Black Sails & Wetherlam

4th May 2022

The mixed weather continues into the week whereby for the second time I've had to allow forecasted showers to push through the morning leaving drier, brighter weather for the afternoon, that was meant to be the case according to the experts.

I'd enjoyed a dry drive north but alarm bells started to ring as I approached junction 34 on the M6 where the Coniston fells come into view for a few seconds. Todays view was that of cloud but I wasn't too bothered by this because the cloud was expected to lift during the afternoon and I still had an hours drive before I reached Coniston.

The skies continued to clear as I left Windermere behind for Skelwith Bridge continuing south towards Coniston where I put the forecast behind me and concentrated on the route which would see me gain Black Sails via Coppermines then onto Swirl How, Brim Fell and Coniston Old Man, As I left Church Beck for Miners Bridge if you'd have told me I would have to resort to a plan B I wouldn't have believed you.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

Ascent: 2,400 Feet - 712 Metres
Wainwrights: Wetherlam
Visiting: Black Sails
Weather: A Wet & Windy Start With Low Hill Cloud Clearing Into The Afternoon. Highs of 16°C Lows of 14°C Feels Like 7°C Max Wind Speed 38.3mph
Parking: Roadside Parking, Church Beck, Coniston
Area: Southern
Miles: 7.3
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 4 Hours 10 Minutes
Route: Church Beck – Miners Bridge – Church Beck – Coppermines Valley – Levers Water – Black Sails – Red Dell Head Moss – Wetherlam – Lad Stones – Hole Rake – Church Beck – Miners Bridge – Church Beck

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: LA2 18DW

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


Church Beck, Coniston 13:30pm 14°C
Despite the later hour I had no trouble finding a parking space in fact I even managed to spin the car around for when it was time to head home later. No sooner had I opened the car door I instantly picked up on how blustery it was which caused thousands of seedlings to fall from the trees so much so I had to close the boot to stop them getting everywhere. It's a mild start to the afternoon so to top off the shorts I opt for a base layer and pack a waterproof just in case.

Heading towards Miners Bridge with Church Beck over on the left.
I passed over the familiar cattle grid and continued towards Miners Bridge into a strong headwind. It was still mild and sunny and the only thing troubling me was the fact I might have to but the windproof on before I thought I would.

Arriving at Miners Bridge.

I soon arrived at Miners Bridge and spotted the couple doing a change of kit, perhaps they'd come to the end of the walk and were delayering. What happened next was just bonkers. Strong winds seemed to funnel down the Coppermines valley almost in a straight line carrying with it rain but bizarrely I was unaffected so I strode closer to the bridge and that's when the wind hit me, blimey what the hell!

What started off as a localised shower turned more persistent as curtains of rain passed over the valley so I thought I'd give it five minutes before doing anything drastic like adding waterproofs. Two minutes later my shorts were soaked and at the point where the path forks right for Hole Rake I downed pack and begrudgingly added my waterproof over-trousers, jacket and baseball cap.

It would seem the couple back at the bridge saw what was coming before I arrived and added their waterproofs just in time while I had to put up with damp shorts and base layer until my body heat dried them out.

Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell from Coppermines.
Head staring down to avoid my face getting wet I tramped through Coppermines passing the Youth Hostel all the while still not quite believing how sunny it had been when I set off.

Raven Tor appears above Simons Nick.

It still wasn't looking promising as I joined the steep stone track and ascended from Coppermines towards Levers Water. The good news was it had stopped raining and if the forecast was to be correct it was due to brighten up albeit an hour ago. The bad news for now is I'm going to have to ascend Black Sails, one of my favourite ridges in blanketed cloud.

Oh well there's no point moaning about it.

Levers Water.
With a very low Levers Water reached it started to creep up on me that I might have to choose a plan B if conditions remained as they were. As you can see from the waters surface it was quite windy here but that didn't stop me heading over to the giant boulder whose lower half is normally below the water line. Had I the time I could have actually walked over to the boulder but needs must and all that.

Black Sails.
I left Levers Water and began the ascent of Erin Crag to gain the ridge proper. The cloud was still low limiting what would be a fantastic view up the ridge but signs that clearer skies are on the way were already starting to show.

