadn't been the summit of Knott after all - the true top being revealed ahead as the cloud finally broke up around me giving tantalising glimpses of distant hills and wild empty spaces to the east. That was Skiddaw Forest and the Caldbeck Fells - Lakeland's Empty Quarter. It is very important if you come walking up here in visibility as bad as this not to get lost by heading too far east - the walk home will be too much for many!

Knott is the highest point of the Caldbeck Fells and the highest Lakeland fell north of Skiddaw and today it was positively arctic - after the recent heatwave this was one of the coldest days I remember walking in the UK in summer - it was now only 5 or 6 degrees more like winter really.

The view was revealed suddenly as the mists cleared away - blown at speed by the gale - and the rain ceased. My route lay to the north west to the grassy hump of Great Sca Fell which is nothing like its namesake above Wasdale though now the sun was out it was a very pleasant spot indeed. The only human for miles, I sat on the cairn which was the only rocky object in a sea of grass and admired the sweeping vista of the Cumbrian plain and the sands of the Solway backed by the hills of Scotland while all around the cloud shadows chased across the breezy heights.

Now my heading was west along another path and I soon descended a surprisingly steep though easy and grassy slope that was unseen from above. This led in due course to Meal Fell - for the peak baggers the third Wainwright though not a two thousander - whose summit is crowned by a fine stone shelter. Here I rested again and looked back to Great Sca Fell and the slope I had descended. There were 2 or 3 walkers coming down now appearing as ants half a mile away on the green expanse of Great Sca Fell.

To the West of Meal Fell is an interesting little pass known as Trusmadoor - a steep defile through the hills which I crossed to the South where it is easier. Now the path led steeply up a stony ridge on its far side until the gradient eased and followed the wide whaleback to the summit of Great Cockup - yes the name is still amusing but it's a good viewpoint as well!

From the far end of Great Cockup a descent to the left through heather soon picks up the track we started on earlier and a reluctant return to civilisation can be achieved by turning right when it is reached. Then again one could always bring a tent!

Pete Buckley July 2010

Summits >>> Knott 710m/2330ft >>> Great Sca Fell 651m/2136ft >>> Meal Fell 550m/1805ft >>> Great Cockup 526m/1726ft

Essentials >>> 8.5 miles or 13.5km of walking >>> 1900 feet or 580m of ascent >>> Start and finish at Orthwaite

Posted by PeteB 02:52 Archived in England Tagged me mountains lake_district walking hiking foot Comments (0)

Glaramara from Wasdale Head

3 Wainwrights from Wasdale

sunny

This walk from Wasdale Head visits 3 Wainwrights; Allen Crags, Glaramara and Great End, before returning by a little used shortcut through the Scafell Range. At just short of 13 miles with over 4000 feet of ascent it is long but varied throughout and gives contrasting views of much of central Lakeland.

Leaving Wasdale Head in the cool of early morning, I passed the small church of St Olaf and followed the lane between stone walls to Burnthwaite half a mile up the valley. Here the path was signposted left around the farm building before reaching the gap in the wall that marked the open fellside.

Studiously avoiding the rough and stony path that climbed to the left - the usual route to Sty Head - I kept to the right after the footbridge followed a quiet grassy path that kept close to the river of Lingmell Beck. The map shows this path keeping to the left or north of the beck and you can go that way but I crossed the stream just after a small copse of trees which is the old valley route to Sty Head.

The winding path climbed gently below spectacular views of Lingmell with its craggy ramparts falling to the deep cleft of Piers Gill while on the opposite side of the valley the scree slopes of Great Gable rose steeply past the Napes Crag to a jagged skyline over 2000 feet above. Several parties now slogged their wayb up the stony pathway opposite though I had this pleasant grassy walkway to myself.

My route curved up to the left of a rocky bluff and there was the summit of the pass with the stretcher box just ahead. Here I turned right and followed thewide track up past Sprinkling Tarn - the wettest place in England - to the wall shelter below Esk Hause passing en route the sombre northern crags of Great End. Where the path forks after the tarn take the left - the other goes directly to Esk Hause and Scafell Pike and going up there now would cause you to miss half of this route.

The views north down Borrowdale to Skiddaw and Blencathra were all of a sudden replaced by the jagged outline of the Langdale Pikes ahead as I reached the shelter. (Note - if in mist - this path passes just to the left of the shelter and not straight to it!) Turning left, a short easy climb brought me to the first summit of the day, that of Allen Crags.

