Blog Post 24 –
Date: Saturday 9th January 2016
Wainwright count: 2
Wainwrights: Coniston and Swirl How
Who with: JP, but NO Susie, the Patterdale Terrier L
I had checked the weather and it looked to be a rather poor day for the Lake District, but when you wear the right gear, there is no such thing as bad weather….didn’t someone say?
Anyway, my alarm went off at 6am and I collected my friend, JP at 7am, for the journey from near Preston to Coniston. Unfortunately, due to the poor weather forecast, I decided to leave Susie, my Patterdale Terrier at home, much to her annoyance. She saw me sorting my gear the night before, and as usual was about 18 inches from me at any one time (hence her nick-name ‘my shadow’). Whenever I start sorting my gear, she knows that we are off somewhere, and as soon as my alarm went off she got out of her bed and was ready. When I said bye to her on my way out, she was not impressed to say the least! (She also ignored me for well over an hour upon my return later in the night!!)
We arrived at Coniston at around 8.30am, and parked up at the top of the steep road heading up from Coniston, to the Walna Scar Road. As we got ourselves ready to set off, the overcast conditions changed to that of rain, albeit light. I went to my new Sat Map Active 12 GPS, which I had charged last night to find that the battery was on red, at which point I realised that I had charged it, but left it switched on, which meant that the battery had been on 18 hours +. Schoolboy error! Anyway, I know the Old Man of Coniston very well, so this did not worry me, but it is always nice to have some stats to review during and post walk.
Coniston, and in particular the Old Man, is a special place, and hill for me, as I used to come here quite often with my parents when I was younger and was probably the fell that made me realise how much I enjoyed being in the great outdoors. My late mum, used to love Coniston and so became a place where we spent many a happy day/ weekend. I must have been up it six or eight times in my life and never tire of it, or the views that you enjoy from it (on a clear day!).
We left the car at around 8.45am, after getting ourselves ‘organised’, and proceeded up the Walna Scar Road for around 1.5 miles. This rough track is a busy highway for walkers, cyclists and the occasional 4×4 enthusiast, and provides wide open views across towards Coniston water, Grizedale and down towards Torver. We had reached the path heading up towards Goat’s water, when the rain started to get heavier, as per the forecast, but JP and I had been chatting away, so you don’t really notice the weather downturn. We started to climb up to Goat’s water which is another 1-1.5 miles up the path, which as you ascend, provides views of the Walna Scar Road, which snakes off further up the fell side.
The weather closing in forced the mist to drop, so as we approached Goat’s water, there was not much of a view to be enjoyed, although there was a short break in the mist, which provided views across the tarn and Dow Crag that surround it. Snow started to fall, which was adding to the patches that already surrounded Goat’s Water. The path runs parallel to the tarn and weaves its way through the boulders at the water’s edge. After reaching the Northern edge of the tarn, the path climbs relatively steeply (around 200 metres) up to Goat’s Hawse.
We had a minute here, as the clouds partially lifted for a couple of minutes. The snow was a good few inches deep at this point and was falling quite heavily now, with visibility decreasing quite rapidly. We followed where the path should be under the snow, and continued to climb the path for about 1km, before reaching the summit of the Old Man. We stopped here for a bit of an early lunch, as I hadn’t had ‘brekkie’ stupidly and JP is always hungry. We stopped for around 15 minutes, by which time my hands were well and truly frozen (not literally, but very, very cold) and I struggled to get my gloves back on. We met a nice lady and a couple of blokes who reached the summit around the same time, and all had the same idea re: a spot of lunch.
We decided to get moving again, in what were now full winter conditions, and retraced our path for around 400 metres, down the way we ascended, before taking a path veering off slightly to the right, which headed towards Great How Crags, then onto Swirl How, by which point we were in full whiteout conditions. The winds eased by this point, having been rather strong on the final stretch from Goat’s Water to the top of the Old Man, which made the going a bit more pleasant.
We began to descend down Prison Band before taking the path down towards High Fell and on along Levers Water, which was still in the cloud surprisingly. We followed the path and crossed Raven Tor before starting to head over some slightly more rough terrain, before dropping down to the path above The Bell. From here, we continued until we reached the track that lead back to my old Land Rover at the bottom of the Walna Scar Road, which finished off a wild and blustery day in the fells, which lacked the views, but more than made up for this with the elements!
JP and I, had a good chat throughout the day, and it was good to get back into the hills for the first time in 2016, albeit without our usual walking companion, Susie, who had probably spent the day in front of the wood-burner with the wife keeping nice and warm! We drove home through what turned out to be awful weather, which was coming in, as per the weather forecast!
I arrived home hungry and still rather damp, so a nice hot shower and an evening sorting through wet gear and drying it in front of the fire lay ahead. The only thing that was missing was a nice pint, which was my usual routine, but due to Dry January, this would have to wait. JP and I have another couple of walks planned over the next few weeks, before we head back to Glencoe for the second year in succession, in early February, so I am sure we will make up for it having more than a few whiskeys in the Clachaig Inn, when we get there!
Another good day in the great outdoors!