Dow Crag South Rake, Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell after work

14th May 2016

Its been two years since I last planned a walk straight from a Saturday morning shift in work which is mainly down to last years two thousand footer project and this years Wainwright project were despite the later sunset times still wouldn't leave me with enough time to complete a Wainwright project walk. During 2014 I would often travel from Manchester to Coniston in shirt and tie after a Saturday morning in work intent on gaining Dow Crag summit via the South Rake. I didn't quite realise what I had started at first but I would return as often as I could still feeling that urge to repeat the same route over and over were I would experience those little subtle changes you wouldn't normally find when walking the fells after setting off at sunrise.

Due to last years two thousand footer project and this years Wainwrights I haven't been able to plan a walk from work which created an itch that needed to be scratched. Todays walk is the result of that scratch which will see me repeat an all to familiar route from Fell Foot were once again I will gain Dow Crag summit via the South Rake before continuing on to collect the Old Man and Brim Fell just as I had whole heatedly enjoyed a few years back, nothing had changed and my familiar old memories came flooding back, its a route that I will always look back on with great fondness, and hopefully after today, I won't leave it as long before I return again, shirt and tie an all.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

-Dow Crag South Rake

This route, although steep and loose, leads directly to the ridge above all difficulties. Climbers often use this as a quick way down, and it is comfortably within the capacity of most walkers. Lacking a name, but deserving one, SOUTH RAKE is suggested.


Ascent: 2,630 Feet - 802 Meters
Wainwrights: 3, Dow Crag - Coniston Old Man - Brim Fell
Weather: Warm Dry and Sunny, Brisk Across The Summits, Highs of 14°C Lows of 13°C
Parking: Fell Gate, Walna Scar Road
Area: Southern
Miles: 6.2
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 4 Hours
Route: Fell Gate - Boo Tarn - The Cove - Goats Water - Dow Crag South Rake - Dow Crag - Goats Hawse - Coniston Old Man - Brim Fell - Brim Fell Rake - Raven Tor - Low Water - Fell Gate

Map and Photo Gallery


Swirl How, Black Sails, Wetherlam and The Bell from Fell Foot 14:30pm 14°C

I left Manchester at around 12:35pm after checking Google Maps on my phone to see how long it should take me to reach Coniston which suggested around one hour fifty minutes which is roughly the same time it would take me if I was leaving from home, I don't often thank the M61 but I will in this case which was free from delays, in fact, and as expected it was only around Junction 31A on the M6 which saw a little congestion, there after I had a clear run even through Ambleside reaching a bustling Coniston in just under the two hour mark.

Despite the car park here at Fell Foot being quite large I still had reservations about finding a parking space but I needn't have worried after parking up quite easily after a young chap arrived at the familiar gate the same time as I did which saw him open and close the gate after I had driven through, very kind indeed.

I often visit Fell Foot and each time the car park is getting into more disrepair leaving me thankful that my car has good ground clearance after negotiating the deep pot holes and ruts I soon parked up under what felt like a blazing afternoon sun. So here I am in shirt and tie which got ditched as I use the drivers door as a screen leaving my trousers and shirt in a heap on the back seat I was soon changed into a light base layer and walking shorts, I had joked to Rod and Aled after climbing Pillar Rock last week that I would never clean my boots again but this I had to do after the grueling descent from Wind Gap Screes which saw an already tired looking boot require a service and polish.

With baseball cap and sunglasses added I'm ready for the off first passing scores of walkers all heading back to their cars, which for me is another great reason why I do enjoy these late afternoon walks as I may get todays summits to myself.

Passing Boo Tarn along the way.

Brown Pike and Buck Pike seen from Walna Scar path.

The thoughts of being stuck in work and the horrendous hours that I have put in this week were long gone as I take in the fantastic scenery over Coniston were I can see a sail boat with a large white sail on Coniston Water, despite the crowds Walna Scar has that tranquil feeling as more and more walkers are passed, some solo but mostly in groups.

I press on towards Goats Water.

Buck Pike and Dow Crag soon come into view.
There are many reason why I'm so fond of this route and the path from Fell Foot to Goats Water is just one of them which takes in the magnificent views over Coniston Water and the Duddon Valley with hardly no hard work underfoot at all - then to be greeted with rock scenery such as this, it doesn't get any better especially on a day like today.

