An evening on Coniston Old Man

26th May 2019

It was around this time last year when we were experiencing a heat wave which lasted all the way through to June and I guess it's only natural to hope that the same would be repeated again this year were despite the odd two or three warm days there's no sign of a repeat of last year and that's a shame but there's no point dwelling on something we can't change.

Typically we've seen a dry and often very warm week only for the weather once again to change come weekend or on this occasion, Bank Holiday weekend. I worked yesterday but my plan was to drive from Manchester to Coniston afterwards and climb Dow Crag via Walkers Gully or as Wainwright liked to call it, the South Rake, but the forecast was having non of it so I ditched those plans and checked the next best forecast which on the whole, wasn't looking too good.

I continued to check the forecast through the day and spotted a weather window late Sunday afternoon which if correct showed promise of a decent sunset, all I needed was the Lakeland fell to view it from, Coniston Old Man won hands down due to its lofty panoramic views so I ditched the ascent of the South Rake and concentrated on the Old Man instead.

Wainwright Guidebook Four
The Southern Fells

-Coniston Old Man

The Old Man is no Matterhorn, nor is Coniston a Zermatt, but an affinity is there in the same close links between mountain and village, and the history of the one is the history of the other.


Ascent: 2,088 Feet - 802 Metres
Wainwrights 2, Coniston Old Man - Brim Fell
Weather: Overcast To Start With Some Sunny Spells. Strong Winds And Freezing Above The Summits. Highs of 14°C Lows of 13°C
Parking: Car Park, Fell Gate, Walna Scar Road
Area Southern
Miles: 5.7
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 3 Hours 45 Minutes
Route: Fell Gate - Boo Tarn - The Cove - Goats Water - Goats Hawse - Coniston Old Man - Brim Fell - Brim Fell Rake - Raven Tor - Low Water - Fell Gate

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: LA21 8HQ
Grid Reference: SD 289 197
Notes: The car park at Fell Gate is very popular all season round and therefore can fill up quite quickly especially throughout the Summer, my best advice is to arrive early although I have been known to park here in the middle of Summer in mid afternoon after work and secured myself a parking spot. The nearest post code is for The Sun Hote just outside of Coniston. Follow the post code for The Sun Hotel which will appear on the right, from here the road climbs and bends sharply to the left before arriving at a junction, head straight ahead ignoring the left turn onto Walna Scar Road for a mile before arriving at a large metal gate where you will find the entrance to Fell Gate Car Park. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


The Bell, Black Sails and Wetherlam from Fell Gate (Walna Scar) 18:30pm 14°C

Maths isn't my strongest point and it took me many attempts using all available fingers to time tonights sunset from the summit of Coniston Old Man which I calculated about an hours worth of sunset time which gave me a generous two hours to reach the summit from Fell Gate, the extra walking time would work well and certainly take the pressure off trying to reach the summit against the clock. I arrived at Fell Gate under cloudy skies which if correct, should start to clear anytime now, it didn't look too promising right about now but there's time for improvements. I parked easily on a grass verge next to the entrance gate and almost instantly regretted my decision to wear shorts because right now at valley level, it's blowing a right hooly and I can only imagine how windy it is across the tops. The car park is relatively empty counting just seven cars and two Motor homes which reflects how damp the Bank Holiday weekend has been. I double check my kit making sure I have my head torch plus spare batteries and a spare torch as my plan is to descend after sunset.

With my car locked I headed out along Walna Scar passing two large groups who fan out to their parked cars, further up the track a young couple is passed as I approach Boo Tarn all the while I try not to concentrate on the cloud clearing but enjoying an outing so late into the day when all the crowds have gone home, it's kind of a special feeling and if you haven't already tried it, I would strongly recommend walking late afternoon/early evening.

Bleaberry Haws taken shortly after leaving Walna Scar bound for Goat's Water.

I continued along Walna Scar and stopped to observe Boo Tarn which is almost lost to reed now so much so if I didn't know it was there I could easily have missed it. The track begins to rise and despite still being in the shade I notice blue chinks of sky appearing towards the south demonstrated here with Bleaberry Haws in early evening light.

...more please!

Dow Crag soon comes into view as Goat's Water nears.

It was whilst passing through The Cove did I get a taster of what lied ahead as the wind howled through The Cove, it was hard to concentrate on anything else other than putting one foot in front of the other which was probably a low point so early into the walk with quite a lot of cloud overhead which is now being hurtled across the skies by the strong winds.

However, if I could flip a negative into a positive the strong winds will help to clear the cloud so I keep my fingers crossed and lay trust in the evenings forecast, even if it is a little behind schedule.

Dow Crag now dommineers the skyline.

Blown away at Goat's Water.

I was making good time, in fact too good - what I need to be doing right now is slowing down to an almost crawl because if I maintain my speed I'm probably going to make the summit with hours to spare, my dilemma can I slow down in such fierce winds!

I have no choice, I must slow down or face stronger winds at the summit while trying to capture the sunset.

Dow Crag A' and B' Buttresses divided by Great Gully.
Note the new blue stretcher box below B' Buttress.

Goat's Water and Dow Crag as I ascend towards Goat's Hawse.
The further I ascend towards Goat's Hawse the less I am buffeted by the wind and soon a quietude descends at the same time more blue skies start to appear overhead, my heartbeat races like a child hoping that I might get to see the sunset after all, its a big ask but the signs are starting to show.

