Subsidiary summit, Pike o'Blisco

Subsidiary summit of Pike o’Blisco, viewed from the main summit. Wetherlam behind.

Date completed: 13th March 2018

Weather conditions: Springlike in the morning, in Langdale. As is often the case, cloudier in the afternoon, with some low cloud on the ascent of Great Carrs (though this did blow off). But all in all, a fine, dry day for a walk.

Summits bagged: Pike o’ Blisco (2313 feet above sea level, number 136 of my second round), Great Carrs (2575’, no. 137), Grey Friar (2536’, no. 138), Swirl How (2630’, no. 139).

Great How Crags

Great How Crags, from the descent to Swirl Hawse

Pike o’Blisco was first climbed on walk 64, in August 2012. The other three were first bagged way back on walk 6, eight and a half years ago in September 2009.

Start and end points: Started at Dungeon Ghyll, finished in Coniston. I fitted the walk between the 10:00 arrival time of the #516 service to Dungeon Ghyll from Ambleside (left there 9:30am) and the departure of the 15:40 service back to Ambleside from Coniston. This latter service will be busy with schoolchildren on a weekday but they all mostly get off at Hawkshead. Bear in mind this leaves from the opposite side of the road to the bus stop in Coniston.

Head of Great Langdale

The head of Great Langdale, from near Wall End

Distance walked: Various sources of evidence (my pedometer, the map, Wainwright) compel me to accept this was approximately 8.25 miles, but it certainly felt longer.

Total ascent: 4000 feet approximately.

Pub at end: I really should give the Yewdale in Coniston a go sometime, but…. the Black Bull… Coniston Brewery ales brewed on the premises… Oatmeal Stout… I find it too difficult to walk past. I’m sure the Yewdale is a very nice pub though.

Route: This is really a very fine walk in every respect. I struggle to find any defects with it. Perhaps the descent off Swirl How has some awkward steps and the final walk to Coniston feels a little longer than hoped for, but that’s about it. There is quite a lot of climbing, but none of it is difficult or excessively steep. Almost the whole route lies on good, dry and unloseable paths, and I never needed to consult the map. If pushed for time, or the weather is poor, Grey Friar could be omitted, but it does have the best view of the day.

Swirl How summit

Swirl How summit cairn and enthusiastic canine hiker

From the bus stop at Dungeon Ghyll walk along the road for a while as it goes past the farm of Wall End and begins to climb. Just past a zigzag take the obvious path heading off on the right. This climbs steadily up to Pike o’Blisco summit. There are no difficulties, although towards the summit some very mild scrambling is required. It took me about one hour and fifteen minutes from bus stop to summit.

Pike o’Blisco has two summits which both look about the same height; the north-western one is higher, though. (The tall cairn illustrated by Wainwright has long gone.) The path down starts between the two and heads down fairly straightforwardly to Red Tarn — the soil at some points around it is startlingly red. Turn left when at the bottom of the slope and walk past the tarn along a fairly level path that eventually drops down to Wrynose Pass, where there will probably be cars parked.

Red Tarn

Walkers at Red Tarn. Crinkle Crags behind.

Go straight over the road and follow the footpath sign to ‘Wet Side Edge’. This is a fairly easy climb with views along the infant River Duddon towards Harter Fell and Hard Knott, and will take you up to the ridge of Wet Side Edge where just keep climbing, and the summit of Great Carrs will be reached in due course. Inspect the memorial just below the top, marking the spot where eight Canadian airmen died when their plane hit the mountain in 1944: some wreckage from the plane is preserved in the memorial (the rest is in the museum in Coniston).

Air crash memorial

The air crash memorial on Great Carrs

Decide whether to add Grey Friar to the day. If you can’t see it to the west, then don’t bother — Wainwright advises against doing it in mist and seeing as the view is the best thing about the top then if you can’t see it, I wouldn’t worry about it. Bagging it is not difficult, the walk from Great Carrs took around fifteen minutes. If you do, return more or less the same way but then bear right when coming back up the slope to reach Swirl How, the highest point on the walk.

As noted above, the descent down to Swirl Hawse does have some awkward bits, so don’t rush it, but then again there are many worse descents in the Lakes. At the Hawse, turn right and then just keep walking past Levers Water and into Coppermines Valley. At one point this path does inexplicably disappear into a peaty, boggy bit — the only such passage on the walk — but you’ll find it again.

Coppermines Valley

Coppermines Valley, with Swirl How rising behind.

Stick with it and eventually you reach the potholed road that serves the Youth Hostel and quarries, which just leads into Coniston. To get to the bus stop, turn left past the Yewdale Hotel and it’s just down there.

Finally, spring commentary: Those of you who live in the UK will be aware that the end of February and the first bit of March were snowy; giving us plenty of opportunity to demonstrate our less-than-admirable national characteristics when it comes to reacting to winter. I wanted to walk in the last week of February, but while conditions in the Lake District were apparently not much worse than they have been all winter, most of the relevant public transport network saw fit to close down in the face of it all and so I was stuck at home.

Wrynose Bottom

View along Wrynose Bottom to Hard Knott, from the ascent of Great Carrs

However, today’s forecast was too good to waste and, on the journey there anyway, everyone involved ran their services perfectly punctually — even the 07:53 from Preston to Oxenholme was spot on time today — and so I was able to stride out from the Dungeon Ghyll by 10:00am in glorious conditions that really felt like the first day of spring. Memories of wonderful early March walks of the past, like walk 11 or walk 80, were emphatically invoked. It didn’t really last past Red Tarn, but I didn’t care. It was just good to be up walking in some high fells again.

Brim Fell and Dow Crag

Brim Fell (left) and Dow Crag

It seems like years since I was last in the northern Coniston fells. Oh hang on — it is years, eight and a half of them in fact. Seems such a long time ago that I embarked on this project in summer 2009. That earlier walk, walk 6, came only a week after the rather disastrous walk 5 which could have scuppered it all before it really got going, I felt so fed up with what happened. But the lovely September day spent up on Swirl How and its satellites definitely re-energised me and here we are, all those walks and fells later and still going. It was nice to come back, it’s a fine part of the District and one without any major hazards or irritants, relatively easy of access and worth exploring. I have to return at least once more, to bag Wetherlam, now the only remaining fell in the Coniston range to do a second time. But I shall look forward to it.

Side Pike

Side Pike, Langdale

If the forecast is good again I might return to the Lakes as early as this coming Saturday, but we’ll see. If not then the next walk will be at Easter. The summer bus timetable is coming out soon and it’s time to pick up the pace and, particularly, to get some Western fells done. I have now bagged over half the fells in volume 4, The Southern Fells, a second time but the West is lagging well behind on the count….

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