Black Sails and Wetherlam

2nd November 2019

Today I'm back on one of my 'go to' walks, a round of the Red Dell valley first taking on the splendid Black Sails Ridge before contouring around Red Dell Head Moss onto Wetherlam. I was first introduced to the Black Sails ridge back in Winter 2013 which we used a decent route after a round of the Coniston Fells. I was promised I would love Black Sails and Ian my climbing partner that day was right, I fell in love.

Today I wont be wont be walking such a epic route instead Ill be ascending Black Sails from a starting point just up the road from the Ruskin Museum, Coniston. By following Church Beck I'll arrive at the YHA Coppermines. From the YHA you have the choice of ascending towards Lever's Water via Lever's Water falls or the more distinguished path on the flank of Kennel Crag, today I'll be using the latter, a first on this route. With Lever's Water reached its time to pick up the Black Sails ridge via Erin Crag from where you get the 'true ridge affect' Its from here I believe you get the best view of the Black Sails ridge while Wetherlam domineers due east. Personally there has never been two ridge routes that have the appeal of Black Sails and Wetherlam and that's why this route is such a classic.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

Ascent: 2,400 Feet - 712 Metres
Wainwrights: Wetherlam
Visiting: Black Sails
Weather: Overcast To Start Soon Turning Brighter. Highs of 10°C Lows of 4.3°C Freezing Over The Summits
Parking: Roadside Parking, Ruskin Museum, Coniston
Area: Southern
Miles: 7.3
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Ruskin Museum – Miners Bridge – Church Beck – Coppermines Valley – Levers Water – Black Sails – Red Dell Head Moss – Wetherlam – Lad Stones – Hole Rake – Church Beck – Miners Bridge – Ruskin Museum

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: LA2 18DW
Notes: Coniston is a very popular village providing access to the ever popular Coniston Fells, below is a list of car parks found within the village with exceptions of the roadside parking that I tend to use close to Ruskin Museum where parking is free.

Coniston Tourist Information Centre (Pay and Display) Ruskin Avenue Coniston LA21 8EH SD 303 597 ~ Car Park (Pay and Display) Old Furness Road, Coniston LA21 8HU SD 299 897 ~ Lake Road Car Park (Pay and Display) Lake Road, Coniston LA21 8EW SD 307 097 ~ Roadside Parking, Ruskin Museum, Coniston, Parking is Free LA2 18DW SD 301 597 ~ Car Park, Coniston Sports and Social Centre, Charges Apply LA21 8AL SD 305 397


Map and Photo Gallery


Miners Bridge over Church Beck, Coppermines 08:30am
The promise forecast of sunshine from dawn wasn't quite ringing true with a light shower passing as I walked along Church Beck towards Miners Bridge but thankfully the shower never really amounted to much and soon the light grey skies were parting for blue. Its relatively mild here at valley level but with a dusting of snow lying on the higher summits you can bet its going to feel pretty chilled on't tops.

Coniston Old Man (left) Brim Fell (centre) and Raven Tor (right) from Lever's Water Beck.
By continuing to follow the track you can ascend Lever's Water by Lever's Water Beck which involves a crossing of Lever's Water Beck at its outflow. After weeks of rain I'm opting to avoid this by ascending the path below Kennel Crag which starts behind the YHA just to the right of where I'm standing.

Coniston Old Man and the pointed top of Raven Tor.
Its great to see blue skies after days of rain, speaking of rain, underfoot its pretty loose caused by days of heavy rain.

Great How Crags, Prison Band and Swirl How from Lever's Water.
The familiar beach on this side of the tarn is practically under water and the boulders which normally protrude the waters surface are now below it.

A close up of Raven Tor and Coniston Old Man.
It looks like cloud is beginning to gather over the Old Man.

The wider view.
With Lever's Water below.

Black Sails, Red Dell Head Moss and Wetherlam from Blake How.
It's the kind'a view which pulls at the heart strings, well mine anyway.

