Well, with Catbells out of the way last week and the successful hike proving to me that my damaged ankle (See Ben Nevis Report) is ready for another big one out with the boys, Steve and I planned to revisit Coniston area as our last trip here was done 70% in the dark and what we saw of it made us want to come back in daylight. Sadly Paul couldnt join us this week which is a shame but he has at least already done these fells so he wasnt missing any new summits.
Our planned seven Wainwright Summits were: (In order of visit)
There were a few Hewitts and such like along the way too.
Our completed route, converted from GPX to KML and viewed in Google earth looks like this:
The weather forecast was strangely very good for late September, so I got packed up and was away at 7am to collect my mate Steve from his home at 7:30am. We hit the road in good time, fuelled en-route by our customary Macdonalds Breakfast wrap.
We made great progress on the quiet Sunday morning roads and were parked up on Walna Scar road in Coniston by just after 9am. The weather was amazing, without a single cloud in the sky. Not great for photography mind, but I had plotted our hiking direction taking the suns direction of travel into account. My plan was to head up anti clockwise on the eastern side so that the main points of interest were to the west. This way we will be keeping our back to the sun while it was in the east, and then as we travel across the range where the best views are now seen towards the east i expect the sun should have crossed over us so that it was again behind us and illuminating our views. It worked out pretty well indeed.
So, out on the fells we go... and the views are amazing right from the first footstep!
Its not long before we come upon some of "The Scars Of Humanity" as I call them. Mining is still in operation around here...
I made a quick 7 shot panorama here. Such an awesome area.
And as we hike further into the valley I am able to zoom in closer to see the mining area in more detail.
We continue along the path, its a pretty gentle ascent here, and there are some truly huge boulders around! Some have names. This one is the "Pudding Stone"
Our first waypoint is soon upon us... its just up and over the brow in the distance...
The gorgeous Levers Water reservoir.
We turn right here to pick up the main path.
There are some warning signs round here, and for good reason. I bet the water here can be bitter cold, even in summer as its flanked by high mountains either side so wont often get a lot of sun.
Moving along the eastern side of the reservoir, the path continues upwards with lots of little streams and boggy areas that ultimately feed the reservoir with its water.
Nearing the junction now, just a short uphill stretch until we reach the junction at the foot of a section called "The Prison band" The junction area is called Swirl Hawse and the cliffs to our left, Prison Cragg.
To reach Wetherlam from here we need to turn right and hack on upwards.
The terrain up here is very nice indeed, very rocky and remote looking, but nothing challenging.
The route takes you along the back of Wetherlam, with awesome views out across to places such as Pike O Blisco and Crinkle Craggs.
After about 30 mins, the summit comes into view. There are folk up here already whom have probably come up from the other side.
As this quick panorama I shot illustrates, the views up here are exceptional. We have been extremely lucky with the weather today so far!
Looking out over Little Langdale from Wetherlam Summit. Little Langdale Tarn is prominent in the image.
Steve at the summit cairn, with his gas stove on the go making himself hot coffee...
While I wander around taking images. I zoom in and get a great image of Blea Tarn here as I have never seen it from above before. I have spent many a wonderful sunrise there, once notably with my daughter Stephanie. We had such an awesome morning there before rushing back to Blackpool for work at 9am. Great memories for me.
This image is Cold Pike, Crinkle Craggs and Pike O Blisco with Red Tarn in between them. Thats my favourite area to take my youngest daughter, Ella aged 7 and she can navigate herself up Pike O Blisco from the car with no help from me now.
With a lot of miles and summits ahead of us, we grab a few snaps of ourselves on the summit and start to descend.
Steve tops up his water supply for the kettle here... you cant beat fresh stream water.
Our reverse route back to the prison band is simple... just retracing our steps back to the ridge which we will need to ascend to get up to Swirl How, the summit of which is in the middle of the next image.
The prison band ridge is nice hands on terrain in a lot of places. We are pretty impressed we made it down here on a dark windy night via head torch now we have seen it in the daylight. Some parts are quite tricky and all these tricky sections brought back great memories of that night, coming down at around 1am in the dark and watching awesome thunder and lightening storms in the distance over Morecambe and Blackpool. The shine was taken off a little when we read in the news the next day that two hikers had been killed by lightening on Mam Tor that very same night.
Looking back now towards Wetherlam to review our descent / ascent path to our current position. What an incredible area.
Moving on upwards... you wouldnt want to be below any of these boulders if they came loose would you!
There are plenty of light hands on scrambling sections here. And of course, incredible views.
But its all good solid terrain. Nothing at all dangerous. At least, not in lovely dry conditions like this.
We are two thirds of the way to the top now, we stopped here to let a quite large group of ladies go past us on their descent so as not to cause a traffic jam. On rocky sections like this a human traffic jam can cause people anxiety and lead to slips and accidents. We are in no rush.
And we took the opportunity to grab a few more images of course.
What a view. Here is Steve looking back over to Coniston with Levers water below him.
And looking back the other way from a few feet higher up... you can see right back over to Wetherlam from here.
Not too far to go now. We are only about 100 feet from the top.
