Summit of Grey Friar

Summit of Grey Friar: Dow Crag and Morecambe Bay in the background

Date completed: 16th September 2009

Fells climbed: Swirl How (2630 feet above sea level, no. 20), Great Carrs (2575′, no. 21), Grey Friar (2536′, no. 22), Wetherlam (2502′, no, 23).

Distance: 9.5 miles approx

Total ascent: 3800 feet approx.

Weather conditions: Good; clear skies but some cloud cover, still and quite warm.

Start and end points: Coniston, reached on the no. 505 bus from Windermere. (Note that between 1 November and Easter each year, this bus currently runs from Ambleside only).

Coppermines Valley, Coniston

Coppermines Valley, Coniston (Swirl How in background)

Pub at end: The Black Bull, Coniston: home of the Coniston Brewery and its very nice beers, which (like any beer) benefit greatly by only having been moved about 20 yards in their entire working lives.

Route card: Follow this link for a route card containing summary information, an overview map, waypoints and an elevation profile: Route card for walk 6: The Coniston Fells (north)

Route: These are all well-blazed trails and no-one should have any problem following them in clear weather. In mist there might be difficulty on Grey Friar and in coming down from Wetherlam.

Leave Coniston on the road past the Ruskin museum and follow the signs for the YHA at Coppermines Valley (pictured). The path then leads past the hydroelectric station and up a steep scree slope to Levers Water. I then rounded half the tarn (actually a reservoir) to the left, then going up the slope at the second gill rather than the first (at grid reference SD277993). This was the only really steep pull of the day, and a tough one, but it is over fairly soon and the rest is quite straightforward.

Summit of Wetherlam

Summit of Wetherlam, looking towards Windermere

There is actually a choice in which order I did the first three summits from here, the grassy col of Fairfield offering easy routes between all three; I happened to do Swirl How first, then Grey Friar, then Great Carrs and back to Swirl How. I then descended to Swirl Hause – not easy, but not overly difficult either – then up to Wetherlam. The first few hundred yards from the Hause are tough, but the rest quite straightforward.

From Wetherlam I descended by the Lad Stones route (see page 11 of Wainwright’s chapter, and note this does now have a path), which drops down the side of Coppermines Valley and back to Coniston.

Old mine entrances on the shore of Levers Water

Old mine entrances on the shore of Levers Water

Enthusiastic commentary bit: This is much more like it. The best walk so far in fact. Another beautiful day. The only bit of grief came right at the beginning (same guy catching the 0638, clearly jealous that I am going on another expedition) – train stops in Cliviger Gorge for no apparent reason for 10 minutes – but I make the Preston connection and the bus gets me to Coniston for 10am, me making wobbly notes in my Social Network Analysis book in the 50 minutes it takes to get there from Windermere station.

Why the best walk so far? Dry underfoot, for one thing. Cracking views both near and far. Coppermines Valley fascinating: industrialised relics, yes, but not despoiled at all. Climb up to Levers Water and see the deep, dark cracks of the old mines all around it (see picture) – what it must have been like to work in there I cannot imagine. The climb up from Levers Water is stiff, but the only real effort of the day, and once I’m on the very narrow ridge the view all round opens up.

Air crash memorial on Great Carrs summit

The air crash memorial on the summit of Great Carrs (see the fell’s page for the full text)

Dow Crag looks amazing, a tiny little peak perched right above a precipitous drop. In some ways I wish I’m going there today but it is starting to come apparent that it doesn’t matter – I will be going there some day. I get the best view of it – and the best pic of the day (now using the phone) – from Grey Friar, concurring with AW’s opinion on the view of the Scafells (see picture) but realising that his LD bias never really accounts for those parts of the view which are not of other fells: Grey Friar has a stunning view of the coast and Morecambe Bay as well. I almost retrace my steps from there to Swirl How but bear left to Great Carrs instead, assuming that the aeroplane wreckage which AW mentions would have long gone but finding it still there and built into a memorial for the 8 men who died there. The crash was in WW2 – must be kind of ironic, to die in the war in a plane but not because of enemy action. I notice that 5 of the 8 men on board were 21 years old or younger.

View of the Scafell range, from Grey Friar

View of the Scafell range, from Grey Friar

Don’t need lunch until I’ve gone down from Swirl How to Swirl Hause but the second I start the pull up to Wetherlam I need to stop and eat. After that the rest of the walk is easy. The pull from Swirl Hause to Wetherlam is only steep at the start, and the view from the 4th and last summit of the day is just as good as Grey Friar’s, but different, lots of variety. The descent is good too and I have time for two pints of excellent bitter from the pub in Coniston with the brewery attached.

The bus just makes the train connection but only because the train leaves as late as the bus arrives (probably not the bus’s fault – roadworks outside Ambleside cause the delay). They hold the connection in Oxenholme but no such luck in Preston where I have to wait an hour. Don’t care though, it’s been an excellent day, possibly even a 10/10 – I’m buzzing when I get home and this totally makes up for last week’s various cock-ups.

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