Paul’s first walk with Mark and I had been last month when we climbed Pillar. Would he come along again? Ofcourse he would, however not this month. He was suffering from a throat infection and didn’t feel well enough to take on the delights of a “Coniston Round”.
Having parked in the National Trust car park and paid their extortionate parking fee (OK, I know it goes to a good cause) Mark and I picked up an early morning bacon buttie and set off up the steep tarmac track that would lead to the Walna Scar road. For October it was glorious. Yes, there was a nip in the air, but the sun shone and the visibility was far reaching. The hour or so walk to Goats Water seemed to pass in no time at all. We chatted about everything under the sun, Paul’s misfortune at not being able to come along, our proposed route and whether or not we’d try the scramble up the face of Dow Crag.
The impressive Dow Crag
Stood there by the shore of Goats Water everything looked so barren. There were rocks everywhere and looking up at the crag we could just make out the faint zig zag of the path as it meandered its way through all that rubble and scree to the great gullies that appeared to offer some form of route up the several hundred feet sheer rock face. For a while it was tempting to consider what looked like a scramble up one of the right hand gullies. Only upon closer inspection did we realise that these routes were in fact rock climbs and that the folk gingerly making their up were all roped up, wearing protective gear and no doubt possessed some degree of rock climbing capability. We knew that there was an alternative ascent route via something known as “South Rake”. Sure enough behind us was an eroded gully of boulders that led to a vague track through the rock and then onto the scramble proper. It was like playing around on great building blocks. Although it was nice and easy there was always that view down the almost sheer cliffs that made you concentrate on the task ahead. What a cracking four hundred feet of ascent. The only problem was that when we reached the summit we entered the clouds and boy was that a shock to the system to a topless hill walker.
The Traverse from the Old Man to Wetherlam
The steep descent was made to Goats Hause and from there the rather straightforward ascent was taken to the packed summit of Coniston Old Man. It really was crowded and so after a short break for a sarni we doubled back on ourselves and headed off in the direction of Brim Fell. Now this was hill walking was all about. The ridge from the Old Man is broad, undulates a little and is really easy to walk along. Add to that gloriously sunny conditions and it became a real joy to amble along this highway in the sky. Very occasionally we’d enter some patchy cloud and then just as quick as we’d find we’d reappear into brilliant sunshine. At one point whilst in the clouds we heard a strange noise. It was some form of howling. What could it be? It sounded like a wolf and appeared like it was making its way along the very same ridge. This strange sound went on for some time until it seemed to be multiplied. It was almost like something from Sherlock Holmes and the “Hound of the Baskervilles”. Eventually the penny dropped. There must have been a pack of hunting hounds out for a training run or even on a fox hunt. They were no doubt down in the valley somewhere and we never saw them, however whilst ambling through the cloud they certainly sounded pretty eerie.
The unlucky Halifax bomber
We decided to take a detour from the direct route to Wetherlam as we knew that on the way to Great Carrs there were the remains of a crashed 2nd World War Halifax bomber. Sure enough in the dip before the summit we came across a cairn that had been built out of the remnants of this unlucky aircraft. Standing proud in the centre was a great cross with a small plaque attached which detailed the names of the eight airmen who perished. What was most noticeable was the fact that this bomber had only just caught the top of the ridge. Perhaps if it had been another twenty feet higher it may have got away with it. As it was, the remnants of this craft had been collected together to form this rather poignant cairn. It was noticeable that there were patches of molten metal scattered around. This gave an indication of the impact that had taken place. By looking eleven hundred feet down the scree towards Greenburn you could also just about make out the remnants of the aircraft wings. No doubt in the intervening fifty years many trophy hunters had helped themselves to what they could carry.
Having continued to the summit of Great Carrs we now had to double back the short distance to reach Swirl How. From here we would take the steep descent of Prison Band and then take the final ascent of the day back to the summit of Wetherlam, which incidentally is exactly the same height as the Old Man. This last half hour had seen the sun start to disappear behind wispy clouds and with it the temperature was starting to plummet. We, or read I, was now just about on auto pilot. I was tired and ready for a bite to eat, yet I knew that we still had some way to go. The descent proved to be ideal. Mark and I even managed to run down great chunks of this route that would take us over Lad Stones and then over the springy heathland that led back to Coniston.
What a cracking day. All we needed was a decent pint and bar snack. Hopefully Paul would be fit enough to join us next time around.