Posts tagged 'Coniston'

The Keeltappers and Grunters Social Club 2010 Coniston Meet – Sunday

Posted by on December 18th 2010 in Great Escapes, YHA

Sunday morning dawned bright and frosty but without any overnight snow. The area around the hostel was picturesque in the morning light:


Looking towards Dixon Ground


Far End cottages


We were soon breakfasted, packed and away to Dunmail Raise - we had limited time for Wainwright-bagging as Frank wanted to go to the Montane sale in Ambleside and then to The Outdoor Warehouse sale in Windermere. We would only have time for one top, so we opted for Seat Sandal. Managing to get to the top of that one would be good for me - twice before, I'd sweated up Raise Beck only to be held back by reluctant friends or relations. Third time lucky, I figured.

We opted for the direct and steeper ascent up the West Ridge, reserving the Raise Beck route for the descent. Being in the open meant that the views were much better than what was on offer along the beck:


Moraines on Dunmail Raise


Thirlmere with Skiddaw in the distance


On the way up I was faffing with the camera and Frank had got well ahead. In my efforts to catch up I slipped on a patch of iced grass and landed on my knee. It didn't feel too bad at first so I ignored it, but after a while it started to give me hassle. I popped a couple of Ibuprofens which reduced the pain but the joint just wasn't acting right so I strapped it up and carried on. Common-sense said that I should bail after phoning Frank, but I wasn't going to fail on this mountain again. With much use of the "f", "b" and "c" words, I got beyond the break in the slope and managed to limp stop-start up the easy ground to the top.  Frank must have been waiting in the shelter of the wall for half an hour when I hobbled into view:


From the top of Seat Sandal


At the wall I popped a couple more pills and had a breather until I felt better. After a snack and a brew I managed to get a few pics before and during the knee-crunching descent northwards to Grisedale Tarn:


Fairfield and St. Sunday Crag


Dollywaggon Pike and the ridge to Helvellyn


Alcock Tarn, Grasmere, Coniston Water, Esthwaite Water and hints of Windermere and Morecambe Bay


Around Grisedale Tarn


After reaching the top of Raise Beck and having another few minutes to allow the knee to recover, we pushed on down the icy path back to the cars, stopping only to take a few (poor) pics of some of the cascades:


Upper cascades


Lower cascades


After we'd got ourselves sorted at the cars we nipped off to Ambleside so that Frank could have a look in the Montane sale. There was plenty of nice discounted kit in there but we resisted the urge to buy. The same couldn't be said of our visit to The Outdoor Warehouse in Windermere though, where Frank brought forth and wielded his wallet for the purposes of Christmas-pressie shopping.

After that, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Aside from a few miles of dodgy traffic on the M6, there was no more excitement. The knee now seems to be sorted, I expected it to be a problem for a few more days but I'm happy to report that I was wrong.

The Keeltappers and Grunters Social Club 2010 Coniston Meet – Friday and Saturday

Posted by on December 15th 2010 in Great Escapes, YHA

I'd started out a couple of hours earlier than usual which meant that I had time to call in at Windermere to do a bit of Christmas shopping. While walking the town I got quite a shock when I saw that the shop-front of The Outdoor Warehouse was plastered with "Closing Down" and "Sale" banners. Despite my solemn oath to stay out of such places, I had to go in and find out what the story was. Turns out that they're closing down the shop early in the New Year but they're going to continue as an online retailer. I suppose it's a good move financially, but it does mean that there'll be one less place to actually get hands on quality kit before deciding about buying it. If you're in the market for some seriously-reduced gear, I'd recommend a look in there before it's too late. They had a good selection of half-price down-filled jackets on display, including much stuff that's not on their website.

After that I made my way to Coniston, stopping occasionally to take pics from the roadside:


Looking towards Skelwith Fold and Black Crag


I arrived at YHA Coniston Holly How mid-afternoon, took my gear in, made a brew and sat reading in the lounge. After a while Frank arrived with the news that Mike was ill and wouldn't be arriving on Saturday morning as per his original intention. As we already knew that the other two invited folk couldn't attend, we went to The Crown ASAP and planned accordingly. It wasn't going to be a weekend of serious snow-play  - temperatures were on the rise and a thaw had set in. Frank's prime objective was to climb an in-condition gully, I wanted to bag a few "undone" Wainwrights and christen my snooshows, neither of us would get what we wanted. Over a fine pub-meal we played with the options before heading back and bunking down for the night.

