#269 – Y Gamallt and the Migneint

The Llynnau Gamallt (Gamallt Lakes) seen from Y Gamallt

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In my last blog post (see post #268) I made the comment that “You’re never far from a mountain in Wales”.    It also has to be said that you’re also never far from a bog!  Regular hikers in the Peak District and Pennines can rightly lay claim on the blackest, foulest bogs in the UK, but Wales is up there in the ‘Bog Top 10’.   Mind you, some bogs are not what they seem to be.

The moorland of the Migneint with Arenig Fach (l) and Arenig Fawr (r) beyond – © Nigel Brown

The Migneint-Arenig-Dduallt Special Area of Conservation is thought to be the biggest area of blanket bog in Wales – it’s also an eco-system which can store more greenhouse gasses than the Amazon rainforest.    Recent work there has restored the bog to its original state by filling in centuries-old drainage ditches, which is helping to prevent floods in lower areas as well as capturing greenhouse gasses.    Thankfully, our planned walk back in February 2019 avoided the wettest area.

The moors of the Migneint in Snowdonia (centre)

The route

The area including Blaenau Ffestiniog

Closer view of the route

At this point, many readers will be thinking ‘where the hell is this?’    Snowdonia is better known for its soaring peaks and rocky crests or big mountain ranges such as the Carneddau, but where do you find the Welsh equivalent of the Amazon rainforest?   And why would anyone want to hike through a soggy blanket bog?   The lonely outpost of Y Gamallt gave us the best of both worlds, a glimpse into the Migneint without getting our boots too wet.

The Ffynnon Eidda well on the Gwynedd-Clwyd border – © David Medcalf

Ffynnon Eidda – ©Jeremy Bolwell

The interest began even before we arrived at the start point.   High on the B4407 road between Pentrefoelas and Ffestiniog lies the ancient Ffynnon Eidda (Eidda’s Well).   Eidda is believed to be a 6th Century Welsh saint, but the site was probably a holy place before Christian times.   The well is now surrounded by a low stone enclosure with the inscription ‘Ffynnon Eidda – Yf a bu ddiolchgar’ (‘Drink and be thankful’) and in the 18th and 19th centuries it was a stopping place for cattle drovers herding their animals towards Pentrefoelas, then on into England.

The view from Y Gamallt, overlooking the Llynnau Gamallt (Gamallt Lakes)

The cliffs of Craig Goch, Y Gamallt

The shooting hut by the lakes

We weren’t tempted to test the possible healing effects of the spring water and carried on to the parking place for our walk at Llyn Dubach (Small Black Lake).   We then had a short (1 km) walk back up the road before heading across country towards Y Gamallt and the soaring cliffs of Craig Goch (Red Crag).   The views were superb and constantly changing, but the cliff-top walk didn’t last long before we were heading down to the twin lakes of Llynnau Gamallt and an old shooting hut, now used by fishermen.

Fast-moving Border Collie in search of crumbs!

Weird or what – picture of David Bowie plus …… a dodgy looking axe!

Leaving the shooting hut

Being a bit of a fan of bothies, shooting huts and the like, I decided to get some pics of the interior – a bit shabby by standards, but this didn’t phase Border Collie ‘Mist’, whose search for possible crumbs left by the fishermen was so rapid that the photo came out blurred!   Even more odd was the photo of David Bowie next to the window…..next to a dodgy looking axe!    What that was all about, I have no idea!

Heading back, with the Craig Goch cliffs beyond

Last view of  the Lakes

Then it was time to head back.   It had been a short outing on a short February day, but worth the effort if only to walk through an area that doesn’t get much attention from hikers.   We probably spent as long travelling to and from the area as we did walking, but the best time was to come, at least for the Collie – by the time we arrived home it was dinner time.

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock, except Images tagged Nigel Brown, David Medcalf and Jeremy Bolwell, which are taken from the Geograph Project and are reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence

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#268 – Conwy Mountain and beyond

Conwy Mountain ….

