Dow Crag South Rake, Brim Fell and Coniston Old Man

21st March 2020

With the government taking drastic measures to stem the infection of Covid-19 I fear it's only a matter of time before the country goes into lock down. I would like to report that myself, my family and friends have managed to avoid infection and up until writing this, are still in work.

If I can pass any advice from my humble self it would be from those of my companies CEO "abide by the governments advice and do not panic" this of course hasn't applied to the idiots who have selfishly stripped the shelves bare but for most, we comply.

I was in work this morning and with a good forecast ahead I thought I'd return to a walk that I would usually do, admittedly, after the clocks have gone forward into British Summer time but with what appeared to be a bright forecast I thought I'd take my chances on Dow Crag South Rake followed by Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell from where I crouched down to take it all in forgetting for those few moments what was happening in the outside world.

 
Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

Climbers often use this as a quick way down, and it is comfortably within the capacity of most walkers. Lacking a name, but deserving one, SOUTH RAKE is suggested.

 

Overview
Ascent: 2,630 Feet - 802 Metres
Wainwrights: 3, Dow Crag - Coniston Old Man - Brim Fell
Visiting: Raven Tor
Weather: Clear, High White Cloud & Strong Gust Across The Summits. Highs of 11°C Lows of 4°C Feels Like -2.3°C Max Wind Speed 52.3mph
Parking: Fell Gate, Walna Scar Road
Area: Southern
Miles: 6.2
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 4 Hours
Route: Fell Gate - Boo Tarn - The Cove - Goats Water - Dow Crag South Rake - Dow Crag - Goats Hawse - Coniston Old Man - Brim Fell - Brim Fell Rake - Raven Tor - Low Water - Fell Gate
 

Parking Details and Map for Fell Gate, Walna Scar, Coniston
Nearest Post Code: LA21 8HQ
Grid Reference: SD 289 197
Notes: The car park at Fell Gate is very popular all season round and therefore can fill up quite quickly especially throughout the Summer, my best advice is to arrive early although I have been known to park here in the middle of Summer in mid afternoon after work and secured myself a parking spot. The nearest post code is for The Sun Hotel just outside of Coniston. Follow the post code for The Sun Hotel which will appear on the right, from here the road climbs and bends sharply to the left before arriving at a junction, head straight ahead ignoring the left turn onto Walna Scar Road for a mile before arriving at a large metal gate where you will find the entrance to Fell Gate Car Park. Parking is free.


 

Map and Photo Gallery

 
 

Great How Crags, Prison Band, Black Sails, Wetherlam and The Bell from Fell Gate, Walna Scar 14:00pm 11°C

I left work in Preston at 12.30pm and by 13:45pm I'd arrived at the car park at Fell Gate just outside Coniston. I had mixed feelings on what I'd find when I reached the car park thinking that most folk would stay home but what I found was the exact opposite, the car park was rammed from end to end and from what I could see most of the cars belonged to families eager to get out. This was not what I expected. Still wearing my work clothes I changed whilst sat in the drivers seat then added my boots at the tailgate. The forecast was for a bright day but in actual fact we had high level cloud which the sunlight couldn't penetrate through, bugger.

I'd never felt so eager to get boot onto fell and with a final sweep of the boot I locked up and made my way towards Boo Tarn passing hoards of families returning back to their cars and I found it difficult to take photo's due to the amount of people in the frame so my camera remained in its bag at least until I was clear of the crowds.


Dow Crag from The Cove.
I worked up quite a sweat trying to clear the crowds but I finally managed it by the time I arrived at The Cove. Feeling disappointed with the lack of sunlight I continued on whilst maintaining a good pace.

Brown Pike and Buck Pike seen over The Cove.
 

Dow Crag seen above Goat's Water.
Just in case I would encounter any remnants of snow in the South Rake today Im carrying my Crampons and by the looks of it, I may be needing them. There's no clear view of the South Rake from here but in order to reach it I'll need to ascend the steep scree below Dow Crag 'A' Buttress.

Crossing Goat's Water out flow with great views of Goat's Hawse in the distance.
 

From left to right we have Easy Buttress, Easy Gully, 'A' Buttress, Great Gully, and 'B' 'C' 'D' and 'E' Buttresses
Before reaching the scree I have to pass through the boulder field just ahead, there's actually a path through with a bit of boulder hopping if you can stick to it. My plan of action is to take the zigzag path which starts at the grassy bit seen just beyond the boulders.

Goat's Hawse taken during a much needed pause.
I picked up the zigzag grassy path which quickly turned to scree, the good news was there is a narrow path to follow which was stable in parts but the ascent at times meant taking one step forward followed by three steps back.

'A' Buttress, Great Gully 'B' Buttress and 'C' Buttress.

Continuing with my ascent I spot two climbers climbing Easy Giant's Crawl on 'B' Buttress seen right. It's still difficult to spot the South Rake but the base of it starts at Great Gully seen centre then climbs left alongside 'A' Buttress and Easy Buttress.

Giant's Crawl on 'B' Buttress.
I later bumped into the two climbers as they were about to descend 'climbers gully' (the South Rake) where I informed them I'd taken a few shots of their climb and I agreed to let them pinch the photo's once todays walk report went live.

Giant's Crawl on 'B' Buttress.
 

Giant's Crawl on 'B' Buttress.
 

Close up of Giant's Crawl on 'B' Buttress.
 

Dow Crag South Rake (Climbers Gully)
My legs were feeling the rath of the steep scree so before starting the ascent on the South Rake I took a few minutes out to make some adjustments and get my breath back, it was here I was joined by two more climbers who I had seen back at the car park who were about to start their climb on 'A' Buttress "wanna join us" they asked "nah your OK I'll stick to the South Rake" I laughed.