Buck Pike and Dow Crag from The Cove.

There is another closer to the heart reason why I had chose to climb the south rake today which is to pay my respects to Robin, son of famous Lakeland climber and writer Harry Griffin, who died suddenly from a heart attack in 1998

The new Stretcher Box at the foot of Dow Crag 'B' Buttress was flown in by RAF Helicopter in 2000 to replace the original Box which had rotted away in Memorial to Robin Griffin who amongst his many pioneering climbs both on the Lakeland and Scottish hills, once lead a party to the summit of Mera Peak in the Himalayas.

During this report you will be able to read an article written by Harry Griffin for the Fell and Rock Climbing Club (FRCC) in 2002 about being part of the Helicopter crew that helped to put the Memorial Stretcher Box in place sixteen years ago.

Pausing to look back over The Cove towards Brown Pike.

Dow Crag Buttresses.
I had gained The Cove steadily still passing walkers heading back to Fell Foot most of whom had new sun tans and jackets wrapped around their waist. Despite the temperature only being in the low teens the cool wind was most welcome and made it feel much warmer, at valley level anyway. If I'm lucky I might even get Goats Water to myself.

Goats Hawse from Goats Water.
Time to spare five I think...

Dow Crag 'A' and 'B' Buttresses are separated by Great Gully with East Gully seen in the far left of the photo.

You may just be able to make out the Blue Stretcher Box at the base of 'B' Buttress in the centre of the photo, to reach the South Rake I would usually ascend the steep screes slope below 'A' Buttress as I take time out to study the best route to take. After negotiating the boulder field in the foreground two paths are presented, one of which ascends directly below 'A' Buttress and the other through the scree field below 'B' Buttress which is the path that I will taking.

With the boulder field behind me I soon pick up the path towards the right which is far less direct and has good footings over scree all the way to just below the Stretcher Box, I had scoured the Buttresses from Goats Water and during the ascent and was confident there was no climbers today but I soon caught the voices of a young couple descending 'B' Buttress, and, If I'm correct, I'm sure I can hear the sound of scree falling from the direction of the South Rake.

The Stretcher Box below 'B' Buttress.

It had gone unnoticed that I had ascended into shade and notable temperature drop...I wondered why the rock climbers were wearing their jackets some of which, even had their hoods up.

I guess being in the shade for prolonged periods will make it feel quite cool out here.

Goats Water from the Stretcher Box.

The blue Stretcher Box below 'B' Buttress.

I approach from the right and I can see that on the front of the Box are two metal Memorial Plates screwed into the wooden structure which read...

The Memorial Plates on the Blue Stretcher Box.

'Jim Sheppard killed on Dow Crag 14th September 1952' - 'Ross Porteous, killed by rock fall 7th July 1962' and 'Jack Fisher who was killed on Helvellyn in February 1972' Sadly Robin's Memorial Plate is now missing but once read 'These were his first and last hills'

As it so happened Harry Griffin was also on 'Dow' the same day that Ross Porteous tragically died and had the sad task of informing his father about the tragedy.

It is unclear at this stage about how, or were John Brazington died as there is no mention about his death in any of my findings. I can't imagine how difficult it was for Harry to have to write in his own words about the day when he was part of the team that helped to lower the new Stretcher Box in Memorial to his son Robin back in April 2000 his words are as follows.


On a bright, breezy day in April 2000 we hovered, noisily, about fifty feet above the Cave on Dow Crag while, first, mountain rescue men, and then our heavy loads were winched down to the screes. Through a window in the huge yellow helicopter I had several minutes for studying the well remembered neat moves on Eliminate C and the constricting pitches of Intermediate Gully, to its right, from a completely new angle – very close and just straight ahead. I could even work out why I had made such a mess of the top of the first pitch of the Eliminate the first time I led it fifty years ago.