Bright and early next morning we were up, breakfasted and parked up in the quarry car-park on the Walna Scar Road below Timley Knott. The sun was out and there was hardly any snow visible on The Old Man of Coniston:


The Old Man


After seeing the conditions, it was obvious that crampons and axes wouldn't be required and that there was no chance of a gully-climb. We lightened our packs and headed North with the intention of taking the popular quarry-path to The Old Man's summit. There were plenty of photo-opportunities on the way up:


Panorama - The Old Man to The Yewdale Fells


Looking back to the quarry car-park


A lonely tree overlooks the path


The Old Man - gnarled, craggy and weathered
The mountain also looks like that


YHA Coniston Coppermines from The Bell


Another look back to the quarry car-park


Quarries below Sweeten Crag


At the crossroads we turned left and headed up the track towards Low Water. There was evidence that others had been this way before us:


We never found the matching Therm-a-Rest 🙂


We paused for a cuppa at a convenient place and went off to investigate the relics of a long-gone industry:


Quarry buildings


More quarry buildings


How are the mighty fallen


Inside one of the quarries


A short while later we were on the track above a thawing Low Water. One look at the gullies justified our decision to leave the pointy metalwork in the car:


Low Water


Low Water again


From there it was a short pull up snow-filled tracks and crag towards the busy summit. There were more photo-opportunities:


The final stretch


Coniston Water and distant clouds over North Wales


The summit was a busy place so I wandered off to take some pics while Frank took shelter for a snack-break. There was much to see:


There were poppies tucked into the cairn - poignant reminders of folk that no longer walk these fells


Looking towards the Scafell range


An old survey mark carved into a rock in the plinth of the cairn.


The trig-column and the summit cairn


The Dow Crag ridge


From there, we headed off towards Brim Fell. Here's me, pausing during the easy stroll:


Still refusing to wear a hat despite the lack of natural insulation up-top


Looking back at The Old Man from Brim Fell summit


Brim Fell cairn and another view of the Scafell range


From there we headed down to a snowy and busy Goat's Hawse:


Goat's Water


We paused alongside Goat's Water for a while, there was much to see, do and discuss:


Dow Crag's magnificent rocky architecture


Ice on Goat's Water


Impact on ice on Goat's Water


Light on ice, water and rock


From there it was a simple walk back to the car. We discussed much on the way down, not least the fact that the absent Mike was supposed to be providing a hearty chilli for the evening meal. Frank's selection of cheeses and my Chicken Tikka bites with Tempura Prawns weren't going to be enough...

After we'd got ourselves sorted at the hostel we headed off to the village shop in search of ingredients. Fish, rice and onions were liberated from the Co-op. The fish needed time to defrost so we took it into a warm pub for an hour or so, as you do. After suitable rehydration we went back to the hostel to concoct our evening meal - the prawns made a decent starter, Frank's rice, fish and chicken dish was good and the bread-pudding with custard and caramel was indeed as stodgy and filling as ever. The bottle of red went down well too while we set the world to rights before turning in for the night.

To be continued...

Back from The Lakes

Posted by on December 12th 2010 in Great Escapes, YHA

I'm not long returned from a great weekend based at Coniston.

It'll take me a while to get the reports and pics sorted, but here's one of the few shots that I've processed so far:

I'll post the rest sometime during the next few days.

Tidying up some loose ends

Posted by on November 17th 2010 in Great Escapes, Rambling on...
Tags: , ,

For me, the last two months of every year tend to be a bit fickle when it comes to getting in some hill-time. Factor in a bunch of birthdays, the inevitable Christmas shopping, the trips out to deliver pressies and the staying in to accept them, and there's precious little time left for getting away. It's not as if I can snatch the odd half-day or just bugger off one evening, overnight in the hills and then return the next morning - living in England's rotting industrial heartland means that any decent mountains are many hours of driving away, so any venture has to be long enough to provide a good return on the investment.

