With the dry & hot weather seemingly coming to an end fittingly towards the weekend (I’m sorry I just couldn’t help the sarcasm there) I set myself up for a walk straight after work making sure all my kit was in the car the night before.
My day began at 06:30am when my alarm went off, after some last minute checks I set of for Manchester noting that the mornings weather did indeed look fine with prospects of it lasting well into the afternoon. Work was work & 13:00 couldn’t come soon enough, I managed to get away a little earlier giving me chance to beat the traffic on the M61 which kinda put two fingers back up at me once behind a six & half mile tail back.
The temperature outside the car was touching on 31°C & it wasn’t too different on the inside of the car as it seems half my life is spent looking at another cars brake lights lately!
The Matrix signs didn’t help my situation as they spoke of long delays from junction 29 to 32 If this is correct I may only arrive at Coniston by 16:00 only giving me a few hours walking time before the forecasted rain would arrive.
I got a bit jittery whilst sat there because I almost turned south & headed back home, eventually the traffic started moving as more & more buttons on my work shirt were ‘loosened’
Once I made it through the tailbacks I could now concentrate on my walk ahead, after a journey that should of took an hour & a half nearing two & a half hours later I arrived at Fell Foot Coniston, a little before three thirty where I managed to squeeze my car into the last available space.
ASCENT: 2,630 Feet 802 Meters
WAINWRIGHTS: 3, Dow Crag, Brim Fell, Coniston Old Man
WEATHER: Warm & Sunny To Start Turning Overcast, Highs Of 29° Lows Of 21°
PARKING: Fell Gate. Walna Sca Road
WALKING WITH: On My Own
ORDANANCE SURVEY: OL6
ROUTE: Fell Gate – Boo Tarn – The Cove – Goat’s Water – Dow Crag South Rake – Dow Crag – Goats Hawse – Coniston Old Man – Brim Fell – Brim Fell Rake – Raven Tor – Low Water – Fell Gate
The Southern Fells
-Dow Crag South Rake
There is however, a cowards way to the top of the crag. From the lowest point of the cliff turn left past the striking entrance to Great Gully and more roughly up to the foot of Easy Gully, which is chocked with stones. Here unexpectedly, (it is not seen until reached) a straight ribbon of scree in a shallow gully goes to the left (at a right angled tangent to Easy Gully) – this route, although steep and loose, leads directly to the ridge above all difficulties. Climbers often use this as a quick way down, and it is comfortably within the capacity of most walkers. Lacking a name, but deserving one, SOUTH RAKE is suggested.
The Old Man of Coniston taken from Fell Foot 29°C 15.20
By the time I arrived at Fell Foot the car park was bustling with walkers & day trippers, I however was still dressed in my work shirt & trousers & needed to change into my walking gear quickly. Given that I had no choice where to leave my car which was pretty over crowded to say the least I had no option but to change whilst sat in the drivers seat much to the amusement of bystanders no doubt!
There was no time to neatly fold my work gear which just resembled a heap of cloths tossed onto the back seat of the car, with my shorts & base layer on the panic now subsided that no-one could see my white bits or the belly, lets just face it!
With the boots laced & tied I locked my car & set of for Boo Tarn as I pass dozens of walkers who where a little scorched from the afternoon sun all heading back to their cars.
I don’t think I could ever remember seeing Fell Foot as busy as I had today.
Looking back on Fell Foot from the Walna Sca Road.
I’m always forgetting or losing my car in supermarket car parks, I only hope a few of these have gone home before I return.
Passing Boo Tarn.
After more ‘Hey’s Hi’s & afternoons’ I soon came upon the lovely named Boo Tarn which sadly looked almost bone dry, so much so I think on a day like today you could have probably walked right across it.
I continued up Walna Sca under a scorching afternoon sun which was bearing down & bringing a sweat on before any hard work had been done. Here the super market style parking continues right up to & beyond Boo Tarn itself.
Brown Pike, Buck Pike & Dow Crag.
After leaving the Walna Sca Road behind I hook a right at a small cairn where a stony path ascends gradually over The Cove towards Goats Water with impressive views towards Dow Crag seen in the far right of the photo.
The weather from here kept on swapping & changing what it was doing & couldn’t really make up its mind, despite the fact the temperature is close to 30°C a cool breeze sweeps over The Cove making the afternoon heat that bit more manageable.
Goats Hawse from Goats Water.