Prison Band and Swirl Hawse.
Bright spells of sunshine would break through as the cloud started to lift in front of my eyes, this was brilliant but it left me with a choice to make.

Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell are fixed below cloud.

While the cloud continued to lift from Wetherlam too.

Prison Band and Swirl How from Black Sails.
Blue skies hung over Black Sails and with the cloud continuing to clear from Wetherlam it was a no brainer where I was going to head next, Had I trusted my instinct however, I knew the cloud would eventually lift from Swirl How, Brim Fell and Coniston Old Man but given my luck with the weather this week I put my trust in what I could see rather than what I couldn't.

Wetherlam from Black Sails.
The contrast of conditions between half a mile of ground was crazy with bright skies above Wetherlam...

...and the view towards Middle Earth, sorry Swirl How,

The final nail in the coffin was the moment the wind caused me to lose my footing whilst stood on Black Sails summit hence no summit photo. Even if the skies had cleared in time it might be just too windy to enjoy it up there.

Footnote: I was still questioning my decision as I descended towards Hole Rake whilst looking over to the Coniston Old Man ridge which was clear of cloud by now. Making the decision I did was based on walking solo. Had I been walking with friends the decision might have turned out different but I came to the conclusion that it's mid week and should the wind cause me to lose my footing again and god forbid cause an injury who would I have to blame.

I guess if you walk the fells solo this might mean something to you.

Looking back on Black Sails summit.
Between the layers of cloud.

A breakthrough.
When a tiny gap appeared revealing Levers Hawse seen to the left of Black Sails summit.

The gap between Levers Hawse and the cloud layer gets larger.
Was I beating myself up? maybe a little I'd have probably been half the way up Prison Band by now ascending into cloud thinking I'd made the wrong choice! That said had I opted to ascend Swirl How I wouldnt have seen these fantastic views of the cloud breaking away.

Cold Pike, Lingmoor Fell and the Langdale Pikes from Wetherlam summit.
It doesn't actually seem it but it's been 3 years since I was last here, shows how times flies eh.

Leaving Wetherlam.
Despite the brilliant sunshine the tempreature is still in single figures and the wind was still strong so the over-trousers remained on until I lose more descent.

Birk Fell below.
Taken from the gully that runs adjacent to Hen Tor.

Clearing nicely now.
What a fantastic view over the Red Dell valley towards Black Sails, Swirl How, Great How Crags and Brim Fell.

From a low point along the ridge.
You get this cracking uninterrupted view of the Black Sails ridge seen over the Red Dell valley.

Approaching Hole Rake.
With views of a distant Coniston Water.

Continuing descent.
Instead of descending back to Miners Bridge I follow a faint path through the bracken and towards the path seen behind the cottages below.

Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell.
Seen above Coppermines.

Kennel Crag, Black Sails, the Red Dell valley, Great How Crags and Levers Hawse from Coppermines Valley.
What an incredible view of Black Sails from here.

The same view.
Taken from Miners Row.

Almost back at Miners Bridge now.

With a warm sun on my back I passed Miners Row cottages then the spot where I'd added my waterproofs earlier which seemed so surreal now. Continuing on I pass Miners Bridge where I opened the gate and looked down on the rapids of Church Beck far below. Scourering round there wasn't a soul in sight but above the noise of cascading water I heard voices below. I passed through the gate again and followed the road before spotting two Gill Scramblers below, mad buggers I thought.

Monk Coniston jetty, Coniston Water.

After leaving Church Beck I decided to pay Monk Coniston a visit so I parked up passing about four chaps launching canoes into the Lake, that's more like it I thought.

Through the trees the jetty appeared and I was back in warm afternoon sunshine. Not too far away a young couple were sat on the pebbled shoreline and I didn't want to disturb them too much so I returned to the car and thought I'd stop at Yew Tree Tarn next seeing as it's on the way home anyway.

Holme Fell from Yew Tree Tarn.
If you ever want guaranteed parking at the lay-by alongside Yew Tree Tarn come at teatime during the week, there was only me there.

Torver Intake from Yew Tree Tarn.
From horizontal rain and a fierce headwind to calm and surreal reflections. I don't want too, but I guess I'd better head home.


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