Despite the infamous climate of this region, the sun shone warmly tempered only by a pleasant cooling breeze that gave almost perfect walking conditions. From allen Crags the path led at first downhill winding its way round rocky bluffs and across grassy swathes until I reached High House Tarn which is actually about 3 small pools facing an interesting perspective of the Langdale Pikes. Beyond, the route went up a small rocky groove and crossed a minor summit before a final depression and a steep climb to the right of crags ahead. Now 2 summits were seen ahead - the highest of Glaramara's several tops, the summit of the fell being the last one which also provides the best views.

The central position of Glaramara gives a unique perspective on the Central Lakes andhaving left the Wasdale fells behind I was now looking down on the green depths of Borrowdale and Derwentwater while behind the rugged peaks of Bowfell, Esk Pike and Great End made the skyline.

The return is by the same route and makes a round trip of three and a half miles with 1000 feet of ascent despite the 2 fells being of similar height - Deceptive but worth it for the views.

From here the quickest way back to Wasdale is to retrace one's steps to Sty Head but a more interesting though harder route is the one I now took. In what seemed no time at all after the up and down path I'd been on I was down past the stone shelter and almost up to Esk Hause on its far side - the wide path to Scafell Pike being completely without difficulty here. The pass actually links Eskdale and Borrowdale whereas the shelter which is sometimes referred to as Esk Hause is on the much more popular path from Langdale to Borrowdale or Wasdale. Sty Head links Wasdale and Borrowdale and yes - there are many people wandering these hills completely ignorant of these facts!

Once at the pass the view opened out into the wilds of upper Eskdale ahead and I followed the trail up to the left in the direction of Scafell Pike. The greatest joy of this motorway of a route is the look on the tourists' faces when they realise how far away the Pike still is! I consider heading there myself - but not for very long. Seven times is enough for anyone so I leave the path at the ridgeline and briefly head north again to the much nearer stony top of Great End. You can visit Scafell Pike - England's highest summit - on this walk by following the main path and descending by either Lingmell Col or Mickledore to Wasdale.

Great End has 2 summit cairns - the north western one with better views across Sty Head to Great Gable and the other which is considered the official summit. Both are about the same height. From the main summit - a rough tangle of boulders - I walked north a short way to where the best view was to be had. Overlooking the precipitous top of Great Gully the ground opens up to reveal Sprinkling Tarn a thousand feet below backed by the wooded vale of Borrowdale and the familiar outline of Skiddaw beyond Derwentwater - one of the finest mountain prospects in Lakeland. I watched the ant-like figures of walkers below on the path I'd ascended earlier before returning over the rough plateau to col above Calf Cove where I had left the main track.

There is a faint path down the far - or western - side of the ridge and it led down to where the ground steepened considerably though the steepness was walkable to where I met a stream on the right. Carefully I picked my way down the slope pausing to replenish my water bottles from the strem before continuing down to flatter ground in the grassy hollow of Calf Cove below.

A good spot this was - an unexpected pasture watched over by soaring crags and hidden from below. I followed faint traces of path over easy grass to the left of the rocky feature called Round How and skirted a marshy level at its foot then there just below was the Corridor Route path which I followed around the rocky head of Piers Gill, the vast ravine I'd observed from below that morning - seemed a long time ago now!

Where the main path climbed off up to the left, I followed a lesser trail which soon climbed beside a ruined stone wall to end up at Lingmell Col a wide expanse of rough tussock country between the Pike and Lingmell and crossing it brought me within sight of Wastwater sparkling in the West under the bright afternoon sun. joining the main path descending ahead there were views of the sublime rock walls of Pikes Crag above and Scafell Crag across the rocky combe known as Hollow Stones. These stony fastnesses took on a harsh aura inthe sunlight as if deprived of their customary garb of damp grey mist.

The descent from Lingmell Col is simply a matter of following the constructed pathway downhill - it is knee jarring and unpleasant after a long day though not as unpleasant as ascending this way in the hot sun. Near the bottom of the incessant gradient just after the path crosses the river where 2 streams meet the track splits in 2. If you are based at or near the National Trust campsite in Wasdale then you want the left one as that is where it duly leads. I wasn't so took the right which rounded the ridge and led down through scattered trees to Wasdale Head.

Pete Buckley June 2010

Summits >>> Allen Crags 785m/2575ft >>> Glaramara 783m/2569ft >>> Great End 910m/2985ft

Essentials >>> 12.5 miles or 21km of walking >>> 4100 feet or 1250m of ascent >>> Start and finish at Wasdale Head

Posted by PeteB 02:37 Archived in England Comments (0)

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