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Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Coniston Fells 17th-19th february 2018

A few mths have passed since I was last in the lake district, and I fancied another trip there to tick off a few Wainrights - currently my tally stands at 144 but some of these I have climbed multiple times. I messaged Peter to say I would be back in the lakes and did he want to meet up. I initially planned to camp Friday and Saturday night and walk out Sunday, Peter said he was definitely up for a camp and walk Saturday and Sunday and depending on the weather he could take Friday off, but only if the forecast was good. We agreed on the Coniston fells, this would only be my 2nd visit to these,Peter knows them well and estimates he has visited them over 300 times! On my 1st time I went over Coniston Old Man  with zero views then followed the ridge before dropping to Wrynose pass then heading to the Langdales - returning back to Coniston on day 3.

We agreed to monitor the weather over the week , the final decision being made Thursday evening.
Thursday came and the Forecast was for very strong gale force winds, so we decided on a Saturday start . Peter would camp Saturday night and walk part way with me Sunday, before I headed off for a camp Sunday night.

I set off at around 5.30 am and arrived in Coniston at around 8.30 ( I would have been there earlier, but my in car usb charger decided to play up) - I use a tom tom app on my phone, and upon nearing Kendal it suddenly swithched off - it hadn't been charging ! In the confusion I missed my turn off point and continued on the M6 towards Penrith. Once I was able to leave the motorway I pulled into a layby and unpacked my rucksack to get my power bank. with charge restored I continued on my way.

There was a little confusion regarding the parking point, Peter had sent me a screen shot but I couldn't find him, after a brief phone call it turned out he was just around the corner and walked down to meet me.

First job before setting off was to re pack my rucksack, then we set off on a lovely valley walk towards the Walna scar road which we followed before branching off  North East towards Brown Pike . By now we were up in the clag and this was to be a repeat of my first visit. The forecast had predicted it would clear later so we continued on in the hope it would.

Buck Pike and Dow Crag we climbed before we descended towards Goats Hawse from where we ascended to Coniston Old Man - still in clag. After a brief chat with a few folk we met at the summit ,we continued on North towards Swirl How before dropping towards Great Carrs- visiting the Halifax crash sight, Peter told me that 1 of the Engines were recovered and displayed at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston and I made a mental note to visit it before returning home.

Halifax crash wreckage.

From here Peter took a compass bearing to get us to the col. below Grey Friars from where we descended a little north to try and locate water - made difficult today with all signs of the stream being covered in ice and snow. It was a matter of listening for running water before digging through the snow. Eventually we located good water and with around 4 kilos ( 4 ltrs ) added to already heavy full winter packs we continued up towards the summit.

Once the summit cairn was reached we began to look for a pitch for the night , Peter knew of a few good spots on the southern side, but these wouldn't provide any shelter from the S-SW winds so we headed north to the leeward side to try and locate a sheltered pitch . A few possibilities were found , I found a good level spot on hard firm snow , but with temps. predicted to rise during the night we continued on, as neither of us fancied waking up in a pool finding out our snow anchors had come out at the same time :-) .

After a bit of searching we found a good spot before dropping our packs and clearing a pitch for the Trailstars. A bank of firm snow behind enabled us to cut snow bricks to seal the edges and soon we were in our individual shelters relaxing with a brew.

There was some nice late light , and we were hopefull it would clear... but it didn't - it lasted less than a minute before the clag reappeared - just enough time to grab a few pics.

Camp on Grey Frair.

Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstars pitched on Grey Friar.

Late afternoon light on Grey Friar.

My hotel for the night on Grey Friar.

Peters trademark. A yellow Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar.

We retired back to our individual shelters and I  got into my down bag , I love this aspect of wildcamping - lying there after the sun has gone down and watching day turn to night, knowing you are the only one (ones) on the mountain the day walkers having returned to the valley floor. You feel as if you've the whole mountain to yourself . I usually cook tea whilst enjoying a fine malt whisky, watching the first of the nights stars appearing- weather permitting of course! later the distant glow of lights in towns far below my lofty perch, people going about their lives, unaware  that I'm camped high above them.

