I’ve been writing routes for Walking World for several years now, and one of my earliest contributions was Coniston Old Man and Swirl How, returning by the Coppermines Valley. Not only is it one of my earliest routes for them, it’s also a consistently good seller. However, things change, even on the hills, so when I was looking for a Lakes route for Chris and buddies Richie and Babs Boardwell I jumped at the chance to repeat this trip.
There are several good ways to the summit of Coniston Old Man, but for my money the route through the old mine workings has the most interest, and the last time that Chris and I had visited the Old Man (see post #179) we had come up this way. It’s also the most popular (and easiest) way to the top, and is guaranteed to be busy, but once past the summit things quieten down a bit.
From Coniston Old Man the route is a broad, easy-walking ridge. It wasn’t quite as quiet as anticipated as there was a mountain marathon on at the time (can’t remember what event it was), and we were passed by some very earnest looking fell-runners with that far-away look of pain and anticipation that goes with the game. Along the way, Babs went about increasing her portfolio of ‘Dogs and Landscapes’ images – for Babs there’s only one way to get a good dog photo, and that’s to get down with the doggies!
The route takes a couple of small ups and downs before ending up right on the summit of Swirl How. The summit of Great Carrs was just a short distance away, with a memorial to the crew of a wartime aircrash – on 22nd October 1944 a Halifax bomber on a navigation exercise struck the hillside, killing the crew of eight. Unfortunately the day was getting on and we didn’t have time to make the diversion to visit the site.
It was time to head back – the route down the East Ridge of Swirl How goes by the ominous name of Prison Band, but although the ground is broken and rocky it isn’t a serious obstacle. We passed Levers Water before heading down to the Coppermines Valley to finish, trying to ignore the happy group at one of the holiday lets who had decided it was ‘Wine O’Clock’ – it only made our experience sweeter when we opened our own bar a short time afterwards.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock