Late afternoon on Dow Crag South Rake

8th April 2017

Working on a Saturday when it's glorious outside is never fun so with the clocks going forward I am now able to clock off around lunchtime and head for the hills, something of which I haven't been able to do due to my last two Summers where I spent long days on the hill doing my project walks. It was Summer 2014 the last time I left work for the fells meaning today had been a long time coming, infact going back to said year I usually left it until May where I could guarantee longer daylight hours.

This route is a trusted old favourite of mine and never disappoints, it certainly ticks all of the boxes with Coniston being around two hours journey time from Manchester, only twenty minutes extra than it would usually take from home and this I can live with. I have walked this route many times now mostly after work I guess and a deep bond has been forged with everything that had got to do with a late afternoon on the fell, most may not notice the lengthening shadows under a high, but rapidly descending sun, or that sudden dip in temperature when traversing the ridges because it's not quite Summer yet but I do and it's this that I fell in love with, it's this which draws me back to the exact same route over and over.

There was no question about it, it simply had to be Dow Crag South Rake.

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 Metres
Wainwrights: 3, Dow Crag - Coniston Old Man - Brim Fell
Weather: Warm Bright And Sunny, Feeling Brisk Across The Summits. Highs Of 17°C Lows of 15°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


Views over The Bell towards Wetherlam and Black Sails from Fell Gate, Walna Scar 15°C 14:40pm

Even after leaving work around ten minutes early I had expected to arrive at Fell Gate around 14:15pm given the extra traffic mainly between Jct 34 and 35 which was as congested as expected, what I didn't expect was the accident at Jct 8 on the M61 which brought traffic to a crawl for almost 2 miles and as the minutes started to pass by I could feel myself tensing up while looking at four lanes of slow moving traffic, I just wanted to get my boots on. Twenty minutes later and I'm motoring again and soon came the dreaded Jct 34 on the M6 where despite slowing down to 50mph traffic flowed all the way through to Jct 36 before I took the unusual steps of travelling to Coniston via the A590 toward Newby Bridge, then the A592 and finally the A5084 towards Torver and finally Coniston, this theoretically was the longer route but It mean't I wouldn't get snarled up between Windermere and Ambleside.

It was mid afternoon by the time I arrived at Fell Gate and luckily a group of walkers had opened the gate for me at the entrance to the car park. During my last visit it was noted just how much the surface of the car park had gone into disrepair and part of me wondered had any of the deep ruts been at least filled-in but if anything they have been left to get worse, the entrance to the car park narrows over a deep and wide rut now to the left leaving no option than to drive over large boulders to the right, carefully and ever so slowly. I managed to park after easing into a spot where a car had luckily just left, I do believe I got the last parking space at Fell Gate even after witnessing cars double parking the track all the way towards Boo Tarn, it certainly wasn't the best sight to see.

I'm still dressed in shirt and trousers which get flung onto the backseat and after slipping into a trusty pair of Craghoppers NosiLife shorts complemented by my new short sleeve baselayer, socks are also added whilst sat on dry grass. I'm away within minutes, those stressful traffic filled few hours ease away almost instantly with each step, I pass walker after walker, some in groups, some with dogs, children, elderly walkers you name it, they're all heading back to their cars with their scorched brows. I extend my walking poles and choose not to wear my sunglasses for now, I want to absorb the light which is strong and beaming down from a cloudless blue sky.

Passing Boo Tarn.

Buck Pike and Dow Crag from The Cove.

More walkers are passed two of which stop to check their map where this path leaves the Walna Scar track, I would have been happy to help but it wasn't asked for so I continue under an ever warming afternoon sun through The Cove where my path rises gradually and by now Buck Pike and Dow Crag fill my view up ahead yonder, another large group of walkers are heading towards me.

Hi ladies.

Buck Pike and Dow Crag from The Cove.
Dow Crag east face is largely in shadow, something that won't bother me too much although I guess I won't be too far wrong either if I said I'm expecting a considerable drop in temperatures between direct sunlight and being in the shadows, after all, it's only April.

Charmer's Grave.

It was 23rd March 1911 when Charmer, a Foxhound from the Coniston Foxhounds along with her pack chased a Fox into Dow Crag 'A Buttress' many of the hounds became crag fast and the hunt left them to it knowing they would soon clear themselves free, all of whom did with the exception of Charmer who could be heard baying through the night and well into the next morning when a local shepherd tending to his flock on the lower sloped heard her cries.

A rescue party was formed amongst the quarry men many of whom are climbers who located Charmer on the 'Gordon and Craig route of A Buttress' It is claimed that Charmer was hungry and still crag fast and was starting to get excited 'frisking about on the ledge' when the search party located her which caused her to miss her footings resulting in Charmer somersaulting twice almost landing at the search parties feet, Charmer died instantly from a broken neck.

Charmer's grave has been uprooted on number of occasions by visitors who saw nothing sacred in the stone sometimes tossing it aside.

The stone now lies in a undisclosed location.

Dow Crag A, B and C Buttresses taken close to Goat's Water.

