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Coniston Old Man and the Dow Crag Ridge.
by trailmasher » Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:01 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Brim Fell, Coniston Old Man, Dow Crag
Hewitts included on this walk: Dow Crag, The Old Man of Coniston
Date walked: 17/10/2016
Time taken: 4.29
Distance: 14.7 km
Ascent: 1021m2 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).
It was just turned 6:45am when Chris turned up for the last of his walks before going back offshore to the gas rig and another two weeks of dossing. The weather was far from ideal as we discussed an alternative to the southern lakes and Coniston Old Man. The clouds were well down and with more than a hint of rain in the air we once more wondered if we should meet up with the hills around Haweswater as they are nearer and there is more chance of the rain dropping amongst the southern fells as they are first of the highest patch of ground met between the coast and Haweswater.
Over a quick coffee we decided on Coniston and to take what comes, the only negative really would be the lack of views, but as they are comparable in height to High Street etc the only other choice would be a valley walk somewhere, and even that wasn't guaranteed today.
After a steady drive down to Coniston with thick clag over Kirkstone Pass and passing through the odd shower of rain we arrived at the large Walna Scar Road car park above, and west of Coniston, and at a height of roughly 225 metres would give us a good start and cut down on the total amount of height gain needed to complete today's skirmish on the fells.
True to form Chris got out a sandwich which he ate whilst getting ready and with low clouds over the fells of Coniston and a dampness in the air we decided to put on our over trousers and coats which is happen as well because as I was struggling with one leg stuck in my over trousers the weather broke and we were suddenly in a torrential downpour. Chris got into the car pretty quickly whilst I was tripping and staggering in my attempt to gain cover with one leg and boot in the trousers with the other leg out and bootless and with the empty trouser leg hanging in between I must have looked like Jake the Peg with his three legs floundering about.
We sat in the car looking through steamed up windows for about 15 minutes contemplating a Costa at either Keswick or Penrith when it became brighter in the west, the rain eased off and finally stopped. Although the clouds were still sitting low on the fells we decided to continue with the walk and with it now being quite bright in the west we could only hope that it would move our way and clear the clouds.
Setting off west and following the well stoned up Walna Scar Road we arrived at Boo Tarn - not much of a tarn really - from where we elected to take the old Bursting Stone Quarry road as it zig - zagged its way north up between Booth How and Timley Knott instead of taking the signposted path northwest that goes above and behind Limestone Haws. Both the track and the path meet up on the west side of the old quarry but our chosen route would be more interesting - to us - as we would get a first hand look at the redundant quarry as we passed by, through, and around it.
The initial start of the track through the bends is quite steep but as the last bend is taken and the track straightens out the going becomes easier and continues to be so for the rest of the way up to the quarry workings.
Eventually the quarry came into view on our left before the track swung around left behind Piked How, went west for a few metres to arrive at a junction from where the left hand track leads into the lower quarry whilst the other that has a couple of massive boulders partly blocking the way continues north up to the higher levels. From this higher elevation we could see down into Coppermine Valley with the old workings, cottages, and YH in full hazy view. From this point the path is shown on the OS map as continuing above and behind the main quarry workings behind the fence, but on scrambling over the greasy rocks facing us no sign of a path could be found so we turned back and took the one that drops down onto a wide track/terrace that serviced the uppermost levels of the quarry and winds its way along the west face.
The track is good, wide, and safe…
and offered us good views to the west and south, and as we were still below the clouds the views were alright if not great due to the light mist that was floating around in the distance. We could see almost the full length of Coniston Water with the small town of Coniston nestled amongst the trees and fields below us, and on the far side of the lake the hills of Top O' Selside, Arnsborough Hill, Stang Moss, and others that Chris and I walked over a few months ago.
On leaving the track through the quarry we lost the path in the wet ground and walked west for a short distance along a level and wide grassy area and knowing that the path was somewhere above us went straight up the fellside and within not many minutes came across our missed path. Soon after this we tucked in amongst the rocks and had a short break for food and drink. The rain has held off, it's quite cool just now, and we are beginning to head into the cloud cover. The way so far has been good, easy going with well graded tracks or paths, although there is some water running down the stony one that we were currently walking up but all in all a good walk so far. From north the path turns west again for a short distance before then heading north along its stony way to meet up with the tourist path that comes up from either Coniston or the Walna Scar Road car park. From this point on the path is wide and very well used as it steepens and twists and turns a bit as it turns west again then northwest to then finally arrive at the very large stone built plinth that supports the large cairn of stones whilst to one side of that there is the stone built OS trig column. Unfortunately the only view that we had was of the surrounding cloud cover.
A couple of record shots were taken and just as we were leaving a couple of other walkers turned up and we obliged them with a taking a photo of them at the summit cairn before continuing north into the clag along the plain to see path as it took us north along the edge above Low Water following a line of really unnecessary cairns to arrive at the 796 metre high summit of Brim Fell.
Once again the cairn is a large affair with a fair scattering of loose stones around its base and a partly flattened second cairn alongside the main one. As on COM there's nothing to see apart from clag, stones, and some thin grass.
From Brim Fell we took a line southwest and went straight down the grassy fellside only turning aside where there are large areas of greasy rocks although always heading for the col of Goat's Hawse. It was when we were near the Hawse that we saw a gang of National Trust staff working on the repair of the path that heads from the Hawse to Coniston Old Man. We did see their vehicles parked up just further up the Walna Scar Road from where we left it to start the climb to the quarry and you've just got to admire these lads as they usually have a long walk in before they can start the job proper, especially on a day like today.
