The Coniston Fells from Wetherlam to Dow Crag

Outline of Route
Coniston - Wetherlam - Swirl How - Great Carrs - Brim Fell - Coniston Old Man - Dow Crag - Coniston (Grid ref. SD 303976)
Total Distance 10.3 miles, Total Ascent 3900 feet, Equivalent Distance 18.1 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. Descend from Swirl Hause past Levers Water and back to Coniston.
  2. From Levers Hause there is a steep path down to Levers Water and back to Coniston.
  3. From Coniston Old Man there is the most popular path from Miners Bridge and Coniston.
  4. From Goat's Hause there is a path down past Goat's Water and the Walna Scar road to Coniston.

Details of Route
From the main car park in Coniston - £6.00 for 12 hours - return to the main road and cross the bridge over the beck. Take the road on the right just over the bridge and follow it up to the Sun Inn. Turn right and pass behind the inn - the footpath is signposted - go through a gate, across a field and over a bridge. Continue with Church Beck on your right until a bridge gives access to the road on the other side of the beck. A few yards further up the road forks. Take the right fork, and shortly afterwards, above the row of cottages, take a clear path to the right towards some old quarry workings photo. About fifty yards further on take the path to the left which slopes up the fellside, and leads to a grassy knoll higher up photo. There is a good view of Coniston Old Man from here photo. This route gradually flattens out and the ridge up on the left is your aim. A path leads off sharply to the left and onto the ridge. If you reach a tarn on your left you've missed the path, but there are several paths in that direction - some more distinct than others - and they will all lead ultimately to this south ridge of Wetherlam. Once onto the ridge there are no further navigational problems. It leads directly to the summit. There are a couple of crests on the right on the way which are worth a visit for views to the north and east photo.

To the north there is a wonderful panorama, from the Scafells right round to the High Street range, and the sight of Little Langdale and its tarn, way down below, adds to the majesty of your position. Head west from the summit and follow the path across the steep northern slopes of Black Sails. An ice-axe, and the knowledge of how to use it, are essential here in snow, as an unchecked slide would plunge you down hundreds of feet. The path down to the col and up the Prison Band photo to the summit of Swirl How is easy to follow and provides good views of the crags either side. The photo shows this path from near the top of Swirl How. From the top the views down into the Greenburn valley are striking but a swift detour round the corrie to Great Carrs improves even on that, with a better perspective on the crags dropping steeply down from Wetherlam and Black Sails. The photo shows the view of the ridge towards The Old Man.

Head back south, bypassing Swirl How, and aim for Swirl Band. Follow the escarpment down to Levers Hawse and then up onto Brim Fell. Peak baggers may have decided on the detour to Grey Friar. This adds a mile and 600 feet to the walk. Keep going from Brim Fell, where there's a fine view of the Scafells (photo), to the Old Man of Coniston (photo), as busy a felltop as Scafell Pike or Helvellyn, even in snow. To the northeast is Wetherlam (photo) with the Helvellyn/Fairfield ridges on the horizon. From here, on a clear day, can be seen the Isle of Man, on the western horizon, jutting high out of the Irish Sea - it's as well to remember that its highest point, Snaefell, is over 2000 feet - and to the south, Blackpool Tower - it's way to the right of Heysham Power Station, and very much further. Also to the west are the forbidding precipices of Dow Crag which will be seen at closer quarters on the next part of the route.

Head northwest from the summit to find the path down to Goat's Hause and continue up from there, by the side of the precipices to the summit of Dow Crag (photo). Go on along the edge - it's riven with gulleys from which to see Goat's Water (photo) - to Buck Pike, Brown Pike and turning diagonally left (southwest), downward to the crest of the Walna Scar Road. It is an easy, if uninspiring, three mile walk from here back to Coniston. Nonetheless, there is an intriguing stone shelter (photo) to be seen, you get a different perspective on the crags of Dow, you might keep a look out for Boo Tarn and with my luck you'll find yourself caught up in the middle of a hound trail. Just before reaching Coniston you will find a free parking area. You may prefer to use this instead of the one in Coniston. I can find no persuasive arguments for doing this walk in this particular direction. It's excellent either way.

Rev. 02 September 2014

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