Its interesting to note that it is remarkably quiet on this route today. Bar the ladies whom passed us, these other two chaps were the only two people I recall meeting along the way so far bar those at Wetherlam summit.
And there it is... The Swirl Hows summit cairn is just up ahead now. Summit 2 of 7 completed.
From here, we were originally going to turn left and head over to Brim Fell then The Old Man and finally Dow Cragg. But with weather like this it was a very short discussion before we both agreed to change our plans and try to do all the summits up here. Ahead of us right now is "Grey Friar", a summit neither of us have done and one that reputedly had great views across to the Scafell range.
And to our right, Great Carrs is found at the end of that ridge, and is now our next destination.
This is also the scene of a plane crash. A little research after my last trip here taught me that the aircraft, a Halifax LL505 came to grief here on Great Carrs on the night of 22nd October 1944 while the crew were undertaking a night navigation exercise flying from Topcliffe in Yorkshire. The crew encountered very thick cloud whilst over the north-west of England. The pilot descended so the navigator could get a visual fix on the ground but by this stage it was flying too low in the heart of the Lake District. The aircraft hit this sloping grass fell side while flying in roughly from the west and sadly killed all on board.
Some of the fuselage is still lying at the foot of this ridge, a fact that I wasnt aware of until a couple we got talking to up there today told us. So I went across to the edge and had a look and sure enough, there it was, two large sections of it are still there. (Rectangular white objects in the bottom right hand area of the next image)
Some of the undercarriage is also still up here with a memorial to those lost in the tragedy. From this angle, Grey Friar can be seen in the background.
In this image, the Scafell range can be seen in the background. A horrendous tragedy, but perhaps a wonderful resting place.
The memorial plaque listing details of the crew whom lost their lives in this awful accident.
The summit of Great Carrs is very close by, so we made our way up there and took a few more images.
Including a zoomed in view of the Scafells. They are an amazing sight, this is the first time I have ever seen them in good weather and the views had Steve and I plotting our imminent return to Scafell Pike!
Its time to move on... its late and we havent had lunch yet. Our next destination is the Summit of Grey Friar, where we have decided we will gear down, take our shoes and socks off and have some food and half an hour off. Both of us are flagging a little now and are tired and hungry, with pretty hot feet! This is the path that will take us to our rest area...
There are plenty of sheep round here too. Most of them seem quite young and inquisitive which is very nice. I love sheep.
Looking back from about halfway up the path to Grey Friar, over towards Great Carrs and Swirl Hows. We need to head back over there later en route to the old man of Coniston Summit.
Finally... the summit of Grey friar is just ahead.
And its true, the Scafell range really does look very impressive from here!
Steve got to work with his stove cooking up some hot drinks with his boots and socks off... if you have never tried taking your boots and socks off after a hard hike, you should. The relief is amazing. There was actually steam coming out of mine. Ha Ha. drying your feet, boots and socks in this way also prevents blisters which is why I started doing it to start with as I used to suffer with them regularly on hikes. I have never had one since I started airing them out half way.
Steve also took a sneaky image of me admiring the Scafell range with a hot coffee while I wasnt looking. The temptation to photoshop some extra hair on this image was quite hard to resist! Thanks Steve, I love this one.
Suitably rested, fed and watered. We put the boots and socks back on and headed away from Grey Friar and over towards Brim Fell. During our ascent to Grey Friar we had spotted a diagonal track on the side of Swirl band so opted to take that route back as it looks like it will cut a little off my originally planned route.
And it did. Its a nice gentle uphill path, nothing tricky... it was a lovely walk and we were both feeling fresh again now so we made really short work of it. Its amazing what a rest and some calories can do for you out on the fells.
When we reach the top of Broad Slack, we look back to Swirl Hows and Great Carr, the weather is still fine even though its knocking on for 5pm now. What an amazing days hiking so far... but there is planty to go yet.
Looking down on Levers Water, we can see a lot of our original ascent path from here.
But Brim Fell is of course... UP!
Its not too steep, as you can see, and the path is very easy going. I guess this one is very well trodden.
Brim Fell summit. And in the distance, our next stop, the infamous "Old Man Of Coniston"
As we get closer to the old man, we can look down on Low Water, which nestles below the old man summit at about 2000ft. You can see the more commonly used ascent path up the old man from here too which I guess people use as a fast track from the car park we used today.
There are a few people up on the summit of old man there enjoying the views... what a day we all picked for it!
The view from the Old Man Of Coniston summit. From here I can see about 50% of our hike today. Wetherlam is the peak of the ridge on the right, we hiked up to it along the bottom of the middle ridge past levers water that you can just see the start of there, and then up top left you can see Swirl How and Great Carr. Wicked view!
And behind us... the final destination of the day. Dow Cragg. Not a great image as the sun is quite low to the west now so my little Canon G7X couldnt pull any contrast from the upper half of the scene.
To get over there we need to drop down about 600ft into Goats Hawse before we can start the ascent up Dow Cragg. Our aim is to get there before sunset and watch the sun go down there with some food. Steve has a surprise for me when we get there I'm told.