It was quite an awkward moment & I really didn’t know where to point my camera here somewhat hindering just how much scope I could include owing to the fact that a large group of sun bathers were on the left bank of Goats Water all bikini clad & screaming as they cooled off in the water.
However, what impressed me most was the climbers who were having a ball on Dow Crag’s Buttresses & Gully’s.
After taking just the one photo of Goats Water I downed pack where I decided now was the best time to take out my walking poles before the devilishly steep ascent up the scree slope towards the base of Dow Crag South Rake.
Dow Crag A, B & C Buttresses from the steep climb.
Locating the path to the base of Dow Crag Buttresses is found to the immediate left of Goats Water outflow, here after picking your way over large boulders are you presented by two paths that both lead up the steep scree to the base of the Buttresses. It pays to look out for the paths from down below owing to the fact that both are quite twisty & pretty narrow.
From my ascent I could pick out well over a dozen rock climbers covering all A, B & C Buttresses, here the safety aspect of rock climbing was evident & a joy to hear that each member seemed to have a colour code & a number, so lets say your number was Blue 11; once the instructor had called your code the climbers each respectively yelled back that they were safe even if they were on separate routes which most of them were making the call back rather LOUD.
I’ve used this route many times myself & today was the first time that I’d actually seen rock climbers using it too, however I couldn’t help feel my paltry ascent on the South Rake was a little over shadowed!
Have you ever felt like a tiny cog in a universal size clock?
It is fair to say that both Dow Crag A & B Buttress are impressive the most, this being my fourth ascent on the South Rake I still feel as small as I did from the very first time I came here when my knees shook from the enormity of the vertical rock that now dominated the whole view ahead.
I hadn’t too far to ascend when the South Rake finally came into view as it cannot be seen from Goats Water alone. Access to the South Rake is gained by firstly aiming for beneath A & B Buttress, it’s only when you’re just beneath the huge buttresses does the South Rake unfold to your immediate left.
Once there it’s quite easy to spot.
Dow Crag South Rake from the base.
The South Rake presents itself as a safe enjoyable scramble & is for me the best & most exhilarating way to gain Dow Crag summit never leaving the walker feeling exposed or at any general risk.
Dow Crag South Rake.
I soon found myself at the foot of the Rake where unlike Lord’s Rake & most Rake’s there isn’t ‘a certain route’ to take as the Rake itself is quite narrow leaving the walker to pick & scramble your own way up.
Footings can be loose however, so it may be worth giving a foothold a firm kick before relying on it throughout the ascent. Today the Rake is completely dry after long periods without rainfall leaving the whole route very dry & dusty.
Dow Crag A’ Buttress.
Why do they have to make it look so easy…I however, will be keeping my feet fixed firmly to the ground.
I continue with the climb.
Looking up towards the top of A’ Buttress.
It’s a good job the guy in the top left of the photo has a good head for heights, or, he hasn’t looked down yet.
Passing the entrance to Easy Gully from the South Rake.
Around half way up the South Rake the entrance to Easy Gully is passed to the right, from here Easy Gully looks manageable to the hardened walker & I’ve always fancied giving it a go although the entrance & indeed the exit looks great fun – it’s always the bit in the middle which has its fair share of chock stones & scrambles deterring walker apart from climber.
I’ll leave it to the experts who seem to have heaps of fun just over my shoulder.
Here, looking back down the South Rake with a slight view of Goats Water.
After passing Easy Gully I soon spotted two climbers, one male & one female heading down, the guy passed me first & we struck up a short conversation as I waited for him to pass. Oddly enough all the guy could talk about was looking forward to a pint in the pub later.
I couldn’t blame him I guess, I’d need something strong too after a day like theirs.
Next came the guys companion.
We again struck up conversation more so on just how hard it was to descend the Rake especially as the rock was dry, dusty & loose. I could only walk away thinking that this is nothing compared to what you’ve just done!
Caution is the best part of Valour as the saying goes!
Just ask these guys.
Standing the test of time.
Just beneath the exit to the Rake lies a great narrow rock scramble which I was predominately aiming for, however my eyes where diverted to the left of the Rake when I spotted this rock which I instantly recognised from two years ago as the same loose rock that looked so unstable that it was about to come crashing down at any point.
To my amazement the rock is still there & still as unstable as it was two years ago, I figured if its lasted so long then its best left alone.
The same rock, May 2012
Rock Climbers make their exit from the top of B’ Buttress.