Through the courtesy of RAF Boulmer my daughter-in-law Mary and I were watching from inside the helicopter, the lowering of the new Dow Crag stretcher-box before its bolting on to the crag at the foot of B Buttress. It was a sad day for both of us for the sturdy, bright blue stretcher box is in memory of my son, Robin Michael Musgrave Griffin, who, inexplicably, had died from a heart attack, at only 58 years of age, in August 1998, just two days after he and Mary had walked over the Old Man and along Dow Crag ridge. Robin, an experienced climber and mountaineer, who had been proposed for membership of the Club, (Fell and Rock) and had attended several meets, had been hoping, at the time of his passing, to hear his application had been successful. In a month's time, he and Mary were to move from the Midlands, on his retirement, into a new home being built for them in Kendal, his home town. Robin had also agreed to take on the wardenship of the Glen Brittle hut in Skye, his favourite stamping ground, for some months each year.

A plaque on the new stretcher box, with Robin's name, states: These were his first and last hills. He had first been taken, by me, up Coniston Old Man and along the Dow Crag ridge when he was four years of age, and a year later took his grandfather, my father, up the Old Man. This had been my father's first visit to the mountain – or, indeed, to any mountain and Robin, at five years of age, had been the leader. I have a photograph of him, wearing low shoes, shorts and sweater, standing proudly by the cairn. (Later I introduced my father, James Arthur Griffin to climbing and, eventually, he joined the FRCC.) Robin became an accomplished climber, all-round mountaineer and skier and had taken the trouble to acquire mountain leadership and first-aid qualifications. At the age of 18 he and I had done the traverse of the Cuillin Ridge. At that time Robin had been one of the youngest to do so and it was probably the first father and son traverse.

I still remember every detail of that joint adventure,one of the finest mountain days of my life. Four months before his death Robin completed a long standing ambition by travelling to the Himalaya and taking part in an expedition to Mera Peak. When the professional leader collapsed with altitude problems Robin was put in charge and succeeded in leading three of the party to the summit, the other six being unable to progress further. Robin was, by many years, the oldest member of the team and, easily, the fittest. In the year or two before his passing he had taken his wife, Mary, up all the two-thousanders in England and they were planning to complete the rest of the Munros together.

When he was living far from his homeland hills, he had become amember of the Wayfarers Club but was very much hoping that he could achieve FRCC membership on his return to. Kendal and so continue the family association with the Club. The original Dow Crag stretcher box had been installed by the Barrow Mountaineering and Skiing Club for the Coniston Rescue Team in 1966 but had been disintegrating due to its age. Besides remembering Robin,the new strecher-box also commemorates those named on the original box.These were: Jim Shepherd, killed on Dow Crag in Sep­tember 1952, Ross Porteous, killed on the crag by falling rock in July 1962 and Jack Fisher who died on Helvellyn in February 1972 – all members of Barrow Mountaineering Club. It so happened that I had been the leader of the Fell and Rock meet on Dow in July 1962 and had the sad task of informing Ross Porteous' father in Scotland of his son's passing.

The tricky and hazardous task of lowering the heavy stretcher box to the foot of the crag was carried out in two flights from Coniston village and Mary and I were invited to take part in the second of these when the main drop took place. Helmeted and securely strapped into our seats we were in radio touch with all the crew, hearing every word that was said and seeing everything that was happening

In charge of the helicopter was Squadron Leader Peter Martin who had the delicate task of maneuvering the aircraft, with its heavy load swinging in a net, right up to the face of the crag, and then hovering, for several minutes, above the screes. Also travelling with the crew were three members of the Coniston Mountain Rescue team including its leader, Roy Cooksey, a FRCC mem­ber since 1955. They were winched, in turn, down to the screes above The Cave to supervise the assembling and bolting of the heavy box on to its prepared position on the crag. A large contingent of members of the Barrow Mountaineering Club – several of them FRCC members – also took part in the op­eration. It was a great privilege to be able to watch the proceedings from the air and to study, in close-up at an unusual angle, the crag on which I have climbed since the late 1920s.

Mary recalls that when they were walking up the ridge of Dow Crag, two days before his passing, Robin pointed out to her the blue blob of the old stretcher-box at the foot of the crag, explaining its purpose. He wasn't to know that a new stretcher box, to replace this one, was to be his memorial.

First published as 'A Dow Crag Memorial'

A.H. Griffin © 2002

Standing at the base of the South Rake.

I had previously read that Robin's Memorial Plate was now missing but I still paid my respects for a few moments where I too started to feel the chill from being in the shadow of the dominant crags above me.

From the Stretcher Box I had the choice to re-join the path or follow a narrow rock terrace to the base of the South Rake which I negotiated not before studying first, from the base of the Rake the rock climbers whose voices I had heard earlier are now directly above me and from sounds of it, it sounds like they've had a good day on the rock.

At the base of the South Rake two more rock climbers are passed, they look like they are just about ready to descend to Goats Water fully equipped with rope and Carabiner belts, which I study at a glance, we share a Hi before going off in our separate directions.

I was right when I heard scree fall from the direction of the South Rake ealier were I found two climbers descending carefully, what walkers refer to as the South Rake I wondered what might they refer to it, perhaps 'Walkers Gully' which was its orginal name before Alfred Wainwright thought South Rake sounded better, I tend to agree.

Passing Easy Gully.
I had paused at the base of the Rake to tie in my Walking Poles and to let two climbers descend, one of whom couldn't be bothered to thank me but his partner did manage an Hello before regrouping with him sometime later. Its a steep and steady climb and around the base of the Rake the rock is loose and erosive, I try not to stick to a route, instead opting for the best holds stopping every ten feet or so just to observe the route ahead.

Looking down on the South Rake.

Coniston Old Man and Goats Waters from the South Rake.
Not far from the top now.

Looking ahead.

The final part of the climb is perhaps the most erosive, its only been two years since I was last here and I distinctly remember how certain rocks used to sit close to the exit, in fact during my last two visits I had commented on one particular rock which was used to form part of a rock step which back then, looked on the brink of collapse, and I wasn't wrong when during todays visit I found it close to its original location, but upside down, as a replacement, foot holes had now been kicked into the soil.

I press on soon feeling that warm sunlight once again which was more than welcome.

Views back along the ridge towards Buck Pike, Walna Scar, White Maiden, Black Combe and the Duddon Estuary.
I emerge from the top of the South Rake right still feeling the grit beneath my finger nails, my hands are red from the soil and I take great comfort in this.

Dow Crag summit seen over the head of Great Gully.

No matter the time of day it was decided that from here this walk will be taken at a joyous pace, after all, it has been two years since I last repeated the route at the same time of day and I wanted to savor every minute that I could which meant knocking my pace back a gear if not only to take it all in...

By eck, my hands are feeling those summits winds though!

Bow Fell, Grey Friar, Swirl How, Great Cars and Brim Fell seen from Dow Crag summit.
I couldn't but help feel that bit more lucky as by now I had half expected to walking under overcast skies as forecasted, I'm not complaining mind, despite the cool cross winds and the haze, the sun is still shining as I approach into late afternoon.

A rather hazy view of Slight Side, Scafell, Scafell Pike , Broad Crag and III Crag.

Descending Goats Hawse with views of Brim Fell ahead.

After leaving Dow Crag summit behind I started my descent over Goats Hawse and began to pass more people on their way to the summit, one of which was a young fell runner who at one precise moment reminded me of one of Joss Naylor old poses where he was bent over double tearing himself up the fell side, his face is red as are his the tops of his arms under vest, this young lad was knackered but determined and I admired that in those fleeting seconds it took to pass one another.

The second trio of people I pass appear to be a group of friendly college students, all dorning bright red hair and Goth style black clothing yet despite this, they appeared to be 'fell prepared' with maps, packs and boots, Hi's are passed before continuing towards Goats Hawse.

Dow Crag and Brown Pike seen over Goats Hawse.

I decided to stop for a few moments whilst perched over looking Goats Water from the top of Goats Hawse, here I find myself a nice spot out of the wind with views as far as the Duddon Estuary and Morecambe Bay whilst watching folk head back to Fell Foot as they pass the shores of Goats Water, some like me, stop for a few moments.

The fell runner who had just passed me moments earlier is now stood on the summit of Dow Crag, no doubt taking a few moments to get his breath back.

Magnificent views towards Brim Fell, Swirl How, Great Carrs and the Scafells taken as I approach Coniston Old Man summit.
The haze is by now starting to lift revealing some really contrasting views back along the ridge, just fantastic!

Views over Low Water, Levers Water, Raven Tor, the Black Sails Ridge and Wetherlam from Coniston Old Man.

A young lady approaches from Brim Fell and right up until a few moments earlier a large group had condescended at the summit each taking the turn for their summit photos, it looked like my summit time might be kept brief but by the time I arrived they started to disperse which left just me, and a guy who was drinking Lager from a can at the summit, I can understand the thoughts behind wanting to take a 'celebratory drink' at a summit but I couldn't think of anything worse, alcohol and fell walking do not mix, as this guy will find out no doubt on his way down.

