The Coniston Fells - Grey Friar to Dow Crag from Dunnerdale

Outline of Route
Troutal - Grey Friar - Great Carrs - Swirl How - Brim Fell - Coniston Old Man - Dow Crag - Troutal (Grid ref. SD 231975)
Total Distance 11.3 miles, Total Ascent 3300 feet, Equivalent Distance 18.0 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. From Levers Hause there is a path down to Seathwaite Tarn.
  2. From Goat's Hause the ascent to and return from Dow Crag can be omitted.

Details of Route
The O.S. Outdoor Leisure Map No.6 is recommended for this route. About half way between Troutal and Seathwaite, in the shadow of High Tongue, there is a small parking area, about enough for six cars. Two signposts, a few yards apart, indicate a public bridleway to the west, and a footpath to the east. Follow the footpath along by a wall downhill to a gap in another wall - this little valley is carpeted with bluebells in June. Through this gap there are signs indicating "footpath", ahead, and "alternative drier path", to the left. Turn left along the "alternative path" as it coincides with the planned route, but where a sign directs you to the right, ignore it and go straight ahead and over a ladder stile (apparently now replaced by a swing gate). Continue along this path, roughly northeast, with a wood on your left, past two separate farm buildings, on your right. You'll see Tongue House farm on the other side of Tarn Beck, but the route doesn't take you there. Once through a gate into a field, you'll see a footbridge - strangely it's not marked on my map. Cross the bridge and climb over the ladder stile close by. Here you'll find a farm track that leads quite steeply uphill to a gate in a wall. Go through the gate and follow the path which runs between Tongue House Close and Tongue House High Close. Keep to the left of the marshy area in this hollow and avoid the temptation of turning right and joining the road - you'll be coming back that way.

Grey Friar lies ahead, and a route can be seen up onto the ridge that constitutes its southwestern spur, Troutall Fell. Head towards this ascent, there is a path of sorts, and when you reach the beck find somewhere to cross it. A reasonable crossing can be made where a broken-down wall comes down the fellside opposite, though it needs a little bit of nerve. This is a little way downstream of the planned ascent, but top of the ridge - Loft Rigg How - can easily be reached from here, and is recommended. Finding ways along the crest of this part of the ridge provides plenty to think about, and you can never see further ahead than the next set of crags. It may be reassuring to know that the writer, in following the ridge as close to its top as possible, rarely found it necessary to lose any hard-earned height, and even then very little. After a while the view opens up to the northwest, where lies Scafell and the Pikes looking most majestic. They continue to dominate the view from the summit, though of minor interest are the cars fighting their way over Hardknott Pass, a little bit of the Duddon valley, and between the fells a bit of the Duddon estuary.

The walk to Great Carrs is straightforward, involving the loss of about 300 feet to the Fairfield col, which is regained on the ascent. Just below the summit, some of the wreckage of a Halifax bomber which crashed on a training flight in 1944 remains as a memorial to the crew who died. A protected, typewritten message from the M.O.D. giving their names gets replaced every now and again. From Great Carrs the eastern panorama opens up and the views down into the Greenburn valley are striking with the crags dropping steeply down from Wetherlam and Black Sails. The photo shows the view of the ridge towards The Old Man. Follow the rim round to the south and east to Swirl How and then continue south to Great How Crag, where Levers Water is seen way down below.

Follow the escarpment down to Levers Hawse and then up onto Brim Fell, where there's a fine, retrospective view of the Scafells (photo). Keep going from Brim Fell 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). The obvious descent and return to Dunnerdale is via Buck Pike, Brown Pike and the Walna Scar Road, but everyone else goes that way. A much more secluded, and just as enjoyable, route is via the valley of Seathwate Tarn. Set off back down the path to Goat's Hawse, but when the path turns sharp right go straight on down the slope towards Far Gill. Keep to the left of this beck when you reach it: there's no clear footpath. Near the bottom, when the boulder fields are reached, bear left across and down the fellside. Eventually you will cross a path that is rising up the fellside, heading to the left of Raven Nest How, a rocky excrescence overlooking the tarn. It is clear, easy to follow, and provides pleasant walking below the crags on your left, and above the tarn to your right. This photo shows the tarn from the path near the dam. When the dam is reached follow the access road down towards Seathwaite.

Shortly after joining the Walna Scar road and passing a whitewashed building on the left there is a barn on the right. Go through the gate, where a public footpath is signposted, pass the barn on your right and continue along by the wall to another gate. Go through this gate and across the field to yet another gate which opens onto a road. The right of way procedes across the next field but you need to turn right along the road for about twenty yards then over a stile to get into it. Cross the field to a gap in the fence opposite and further on find a footbridge across Tarn Beck. Here you are confronted with two notices, indicating "footpath", ahead, and "alternative drier path", to the right. Follow the one to the right and find your way back to that hole in the wall and the car parking area.

Rev. 02 September 2014

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