Whilst the clag was still hanging low over COM it was frequently moving on and off Dow Crag with some mist hanging above Goat's Water well below us with the Hawse being quite bright and clear as we met a second couple who were on their way to Coniston Old Man. All we had to do now was to make the climb up the well worn path to the summit of Dow Crag and all the hard work is over. To be fair nothing about this walk has been hard so far with the first few metres of the quarry track being the steepest.
Everything around is wet with the mist making some bits of the paths slippery underfoot especially where it's a bit rocky, but we soon made short work of the climb up to the summit of Dow Crag with its jumble of large rocks that were indeed made greasy with the damp atmosphere today.
We couldn't see a thing from here either so we headed down to the shelter that sits below the west side of Dow Crag to get some respite from the fairly strong, cold wind that is with us just now. It was a bit of a struggle clambering down through the rocks that surround the base of Dow Crag but we made it without incident to settle down for lunch and a recap on what we had just done.
Within a few minutes of settling down for a bite to eat the clouds lifted over to the west to reveal the green of Dunnerdale but with its surrounding fells still cloaked in low clouds. We could see that the sun was shining on the righteous in the valley and hoped that the sun would finally beat a way through the clag and at least give us an afternoon of clear weather.
We packed up and set off once again heading south with a short climb back up the grassy fell to the Dow Crag Ridge which was now miraculously clearing of the abundance of cloud that was hiding it only a few minutes previously.The view gave us some indication of what we were going to meet as we passed over Walna Scar to follow the ridge along to our two furthest summits on it. In the distance and behind the end of the ridge lie the fells of Pikes and Caw amongst others but they are the only two that I could pick out from this far away.
Once we had regained the ridge it was steady walking with no problems to beset us as we passed over Buck Pike and Brown Pike with the small waters of Blind Tarn sitting quietly below it.
From Brown Pike we could see the crossing below us where the Walna Scar Road passes over Walna Scar as it cuts across the path that we are currently taking towards the Birkett's of Walna Scar, White Pike, and White Maiden.
As we crossed over Walna Scar Road we picked up a narrow path through grass that led us unerringly along Walna Scar to its summit and few stones for a cairn to the much larger White Pike with its rocky knolls, areas of small loose rocks, and its huge cairn with a smaller one right on the southwest nose of the fell giving a great view across Dunnerdale towards Harter Fell and Green Crag.
Leaving here we returned by the way that we had arrived and after a while took a turn to the southeast over grass to meet up with a tumbledown dry stone wall which we followed northeast until we reached the summit of White Maiden. The top of this fell has a large cairn sat amongst a sea of up thrusts of small, stubby rocky spurs with the occasional boulder thrown in.
We left by following the dry stone wall down the fellside over pathless ground but the going was easy enough as we made our way to a large hump of grass that goes by the name of Dropping Crag that will serve us no other purpose other than reaching its top to spy out the land before us in the hope of spotting a reasonable way forward as we proceed on to High Pike Haw.
We meandered down the fellside working our way around the many rocks and small crags, dodging down stony gullies until the ground levelled off somewhat as we reached an unnamed watercourse from where there is a path leading more or less towards our last hill of the day, High Pike Haw, a large crag sided mound with an easy grass covered slope for access from its south tip to the summit.
Its northern end is steeper but grass covered as is its southeast face that looks on to Seal Gill that runs from the old quarry area around Ash Gill Beck. To the southwest there is the still working Broughton Moor Quarry with its piles of quarry waste making the immediate area around it look like a wasteland amongst the otherwise pristine beauty of Bleaberry Haws and Bull Haw Moss.
It was time for another break before setting off once again on the final stage of our trip out on the fells that would see us picking up a well seen but wet path through grass that runs alongside Seal Gill in a north easterly direction all the way back to the Walna Scar Road.
To our left the bracken covered lower fells and the higher and more rugged ones of Coniston Old Man and its juniors towered over us whilst to the right there was the flat wet ground of the Moss. But before we reach the road the path takes us along the lower reaches of Torver High Common to Ash Gill Beck where there are the remains of an old quarry.
From this quarry we then passed another one under Flask Brow to finally reach Torver Beck a fairly wide watercourse that involved boulder hopping to get across. Walking along this wide grassy path has been the wettest part of our walk today and looking at the OS map and seeing all the becks, gills, and sikes with most of them nameless, it's no wonder that the path is so wet. Once we had crossed Torver Beck the ground was much drier as we now walked and pushed our way through the bracken to reach the Walna Scar Road at Well In Crag (Spring) in no time at all from where it was but another few minutes' walk back to the car park.
Since arriving at Goat's Hawse from Brim Fell the sun had done its best on the clouds and the views have not been too bad, albeit hazy, although as we looked back and up, Coniston Old Man never really seemed to be clear of the clag. The main thing is, it stayed dry but with a fairly strong and cool wind that didn't encourage standing too close to any exposed edges today. Chris has bagged himself another three Wainwright's and eight Birkett's whilst the three Birkett's that I grabbed have left my tally of remaining Birkett's to do down to three.
by thefallwalker » Tue Nov 01, 2016 3:19 pm
by trailmasher » Tue Nov 01, 2016 8:13 pm
thefallwalker wrote:Terrific day out this 1 mate, thoroughly enjoyed it & you don't need to thank me for insisting on keeping to our original plan of the "Old" man
Glad that you enjoyed the easy day that I chose for you after Meldon Hill and I've told you before that you should never hint at a ladies age, son TVM for your comments
by ChrisW » Mon Nov 07, 2016 8:42 pm
by trailmasher » Mon Nov 07, 2016 9:56 pm
ChrisW wrote:From a dubious and damp beginning to a great day in the hills TM....'jake the peg' had me laughing...and at the same time wondering how many people still know who that is
Thanks Chris and it did turn into a good day out despite the clag Jake the Peg was funny but the bloke behind him, well...
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