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Hot going on the Coniston Fells.

Hot going on the Coniston Fells.


Postby trailmasher » Mon May 23, 2016 9:31 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Great Carrs, Grey Friar, Swirl How, Wetherlam

Hewitts included on this walk: Black Sails, Grey Friar, Swirl How, Wetherlam

Date walked: 08/05/2016

Time taken: 4.36

Distance: 13.65 km

Ascent: 1084m

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After our walk around the Tilberthwaite Fells last Wednesday and having seen Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam Chris got a hankering to have a go at the Coniston group of fells on the following Sunday as he would be going back offshore on the Thursday after that. As we are both also seeing off the Birkett's and I have one remaining Lake District Hewitt to get done - Black Sails - it was decided to miss out Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man as there are a small cluster of Birkett's south of them and would also reduce the length of our walk by some 9 kilometres (5.6 miles) - and 300 metres (984 feet) of height gain. Doing this would also give us a decent walk when tackling the two Wainwright's plus the Birkett's along Walna Scar and Tover High Common.

To do the walk missing out C-O-M and Dow Crag we would be starting it from the Three Shires Stone at the summit of Wrynose Pass therefore giving us the advantage of a higher starting point than from anywhere else but the disadvantage of having to descend into Greenburn from Wetherlam and then climbing back up via Rough Crag to get back to the car. Over the course of the intervening days it was decided that Eva, Chris's daughter would be joining us, so it's happen as well we decided not to do the full round of the Coniston Fells, plus the extra's, as what we have chosen to do is a bit of a handful for any inexperienced walker never mind a 14 year old lass.

Sunday, the day of the walk has arrived along with the usual 7am knocking at the door accompanied by Chris behind the fist and Eva in his wake. Poor Eva, she had to be up by 5am to get here so it is going to feel like a long day for her by the time she gets back home. Coffee made and drunk we got going by 7:30am under a blue sky, a few clouds, and plenty of sun promising a very warm if not, hot day ahead of us. The temperature was 12°c.

The usual drive down the side of Ullswater and over the Kirkstone Pass was not so usual this morning as we were met by hundreds, nay thousands, of cyclists riding towards us and I was a bit perplexed for a minute or two until I realised that it was the yearly 180 kilometre (112 mile) with 3,352 metres (11,000 feet) of height gain cycle race over the 6 high passes of the Lake District. It's not really a race - though plenty treat it as such - but more of an endurance challenge, is dedicated to one Fred Whitton, and is called The Fred Whitton Challenge cycle race. It starts and finishes at Grasmere and over the 180 kilometre (112 miles) circuit climbs Kirkstone Pass - Honister Pass - Newlands Pass - Whinlatter Pass - HardKnott, and Wrynose. And here am I thinking that we may have a hard day out in the heat of the sun.

Fortunately they are coming towards us so they don't impede our progress just yet but things were due to change as we started to climb up Kirkstone Pass. It's quite early in the morning and we don't normally see much traffic but just now there is a queue in front of us as we stopped and started, making slow progress and we thought that the great volume of bicycles was forcing the traffic to slow down. Then we saw an ambulance with everything going coming down towards us and we realised that there must have been a crash involving the riders. As we got waved on we passed a parked up ambulance protecting a group of paramedics, race marshals, and other helpers that were attending to a badly hurt rider who was lying unconscious against the roadside wall. There were a few walking wounded and a number of badly bent bikes scattered about so we presumed that some of the bikers had collided with each other and hoped that the injured were not too bad and would make a speedy recovery.

Once we had got past this scene of trauma we continued with no further incidents to mar our journey but the stream of bikers just kept on coming towards us. Upon reaching the Kirkstone Inn we turned off down The Struggle and saw no more of the riders until later in the afternoon. Within a short time we was passing through Little Langdale and climbing the steep hill of Wrynose Pass to finally arrive at the Three Shires Stone with its two parking spaces that were fortunately unoccupied.

The Three Shires Stone consists of a roughly 2 metre high pillar of grey limestone with the inscription WF 1816 on one side and Lancashire on the other. There are three stones set at regular intervals around the perimeter of the raised grassy 'plinth' indicating where the three old shires met with each one having the letter of its relevant county carved upon it. C for Cumberland, W for Westmorland, and L for Lancashire indicates the borders. There is also a small 'plaque' with an explanation of the reason for the monolith carved upon it.
1 - The Three Shires Stone.JPG
The Three Shires Stone.

51 - The Three Shires Stone information plaque.JPG
The Three Shires Stone information plaque.

History lesson over, booted up, and Chris having eaten his 'on the go' sandwich we set off walking by 8:55am under a blue sky and a temperature of 14°c which isn't too shabby for this time of the morning and at this height. We climbed south up the path to the higher level of road to cross it and immediately used stepping stones to pass over the small tarn sized wet area before starting the climb proper up the well made path towards Wet Side Edge. At about the 490 metre contour we left the main path to take the original and now faint path through the grass that gives a more direct route to the 579 metre cairn of Wet Side Edge. This path is a bit steeper than the other one that sneaks around the west side but height is quickly gained giving us some good views across the valley towards Cold Pike and Pike of Blisco.
7 - Cold Pike - Red Tarn - Pike of Blisco.JPG
Cold Pike - Red Tarn - Pike of Blisco.

It's quite hazy just yet but we can see far enough to identify a few hills.

Now that we are a little higher we can see Swirl How quite a way above us, Great Carrs, Little Carrs, and Hell Gill Pike which is the first of our ‘tops’ on this walk. We continued on up on the now reached regular path to quickly find ourselves at the Birkett of Hell Gill Pike with its cairn sat on the rocky top that overlooks the large dry gill gully of its namesake. Next on is Little Carrs, Birkett number 2, with its crown of pointed rocks sticking out of the ground.
8 - Little Carrs from Hell Gill Pike.JPG
Little Carrs from Hell Gill Pike.

From Little Carrs we cut straight across the fell side, firstly across the scree of large stones and then the easy walk across the grass of Wether How...
13 - Grey Friar with Harter Fell behind from Wether How.JPG
Grey Friar with Harter Fell behind from Wether How.

- from where a good view of Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man can be seen - to reach the main path that would take us to the foot of Grey Friar before we tackled the fairly steep slopes and stony path to gain the flattish summit plateau and passing the ‘Matterhorn’ shaped rock on our way to reach the summit cairn that sits on the rocky mound at the western extremity of Grey Friar. Looking over to the northwest we have good, although hazy views of the Hardknott Fells with Harter Fell and its forked summit being the most prominent whilst looking further north can be seen the summit of Hardknott Pass overlooked by Border End with the Wainwright of Hard Knott itself still further round and just visible through the haze.
16 - Looking to Harter Fell and the Eskdale Fells from Grey Friar.JPG
Looking to Harter Fell and the Eskdale Fells from Grey Friar.

Of course we can’t forget the giants of the Scafells and Slight Side sat way over in the distance. This is also where we had our first break of the day.

Once we had rested and fuelled up we retraced our steps to the bottom of the fell and continued on the good path northeast and uphill to arrive at the crash site and memorial of the 2nd World War Halifax bomber that was also a victim of unreliable altimeters.
19 - Crashed aircraft memorial between Grey Friar and Great Carrs.JPG
Crashed aircraft memorial between Grey Friars and Great Carrs.

After a few moments of looking at the cross sticking out of the large cairn, remaining wreckage, and the few surviving Remembrance Day poppy crosses we continued on to reach the summit of Great Carrs with its cairn of stones spilling off the uppermost outcrop of rock.

It is now but a short walk over Top of Broad Slack to arrive at the large cone shaped cairn of Swirl How sat amongst the resident rocks and stones that litter the summit. If you look closely it is possible to see the small remains of a crashed aircraft lying near the bottom of the gully of Broad Slack that lies between Great Carrs and Swirl How. This is all that remains from another of the many planes that crashed whilst flying on training flights during the Second World War.

From here we can plainly see our next objective, Wetherlam, and the way to go which…
22 - Wetherlam from Swirl How summit.JPG
Wetherlam from Swirl How summit.

23 - Eva looking over Greenburn and Little Langdale.JPG
Eva looking over Greenburn and Little Langdale.

to the uninitiated to the Coniston Fells looks a daunting prospect as it looks far away with the view of the Prison Band doing nothing to promise an easy journey down to Swirl Hawse. It is a fell of great proportions, grey and green in colour and appears to be hanging on to the main Coniston Fells by the narrow neck of ground at Swirl Hawse. The way down to the hawse is by the unusually named Prison Band of which I can’t find any indication of where the name originated. Once been on though it is however a journey not to be forgotten as the way is steep and rough as the path winds its way down through the rocks, sometimes splitting in an attempt to find an easier way through the steeper areas and where a bit of scrambling may be avoided.
25 - Wetherlam from the Prison Band.JPG
Wetherlam from the Prison Band.

26 - Coniston Water and Levers Water from the Prison Band.JPG
Coniston Water and Levers Water from the Prison Band.

28 - Swirl How and the Prison Band from above Swirl Hawse.JPG
Swirl How and the Prison Band from above Swirl Hawse.