Looking down on Goat's Water from the start of the ascent.
Once ready feeling refreshed I got stuck into the ascent initially keeping to the right of the Rake where I found fixed rock underfoot.

Passing the entrance to Easy Gully.
Half the way into the Rake the entrance to Easy Gully is passed, you can leave the Rake via a grass platform to take a closer look as I did but that's as far as I went, Easy Gully by name but not by nature.

Looking down the South Rake.
One of two climbers can be seen setting up below 'A' Buttress. I wonder if it's too late to take them up on their offer...

Reaching the snow patches, South Rake.
I'd spotted the snow patches from below and initially thought they wouldn't cause an issue, indeed the one in the foreground can be negotiated with care which I attempted but found the snow to be frozen, it took three solid kicks to make anything of a foot hold so I retreated back a few feet and thought about adding my crampons, the trouble was it was just too steep and unstable within the Rake then I remembered a de-tour I'd taken previously which involves climbing out of the Rake via a series of grassy ledges, I go for it.

Climber Arete Chimney and Crack 'A' Buttress.
Once out of the Rake I took my de-tour which was steep, and exposed in places, I climbed around 60 feet then swung back into the Rake for the final ascent by which time the wind was howling like a hurricane above my head.

Dow Crag South Rake from the top.
Feeling protected within the Rake once I had gained the top I was at the rath of the wind which howled over the top of the crags and I couldn't make sense of it because down below Goat's Water looked relatively calm but not here, I needed to collect myself and the only way to do that was by finding shelter. I retreated only twenty feet away and as if by magic the wind calmed so I de-shouldered to add my hat and gloves. Wandering back to the top of Rake I took out my anemometer and recorded gusts of up to 48mph before heading back to the safety of my pack. Flippin heck I muttered "I've not only lost the sunshine I've now got to contend with this wind"

Goat's Water and Coniston Old Man from the top of Dow Crag South Rake.
 

Looking back on Buck Pike, Walna Scar and White Maiden.
Re-shoulderded I started to make my way towards Dow Crag summit where I was passed by the two climbers who I had seen climbing Giant's Crawl on 'B' Buttress but after taking a look at my photos later that evening I'm now wondering if these two are the same two I'd seen, if your reading this guys I hope it was you.

Harter Fell (Eskdale)
 

Passing the head of Great Gully.
With Black Combe and the Duddon Estuary in the distance.

Dow Crag summit beckons.
By now I'd already made the choice not to ascend the final (and exposed) crags on Dow Crag summit, it just wasn't worth the risk given the strength of the winds.

Slight Side, Sca Fell, Scafell Pike, III Crag, Great End, Esk Pike and Bow Fell from Dow Crag.
It maybe dull but at least it's clear. BTW that's Grey Friar's south west ridge in the foreground but I bet you already knew that.

Descending Dow Crag for Goat's Hawse.

I was still exposed to the wind which was unrelenting to say the least, during this descent I was nearly knocked off my feet twice, on the first occasion I was caught by gusts which caused me to stop dead and dig in with my walking poles, I was holding so tight to the handles my right thumb unlocked the strap without actually lifting the locking mechanism on handle of the pole.

Bonkers.


Looking back on Dow Crag, Buck Pike and Goat's Water after crossing Goat's Hawse.
From this angle I am able to see the snow close to the top of the South Rake over on the left.

Distant Scafells from Coniston Old Man summit.

I hadn't realised how much energy was struggling through the high winds during the descent of Dow Crag until I started my ascent on the Old Man where my good pace started with a crawl, never mind it looks like it's going to be one of those 'head down look at your boots kind of ascent' which I actually enjoyed. With the summit of the Old Man in sight I passed a young girl and her dog heading for Brim Fell and over the wind a Hi was shared. Despite the crowds I had a few moments where I had the summit to myself but it was no place to hang around given the near freezing temperatures and wind which incidently, wasn't as strong as it was back on Dow Crag.

After taking a few photos I turned heel and started to make my way towards Brim Fell.


The view of Coppermines, Low Water, Levers Water, Raven Tor, Black Sails and Wetherlam.
Taken shortly after I had left the summit from the ridge path.

Dow Crag silhouettes.
 

Coniston Old Man from Brim Fell.
"Lakelands best half mile ridge walk" if you ask me.

Brown Pike, Buck Pike and Dow Crag from Brim Fell summit.
Feeling content and with pleasing views I made my way towards Brim Fell where I passed the young girl and her dog again who must have made Brim Fell her 'out and back' as she headed back towards the Old Man. The summit winds were still breezy teetering on freezing but my plan now was to seek shelter on the other side of the summit cairn while I collect a few moments over looking one of my favourite views.


Reflection time, Brim Fell.

It was whilst stood here some years ago I was almost brought to tears by the sheer beauty of the landscape, it was around the same time of the day but if I remember rightly I had blue skies and a shimmering Irish Sea to feast upon, this afternoon I may not have the same conditions but at least miles out, the Irish Sea still shimmers.

With my pack resting against the summit cairn I sat here shielded by the wind just looking out were for a few moments I I'd forgot about Corona virus, I'd forgotten about the worry should I or one my family members catch it and not even the thought of supping a pint in my local entered my mind, for those few minutes, I'd forgot everything.

**********

What may have seemed a sensible thing to do last week is quickly changing as the possibilities of a Goverment lock down are looking closer by the hour. If that is the case then this walk could well be my last until Covid-19 has blown over and who knows how long that could take. With hoteliers, pubs and local businesses closing down we must all do our duty and not flood the countryside but continue to follow the governments advise by remaining indoors and maintaining social distancing, I for one am heartbroken not knowing if or when I may get to walk the Lakeland fells again but lets make one thing clear, the fells and lakes are going nowhere.


 

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