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Our mammoth Scottish trip in May this year was finally coming to an end, but we weren’t in a rush to get home and the weather was good. No problem that we weren’t in Scotland anymore, there was still time for a Lake District hill or two. What better than an old favourite, Coniston Old Man. Chris and I have been there several times on different variations of routes (see posts #179 and #182) but there’s often a new slant on an old idea.
There are several ways to set off up the hill, with the route through the old mine workings featured in post #182 probably being the most obvious (and the most popular). There is another way though, that most walkers don’t bother with. It doesn’t even feature on a map, though the path the route takes is obvious on the ground and also on Google Earth. That was the way for us.
I had written up this route for the Walking World website a few years ago, and it’s been quite a popular download. One subscriber had recently found difficulty following the route on one section, so I went back to see if there were any problems or recent changes that might have crept in. As I already knew the route, there was only one way to test it fairly – Chris would have to navigate! Was this going to be a white-knuckle ride?
I use just about any means to navigate that doesn’t involve black magic (though I would give that a try if it worked) and a combination of GPS, altimeter watch and good old-fashioned map and compass might be employed. When I write routes for paying customers though, I try to see things through the eyes of someone who isn’t carrying round every navigation aid known to man. Or woman in this case, as Chris took the lead.
Luckily Chris was on form, and took Border Collie ‘Mist’ and me up to the summit with no great difficulty. At the top it was time for a couple of photos, including a rare pic of me and one of ‘Mist’ with a new buddy! From the top, the most obvious choices to follow were either the ridge to Swirl How or a descent to Goat’s Hawse to get to Dow Crag – the last time we came this way the choice was Swirl How, so it looked as though we would do good old Dow Crag this time.
The descent to Goat’s Hawse is steady enough, as is the ascent to the summit of Dow Crag, which goes on a bit, but not in a brutal way. The clear spring air gave good light for pics for once, and a warm pleasant day made a nice change. The top of Dow Crag is rocky and was crowded by its usual standards, so we gave it a miss and set off for the bit with the views.
The route from Dow Crag along the switchback of Buck Pike and Brown Pike is almost like a ridge walk – well, it is if you have a good imagination and look to the east and not the west. We spent a lot of time looking east! Before long, the tiny lake of Blind Tarn came into view, and I vowed for perhaps the hundredth time that I would visit it one day. Not today though, we were on a mission, and before long we were striding out down the Walna Scar Road, stopping only to take one last pic of one of my favourite views of Dow Crag.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock