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A long stroll over the Coniston Fells (and other things)
by malky_c » Fri Sep 25, 2020 11:07 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Cold Pike, Coniston Old Man, Dow Crag, Great Carrs, Grey Friar, Lingmoor Fell, Pike o'Blisco, Swirl How, Wetherlam
Hewitts included on this walk: Black Sails, Cold Pike, Dow Crag, Grey Friar, Pike of Blisco, Swirl How, The Old Man of Coniston, Wetherlam
Date walked: 15/09/2020
Time taken: 10.3
Distance: 35 km
Ascent: 2750m9 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Sub 2k Marilyns: Lingmoor Fell.
Time: 10 hours, 20 minutes.
Weather: Warm, hazy sunshine, calm.
One hope I had for this Langdale trip was to find a day when I could head to the hills on my own and do a longish day out. I wasn't overly bothered where I might end up or what the weather was, but in the event things turned out pretty well on both counts.
When we started properly back on the hills again at the beginning of July, we assumed that Jackie's post-Covid symptoms would slowly dissipate and we would be able to do some reasonable days out by the end of the summer. That had been the progression throughout May and June while cycling. However hillwalking seemed to be another order of magnitude more strenuous, and her fitness largely seems to have plateaued, with only a slight improvement here or there. It has been pretty frustrating for her mostly, but I was also missing long days out, and had not really found the time or motivation to go and do anything on my own. However she was supposed to be working all week and I was able to take a couple of days off, so I could see an opportunity to do a good long walk right from our door. I had actually come up with the route by looking at what unclimbed Hewitts I had in the general area, then stringing them all together.
Tuesday looked like my day out, so at 8:20 I set off from the lodge and wandered through Elterwater and over the old road to Little Langdale. The first hour or so was a little grey but still pleasant, and after I'd passed over the Slater Bridge and into the Greenburn valley, the sun began to make a bit of effort.
Morning over Little Langdale
Little Langdale Tarn
My map showed a public footpath cutting diagonally up Wetherlam, but I wasn't sure that it would exist on the ground. Something of a path headed off in that approximate direction once I was out on the fellside, but in the end it led me approximately parallel to the main reservoir track until I intercepted a faint cairned path between mine levels. In the end this was what got me on the main bulk of Wetherlam for the final ascent. This was steep and craggy, with hands needed occasionally.
Langdale Pikes from Little Langdale
Looking down Little Langdale from Wetherlam
I was on the summit of Wetherlam less than two hours after leaving the lodge, and the onward route was looking pretty good. Other than a jogger and a walker by the Slater Bridge, I hadn't seen anyone else about today, and wouldn't until descending to Levers Water.
Windermere from Wetherlam
Old Man and Swirl How
I passed over Black Sails (thankfully - didn't even realise this was a Hewitt at the time, and the most obvious path bypasses it completely) and on towards Swirl Hawse. I took a shortcut here and picked up the path again in Levers Water Bottom.
Old Man and Levers Water
Swirl How from Black Sails
In my original plan for the day, I would have ascended Prison Band, but the summits I had missed previously were all outliers, and there would have been a lot of out-and-back which I wasn't overly keen on. So instead I opted for a less logical looking route - down to Levers Water, traverse up to Low Water then pick up the NE ridge of the Old Man. I'd been up the Old Man a couple of times previously but it seemed silly on a good day not to take in the focal point of the range. Anyway, I had also decided that rather than do an efficient route, I would try and throw as much ascent into the day as possible, and visit some interesting corners that I might have missed otherwise.
Swirl Hawse Beck
Weir at Levers Water
I met a few people down at Levers Water, but soon lost them again by crossing the weir and climbing slightly, before contouring between broken crags to make a rising traverse to Low Water. Although there was a faint sheep track here, this was definitely the most off-piste part of the day, and it was quite a surprise to come up by the quiet outfall of Low Water before rounding the corner and finding myself on Ambleside High Street . There were people picnicking and swimming in Low Water and a steady stream of folk heading up the Old Man.
Swirl How from Levers Water
Traversing round to Low Water
I decided to stick to the NE ridge rather than follow the path which zigzags up the side of it, and had half of the ascent from Low Water to myself before joining the crowds for the second half. The summit of the Old Man was pretty busy, but the dreaded flying ants were keeping people away from the summit cairn!
Low Water and Levers Water
Low Water from near the summit of Old Man
Suddenly I could see the crest of my next objective - Dow Crag. In indifferent weather I would have been happy to traverse round Brim Fell and do an out-and-back expedition to this, but it was shaping up to be a pretty fine day. This meant South Rake, which also meant another strange route choice - dropping straight down the western flanks of the Old Man. This was actually great, and a few minutes after leaving the summit I left the crowds behind and got a fine view of Dow Crag and Goat's Water face on. Perfect for an early lunch stop .
Dow Crag and Goat's Water
South Rake on the left
The descent was pretty straightforward, and I briefly confused a few people where I crossed the Goat's Water path and carried straight on for the outflow. A bit of boulder hopping up the other side (some of them rather loose) and I was at the foot of the crags. I might not have picked the easiest line onto South Rake, but it was decent enough, and before long I was on South Rake proper. I suppose this can just about be described as a scramble - it certainly crosses some loose ground and sometimes the rocks to the edge of the rake are the better option. I'd quite fancy a slightly more committing scramble on Dow Crag, but I hadn't done any research and didn't want to get stuck anywhere.