Anyway, that big cloud which is now over Wetherlam just resembled a full map of the UK just a few moments ago...that must be me cloud watching again.

Coniston Old Man summit Trig Point.
Opps, yer poles have fell next to the Trig.

Brim Fell is just ahead with views of the Black Sails Ridge and Wetherlam.
The light is really started to reveal the ridge in all its glory.

Coniston Old Man taken shortly before arriving at Brim Fell summit.
On a day like today, this short ridge between the Old Man and Brim Fell is possibly the best half mile in Lakeland, well thats my thoughts anyway.

Coniston Old Man from Brim Fell summit.

Its only a short distance between both summits but a distance on which you can soak in your surroundings as the couple did who I had just passed were finding out, I'm not quite sure of their country of origin but they only spoke broken English, I am approached by the chap who smiles politely and ask "is that the sea?" his face is lit up as is his partners, they are no older than myself and are both equipped for a light day of fell walking, and its clear to see the effect that Lakeland is having on them.

"its just so beautiful" the woman explains, we have a short light hearted chat but its difficult due to the language barrier, I leave with a smile and say "enjoy the rest of your walk"

Views over the Devoke Water fells towards the Irish Sea.
This was the view which captured those 'certain moments' at a time and a place when you find it difficult to turn your back on them, in fact I tried to but had to retrace my steps more than once to have one final look after spending a few moments just gazing aimlessly. The light colour you see along the coast is the sun shimmering of the water's surface, hindered slightly by the haze, but still breath takingly beautiful.

Coniston Old Man.
Seen as I make my way back to Brim Fell summit after admiring the coastal views.

Descending Brim Fell Rake with views over Swirl Hawse, Little and Great How Crags, Swirl How and Great Carrs.
I did just about manage to deter myself away from those fantastic sun lit coastal views and made my way over to the large cairn north of Brim Fell summit, here I descend towards my last summit of Raven Tor but not before stopping for a bite to eat were the last thing that I expected was to spot two rock climbers descending the craggy outcrop of rock at the base of Little How Crags as seen in the lower foreground of the photo, unfortunately my zoom couldn't pick them out, but my eyes weren't deceiving me as I watched the climbers make the descent quite quickly.

The Black Sails ridge and Wetherlam seen over Levers Water.
I couldn't of found a better lunch spot, sorry I mean tea, or supper even.

The same view except taken from Raven Tor summit cairn.

With lunch, or supper packed away I descended towards Raven Tor not before studying a possible ascent route although this I found would be best observed from Levers Water down below, either way the ascent of Raven Tor has never been far from thought, perhaps my next walk after a morning spent in work, who knows.

Its only a short plod to Raven Tor summit which I do with ease, the haze around the surrounding fells has all but lifted revealing the summits in sharp contrast as I prepare to make my descent towards Low Water.

Coniston Old Man seen dominating Low Water.
As mentioned earlier during the beginning of the report when subtle changes are noticed, take for instance the huge shadow formed by the ridge above which is now casting shadow over the quarries and Low Water, had the sun not been further around in the sky this subtle difference between walking in the morning or late afternoon wouldn't of been noticed, its merely just an observation, yet its these kind of changes that spark at my senses.

Low Water.

With Low Water soon reached I cast eye on my watch, its nearly six thirty and people around the country are getting ready to go out or spend an evening in front of the telly watching Ant and Dec when yet, here I am stood on the shores of Low Water still admiring couples and groups of walkers making an ascent on the Old Man before the day draws to an end.

I don't speak to the many walkers who I pass on route between here and the summit with the exception of an Hi or a Hello and I wondered was this because I was feeling a little jealous of what they are about to experience just as I had an hour earlier, that glimmer of light over the coast or the changing light as I looked back on the Old Man from across the ridge, something happened today whilst gazing down on the coast, my heart palpated and I was once again transfixed with all that Lakeland has to offer, sometimes during my projects I don't get to experience this because I'm so focused on the route ahead, but after a walk like today when I didn't think I could ever feel more for the fells than I actually do.

I grew fonder for Lakeland.


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