It’s hot now as we proceed to descend down to Swirl Hawse and having to stop quite regularly to allow passage of those on their way up, some of whom have also arrived here by way of Wetherlam Edge of which we will hear more of later. Eva who has only ever been out on three other occasions is coping well, but never having walked on this sort of ground before is taking it nice and steady and soon enough we are at the bottom where a well earned drink was the order of the day before starting the first short, steep, section of climb onto Wetherlam. When descending the Prison Band the path climbing onto Wetherlam and running northeast along its side seems a daunting prospect, but once the first bit from the hawse is over with the path is at quite a steady gradient right the way to the summit.

As we are going to have a look at Black Sails next - which is my last remaining Lake District Hewitt - soon after passing over Keld Gill Head and just before Red Dell Head Moss we turned off the path and dropped our bags behind a rock whilst we made the short climb south over grass to reach the small summit cairn of rocks. From here we had a good view of Coniston Old Man, Levers Water, Coniston Water, and some of the ground that we have already covered.
29 - Coniston Old Man and Levers Water from Black Sails top.JPG
Coniston Old Man and Levers Water from Black Sails top.

30 - Swirl How and the Prison Band from Black Sails top.JPG
Swirl How and the Prison Band from Black Sails top.

After getting back to the bag drop we decided to have a few minutes and a refuel before setting off for the top of Wetherlam. This is my third visit to Wetherlam but on my previous two visits I wasn’t aware that Black Sails was a Hewitt until I had read ‘The Mountains of England and Wales’ by John & Anne Nuttall. Well this time I am, and this time I didn’t pass it by without getting on it.

Once back on the path it didn’t take us very long to reach the summit of Wetherlam with its cairn of stones sat on the craggy top.
35 - A view from Wetherlam summit.JPG
A view from Wetherlam summit.

From the summit we could see the Tilberthwaite Fells that Chris and I walked over the previous Wednesday with Little Langdale Tarn glistening in the distance. Once we leave Wetherlam we are going for the Birkett of Birk Man Fell that is directly below us at the bottom of Wetherlam Edge.
38 - Birk Fell Man from Wetherlam Edge.JPG
Birk Fell Man from Wetherlam Edge.

I have dropped off Wetherlam on other routes before but this way was to be a first and due to the nature of it, it wouldn’t bother me if I never descended this way again. It is longer – or seemed to be – rougher, and steeper than the Prison Band and careful placing of feet is a must on the very steepest and rougher parts of this path. It’s not often that I think that I would rather go up than down but this one is very near the front of the queue.

Our youngest member is struggling a little as she now has sore feet with the continual downhill passages over steep and rocky ground but refuses to complain as she gallantly reaches the ‘col’ that leads on to Birk Man Fell. Our suggestion of guarding the bags whilst Chris and I scoot over to the summit cairn of this last of our tally for today was met by a welcome smile of relief. The narrow grass covered path winds its way around the many hummocks to quickly arrive at the first and westerly of the two highest points of this fell with the second one further to the east the higher of the two although they both sport a small cairn.
41 - Chris at Birk Fell Man summit cairn.JPG
Chris at Birk Fell Man summit cairn.

42 The lower slopes of Wetherlam Edge.JPG
The lower slopes of Wetherlam Edge.

44 - Tilberthwaite Fells from Birk Fell Man.JPG
Tilberthwaite Fells from Birk Fell Man.

Job done we now regrouped and fed and watered ourselves before setting off on our final leg back to the car.

The only problem with this route is that we now have to drop down into Greenburn and then make our way back to the car via Rough Crag which means a drop of around 300 metres in height to then climb another 300 metres back up the long spine like ridge of Rough Crag.
45 - Looking across Greenburn to Rough Crag.JPG
Looking across Greenburn to Rough Crag.

To do this we picked up an old path that is marked on the map and should have led straight to the footbridge that spans Greenburn Beck near the old mine levels. There is still an old track that leads up to the old Greenburn Copper Mine and Greenburn Tarn (reservoir) of which signs - especially the reservoir - of both can still be seen. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as easy as it sounds as the path decided to constantly disappear and as we crossed along the side of Birk Fell…
46 - Little Langdale and Lingmoor Fell from Birk Fell.JPG
Little Langdale and Lingmoor Fell from Birk Fell.

we found ourselves passing through small, bent, and twisted juniper trees that was clinging to the steep rock and grass covered side. It was only a narrow patch but was a bit of a struggle in places until we got cleared of it and arrived at a clear run down the fell side to eventually arrive at the footbridge.
48 - Greenburn overlooked by Rough Crag and Great Carrs.JPG
Greenburn overlooked by Rough Crag and Great Carrs.