Brilliant early evening sunlight on the west face of the Old Man.
Taken just below Goat's Hawse.

Coniston Old Man from Goat's Hawse.
The cloud continued to break revealing that brilliant late afternoon sunlight that I love so much, on reaching the cairn at Goats Hawse I suddenly noticed this girl standing there who appeared from nowhere, my guess is she has just descended the Old Man who then takes a few moments looking down on Goat's Water before making her descent, smiles and a Hi are shared but the only thing on my mind right now is if those skies are clearing and from what direction.

The distinct silhouette of Slight Side, Sca Fell and Scafell Pike seen over Grey Friar's south west ridge.
No matter how much I slowed down I still reached Goat's Hawse by 19:30pm which left me a whopping hour and half before sunset, half of me was wondering how I was going to lose so much time while the other half just wanted to enjoy the spectacular views.

Harter Fell (Eskdale) from Goat's Hawse.

It hadn't gone unnoticed just how high the sun was and with only half an hour left to reach the summit I needed to come up with a plan to take up some spare time.

My plan was to take in the delights and views from Brim Fell first, then allow a forty minute window before sunset then wander over to Coniston Old Man then spend the last twenty minutes back at Brim Fell which should work well as tonights descent will be via Brim Fell Rake.

Dow Crag seen over Goat's Hawse.

Harter Fell silhouettes.

Shapes and shadows.
By 19:50pm I arrived at the shoulder of Coniston Old Man at a point when I was supposed to be taking my time! This I'm obviously not good at having been helped by the strong winds which were blowing in from the west, finding more spare time than I could shake a stick at I started to wander towards Brim Fell whilst taking in the spectacular views over one fell in particular, no need to guess which!

Dow Crag from Coniston Old Man.
This image has all the hall marks that I'm in for a wonderful sunset but with a strong westerly wind hurtling the clouds along my views are changing by the minute

Looking back on Coniston Old man as I head towards Brim Fell.

Brim Fell summit.
I never captured the evening sunlight that I so longed for but that isn't to say that the cloud and light weren't causing dramatics demonstrated here at Brim Fell summit cairn.

Brim Fell summit cairn.

Coniston Old Man from Brim Fell 20:40pm
The light would continue to fade so I used my spare time sheltering from the wind perched in a grassy hollow overlooking Low water down below. With my forty minute window approaching I left my shelter and faced the wind once again which was overruled by the fabulous evening light.

Brilliant shafts of sunlight over Eskdale.
While Harter Fell continues to dominate my view.

Harter Fell (Eskdale) from the shelter, Coniston Old Man.

The light continued to be so sporadic that it was hard to keep up with views changing so fast and the wind was starting to cause me concern so much so I took shelter again behind the cairn from where I took this dramatic view towards Harter Fell.

By now I was left feeling like I'd done a few spins in the tumble drier with my eyes and nose watering constantly and exposed skin was starting to feel the affects of minor windchill, the good news was I was perfectly positioned to take hold of my situation so I added my beanie and slid on a pair of gloves. My view was over Coniston Water and to my right, Dow Crag whose summit was either below, or free from cloud depending on how many seconds you were prepared to watch and wait.

By now it was fast approaching 21:00pm which made it time to move on towards Brim Fell where hopefully I might get to see the sunset although with the amount of cloud on the western horizon it remains doubtful.

Great Carrs, Swirl How and Brim Fell from Coniston Old Man 21:00pm
With twenty minutes left before sunset I left the Old Man and started to make my way back towards Brim Fell.

Dow Crag dramatics.
Powerful stuff.

The last time I would see the sun before she was lost to the cloud.
This photo was taken from the ridge between Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell, after which the last of the light started to fade once again shrouding the sunset.

Brim Fell sunset.

I hung around for a few moments just to see if I'd catch a last glimpse but unfortunately the cloud had won on this occasion so with fading light I made my way towards Brim Fell where I stopped to capture the last ebb of light which had changed from a stark orange glow to just thick grey cloud, it was there I stopped taking photos before adding my head torch ready for the descent.

With light fading fast and, although I had accustomed myself to making my descent in the dark I had a few moments left which I used to fix a bearing on Raven Tor 500ft below Brim Fell summit.

Fell Gate 22:00pm

I left Brim Fell summit and started to make my descent with Raven Tor still in sight, I'm not sure why in such low light and with light against me I summated Raven Tor but I did. From the summit I glanced over Gill Cove towards the dimly lit ridge of Levers Hawse with Swirl How, Prison Band and Wetherlam silhouetted in the distance. Even though the sun had been down for a good fifteen minutes it was still light enough to have my head torch switched off and I was able to reach the old mine buildings until I flicked the switch over.

I continued in descent taking care passing the old mine buildings after which the lights from the cottages at Miners Row glowed as did the lights at Coppermines YHA. I stopped and observed the lights flicker on one by one on t'other side of Coniston Water then watched the tail lights of a car leave the village in the direction of Skelwith Bridge, it was such a heart warming sensation to see the lights from the cottages all dotted about the countryside. I made the descent in good time and with the car park in sight I pass The Bell from where I could here voices over the wind, it turned out to be two climbers ascending the steep facing south crags in the blackness of the nignt. My car is reached and I flick my head torch back on just so I can kit down orderly, it's still blowing a hooley but a calmness had returned and even though I won't get home until midnight I feel in no rush to leave.


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