This year I'm taking a different approach - I've booked a weekend away, the rest of life will just have to STFU and fit in around it. Coniston beckons, a few of us have answered the call. Hopefully we'll find the right conditions to christen my new snooshows, maybe we'll even tick off a few more Wainwrights, but if we don't it'll be fun all the same.

Of course, while I'm away, somebody else will have the job of tidying up those loose ends. Here's a quick snapshot of the cause of the disorder:



Even though the two-week claim period hasn't yet expired, we couldn't continue looking after her without giving her a name. That process in itself was an ordeal - we'd made a long-list and couldn't agree, so we whittled it down to a short-list and still couldn't agree.

Eventually we put the names in a hat and Anna drew out the winning entry (which just happened to be the name that she put in... hmm...). Even now, we can't agree - the name is Elvy... or is it LV? Of course, now that the mog's been named it'll be hard if we have to let her go, despite her infuriating habit of chewing through my boot-laces and draw-cords!

More pics if you click the one above.

Coniston Fells Wildcamping (again) – Part 4 – Beating the Odds

Posted by on July 23rd 2009 in Great Escapes, Wildcamping

 After the pageload is complete, click on any of the pics in this post to see bigger versions in the Shutter Reloaded lightbox-style image viewer. *

It was 04:30 when I was woken up by strange noises just outside the tent - something was trying to get in. I turned over slowly and peered through the mesh of the door-panel, expecting to see a hedgehog, or maybe a badger, but all I saw was a snout and tongue being pulled back from under the edge of the flysheet. The owner stayed put while I reached for the camera, and even while I unzipped the inner and fly, but as soon as I tried to get a shot, the thing (and another smaller version of it) was off like a shot. It was a couple of deer, I've no idea what sort, taking an unhealthy interest in the remains of the previous night's fish risotto.

I looked around. The rain was now a light drizzle, and it was windless again. The area around the tent was now a bit marshy and was dotted with the tracks of many deer. Mindful of the association between deer and ticks, I stayed out of the long grass and bracken as much as possible while visiting the cat-scrape.

A quick breakfast followed, and to loosen the legs I walked a circuit of the reservoir while supping a brew. The sky was telling me to get packed up and away, but I was going to get damp anyway so I took my time striking camp.

Eventually I was off again. Following the paths was easy, but a fair amount of bracken-dodging was necessary, there being quite a few ticks on the fronds just waiting to hitch a ride on my clothing.

Soon I was at the top of Holme Fell...

The top of Holme Fell

from where there was a fine view of the place where I'd camped:

The quarry reservoirs from Holme Fell

I spent some time wandering about on the top, taking a few pics when the drizzle slackened off (which wasn't often). Considering the small stature of the fell, the views are quite extensive:

Towards Windermere and Latterbarrow

Ivy Crag


Low Tilberthwaite


Coniston Water

Sunlight from the east, rain from the west and wind from the south all conspired to create this colourful scene:

Interesting weather

Then it was time to go. With the weather alternating between sunny spells and heavy showers, I skirted the north side of Ivy Crag to join the path down though the Usk Gap...

Trees in the Usk Gap

which opened out above Harry Guards Wood to allow a fine view of Yew Tree Tarn:

Yew Tree Tarn

The junction of the path with the road near Glen Mary Bridge marked the start of a fair old road-walk back into the car, and it was going to be a grind in the now-constant rain. A few folk were driving away from Coniston, but nothing was going the other way, so the chances of a hitch were small.

As I rounded the corner at Nether End the last vehicle to go by, a white van, came back and pulled over - it was Steve. If he'd been five minutes earlier I'd have still been on the hill, and five minutes later I'd have donned waterproofs (for the first time in about five years) and he wouldn't have recognised me. It was pure chance that we were both on the same stretch of road during that ten-minute window - what were the odds of that happening? He was on his way home after having spent a wild, wet and windy night pitched at Goatfoot Crags. Needing no second invitation, I slung the gear into the back and accepted his offer of a lift back to my car. Cheers, Steve!