Goat's Water.
Under a hot sweltering sun I arrived at Goat's Water to find a large group just leaving. Hi's are shared as I glance up to see if I could see any climbers on any of the Buttresses, I spot four, two on A Buttress and two on B Buttress all in descent.

Goat's Water.

Dow Crag A and B Butresses with Great Gully seen centre.

The two climbers I had seen descending A Buttress have reached its base and are starting to pack gear away, you may be able to spot the orange jacket of one of the climbers below A Buttress over on the left. I start the steep scree climb

I took the unusual steps of following a prominent path below A Buttress and not the second path that I would usually use below B Buttress much of which is hidden within the scree but from the outflow at Goat's Water both paths, amongst other less prominent paths can be clearly seen.

As mentioned earlier my first ascent of Dow Crag would normally be in May and today, despite after days without rain the soil below the scree is still very damp which left the scree loose underfoot, I scramble and clutch my way up the path sometimes having no choice than to lose footings sending scree tumbling below, the earth has a musky undisturbed scent, I pull muscles I never knew I had.

Views over Goat's Water towards Coniston Old Man.

Dow Crag A Buttress Great Gully and B Buttress

I'm being watched which I'm not always very keen on, the two climbers are sat down chatting directly above me at the foot of the South Rake, by the time I arrive we pass on our Hi's as one of the climbers goes on to say "where was I heading" South Rake I replied through panted breath...Is that a recognised route in a guide book of something because I only know it as the descent route, he had a point...It was Wainwright who gave Dow Crag Descent Route the name The South Rake which is why possibly, the two climbers hadn't heard of it.

It's horrible he went onto say, I am at first taken back but say nothing, can't be worse than Lord's Rake he then added, I am totally surprised to hear a climber say this, and I guess by my reply with raised eyebrows I uttered REALLY? they knew.

We bid each other 'enjoy the rest of your day' and after a few seconds getting my breath back I started the ascent on the South Rake.

Standing at the base of the South Rake.
The Rake itself isn't totally straight as it curves left after passing the bottom of Easy Gully where the gully then narrows slightly, it is continuously steep and today the scree is incredibly loose underfoot due to the damp soil below.

Now far into the acsent the South Rake passes Easy Gully.
A steep scrambling route to the summit of Dow Crag, not preferred by walkers!

Views down the South Rake from about halfway into the ascent.
You can see the turn in the gully as it now curves right (looking from top to bottom) which isn't severe by any amount but enough to notice.

Views over A Buttress towards B Buttress.
I switch from side to side during ascent all the while it doesn't go unnoticed how eroded the top half of the gully started to look where once a collection of fixed boulders would be used in ascent via a burst of short scrambles, now said boulders lie in heaps further below leaving no option to find other ways around a once trusted, and memorised route.

Looking back on Buck Pike, Brown Pike, White Maiden and the Dunnerdale Fells while in the distance, Black Combe.

It felt great to be back in the sunshine again it was instant heat. My hands and indeed my fingernails bear the grit from the South Rake which was all I could ask for. Feeling completely satisfied I adjust clothing and add my sunglasses before taking a long sip from my hydration tube, mixed fruit today.

It hadn't gone unnoticed just how hazy it was which I first noticed after stopping to view the Old Man during the South Rake ascent, in the distance towards the Pennines a thick murky grey lining stagnated over the surrounding peaks yet my near visibility ranged from excellent to just near summits seen, which is quite odd really it's usually one or the other.

Here's the view further south towards Black Combe.

Dow Crag summit is just ahead.
With the top of Goat's Hawse seen below in the right which is where I'll be heading next.

The view back on Buck Pike, Walna Scar and White Maiden and White Pike.

Zooming in on a paraglider over Coniston Old Man
There's that thick haze again.

Distant Scafells, Great End, Bowfell, Grey Friar, Great Carrs and Swirl How from Dow Crag summit.
Much clearer conditons looking towards the north and east with the Helvellyn group and Fairfield seen in the far right of the photograph.

Distant views into upper Eskdale towards Slight Side, Sca Fell, Scafell Pike, Lingmell, Broad Crag, III Crag, Great End, Esk Pike and Bow Fell.

Descending Dow Crag towards Goat's Hawse.

What a wonderful time of day to be up on the fells, all the while everyone else is either settling down for tea, or dinner depending how far south you are or getting ready to watch Ant and Dec.

I know where I'd rather be.

Brim Fell seen over Goat's Hawse.

Coniston Old Man from Goat's Hawse.
I hadn't seen anyone up to now but it's looking pretty busy with walkers ascending from Goat's water onto Goat's Hawse coupled with more walkers heading down from the Old Man.

Ant and who!
Here's Grey Friar, Fairfield (not the eastern fell but the name given to the Col seen centre left between Grey Friar and Great Carrs) Great Carrs and Swirl How.

The Scafells, Grey Friar, Great Carrs and Swirl How from Goat's Hawse.

Buck Pike, Dow Crag Goat's Water seen over Goat's Hawse.
As far as ascents go I'm very keen on this one from the top of Goat's Hawse to the summit of the Old Man mainly because of this outstanding view back over Dow Crag and not to mention how after a short steep ascent the path steadies out leaving a comfortable last few hundred feet towards the summit.