…. otherwise known as Mynydd y Dref (‘The Town Mountain’)

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You’re never far from a mountain in Wales.   The main interest is in the old favourites such as the Snowdon group, the Glyderau, the Carneddau and others, but any reasonably large lump of ground is likely to be called ‘Mountain’ by the locals.   So, near where I live, we have Graig Fawr at a magnificent 153 metres altitude, but it’s known to the locals as ‘Meliden Mountain’ – and why not!

The route

Half an hour away, down the A55, sits the attractive walled town of Conwy, with its magnificent 730-year-old medieval castle.    Above the town sits ‘Conwy Mountain’ at 244 metres height.   The Welsh name for the hill is Mynydd y Dref which means ‘The Town Mountain’ and the summit is topped by the remains of a much older fortification, about 2500 years old.    It’s also a great dog walk!

Setting out

Gaining some height

The view back to Conwy ….

…. and the view towards the summit

Small climbing crag – for small climbers?

You won’t find solitude here, because the ‘mountain’ is popular with hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders as well as us dog walkers – there’s even a small crag where you often see youth and school groups doing some easy rock climbing, as we did on our visit.  For Border Collie ‘Mist,’ it must be heaven with new, unfamiliar ‘doggie’ smells all over the place.

The summit in the distance ….

…. with views out to Conwy Bay and Great Orme (centre)

Looking down to the A55 Expressway

The approach to Castell Caer Seion

The remains of the ramparts on the south side of the hillfort

As height is gained (bearing in mind there isn’t a lot of height!) the summit comes into view with the remains of the 2500 years old Iron Age fort of Castell Caer Seion – the name should correctly be Caer Seion which translates as ‘Fort Zion’, but a mistranslation into English around the end of the 17th Century added the Castell bit.   There’s not a huge amount to see, which is hardly surprising after 2500 years, but the line of the ramparts can be traced quite easily.

Heading on towards Sychnant

Bwlch Sychnant (Sychnant Pass)

The view down the pass towards the village of Capelulo

On the other side of the pass, with Conwy mountain behind on the right

The hill path above Capelulo ….

…. a bit narrow in places

The multitude of paths over the mountain converge at Bwlch Sychnant (‘Dry Stream Pass’).    Most dog walkers stop here and go back to Conwy, but we usually carry along the hillside path above the village of Capelulo (‘Ulo’s Chapel’).    There’s a lovely section where the path clings on to the hillside, though I wouldn’t say that Chris was all that keen on it!

Off the narrow bit at last ….

…. crossing the open moor of Waen Gyrach

Wild Carneddau mountain ponies

Ancient stone circle at Cefn Llechen

The narrow hill path soon arrives on open moorland at Waen Gyrach which is on the very edge of the Carneddau and was on the home stretch of my Carneddau traverse in 2014 (see post #160).   It’s quite common to see the local wild mountain ponies down at this level, and there are also frequent reminders of ancient human habitation and remains, one of the most notable being an ancient stone circle at Cefn Llechen (‘Slate Back’), probably 4000-5000 years old.

Passing Llyn y Wrach ….

…. which looks like a good place for a paddle!

Heading back towards Conwy Mountain

On the return, we passed the charming small lake of Llyn y Wrach, which translates as ‘The Witch Lake’.   The likelihood of witches in the neighbourhood didn’t seem to put ‘Mist’ off a paddle, but it was now time to cross back over Sychnant to head back to Conwy.   Perhaps not the greatest trek in North Wales, but did I mention? – It does make a great dog walk!

On the old bridleway

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#267 – Two days in the quietest corner of Snowdon

Looking down into Cwm Glas – Clogwyn y Person in the middle ground, Crib Goch behind

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Llyn Glas with the Crib Goch Pinnacles above

I described the lovely, quiet corner of Cwm Glas in an earlier post after a trip there in 2014 (see post #154).    It’s hard to believe that Cwm Glas is about 1 kilometre as the raven flies from the highest, busiest and most visited mountain in England and Wales, and I had been meaning to explore more of this high mountain valley, but it was 2019 before I returned, along with my usual hill companion, Border Collie ‘Mist’.

