#179 – Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag

Dow Crag (right) with Goat’s Water below

Dow Crag (right) with Goat’s Water below

1974 was a black time for hill-going Lancastrians – it was the year that ‘They’ changed the county boundaries and the Old Man of Coniston, the highest point in Lancashire at 803 metres (2634ft), became part of the new county of Cumbria.   It wasn’t as though they didn’t have loads of fine mountains already, but it was decided so that was that – the highest point in Lancashire now is Gragareth at 627 metres (2,057 ft), a fine hill, but a poor consolation prize.

Setting out from the Walna Scar Road

Setting out from the Walna Scar Road

The start of the track through the old mine workings

The start of the track through the old mine workings

Abandoned cableway

Abandoned cableway

Abandoned cableway

Abandoned cableway

Looking down on the site

Looking down on the site

Chris and I (and Border Collie Mist’) often head back to this area as a change from North Wales, and it never disappoints.    There’s a great parking area to overnight at with the camper (if you know the area, you know where I mean, if you don’t then tough! – I’m keeping it quiet).    The classic route here is the Old Man of Coniston by the old mine workings and Low Water, then on to Dow Crag via the col at Goat’s Hause returning by the Walna Scar Road.

Beyond the mine

Beyond the mine

Low Water comes into view

Low Water comes into view

Gaining height above Low Water

Gaining height above Low Water

Looking back to Low Water, about to start the hard work

Looking back to Low Water, about to start the hard work

Above the steep path, with Coniston Water in the distance

Above the steep path, with Coniston Water in the distance

Almost at the summit of Coniston Old Man

Almost at the summit of Coniston Old Man

The initial path through the old mine workings is fascinating, and I always say I will return to explore the area – some day!    The ruins aren’t an eyesore, but more a monument to the working men who toiled here.    Beyond the mine workings the scene suddenly changes as the path arrives at Low Water – my lifetime mountaineering mate John Bamber can see the slopes above the small lake from his house twenty miles away, and when the snow routes are looking good he’s one of the first to know.

The author sneaks into a shot

The author sneaks into a shot

Looking across to Dow Crag from the Old Man

Looking across to Dow Crag from the Old Man

The start of the descent to Goat’s Hause

The start of the descent to Goat’s Hause

Goat’s Hause looking back to Coniston Old Man ….

Goat’s Hause looking back to Coniston Old Man ….

…. and looking down to Goat’s Water and Dow Crag

…. and looking down to Goat’s Water and Dow Crag

Beyond Low Water the route gets steep, but this doesn’t last long, and soon the slope levels out as it reaches the summit of the Old Man.     Where to go next is a bit of a dilemma – the ridge north to Swirl How makes a great route, but equally fine is the circuit round to Dow Crag.    On this occasion Dow Crag was decided on, so it was down to the col at Goat’s Hause, before heading upwards again.

Gaining height again

Gaining height again

Near the summit of Dow Crag

Near the summit of Dow Crag

Coniston Water in the distance

Coniston Water in the distance

Heading for Buck Pike

Heading for Buck Pike

Looking back towards Dow Crag

Looking back towards Dow Crag

Dow Crag is the name of both the summit of the mountain and the rock-climbing crag below it.  This was once one of the most important climbing crags in the Lake District, but it involves a longish walk in for modern tastes, and its popularity has declined – we saw only one climbing party on the crag on ‘C’ Ordinary, a fine but relatively easy rock climb.

Blind Tarn below Brown Pike

Blind Tarn below Brown Pike

Border Collie ‘Mist’ enjoying the view (or thinking about dinner time!)

Border Collie ‘Mist’ enjoying the view (or thinking about dinner time!)

Heading back down the Walna Scar Road

Heading back down the Walna Scar Road

Looking back – Dow Crag on the left and the Old Man on the right

Looking back – Dow Crag on the left and the Old Man on the right

After Dow Crag it’s a glorious stroll along the ridge linking Buck Pike and Brown Pike, with the tiny jewel of Blind Tarn hiding below, totally invisible from the Goat’s Water path.    A short final descent and it’s down to an ancient highway, the Walna Scar Road.    The walk back gives great views of the Old Man and Dow, and plenty of time to plan the next trip north to the Lake District.

Heading for home ….

Heading for home ….

…. with one last view of Dow Crag

…. with one last view of Dow Crag

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s. I’m posting this while on a trip to Sweden and Norway, so please forgive me if I’m slow to answer comments.

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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6 Responses to #179 – Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag

  1. I thought Gragareth was ours (Yorkshire) not yours (Lancashire)?

    I do that round a lot (Swirl How ridge and Dow Crag usually) but always the other way around. I car-camp up the road to Broughton – I have a lovely spot there and it’s a quiet road. If you mean you camp up at the top carpark for Walna Scar, I won’t even drive up that road in a car, never mind take a big van up it! 😮
    Carol.

    • Nay lass, yer not tekin our new highest top 😉 Some say Green Hill is the highest top, but Gragareth is so flat on top that it’s probably in both countries. Anyhow, you’ve still got Whernside 😀

  2. Pete Buckley says:

    A nice peak the Old Man – ever done the Boo Tarn route from the old Wainwright guide? That’s a good one too – might head up to Coniston next few days after reading this. Great post.

  3. We once went up Conniston Old Man on a New Year’s Eve, to be on the summit at midnight. It was supposed to be a bit of fun – and of course it was in hindsight! – but the weather was unbelievably bad and it did turn into a bit of an epic! I could write a post about it really…. 😀
    Hope you enjoy Norway and Sweden. We had a fantastic time there in the van a few years back.

  4. Pingback: #182 – Coniston Old Man and Swirl How | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  5. Pingback: #233 – Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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