It’s hot as hell in the bottom of Greenburn and with our water nearly spent we took advantage of the beck to refill our bottles. The expected cool water of the beck was quite warm but beggars can’t be choosers as we drank our fill and then topped up the bottles once again before setting off on the long climb back up the opposite fell and over Rough Crag.
49 - Rough Crag.JPG
Rough Crag.

The initial climb out from the footbridge is pretty steep but once off that the way is clear by following the wide green track that first crossed over a steady gradient before it made its way through the crags but still on a good path. Looking back there are excellent views over Little Langdale with Lingmoor Fell on the left and the Tilberthwaite Fells to the right. Wrynose Pass can also be seen with not only cars moving along it but we can now see many cyclists travelling downhill so it looks like the bike race has caught up with us on its return to Grasmere.

Climbing out of Greenburn didn’t take as long as expected but it was really hot and the temptation to drink more than what we had with us resulted in an exercise of self discipline which was maintained until we reached High End…
50 - Wrynose Pass summit from High End.JPG
Wrynose Pass summit from High End.

from where we could see the car at the Three Shires Stone. We then turned northwest and downhill to make short work of the remaining distance between us and Wrynose Pass where we knew that in the car there was a stash of welcome drinks just waiting for three thirsty fell walkers to get a grip of.

It’s still hot, its 28°c and it’s good to get the boots off and get something lighter and cooler on the feet. The cyclists are passing us by, some are walking, some are resting and the mountain rescue teams, marshals, and support cars are dotted all the way down the pass. It was when I had got home that I noticed a full length mark down the side of my car and at first thought that some pillcock had run a nail or suchlike down it but on closer inspection saw that it wasn’t a scratch but a mark that did come off with a little elbow grease. I realised then that one of the cyclists must have run his bike down the side of the car and what was there was a mark left behind by the tape on his handlebars or brake lever covers and just hope that whoever it was came out of it alright.

It has been a good days walking in brilliant weather on some fine fells. It’s been hot and sunny with a cool breeze at times to lull one out of realising just how hot it has been. The views of the surrounding fells have whetted Chris’s appetite to spend more time around this area. For someone new to fell walking Eva has done well coping with the heat, distance, and height gain and hasn’t made a murmur even when her feet started hurting on Wetherlam Edge, she just got on with it.
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trailmasher
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Re: Hot going on the Coniston Fells.

Postby thefallwalker » Tue May 24, 2016 1:07 pm

A good account of a "top" days graft! it was certainly the hottest day I've had out on the fells, and of course the "slog" to get back out, thank god for the beck at the bottom :lol: goats gill & little narrow cove spring to mind! however Eva was none the worse for wear and is looking forward to her next trip out, and did me proud on her most challenging walk to date :clap: it is no cake walk descending down them rock faces.......twice! :shock: not to mention the David Bellamy descent through the Juniper trees on the way down to Greenburn :crazy: disappointed to hear about the marks on your car :( but glad it wasn't anything that left a more permanent impression from the cyclists :)
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Re: Hot going on the Coniston Fells.

Postby trailmasher » Thu May 26, 2016 10:29 am

thefallwalker wrote: thank god for the beck at the bottom :lol: goats gill & little narrow cove spring to mind


Yes was certainly a warm one :roll: and thanks for reminding me of the other two :lol: Thanks for your comments and will meet up again shortly :clap:
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trailmasher
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Re: Hot going on the Coniston Fells.

Postby ChrisW » Sat May 28, 2016 7:33 pm

Good lord TM, did you really put a 14 year old girl through that in 28 degree heat :shock:, I appreciate that you let her 'guard the bags' for one top.. but then you had her descend and reascend 300m to get home, no wonder she didn't complain she was too busy 'seething' through her teeth to say anything :lol: :lol:

Great write up as always and lovely pics too but I'm pretty sure this should be titled "Trying our best to put Eva off the hills forever" :lol: :lol:
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Re: Hot going on the Coniston Fells.

Postby thefallwalker » Mon May 30, 2016 3:47 pm

ChrisW wrote:Good lord TM, did you really put a 14 year old girl through that in 28 degree heat :shock:,

Great write up as always and lovely pics too but I'm pretty sure this should be titled "Trying our best to put Eva off the hills forever" :lol: :lol:



To be fair Chris, the weather we got was not forecast :crazy: but as you know once y set off you gotta get back! Eva is made from Teesside iron :lol: so takes it all in her stride & is back out with us tomorrow up haystacks & fleetwith pike so hoping for a nice but not boiling day! :D
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