Before I made my own exit from the South Rake I took this photo looking over Goats Hawse towards Brim Fell, Swirl How & Great Carrs.
I hadn’t noticed what was happening overhead as views skywards were pretty limited whilst in the Rake. I knew that rain was forecast but all that was a few hours away just yet, instead for now I was treated to a wonderful array of…
Fifty Shades of Blue.
Dow Crag summit with a distant Scafells silhouetted in the distance.
After topping out at the exit of the South Rake I again was treated to a welcome blast of chilled air that instantly cooled me down. Ahead of me the Rock Climbers were emerging from the top of Easy Gully that separates both A & B Buttresses, I get a Hi or a smile as one by one the climbers emerge all looking pretty exhausted from their efforts.
Dow Crag summit.
After clambering up towards the final rock steps I gave the summit a solitary top from my walking pole, here I am joined by a fellow walker who seems pretty short on words when I tried to strike up a conversation, I leave him be by saying have a good day.
I still get nothing in return, but pay it no attention.
A distant Grey Friar, Great Cars seen & Swirl How & Brim Fell over Goats Hawse.
The wind had picked up a little as I advanced my way towards Goats Hawse which was where I struggled were my next summit was going to be, I just couldn’t decide on Brim Fell first or the Old Man?
Both of which would have consequences on my descent route back to the car, decisions decisions,
Dow Crag seen with Goats Water from Goats Hawse.
By now the the swimmers in their trunks & bikinis had long gone as I set of for what I regard as one of the most pleasant ascents to any summit in the whole of the District…
But which direction do I head in once I had gained the ridge up ahead, I still hadn’t made my mind up but this one summit was always going to win no matter what my mind was telling me.
Brim Fell from Coniston Old Man summit.
I admit it was close but the Old Man surely won in the end. Here the summit is busy with new arrivals but all I requested was a little time at the Trig Point from where I took this next photo just as a gust of wind…
Blew my walking poles over.
By now the cloud was steadily starting to creep on in over from the direction of The Dunnerdale Fells, I knew this wouldn’t catch up with me but any views over in that direction were becoming more & more shady through a bank of slow moving cloud.
I soon tied in my walking poles before heading off for Brim Fell along the wide open cairn lined path which as mentioned in previous post, is just too short to be fully appreciated.
Here, looking back to Coniston Old Man during a brief sun burst.
Coniston Old Man & Dow Crag (R) from Brim Fell summit cairn.
I soon arrived at Brim Fell with expectations of a descent via Brim Fell Rake which can be gained by heading towards a stone cairn at the north east of the summit shoulder.
The Esk & Dudden valleys surcombe to the advancing cloud, soon The Scafells will be gone for another day.
Swirl How, Black Sails & Wetherlam seen as I head down Brim Fell Rake.
I continue down the grassy rake with firm sights on Raven Tor just ahead where a col separates the summit before the path continues right towards Low Water, but before all that I had a quick summit of Raven Tor with domineering views over…
Levers Water, Black Sails, Wetherlam & the Lad Hows ridge.
Time to make that right turn.
Coniston Old Man seen with Low Water.
After descending Raven Tor I continue along the grassy path that will lead me all the way to the shores of Low Water.
The wind had dropped & again I was battling with the humidity of a late afternoon sun which I knew wouldn’t last for very long given the advancing cloud approaching from the south.
It wasn’t long before I arrived at Low Water where two young boys explored their surroundings with jumpers tied around their waist, Dad waited at the waters outflow who by now had lost complete site of the young uns.
I tried to catch his attention, even just to pass a smile but he chose not to as he span his back on me, what is it with people today!!
Okay, I admit I must smell like a something that’s been in the sun for far too long but that’s only because I’ve been enjoying myself.
Lad Hows from the Old Ruined Huts that over look Coppermine’s Valley.
Here, looking back on Wetherlam shortly before arriving back at Fell Foot.
It was quite difficult to keep the camera turned off for those last few hundred yards as the sky in almost every direction had a wonderful presence as if it was about to tuck the fells in for the night.
It’s a strange & altogether wonderful feeling when walking back to the car knowing that behind you may be the last to trod the summits before another day & that most of all was what I took away from this wonderful walk that started late afternoon.
It wont be long before chances like this will be gone until next summer, that’s the reason why I drove from Wigan to Manchester then after a morning in work I then had the ambition to drive to Coniston through searing heat & delays.
Because to me, the fells are worth it.