Black Sails and Wetherlam.
With cloud now gathering over the Old Man to the south while I have blue skies ahead.

Black Sails, Red Dell Head Moss and Wetherlam.
That's the Red Dell valley over on the right, you can ascend Wetherlam through the valley but the path becomes pretty vague once the head of the valley is reached and the last scramble from memory, is a relatively pathless ascent.

Wetherlam beyond Red Dell Head Moss.

Prison Band and Swirl Hause from Black Sails.
There's certain areas along the ridge which I just love and this is one of them. At this time of year (and when the sun is shining) parts of the mosses and wild grasses turn red and leave a real ambiance about the place, pity the sun isn't shining at the moment but I still love the view from here.

A look back to Coniston with a glistening Morcambe Bay beyond.
Talking about glowing look how the sun is catching Lever's Water as it flows into Church Beck below, that looks pretty biblical!

Black Sails, Red Dell Head Moss and Wetherlam.
I suppose I best move on but as you can probably tell I'm finding it quite difficult.

Prison Band and Great Carrs.
Its funny how Prison Band doesn't look so steep from here but I can confirm its a lot steeper than it looks in this photo!

Time for a quick look back down the ridge.
There's a huge mass of cloud west of the Old Man, as long as it stays over that way I should be ok.

Coniston and Morcambe Bay from Black Sails summit.
With a striking sun behind me I made my way over the summit rocks at the same time I spotted movement on Wetherlam across Red Dell Head Moss, it looks like a fell runner is heading my way.

Wetherlam seen over Red Dell Head Moss.
That's Dollywagon Pike, Seat Sandal and Fairfield below the cloud over on the left, the gap below is the area around Grisedale Tarn/Grisedale Hause.

Southern and Central fells from Red Dell Head Moss.

Pike O'Blisco, The Langdale Pikes, Bow Fell, Rossett Pike, Allen Crags and Glaramara.
It looks like Bow Fell has had dusting of snow overnight and Red Tarn seen left is looking partially frozen too.

The wider view with cloud cloaking the Scafells beyond.


Wetherlam summit.
With gloves added I took a reading on my anemometer and recorded a summit temperature of 4.3°C but in the summit breeze made it felt much cooler.

Heading towards Lad Stones.
With just one chap inept on not moving while eating something at the summit cairn I gave the cairn a sturdy tap with my walking pole and left.

Swirl How and Great Carrs.
Seen beyond Black Sails summit.

One of three un-named tarns, Lad Stones.
This is also the area from which you can gain Wetherlam's Steel Edge ridge by.

Great How Crags, Swirl How, Great Carrs and Black Sails from Lad Hows.
What a fine morning its turning out to be.

The Black Sails Ridge.
seen over the Red Dell Valley.

Descending Lad Stones towards Hole Rake.
Despite knowing the area incredibly well I've never walked Hole Rake between Coppermines and Tilberthwaite, on a day like today its looking very wet down there.

The Coppermines side of Hole Rake.
My apologies Hole Rake isn't really this steep it must be the angle of the dangle I was holding my camera at.

Brim Fell, Raven Tor and Great How Crags.
Seen as I decend back into Coppermines.

Brim Fell, Raven Tor, Great How Crags, Swirl How, Kennel Crag and Black Sails from Coppermines.
It was feeling like Spring by the time I had descended back to Coppermines but I guess my Winter layers were only contributing to it. For a Saturday Coppermines wasn't too busy having only passed two couples between here and my car but that said the lane was busy with parked cars. The Autumn leaves layer the lane all the way back to the car and the leaves which are still attached to the trees made a magnificent sight especially in the Autumn sunshine. Church beck tickled its way past my parking spot as sunlight pierced through the tree branches, I couldn't of wished for a more perfect morning on the fells as the ending I had at Church Beck but I have plans to see a little more Autumnal glory before I leave Lakeland today.

Lunch with a view.
Yew Tree Tarn.


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