Friday, January 30, 2015

A Winter Hike in the Coniston Fells

Date : 30th January 2015
Start/End : Coniston Village
Wainwrights : Dow Crag, Old Man of Coniston
Distance : 8.8 miles  (14.2km)
Height Gained : 2861 feet  (872 meters)
Time Taken : 6 and 1/2 hours

Map of the route. Click to zoom.

Due to a busy work schedule robbing me of all my free time over the past few months I have been frustratingly lacking fell time .... until now. Thankfully things are quietening down and I had a free Friday and a reasonably favourable forecast with the promise of some fresh snow on the ground. And so I headed off to the Coniston area where I had an appointment with Dow Crag, the only one of the Coniston Fells that I hadn't yet climbed. 

The forecast was for clear skies but a bitterly cold northerly gusting up to 40mph. So it turned out to be, but being on the sheltered side of the fells along the Walna Scar Road for the first few hours gave a bit of early respite. Only the racing clouds overhead gave any clue to the fierce winds yet to come. Sure enough, on gaining the ridge at Brown Pike the full force of the wind became evident, and it was indeed bitingly cold. It was an exhilarating hike though, along the ridge up to Dow Crag, following which I was positively blown up onto the summit of Coniston Old Man. I've never has such an, 'assisted' ascent.

A 5 minute video of the day

Sun rise from the walna scar road

Looking towards Wetherlam ....

... and the Old Man of Coniston under cloud

The onwards path: It's a shame to make foot prints in there - so I didn't !

The Brown Pike to Dow Crag ridge

The Old Man of Coniston

On the ascent of Brown Pike

Buck Pike and Coniston Old Man

Brown Pike summit

Looking along the ridge to Buck Pike

A 'glimpse' of Blind Tarn

Blind Tarn from Buck Pike
Dow Crag

A scary looking gulley

Dow Crag summit view over to the Old Man of Coniston

I got the Kestrel weather gizmo out on the summit of Dow Crag and measured -2 C, wind average 38mph and windchill -12.5 C. Brrrrrr !

Dow Crag summit panorama

Dow Crag summit panorama

My brew spot sheltered from the wind with views of Goats Water

Looking onwards to the 'Old Man' ...

... and back to Dow Crag

Views of the Scafells

Approaching the 'Old Man' summit with views down to Coniston Water

The Old Man of Coniston summit

Views north towards Swirl How

Wetherlam over Small Water
Levers Water creeping into view

The way down
It was great fun wading downhill through lovely deep powder snow. It made for a quick and easy descent.

Small Water

It was fun wading down through this stuff!

Going down the old quarry path

A last look back towards Wetherlam in the setting sunlight.

Kit Thoughts

Cold and windy with some deep powder snow was the order of the day today. I wore the Rab Vapour Rise jacket over a thin base layer and that was enough to keep out the cold - just! I had a down jacket & shell but didn't need them. A windstopper hat and gloves were a godsend. Kit of the day go's to the Mountain Laurel Designs light snow gaiters though. This was the first time ive used them and at 75g per pair I forgot I had them on! Made of single layer Event but with no side zip they are really light and unobtrusive. You have to take your boots off to get them on & off but that is the only down side. They were needed all day today due the deep powder snow, so that wasn't a problem. My old gaiters were 300g a pair and a pain to wear, being hot and sweaty. Not so with these. I was very impressed.