That surprise though apparently needs water, and we are out of it again having used it all up at lunch. (I use hydration salts in my back bladder so we cant cook with it) Steve mentioned this up on Grey Friar and we have been looking for a clean water source ever since with no joy. As things are looking bleak on the water front, Steve tried to fill his container from a little spring we found coming straight out of the rocks.
This wasnt very productive as it was a very slow, wide flow and would have taken about an hour, so we had to get a little creative. I cleaned the area up and dug a channel with a rock, and then built a little damn with small rocks to funnel the flow into one stronger, more productive spout. After waiting a while for the flow to clean up my new dam it worked a treat.. we had fresh water! I was very pleased at this point to have finally used something useful I have learnt from all the Bear Grylls programs I have been watching on TV.
I filled my water back bladder back up to 3litres while I was at it as I like to drink a lot while on the fells. Then, laden down with our heavy but fresh water, we headed on down to Goats Hawse.
I must be honest and admit that at this point I considered suggesting turning left here as it knocks about two miles off our trip. This path goes right down past Goats Water and on to Walna Scar Road and ultimately, our car! However... the night is young, and we are both looking forward to a promising sunset atop the aggressive looking Dow Cragg on the right here.
Up we go... we are committed to the seventh and final summit of the day now. Dow Cragg.
Looking back over Goats Hawse and across to Brim Fell and the Old Man of Coniston. The sun is lighting up the fells a lovely colour now as it gets low in our sky.
But the side we are on is in full shadow now so its getting very cold! its about here that we don some extra clothing before continuing on upwards. As usual we have two extra layers and two coats each packed in our rucksacks alongside the gloves, balaclavas, first aid kits and torches etc. Carrying all this is a decision you can easily question on a day like today, but as always... towards the end of the day you are very glad of it all.
Halfway up Dow Cragg now and the rocky, bulbous summit is finally within sight.
Behind Steve is the whole ridge we have walked from Great Carr this evening.
Steve and I stood here and assessed the terminal fall that slipping off this next section would certainly result in.
And then we hacked on up anyway. Or more accurately, Steve did. I stayed back and awaited an update on this route in case he was coming back down with a "No Chance" report.
All was well, so I followed him up. Its very exposed here and a slip would potentially result in a very bad injury if not death. Steve loves scrambles like this. Me not so much.
I stood here for a victory image very briefly before I sat down firmly on the largest section of rock I could find.
The victory rock. The summit of Dow Cragg with the Old Man Of Coniston Summit in the background.
Steve started unpacking the gas bottles and other stuff and then showed me our surprise tea. Noodles! Pot Noodle for me, super noodles for him. Awesome... I suddenly feel very hungry indeed!
What a joy it was to eat a hot Pot Noodle at 2550ft. Absolute bliss. Steve is such a star. A great friend, and a great cook too! (Thats based on more than his pot noodle dish...lol)
We spent about 40mins here just watching the sun go down. Such an awesome end to an incredibly good hike. This is the sun dropping down to the sea with Devoke water lit up a gorgeous golden colour.
The sky and clouds above us were amazing. What a privilege to have a sunset like this while we are up here.
And behind us, another stroke of luck. Tonight is the night of the Super Blood Moon eclipse, and while it isnt due until 3am tomorrow morning, the dust in the atmosphere has given the moon a gorgeous pink glow as it comes up from behind the Old Man Of Coniston. Perfect! But I am wishing I had brought the Canon 5D Mk3 SLR and a tripod now as my little Canon G7X starts to struggle with the lack of light.
Looking across the ridge we have yet to walk, Buck Pike and Brown pike summits are in the distance with a gorgeous pink and blue hue to the sky. This brings home that we have another 3 miles to go and over 2000ft of descent before we get to the car so we had better start making a move!
The rest of the descent was done with our head torches. If you havent tried it, you should. Its an amazing way to end a days hiking.
We messed around a little on Torver bridge trying to make a nice scene from the river using both our head torches and moonlight. Not the greatest image, but a nice memory.
Steve and the stars...
The view from the car when we got back, about an hour or so later. Just awesome.
I had my tripod in the boot so set this shot up to intentionally over expose a little in order to bring out some scenery and reflection in the little puddle we had parked by. What an amazing night to be on the fells.
And that was that... another great hike and another day filled with incredible memories out on the fells. Just under 14 miles, 7 Wainwright Summits, 5 Hewitt summits and gorgeous weather.
To top it all off, a couple of hours of driving later and I arrived home to a lovely chicken dinner in the microwave from my wife at about 00:30am. Does life get any better?
Until next time - Take care out there folks, happy hiking.
All images in this blog were taken with my Canon G7X point and shoot pocket camera. My camera of choice when hiking any distance. The Canon 5D3 SLR stays at home and only comes back with me if I come across any location really worth coming back for with time on my hands to make the best of it.
Here is a little Suunto movie of the trip, showing the route via Google earth.
And some data aquired by the Suunto Ambit 3 peak watch too. Interesting for ascent, descent and mileage etc. (calories are pretty accurate as I wear the Suunto Smart HR monitor too.)