Harter Fell (Eskdale) comes into view seen with Grey Friar south west ridge with the Scafells beyond.

With the fell side protecting the breeze from having any effect it was also a hot ascent and this couple seen below also thought so especially the woman who joked that she wanted to kill her partner for dragging her up here, I'm sure she was only joking at least I hoped she was.

I pass with a cheerie hello (which probably didn't help matters) as the guy utters "watch how the pro does it" or words to that effect, I let out a courteous laugh and continue with my climb, this won't be my last encounter with the couple who I hoped by the time they reached the summit they were on talking terms again.

Approching the summit of Coniston Old Man.
Along with an elderly gent who has come from the direction of Brim Fell and is just up ahead I can see that there's a few walkers also gathered around the summit, I really didn't expect it to still be so busy so late into the afternoon but I guess when the sun shines...

Brim Fell, Grey Friar, Swirl How, Great Carrs and the Scafells from Coniston Old Man summit.

The view over the Low Water, Coppermines Valley, Raven Tor, Black Sails and Wetherlam from the Old Man.
The last time I had eaten was this morning where I ate two sandwiches whilst sat in traffic, I figure I've earned myself an extended supper as I figure out where I might want to stop, it's quite pleasant here at the summit but it's getting busy so I reckon Raven Tor, seen still basking in sunlight over in the centre left which looks the ideal place to stop and refuel.

Time to leave, but not before one last photograph.

Following the cairned path towards Brim Fell.

With the sun still high in the western sky the shadows now fall eastwards, something that you probably wouldn't notice if you were out in the morning where they would fall gradually westwards as the sun rotates overhead.

It's the subtle changes that make all the difference, well for me anyway.

Looking back on Coniston Old Man from the approach to Brim Fell.

On a personal note this is possibly the best half mile ridge walk in the whole of Lakeland.

The couple who I had seen during my ascent on the Old Man are passed shortly after leaving the summit who by now are taking selfies from a camera phone, well at least they're talking to one another again!

Brim Fell summit.

Its very easy for me to feel nostalgic while out on the fells and no other summit than Brim Fell brings it out in me as memories come flooding back from my last visit just a few months ago where I struggled to tear myself away from the coastal views beyond the Cumbrian plain. And today as late afternoon rolls into early evening the nostalgia is no different as I peer through the haze towards a shimmering Irish sea, Sellafield and further south Black Combe and Buck Barrow which I visited just over a week ago.

The sun is still high and struggles to penetrate through the haze but it does break through leaving a streak of gold over the Irish sea and for me, for these few moments I am lost in this one view where once again, I struggle to leave.

Coniston Old Man from Brim Fell summit.

The silhouettes of Dow Crag, Buck Pike and Brown Pike with Black Combe beyond from Brim Fell summit.

Descending Brim Fell towards Raven Tor (not seen here) with views towards Great How Crags, Swirl How and Prison Band.
It would seem for now I'm descending within the shadow of Brim Fell reveals a dip in temperature. The summit of Raven Tor isn't too far away now which will see me descend towards the upper section of Brim Fell Rake before a short burst towards Raven Tor summit.

Views over Levers Water towards Black Sails and Wetherlam from Brim Fell Rake.

Raven Tor seen towards the lower right is still basking under warm early evening sunlight but I won't have long as the shadow's start to lengthen. I cross the upper section of Brim Fell Rake from where I make a short burst on Raven Tor summit de-shouldering as I walk towards the stone cairn where I ease myself down and break out my supper, today it's beef flavoured rice with chopped tomatoes.

Just the odd walker comes and goes as I glance over towards the Old Man, most walkers are now in descent before I peer around towards Wetherlam, Black Sails and Swirl How, I spot no one just a deadly silence, pure bliss.

Sunlight breaks through from the top of Brim Fell.
Seconds later the sunlight had vanished before I start my descent towards Low Water.

Coniston Old Man above Low Water from the descent of Brim Fell Rake.

Low Water.

The Bell, Prison Band, Black Sails and Wetherlam from Fell Gate.

After passing Low Water where I witnessed (but struggled to photograph) the crags reflecting over the waters surface I took one last look back at Brim Fell and Raven Tor who by now and been confined to dark shadow, mother nature was covering up for the night and it kind of felt special that maybe I was the last person for the day to grace their summits. I start my descent through the old mine passing the ruined hut while taking care along the steeply graded path when every now and again I might glance up to see Wetherlam along with the Lad Hows ridge basking in early evening sunlight.

By the time I arrived back at Fell Gate the car park has almost cleared leaving my car looking like it had been dumped some hours earlier, from the overspill car park a group of young chaps pile into a Saab convertible breaking the silence with a loud stereo which brought me back to reality, they soon leave as I start to kit down where despite my rapid descent through shade I'm still very much wet through and with this I change my T-shirt while at the top of the car park a family gather around a BBQ set alongside their camper van.

I do a U-turn and slip my car into first gear before carefully negotiating the lumps, bumps and ruts of the car park then from out of nowhere a chap appears at the gate which he opens for me, my window is down and I thank him with a "cheers mate" before setting of for home.



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