I was awoken by the sound of rain on the flysheet later that night, the predicted raising of temperature during the night had turned turned the snow showers to rain. With a large bank of snow behind us I was praying that it wouldn't melt, luckily it didn't and I woke up the next morning without finding myself camped in the middle of a pool!

I couldn't hear any sign of Peter being awake so I was reluctant to fire up my msr windpro ii stove. It is a very quick stove , but it also sounds like a rocket. A few minutes later Peter shouted "morning " and I knew he was awake, so I lit the stove for a morning brew. The clag was still down and I was in no hurry to get up.

A second brew and breakfast were had before peter shouted to me that I might like to get up - a bit of colour was showing through.

I quickly put on my boots, grabbed my camera and got out. The mist cleared slightly giving tantalising views of the valley floor and surrounding fells, there was actually a weak inversion but the clag at our level never allowed it to fully form . A few pics were taken before we got ready to move on.

Weak inversion from Grey Friar pitch.

After packing up we headed back towards towards Great Carrs then Swirl How where Peter and I went our separate ways. Peter to descend via the Prison Band, then onto Wetherlam before heading back to Coniston. I continued to Coniston Old Man from where I intended to go back  over Dow Crag and Buck Pike in the hope of getting some views before dropping back to Walna Scar then heading over towards White Maiden, White Pike for a mooch around.

Reaching Coniston Old Man I could see that the higher fells had little chance of clearing so I dropped down to pay Goats Water a visit.

Clagged in on  Coniston Old Man.

Goats Water.

Even at this modest level clag shrouded the views and I continued on to the Walna Scar Road where I finally got to see more than 20 -30mtrs !

View from the Walna Scar Road.

From Here I headed west following our inward  route towards Brown Pike but this time heading South west towards White Maiden.

The walk out to White Maiden was an enjoyable one, which I've no doubt would give superb views on a good day and soon I reached the summit cairn. I located a  good pitch very near the summit shielded from the wind by rocks/ stone wall, making a mental note I continued  on to White Pike where I explored the area before deciding to return to White Maiden. As I neared the summit again it started to rain, so although a  little early ( around 3 pm  ) I decided to call it a day and make a pitch. I was fairly confident no one would come this way in such conditions, no one did and once again I had the hill to myself. A deep snow drift next to the wall provided water for camp, so armed with my snow shovel and a Asda 'bag for life' I collected enough snow to keep me going till morning.

I was awoken the next morning by light rain/mist landing on my face, the wind had turned 180 during the night. My modified Oookwarks door and superlight bivy had done an excellent job and if I were out for a further night I would have changed the door position. I was returning home today however, so I fully zipped up the bivy and went back to sleep for around an hour.

When I next awoke I was in no rush to move on so a few morning brews were had whilst I marvelled at how well a few very thin sheets of fabric had kept me warm, safe and dry during the night before my thoughts turned to returning home and back to the rat race. 3 days walking and sleeping wild had given me the chance to recharge the batteries so as to speak, its the only time I can truly relax.

The return journey was a case of retracing the inward route, as I went the fells began to clear, some lovely light showing through, the fells finally revealing themselves just as I was leaving. I will return however and who knows, maybe it will be third time lucky. Its what makes Backpacking mountainous areas addictive for me.... Forever chasing the perfect view. Once back in Coniston I made a point to visit the Ruskin museum to see the recovered engine from the Halifax crash. Thanks Peter for pointing me in its direction.

Thanks for reading, and I'll leave you with some pics I took on my route back to Coniston and a video of the trip.

Till next time, Happy wildcamping.



Light on Coniston Old Man.

Herdwick in the Coniston Fells.

Big Hill with the Coniston fells beyond.

Big hill.

Recovered Engine at the Ruskin Museum Coniston 

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