Wainwright Walk 13 – Coniston Old Man

After having such a fab day out in the Langdales, me, Angela and Beth decided another day out in the Lakes was long overdue.  The October weather forecast was pretty changeable, with some strong winds and rain forecast.  We decided that we would go ahead – we’ve got waterproofs!  Given the forecast, we were careful with our choice of walk, opting for Coniston Old Man for a clear route and relatively short day.

We parked up at the (free) Walna Scar road car park, choosing the quarry road to take us onto the mountain side.  Alfred Wainwright said in his book that “this is the way the crowds go” and today was no exception.  As we set off we could see people ahead making their way along the access road.  Beyond, clouds clung to the hills like a smouldering dragon was lurking in the mountains. Another plus for this walk, Wainwright conceded was that the route was “absolutely safe in the weather – the densest mist cannot obscure the spiralling ribbon of stones”.

 

The path climbed gently at first, easing us in to the day’s walking.  As we strolled along, signs of Old Man’s industrial past were clearly visible in the great heaps of rocks from former quarrying and mining.  Looking back beyond the crags, we could see Coniston Water glinting in the sunlight.

 

About half a mile in, our route began to climb more steeply, meandering round rocky outcrops for a brief time until the view opened up a little to reveal more evidence of mining activity –  the fells, still standing proud, beyond.

 

As we continued on, we found ourselves walking through the derelict remains of old copper mine workings and slate quarrying activity.  Rusty old cables, pulleys and gears, weathered wooden beams and old slate buildings and deeps shafts standing abandoned by their former workers were now being discovered by passing walkers.  I’ve walked up the Old Man of Coniston a few times now, and every time, I find these weathered remnants of machinery and huts fascinating

 

We explored for a while, then returned to the pitched path which would take us higher up the mountain.  To our left, amongst the greens and browns of the mountain scenery, we could just make out the path leading into the corrie housing Lever’s Water.

 

Before too long, we arrived at the atmospheric Low Water.  Alfred Wainwright commented that the tarn was “a good place to give up and go to sleep.” For us, looking ahead to the steep climb to the top, it was a good place for something to eat.

 

After a butty and a brew, we made our way up the zig zag pitched path leading to the summit of the Old Man.  Soon, Low Water was some distance below us, with Levers Water peeping from behind a wall of rock.  There was still a way to go and, as we picked our way through sharp outcrops, the forecast windy weather was making itself known.

 

By the time we reached the summit, the wind had become pretty strong and it was starting to rain.  Rather than having our second butty break on the exposed top, we devised a plan to drop down to Goat’s Water to, hopefully, have something to eat whilst being a little less windswept.  But not before some photos at the summit cairn and trig point.

 

As we descended down a broad path, being battered by wind and rain, I remembered my anemometer.  So as Angela battled with her waterproofs, I went full geek and tried to get measurement of the wind speed – the highest gust being 31 mph.  I love my anemometer.

The track led us down to Goat’s Hawse.  To our left was Dow Crag and beyond it, Harter Fell – to me, a beautiful looking top whose pointy peak I hope to visit soon.  To our right, Brim Fell and the Scafell range beyond.  Behind us, we could see the structures on the top of the Old Man still looking pretty similar to Alfred Wainwright’s illustration.

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Once at Goat’s Hawse we turned left and below us was the tear drop shaped Goat’s Water.  The rain and wind showed no signs of easing (hence the blurring on some of the photos), so we pressed on down the pitched path until we reached the lake shore.

 

The path levelled off a little, but our plan to get something to eat in the shelter of the valley wasn’t coming to fruition.  It was just as windy here, but stomachs won over and we had a hasty snack and drink sheltering behind some rocks.  The views of the foreboding cliffs under Dow Crag were amazing – we even spotted a group of people climbing through the gnarly crags.

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Brew finished, and feeling a little cold for stopping, we pressed on along a clear path that snaked its way across the green fell side.  This would lead us all back to the Walna Scar road from whence it would be a short, easy stroll back to the car.

 

However, we needed to take a detour.  I had spotted on the map, a flattish area with some buildings (or sheep pens) marked, so we decided to leave the path to investigate.  We trudged up the grassy slope, and as we got closer, a building came into view – along with flashbacks to the film, The Ritual.  Despite my over active imagination, we had a look around and found the Jack Diamond hut locked.  Jack Diamond had been a member on the Coniston Tigers – one of the first climbing clubs in the Lake District – and he established the hut as a base for their adventures.

 

We made our way back to the path and, after gently descending a little further, we spotted the Walna Scar road.  By now, the wind had dropped, but the rain was getting heavier and mist shrouded the views of the fells.  Our path was clear though, and we hoped to get back to the car before we were soaked.  It wasn’t to be.  A heavy downpour caught us five minutes from the car park.  Toothless (my car) was a welcome sight as we bundled in, feeling fresh, invigorated and truly ready for a pub tea.  Our walk had been around five and a half miles with ascent of around 2350 foot – if you like the look of the route we took, you can find the route here.

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