Llanberis Pass (centre) with the two routes to the south of the road

The two routes – April 2019 (red) and July 2019 (blue) with the 2014 variation (green)

Well, there’s nowt like making up for lost time, and in the space of three months, the dog and I had two great trips into this haven of peace.    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not moaning, as some do, about the crowds who hike over Snowdon (or Yr Wyddfa to give its correct Welsh name).  Yr Wyddfa is a lovely mountain and it takes more than a few hundred humans to spoil it – it’s just that the lonely  Cwm Glas still has a wildness and grandeur about it.

The April 2019 route in red with the 2014 alternative approach in green

The first trip was on a warm April day.  I decided on the direct route into Cwm Glas (Green Valley) via Cwm Glas Mawr (Big Green Valley).    The bus from Llanberis solves car parking problems, and there’s a stop opposite the start of the route at Blaen y Nant.  I followed the route I had taken in 2014 but decided on a variation, taking a more direct line between the two cwms instead of the variation (green on the map) that I had taken last time.

The direct approach to Cwm Glas from Cwm Glas Mawr (broken ground left of centre)

A handy looking path took me straight on this time, and the short rocky headwall ahead proved to be nothing of a problem – well, not if you have the reach of a human and hands with opposable thumbs.    It soon became obvious that the steep rocky headwall was going to be a bit much for ‘Mist’ until a couple of friendly guys offered the assistance of a rope.

Looking back down Cwm Glas Mawr

I think they were both itching to find an excuse to get the rope out, but I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.    I quickly improvised a harness out of a tape sling, clipped the dog on the end of the rope, and climbed up behind giving her an encouraging push up the bum when things became more difficult.

Higher in Cwm Glas with the small lakes of Llyn Bach (right) and Llyn Glas)

Selfie of old git and faithful companion (you decide which is which!)

The difficulties being behind us, I released the dog from her harness and said goodbye to our new buddies.   A retreat from the steep bit would have cost time and effort but it wasn’t long before we reached Llyn Bach (Small Lake) having by-passed Llyn Glas (Green Lake).    The steep slope out of Cwm Glas didn’t seem to take long, and in a short time the dog and I were posing for a celebratory selfie.

Back with the hustle and bustle of the Llanberis Path ….

…. probably the least pleasant way up or down ….

…. but we aren’t going that way!

Having taken the bus from Llanberis, we had to return there to collect the car.    The usual option is the least pleasant part of one of the best mountains in the UK – the Llanberis Path.    It’s a horrible slog, and I’ve never been up to the summit by this route.   The descent isn’t much better, but this time I was going off-piste to follow the skyline above the Llanberis Pass.

View down to the Llanberis Pass

Still following the railway ….

…. and still getting great views of Llanberis Pass

The Llanberis Path drops below the Mountain Railway at Clogwyn Station, and that’s were the crowds were heading.  The dog and I stayed by the railway instead, with great views down to the Llanberis Pass along the way.   It’s the first time I’d come this way, and it would make a superb runners route, but I was happy to amble down in my own good time.

The only sign of human activity – an old wire fence

Looking back along the descent route with Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) in the distance

I re-joined the Llanberis Path near to Hebron Station on the railway, after taking a last look back along the descent route – one thing for sure, I think I’ve walked the Llanberis Path for the last time!

The July 2019 route in blue

The other route into Cwm Glas that I’d been itching to get back to is the Fox’s Path into Cwm Uchaf (High Valley) from the Crib Goch path.   I had written in the 2014 post (see post #154) about the great mountaineering route up the Clogwyn y Person Arête – we had taken the Fox’s Path that day, but I was wondering how difficult it would be to find after a gap of forty years!

Crib Goch summit – often mistaken for Yr Wyddfa by walkers

The summit of Crib Goch (Red Ridge) is the most obvious peak to hikers following the PyG track from Pen y Pass and is frequently mistaken for Yr Wyddfa, so much so that there are now discreet warning signs pointing out the correct route.   The route up to the summit of Crib Goch isn’t too bad unless you absolutely hate steep stuff, but the fun starts on the (in)famous Crib Goch Ridge.

The Crib Goch Ridge (August 2009)

A great day out – but not for the nervous! (August 2009)

It’s very ‘hands on’ as routes go, and although fit hikers with a head for heights have little difficulty, it’s a black spot for Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team who spend a lot of their operational time helping cragfast walkers down to safety.    It’s one of my favourite ways to Yr Wyddfa, but ‘Mist’ isn’t as agile as she was as a young dog, and I didn’t want any dramas, so the Fox’s Path was on the menu instead.

