Sunday, 29 June 2014

Conquering the Old Man. . .

Coniston has the reputation for having its own weather system within the Lake District - and it is usually a lot worse than whatever the rest of the region is undergoing.  The last time our walking group attempted going up Old Man Coniston, this is what happened

Several months later, we headed to Coniston again (walkers are nothing if not eternally optimistic), but this time the Liverpud was leading the medium walk.  We'd got lucky with dry weather on the recce the week before - could it possibly stay dry two weekends in a row? 

Well this is what it looked like, leaving Coniston Water behind and making our way towards the Walna Scar Road through the fields just behind Heathwaite Farm. 

We decided to ascend the Old Man from the back, via a lovely ridge walk to get the maximum views.  Our first main climb of the day was Brown Pike which you can see off to the right. The gradient on the path is not too bad this way up although there is a very steep bit just at the end.

Going up with the natives. . .

From the top of Brown Pike, you can see the lovely path leading to the next peak, Buck Pike.  Ridge walking is my absolute favourite type of walking and such a reward for the climb.

From the top of Buck Pike, you can look back, with a proper view of Blind Tarn and further away, just a glimpse of Morecombe Bay leading out to the sea.

The next peak was Dow Crag which Wainwright described as second only to Scafell in "the magnificence of its rock architecture."

After a brief scramble up Dow Crag, you can see Old Man Coniston opposite in all its glory, along with the path that we'll be taking to get up it.

And here's the view on the other side of Dow Crag - fell upon fell.

After a brief descent down half of Dow Crag, prior to going up the Old Man,  we reached Goat Hawse looking down on Goats Water. This is an alternative way up to the Old Man path, but you miss the views on the other side of the ridge.

And now we're nearly at the top of the Old Man.  Our group was quite chuffed - it had been decades since some of them had been at the top in decent weather.  The Liverpud and I had jokingly subtitled this walk "Unfinished Business" and it was a great feeling to get the job done.

And of course there's always great satisfaction in looking back at the ridge you've just walked.

Here's the view from the other side of Old Man showing our path down the mountain with Low Water in the foreground and Levers Water in the distance.  I have to say it's not my favourite descent; there's a lot of loose shale so you definitely have to pay attention to where you are placing your feet.  It also seems to go on forever. . .

The bottom half is just plain ugly with remnants of the area's mining history on view everywhere - rusty cables criss-crossing the path and huge piles of shale everywhere.

Still, we made it to the pub with an hour to spare and it was cheers all around for a grand walk and for finally conquering the Old Man!


Sara MacKenzie said... that's on my to-do list. Lakes District is kind of far from London for just a weekend, and we're trying to put aside some time to do that this summer as well. That looks fantastic.

Blithe Spirit said...

You just can't go wrong with walks in the Lake District - there are so many and the views are different but so fabulous from each different bit of the region. Coniston is a bit hit and miss with the weather though, so if you want to hedge your bets, head to Keswick or Ambleside instead - some fantastic horsehoe walks from either place but if the weather turns nasty, there's lots to do in either town or lovely low-level walks by the lakes too. I hope you do get up here in the summer - it really is a gem of a place.

Sara MacKenzie said...

I was actually up there near Windermere last fall, and did a few days on horseback in the area. I loved it. We got a little soggy, but it was so beautiful I did not care.

Blithe Spirit said...

It must be stunning from horseback!

Sara MacKenzie said...

It was! Especially big heavy horses....