After retrieving my gear, we said our goodbyes all over again and he went off to the shops of Ambleside.

It goes without saying that the rain had stopped and the sun was nice and bright by the time I'd changed, packed and started the car.

I felt good, so good that driving home while dodging the suicidal feckwits on the M6 has never been so much fun.

Right, that's the end of the write-up. The may be a post-trip kit and route analysis sometime, but don't hold your breath.

Coniston Fells Wildcamping – Part 2 – Twist and Shout

Posted by on April 30th 2009 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Illness and injury, Wildcamping

The night was mild with just the odd flap of the tent, nothing to worry about. We woke at 05:15 to find the skies almost clear, so I went for a stroll to take a few pics as the sun worked its way from behind the shoulder of The Old Man:

A well-concealed wildcamping tent 🙂

You can't see it from here either, can you?

OK, let's make it a tad easier for you

The view sunwards

Breakfast was a quick and simple affair, and then it was time to strike camp and to filter sufficient tarn-water for the rest of the day, there being precious little available on our chosen route.

Water: gathering, not depositing

We retraced the short drop back to the Road and then continued up the river of stones to the col between Walna Scar and Brown Pike, passing by one of the old stone shelters:

Stone hut below Brown Pike

Turning right at this crossroads, we walked up the zigzags into a stiffening breeze, which was cooling us well in the bright sunshine. A few fellrunners were about, but no other walkers had been seen yet. A few minutes later we were at the top and exposed to the full force of the wind as it ripped up the sunward slopes and over the ridge, so we had a breather in the shelter right next to the summit-cairn:

The shelter atop Brown Pike

From there, we could see the simple short ridge-walk to Buck Pike, the next top on the ridge:

The ridge to Buck Pike

and there was a good view of The Old Man across The Cove:

The Old Man

After a snack we set off along the ridge, passing this striking view down towards Blind Tarn and our vacated pitch:

Looking down on Blind Tarn from the ridge

The further we walked, the stronger the wind became. Each time we passed the top of an open gully we were blown sideways, the funnelled air roaring through the gaps at incredible speeds and playing curious deep tones as it whistled between the crags. At times the wind set up resonances in the rocks, making them hum in an eerie harmony. Rock music indeed!

We made our way over the top of Buck Pike...

Looking back to the top of Buck Pike

and headed for the first Wainwright of the day, Dow Crag:

Dow Crag from Buck Pike

The ridge-path passes the tops of several gullies and the view down each was impressive. It was hard to take pics, though, as the wind was too strong to stand steadily at the edges. I managed just the one pic after crawling to the edge on all fours:

A view of part of Goat's Water, looking down Easy Gully

The summit rocks of Dow Crag were incredibly windy due to their exposed position - this was three-point-contact walking, and it was a dicey affair actually reaching the top-most rocks, which are right on the edge of the cliff, leaving no room for a cairn:

The very top of Dow Crag

The view down to the glistening surface of Goat's Water was breathtaking, or it would have been had the wind not already stolen our breath away and scattered it behind us as we peered over the edge. Taking a pic of the view was impossible - I couldn't hold the camera still enough with just one hand, and I wasn't about to allow my other to let go of terra firma. Instead, we retired to the lee of the summit rocks for some shelter and to confirm our intended route, and had to be content with the view of the ridge back to the Walna Scar Pass and beyond:

Looking back from Dow Crag - a fine ridge

The next part of the plan was to drop down to Goat's Hause and then make for Swirl How and its satellite fells via Brim Fell. We were undecided as to whether to include the summit of the Old Man, but seeing as we'd been there before, we chose to give it a miss.

We donned the packs again and headed for the Hause, with our next three objectives (Grey Friar, Great Carrs and Swirl How) in view before us. I was keeping well away from the edge, out of the worst of the wind, but at a narrow place I was uprooted by a vicious prolonged blast which twisted me around in a most peculiar way. I heard the sound of my lumbar region giving way above the noise of the rushing air, and it hurt like hell. I'm not given to shouting in pain, but this was bad.