The rough line of the Fox’s Path

On the path to Crib Goch, looking down on the causeway and northern end of Llyn Llydaw

The route up Crib Goch looming ahead ….

…. but we aren’t going that way

The line of the Fox’s Path sets off as if heading for the summit of Crib Goch, but takes a turn to the right to contour round the flank of the North Ridge instead.    I had managed to acquire a small group of followers who didn’t really look as if the Crib Goch Ridge was their usual sort of route, and when I turned off on the Fox’s Path I wasn’t sure if they would continue following me.    They didn’t, and the Fox’s Path was mine alone – well me and a Border Collie.

The Fox’s Path to Cwm Uchaf and Cwm Glas ….

…. clinging to the hillside above the Llanberis Pass ….

…. before turning the corner into Cwm Uchaf

The view of the Crib Goch Ridge and Pinnacles as seen from Cwm Uchaf

I remembered little of the route from the last visit forty years earlier, but it obviously doesn’t get much traffic.    The path, clinging to the hillside in places, is little wider than a sheep track and is just the sort of place my missus hates!    A tumble or slip would be quite serious in places, but it’s a really neat path which heads round the North Ridge of Crib Goch to end up in Cwm Uchaf.    As the path turns into the cwm, the view of the Crib Goch Ridge above is one that people don’t usually see.

‘Mist’ has a paddle in Llyn Glas

Start of the slog up and out of Cwm Glas

Last view down into Cwm Glas ….

…. before joining the hordes on the top section of the Llanberis Path

‘Mist’ celebrated with a cooling dip in Llyn Glas before we headed up into Cwm Glas for the final ascent to join a short section of the Llanberis Path.    Every time I go to Cwm Glas, I seem to take a slightly different way up, and this time it was probably my worst choice of route ever!    After a slog of an ascent on a warm July afternoon, the dog and I joined the crowds to descend by the Pyg Track.

‘Mist’ at the marker stone at the top of the PyG Track

It had been another great day out, and for the dog it was about to get better in a couple of hours – it was almost dinner time!

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s.  I always include maps and pics to give an idea of where me and the dog have been. Please, please, please don’t use these as navigational aids if you follow these routes – they are just for illustration and the boys and girls of Llanberis MRT are busy enough!   If anyone needs accurate grid references to find the routes, just get in touch.

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#266 – Moel Ty Mawr

Moel Ty Mawr stone circle, with the valley of the Afon Dyfrdwy (River Dee) below

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The route (centre) with the Berwyn Mountains

The route and the main Berwyn Ridge

The route in close up, showing Llandrillo, the stone circle and Moel Pearce

I’ve featured the Berwyns in this blog before – they are remote, wild hills, though nothing like as rough and gnarly as the nearby Rhinogs. Chris and I (plus Border Collie ‘Mist’) had last been out this way in 2016 (see post #204), with another two trips in 2014 (see posts #162 and #163) so a return trip was long overdue – a new camera to try out was the final excuse needed (the image at the start of this post was taken using the new camera).

Setting out near Llandrillo ….

…. and gaining height on a good track

First views looking down on the inversion

The valley of the Afon Dyfrdwy looking north ….

…. and looking west

We had driven into thick mist (not talking about Collie ‘Mist’ this time as she’s far from being thick!) after passing through Ruthin, but I wasn’t dismayed – there was a strong ridge of high pressure across the area, and it was almost certain that we would leave the mist behind as we gained height. Sure enough, as we left the car behind in fog-bound Llandrillo, we popped out into clear conditions, with a great looking inversion below us in the valley of the Afon Dyfrdwy (River Dee).

Below Moel Ty Mawr, about to head uphill

Border Collie ‘Mist’, waiting for the photographer as usual

At the stone circle

The main objective on this trip was the Moel Ty Mawr stone circle, just a couple of kilometres out of Llandrillo. At 11 metres across, and with 41 stones, it isn’t the biggest stone circle in the UK, but the spectacular location overlooking the valley of the Dee makes up for that. The circle is sited on a small plateau at an altitude of 440 metres and has stood there for about 4000 years.