Centre of Dow Crag
Coniston Old Man across Goat's Water
On South Rake
Near the top of South Rake
A short walk from the top of the rake took me to the rocky summit - this is easily the best hill I hadn't been up previously in the Lakes in a long while . The summit area was quite busy, so I carried on, dropping down to Goat's Hawse before briefly picking up the Old Man path. I soon broke away from this onto nice grass to reach the unremarkable summit of Brim Fell. Again I could have gone around this, but decided to take it in.
West to Harter Fell and Scafell
Top of Dow Crag
Dow Crag from Brim Fell
Swirl How from Brim Fell
From Brim Fell to Great Carrs was a lovely ridge traverse in the sun. There were quite a few people about, but nothing like the numbers on the main Old Man routes, and I stopped off for another break somewhere along the ridge.
Old Man, Brim Fell and Dow Crag
Scafell and Scafell Pike from Great Carrs
At Great Carrs, I dropped off the back in the direction of Grey Friar. This was to be the only out-and-back part of the route, and it was fairly short (I had considered dropping down to Seathwaite Tarn from Dow Crag, but too much of this sort of thing is a bit daft!). There were only a couple of other people on Grey Friar, and the views north to the best bits of the Scafell range were great.
Back to Old Man
Scafell range from Grey Friar
Looking up the Hardknott Pass
Back to Great Carrs
Back down towards Great Carrs, I opted for a contouring path which brought me out on Wet Side Edge. After another enjoyable break in the afternoon sun overlooking Little Langdale, it was a quick descent to the top of the Wrynose pass. Unsurprisingly this was busy with cars and vans parked in every available spot.
Top of the Wrynose Pass
The next destination was Cold Pike. I was still feeling pretty fresh at this point, and the path up towards Red Tarn is good, so this was pretty easy. Passing a group of boulderers near Long Scar, I left the path and crossed the wettest ground of the day (ie quite reasonable actually compared to one of my more typical walks) to pick up a fainter path up Cold Pike. The summit was fairly hemmed in for views but had some nice outcrops.
Pike of Blisco
Harter Fell from Cold Pike
Crinkle Crags and Bowfell from Cold Pike
From here I dropped onto the good path down from Crinkle Crags to finally face up to Pike of Blisco. Not that it is overly formidable, but it's one of those hills that I have intended to go up numerous times but somehow never managed. An interesting band of red rock and scree was passed at Red Tarn before the final rocky ascent. I was actually quite surprised just how rocky the summit of the Pike was. Impressive stuff, with good views of the Langdale Pikes, Crinkle Crags and Bowfell as well as the worst flying ant cairn of the day.
Langdale Pikes from Cold Pike
Langdale from Pike of Blisco
Langdale Pikes from Pike of Blisco
Pike of Blisco summit...with flying ants
A lot of down followed on good paths...well paved ones at least. The amount of ascent was now catching up with me and the endless paved descent was starting to get a bit tedious. Still, at least there was no more up....
...apart from Lingmoor Fell, that is. I had planned to follow the path along the south side of Langdale back to Elterwater, but Jackie had suggested that going over Lingmoor Fell would be shorter when I had showed her my route. It certainly isn't easier, but at least I knew there would be effort required, whereas the walk down Langdale would be an endless tedious stumble that I would have kidded myself was easy until I tripped over my feet!
Stupidly I had missed a path to the high point on the road, so ended up dropping further than required. Oh well, all part of the theme for the day! A short walk along the road took me to the path which leads to the col between Side Pike and Lingmoor Fell. I briefly considered going over Side Pike as I hadn't done this before, but decided I couldn't be bothered. Lingmoor would be plenty enough.
Descent route to Side Pike and Lingmoor Fell
Langdale Pikes from above Blea Tarn
Crinkle Crags and Bowfell
Side Pike from Lingmoor Fell
The summit ridge to Lingmoor was longer than expected, but it was worth it for the Langdale views. On the far side, I decided to descend the main ridge east for a bit then drop north into the quarry. The paths for this were all straightforward enough, and I knew that going over rather than round Lingmoor had been the right choice.
Coniston Fells and Blea Tarn
Pike of Blisco and Crinkle Crags
Not sure if I took the best route back from the quarry - right at the end was a frustrating section where I was overlooking the river and the holiday park we were staying in, but couldn't get across to it! Never mind - soon I was there.
Through the quarry
It had turned out to be a fantastic day - even longer and bigger than I had originally hoped for. Despite the distance, walking in the Lakes almost feels like cheating, with paths everywhere and easy navigation. Time for dinner and a beer!
by martin.h » Sat Sep 26, 2020 5:15 pm
to do that lot
A very enjoyable read with plenty of great photos
by Broggy1 » Wed Sep 30, 2020 4:05 pm
by trailmasher » Thu Oct 01, 2020 11:51 am
by dav2930 » Thu Oct 01, 2020 4:35 pm
I'm very partial to the Coniston Fells, Dow Crag in particular holding many fond memories of climbing days. South Rake makes a practical (if loose) way up from (or down to) Goats Water but if you're looking for a spicier scramble you could consider Easy Terrace, which is the standard climber's descent from the top of B and C buttresses. It's graded 3(S) as a scramble - a bit exposed in places but not difficult even in descent and on clean, solid rock; probably comparable in standard to Curved Ridge on the Buachaille.
by Alteknacker » Fri Oct 02, 2020 10:58 pm
And, yes, you did have rather better weather than I had on the 10th - though I mustn't complain: it wasn't that bad, really.
I'm going to have to find a reason to visit Cold Pike. I did a round in Langdale as the first outing after my big accident, in the days before I even knew what a Hewitt was, so I just walked right past it without realising!
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