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Coniston circuit #2 / 2 days / 13 miles (22km)

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Date: 04 Jan 2006
Start / Finish: Coniston.
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 6: English Lakes South West.

Day 1Wetherlam & Grey Friar7.0 miles / 3575 feet (11.3km / 1089m)
Day 2Coniston & Goats Water6.4 miles / 705 feet (10.3km / 214m)

A circuit of mountains to the NW of Coniston, approaching via the Tilberthwaite Gill and Steel Edge route and returning on the Walna Scar track. Very few traces of snow remained, just patchy ice and hard frozen ground. History repeated itself weather-wise and this trip was like the previous Coniston circuit, sunshine the first day but mist on the second.

Day 1 - Wetherlam & Grey Friar

From the main street at 304980, the Youth Hostel track cuts off a bit of main road and rejoins it at Far End, where a few yards further along, a good woodland track parallels the road to the narrow lane to Tilberthwaite. Just after the lane crosses Yewdale Beck, the old mine track departs L and climbs above Tilberthwaite Gill, where there is an occasional glimpse of the falls far below through the trees. Beyond the point where Crook Beck enters the chasm, there is a footbridge at the base of Steel Edge. A trackless ascent gains the ridge and an improving path approaches the steep rocky rib, a climb made more adventurous today by patches of ice on the rock.

Eastern Fells from top of Steel Edge
Eastern Fells from top of Steel Edge (04 Jan 2006__10:41:16)

The climb ends at Wetherlam Tarn, frozen and looking very picturesque. From Wetherlam there was a grand panoramic view and the ice on the summit was so hard it sounded like breaking glass. The next top Black Sails is very little visited and there is just a hint of a path departing L from the main highway towards the rocky summit. Rejoining the main path, it was an enjoyable climb up the rocks to Swirl How and on past the memorial to Great Carrs.

Wetherlam Tarn
Wetherlam Tarn (04 Jan 2006__11:23:26)
Coniston ridge from Wetherlam
Coniston ridge from Wetherlam (04 Jan 2006__11:52:08)
Scafell range from Wetherlam
Scafell range from Wetherlam (04 Jan 2006__12:02:54)
Great Carrs from Wetherlam
Great Carrs from Wetherlam (04 Jan 2006__12:04:26)
Scafell range from Black Sails
Scafell range from Black Sails (04 Jan 2006__12:35:28)
View North from Swirl How
View North from Swirl How (04 Jan 2006__14:06:45)
Wetherlam & Black Sails from Great Carrs
Wetherlam & Black Sails from Great Carrs (04 Jan 2006__14:21:05)

Descending W to the col, we collected water from the spring a short way down the slope and noticed telltale signs of cloud building up and a strengthening breeze. Climbing to Grey Friar, the mist quickly engulfed the tops making the summit grey indeed, and we found a good pitch spot near a rocky tor.

Pitch on Grey Friar
Pitch on Grey Friar (04 Jan 2006__15:44:31)

Day 2 - Coniston & Goats Water

The easterly wind strengthened in the night with the mist prevailing at dawn. For a while there was snow of the fine stinging variety that felt like being sandblasted. Clad in all our windproof layers, we returned to the col and a junction of thin paths: the rightmost one ascends gently to towards Levers Hawse. Climbing to Brim Fell, the strong cold wind at the edge made it difficult to stay upright but there was a view of Levers Water below. From the icy summit cairn there were fleeting glimpses of Dow Crag and Seathwaite Tarn.

Summit of Brim Fell & Dow Crag
Summit of Brim Fell & Dow Crag (05 Jan 2006__10:34:17)

The path to Goats Hawse was in the lee of the wind and the ice was easy to avoid. The pitched path down to Goats Water was dry and made an easy descent with the towering buttresses of Dow Crag above and topped with mist. The path joins the Walna Scar track for an easy return to the narrow lane to Coniston, which drops steeply to the village:- as expected it was above freezing by now, otherwise it would have made an interesting end to the day!.

Goats Water
Goats Water (05 Jan 2006__11:30:55)