The circle (and dog!) – the original camera in action

Same camera, same dog, slightly different angle

I’m a big fan of Olympus cameras, and still have an old OM2 film camera, but my usual hill camera (used for most of the images in this post) is an Olympus TG-5, a tough, hard-as-nails camera that can be dropped, drowned and frozen and still bounce back. Although essentially a ‘point and shoot’ camera, the TG-5 is a great piece of kit that is capable of producing good quality images whilst surviving a rough day out in the mountains.

The view to the west using the new camera, showing the inversion

I’ve recently bought an Olympus OM-D E-10 Mk2, which is incredibly versatile and sophisticated compared with the TG-5 – you wouldn’t want to drop it in a puddle though! The image above was taken with the new camera and then edited with ‘Affinity’ Photo Editor. I’ve been editing my pics for the blog since the early days, but Affinity is much more powerful than previous editors I’ve used. I’m learning about RAW images and how to get the best out of them, but it’s still work in progress!

Onwards to Moel Pearce ….

…. with the Berwyn Ridge on the skyline

The stone circle made a good place for a lunch stop as well as a photo opportunity, but winter days are short and we didn’t stay too long. The plan was to head a little higher to Moel Pearce before taking a track down to the valley. Moel Pearce is a bit of a round lump of a hill, though it does just top the 600-metre mark, but we did have views of the main Berwyn Ridge in the distance, standing about 200 metres higher.

On the return route to the valley ….

…. with one last look back to the Berwyns

The final images show the return route – we didn’t see a soul all day, from leaving Llandrillo to arriving back. The valley was still fog-bound and gloomy, but the dog and humans had found a spot in the sun, and all I need to do now is to improve my photography so that I can share future trips! ‘Mist’, as usual, wasn’t much impressed with hanging around while I played with my new toy and would have been even less impressed if she had known that we still had a 1½ hour drive home before dinner time!

Llandrillo below in the mist – time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#265 – Moel Siabod – The Shapely Peak

Moel Siabod – The Shapely Peak

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The route

Close up view of the route

Moel Siabod (which translates as ‘Shapely Hill’) is one of those hills where you don’t bump into crowds, in fact it would be strange to bump into anybody.    All the crowds are over on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), the Glyderau or the Carneddau, leaving Siabod a surprisingly quiet mountain.    Which is just fine for those who love a little solitude.

Border Collie ‘Mist’, impatient to be off

Disused quarry tips on the way up ….

…. with the old quarry buildings nearby ….

…. and a small lake that was part of the original workings

I usually start at Pont Cyfyng at the southern end of Capel Curig, as this approach gives the best views of the more interesting south-east face of the mountain – the north-west side of Siabod is little more than a grassy lump, but it makes a good way down, with views over to the mountains of North Snowdonia.    This was the way that I went with Chris on an earlier trip (see post #88) but this time I was taking the more interesting way – with Border Collie ‘Mist’ this time.

Beyond the quarry, with the Daear Ddu Ridge ahead

Llyn y Foel and the Daear Ddu Ridge

Looking up towards the summit

The start of the fun ….

…. with a series of rock steps all the way

Beyond the deserted remains of old quarry workings, lies the Daear Ddu Ridge, which is a direct line from Llyn y Foel (which is ‘the Mountain Lake’) to the summit.    There are quite a few ridges in Snowdonia which justifiably deserve the term ‘knife-edge’ – Daear Ddu isn’t one of them!    The name means ‘Black Earth’, and there’s quite a bit of that – a much better option is to stay as far to the right as possible, where the ridge is a series of rock steps.

The ridge stretches out ahead

The view upwards of the final section of ridge ….

…. and the view back down the ridge

‘Mist’ weighing things up ….

…. but the end is in sight

On the last trip, Chris had been happy enough to follow the broader, earthier route, but this time the dog and I went for the rockier way.    As rock scrambles go, it’s free from excessive drama, because it’s easy to move to the left to avoid anything that looks desperate – as it was, we didn’t find anything remotely like desperate, and although I had fitted the harness on the dog, it wasn’t used, and before too long we were on the summit.

