or Three Bearded Bagging Bloaters (and Oikie) Abroad Again
Although, CJ is now a clean-shaven member of our trio – like the drummer in ZZ-Top called Beard but ironically beardless – which renders that subtitle somewhat obsolete, but…
Three Bagging Bloaters, two Hirsute, one an Smooth Man (and Oikie), Abroad Again
…is too tortuous to contemplate.
Anyway…I’m getting ahead of myself. When X-Ray arrived to pick me up on Sunday morning it was bucketing down – not a good start for a day in the hills, but as we drove up to Coniston (with some eccentric detours due to my navigation) it stopped. We drove through areas which looked dry and other places which had obviously had heavy showers. As we drove along the lake from Torver the fells were cloaked in low cloud. I directed X-Ray up the Walna Scar road and I think when he saw the gradient he thought that I was mistaken. Fortunately, his Punto purred up in first gear and we were soon at the car park. “Meet me at the top of the Walna Scar road at nine o’clock” must be a common arrangement amongst hill-walkers – we were the third car (although there were a couple of camper vans who must have been there all night) but a steady trickle followed us in and by the time CJ arrived 5 minutes later there must have been at least a dozen.
Nobody else was headed our way however and we had the Walna Scar road to ourselves. CJ had been on to the local weatherline and was full of optimism: “The cloud is going to lift. Zero percent chance of precipitation today.” He wasn’t even swayed by the news that it had already rained not so far away. The walna scar road is the old pack horse route between Coniston and the Duddon valley. It was a warm sticky climb. A single skylark shared CJ’s exuberant optimism and sang gleefully. Wheatears and pied-wagtails whizzed about the hillside. As the path steepened towards the hause and fat drops of rain began to splat on the stones of the path, CJ assured X-Ray and I that they were figments of our imagination. He was right at least about the cloud lifting and when we reached the top of Brown Pike and sat in the shelter for tea and chocolate, the cloud swirled around us giving glimpses of the ridge ahead and the Old Man which was almost free of cloud.
Looking to Buck Pike and the Old Man of Coniston
Looking back to Brown Pike (and a glimpse of Blind Tarn)
Buck Pike turned out to be a fairly insignificant nobble on the ridge, but like Brown Pike it’s a Birkett – of course you didn’t believe for one moment that I could wait until next year before bagging a few more? I don’t do deferred gratification. The boys are only interested in Wainwrights and so were forced to defer, until we reached the rather splendid top of Dow Crag. In a hail shower. Probably imaginary. Although it didn’t feel like it.
From Goat Hause we plodded steadily onto the main ridge…
X-Ray approaching the top of the climb.
Despite the deterioration in the weather, the cloud had continued to lift. Harter Fell was looking rather magnificent, in a Walnut Whip sort of a way, and even the Scafells were almost clear. “What’s that nipple on the side of Scafell?”. “Slightside.” Their eyes lit up. “That’s a Wainwright.” they informed me – instantly doubling my tally of Wainwrights for last year.
Oikie had been leading the way, now and then checking back on us or waiting patiently for us to catch up. Now CJ found another gear and stormed ahead with Oikie to the summit. When X-Ray and I arrived at the top, CJ cheerfully, some might even say smugly, informed us that we had missed the view.
X-Ray, Oikie and CJ in the mist on the Old Man of Coniston. Note CJ’s ‘Velociraptor’ rucksack on the extreme right.
The summit was busy, but not as busy as it might have been. We probably fell somewhere between the professional hiker types, covered head-to-toe in the latest technical fabrics and the jeans and trainered bloke who arrived at the top and asked his companion “Which one is this then?”. I like to think that we were leant an air of authenticity by Oikie’s border collie good manners, perhaps somewhat undermined by CJ’s ‘Veliciraptor’ rucksack, borrowed from his son. We paused for some snap and the cloud lifted giving great views of the Duddon and Levens estuaries and the rolling countryside between us and Morecambe Bay.
We stumbled across Brim Fell, once more in the cloud, but emerged as we approached the climb back up to Swirl How.
Looking back along the ridge to Brim Fell and Dow Crag.
A patch of sunlight crosses the col between Swirl How and Grey Friar, the Scafell range just below the cloud in the background.
A clear path contoured round in the direction of Grey Friar and we debated and dismissed the idea of adding that to our list of ticks for the day. As we approached the summit of Swirl How, two ravens alighted on the summit cairn and ronked at us. CJ told us that they were birds of ill omen. Perhaps he was right. It began to hail again.
We plodded round the rim of the corrie to Great Carrs. If anything the hail was now falling more fiercely. A group of proper walkers, with all the gear, even ski poles, were arriving from the north ridge. We could tell that they were old hands, they were on nickname terms with the hills, and were debating whether to head for ‘Connie Old Man’ or not. A grizzled veteran peered out from under his hood, assessed my cotton shorts and ASDA trainers. “You’re brave.” he told me. “Zero chance of precipitation today” I reassured him. He pointed out the view beneath the clouds to the west. It was clearly sunny on the west Cumbrian coast and beyond on the Isle of Man. On the trudge back to Swirl How, the hail stopped briefly, and we stopped to examine the wreckage of a WW2 Halifax bomber and the memorial for its crew.
By the time we were descending Prison Band the hail had turned to drizzle. So that was alright. To tell the truth, I was enjoying myself enormously. We decided, in the circumstances, to save Wetherlam for another day and began the long walk back to the car.
Levers Water, Coniston Water, Morecambe Bay. Raven Tor and Coniston Old Man on the right.
As we dropped towards Levers Water, patches of blue sky began to appear, although it was still raining. Then the sun came out, although it was still raining. But finally the rain stopped for good and the last part of our walk was the best part of the day weatherwise.
Little and Great How Crags across Levers Water.
Levers Water is a reservoir. We crossed the outflow stream and climbed up past a huge vertical gash in the hillside where a vein had been worked. From here old miners’ tracks took us back to the car park.
Sunshine at last!
This was a walk where a better knowledge of geology would have been a distinct advantage. The colours and textures of the rocks had changed throughout the walk. CJ had proposed that one particularly fetching smooth slab, striped in blue and cream would make an excellent kitchen worktop. In the rain, I didn’t stop to photograph many rocks, but this wave textured rock caught my eye…
All in all, a grand day out. And seven more Birketts, five of which are also Wainwrights, to add to this year’s tallies.