I knew I was screwed.

The trip was over, I wasn't going to be able to do any more upping and now it was a matter of getting home without causing further damage. We took our time finding somewhere sheltered to sit and while I tried to recover we rehydrated ourselves and planned our retreat. Common-sense dictated that we should regain the car via the path alongside Goat's Water, through The Cove and back to the WSR at the previous day's decision-point. As we sat there, we were approached by a member of the one of the MRTs who was searching for a man who had been reported as having had a heart-attack near Blind Tarn. We gave as much info as possible about the folk that we had met since leaving there, then he carried on up to the top at a cracking pace. A few minutes later the SAR helicopter was hovering above the ridge somewhere near Brown Pike:

The SAR helicopter heading past Dow Crag towards Brown Pike


We got some great views from the Hause before dropping down the path to the Water:

Grey Friar, Great Carrs and Swirl How from Goat's Hause

Dow Crag towering above Goat's Water

Goat's Water and the path to The Cove

Each step down the path was designed to make me wince, and each one did. Eventually we dropped out of the worst of the wind and had lunch behind some large rocks just before the waterside section of the path began. As we ate, the sunlight disappeared and was replaced by dark cloud - rain was heading our way. We made our way out of The Cove as the heavens opened and the thunder started to boom around the fells. Most of the activity was over Dow Crag and The Old Man, and I'm sure that those summits had a few lightning-strikes during that hour - I was glad that we weren't still up there. The rain stopped as we passed Boo Tarn, and by the time we reached the car-park the clouds had cleared to allow the sun to start roasting us again.

We sat in the car, dejected, trying to salvage something from the wreckage of the weekend. In circumstances like these, there's only one thing to do...

To be continued.

Coniston Fells Wildcamping – Part 1 – On familiar ground

Posted by on April 28th 2009 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

Yet again we had a fairly hassle-free drive up the A5 and the M6, this time to Junction 36. After a quick stop-off in Ambleside for Chris to pick up some odds and ends, we set off for Coniston.

We parked up at the old quarry car-park near Timley Knott on the Walna Scar Road and got ready for action. Packs were hoisted and we were off along the Road, heading for The Cove. This is familiar ground for me - I spent two weeks mapping this area as a Brum Uni geology undergrad way back in '82, and I took Chris there in '98 for a day-walk. Even so, there is still much of interest, geological and otherwise, despite the distraction of the trail of loose-dumped rock that is supposed to be a repaired path:


Looking back down the "path" towards Coniston

As you can see, the hazy cloud meant that the light was flat, so the pics aren't up to much.

Our first objective was to pitch where we would be able to walk the Dow Crag ridge the next day, and the decision-point for choosing which way to tackle the job was the junction where the path splits below Little Arrow Moor - straight on for Blind Tarn, right for Goat's Water. We weighed up the options... Goat's Water was the easy option, lower and more accessible, but we'd been there before and it was only on our options-list in case we were running out of time and/or light. As we were doing fine for both, we stayed on the Road and soon we reached Cove Bridge, where we stopped for a few pics:


Looking up the "path" towards the ridge


Cove Bridge and Torver Beck


Chris approaching Cove Bridge


Chris on Cove Bridge


Brown Pike beyond the poser on the bridge

After that we continued along the Road, heading for Blind Tarn, a place recommended by a certain Mr. Hee.

The loose-dumped surface started to get steeper as we reached Goatfoot Crags on the lower slopes of Brown Pike, and after much boot-scuffing we found the man-made grassy rake that leads to the high quarries above the natural bowl that holds Blind Tarn. After a few minutes we were at the waterside, and we had the place to ourselves, which is just as well, as there are only a couple of places there which would take our tent with any degree of comfort.

Due to our well-practised routine (we pitch the inner together, then I deal with the outside stuff while Chris sorts the gear inside), we were soon pitched and ready to enjoy the rest of the evening, which was warm and hazy with a light breeze. As the darkness set in the haze cleared and we could see the lights of the coastal towns all the way down to the coast of North Wales - impressive stuff!

To be continued.

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