The Snowdon Range just right of centre in the distance

Heading towards the stone shelter ….

…. with a view of the mountains of the Carneddau in the distance

The Coastguard helicopter out for the day

Although the summit of Moel Siabod doesn’t usually set pulses racing (unless you decide to run up it, of course) it does give a grandstand view of the surrounding mountains of the Snowdon, Glyderau and Carneddau ranges.    Remember them? – that’s where the crowds are!  I didn’t see a soul all day, apart from the Coastguard rescue helicopter flying a training mission.    And then it was time (as usual) to head for home.

Great views from higher up ….

…. but it’s soon time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#264 – It’s that time of year again!

Greg’s Hut – taking the rough ….

…. with the smooth!

Sorry to all my readers, but it’s that time of year when I go to work again as part of the safety crew on the Spine Race, so there’s no post this week.

Most of you will probably have seen this, but here’s one I produced earlier that gives you an insight into the Spine Race and the famous Greg’s Hut noodle bar – see you in a couple of weeks.

Both images this week © John Bamber

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#263 – Coniston Old Man (via Levers Water) and Dow Crag

The Coniston Hills – © John Bamber

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Dow Crag

The Coniston Hills (on the left)

The route

Over the years, I’ve frequently returned to the Coniston Hills in the Lake District.   I’ve posted a few of the more recent trips in this blog (see posts #179, #182 and #233) and have also had a couple of Coniston routes published in Walking World, both of which sold fairly well over the years.    So, you might have thought that by now I had covered all the route options.

Setting out

Looking towards Coppermines Valley

The Pudding Stone

Well, you might have thought wrong then, as there’s always somewhere left to explore, and in this case it was quite a significant omission.    Not far from the Coppermines Valley, there is a huge boulder on the way to Levers Water called the Pudding Stone – rock climbers have been climbing on this for well over 100 years, and in 1916 a climbing guidebook was written to this and other big boulders in the area.

Heading up Boulder Valley to Levers Water

Levers Water at last

Beyond the Pudding Stone is Boulder Valley, and the area is now an important addition to the rock-climbing sport of bouldering, with routes of all grades, from easy, through difficult to virtually impossible.   Boulder Valley is also a great walk out in its own right, and eventually the valley path leads out to the quiet Levers Water.    I had never been out this way, so in April 2018 Chris and I, plus Border Collie ‘Mist’ of course, decided to go and explore.

Levers Water

The steps up to Levers Hawse

Heading away from Levers Water

Border Collie ‘Mist’ waiting for the humans, as usual

Still gaining height ….

…. but not there yet

Just below the ridge at Levers Hawse

Time for a brew!

The map shows a path winding steeply up the hillside to the col at Levers Hawse – at one time it could well have been an earthy scramble up Gill Cove, but the path is now a neat set of steps that have blended well into their surroundings.    We made rapid progress, but it soon became obvious that there was a cool wind blowing over the wide ridge between Coniston Old Man and Swirl How, so we took the opportunity to grab a brew and a bite to eat before heading on.

Emerging on to the ridge, with Swirl How in the background

Heading south towards the Old Man

Rare photo of the author and ‘Mist’

Out on the ridge there was a stiff breeze, and it was time to get another layer on.    It might have been cool, but the views were fantastic as often happens in cooler weather, so it was photo time.    I even ended up in a photo myself, which is a rare happening – look at the pic and you will see why I’m happier to be on the other end of the camera.

Coniston Old Man summit ahead

Goats Hawse with Dow Crag on the left and Goats Water below

Rock-climbing sheep

OK, confession time, we didn’t actually top the summit of the Old Man – we’ve both been there before and it doesn’t change much.   Instead, we took the shortcut path to Goats Hawse and headed down to Goats Water.   Unlike North Wales, there aren’t any goats now, or if there are they must be good at hiding!  We did see a bunch of rock climbing sheep though.

Start of the descent to Goats Water

On the east shore of Goats Water

We soon reached the shore of Goats Water, with a steady walk out in front of us across the moor to the Walna Scar Road.  The Levers Water path to Levers Hawse turned out to be a little gem – watch out for a return visit.

Crossing the moor – time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock except ‘The Coniston Hills’ © John Bamber

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