Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag

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The ascent of the Old Man of Coniston is one of the most popular mountain walks in the Lake District. Ease of access is one reason, which probably accounts for the large number of people to be found on the mountain on a summer day. People who would never dream of walking up a hill set off into the unknown and many of them actually make it to the top. Some of them will be ill-equipped, wearing the clothing you are more likely to see in a city, but the lure of the summit drags them on. Most take the popular way, following the good track winding its way up by the old mines and quarries, passing Low Water on the way to the summit (see Walkingworld Route 4411, The Coniston Heights) and that is the route where you will see the largest percentage of sandals and carrier bags. There are other ways however and this route takes a quieter path, avoiding the crowds.

The walk starts from the car park on the Walna Scar Road and follows this road for a short distance before turning off at a track leading to a disused quarry. From there the route follows a path crossing the southern slopes of the Old Man. This path takes the easiest line and is straightforward to follow. What's more, you will not see many other walkers. This changes suddenly when you reach the summit, to meet those who came up the popular route.

Most of them will go down the same way they came up, so within a couple of hundred metres you will leave the crowds behind as you descend to Goat's Hawse. There is an easy escape route here if you need it, taking you down a shorter way by Goat's Water, but this route continues over Dow Crag before carrying on along Buck Pike and Brown Pike to the highest point on the Walna Scar Road. From there it's a steady descent back to the start point.

This walk is fairly short by some standards. A longer variation would be to start this route in reverse, following the Walna Scar Road west to its highest point, then turning right to follow the well-defined, stony track to Brown Pike and then the summit of Dow Crag, continuing round to the col at Goat's Hawse before taking the rising path to the right to the summit of Coniston Old Man. From there join Route 4411 at Waymark 4 and follow the ridge to Swirl How and beyond. This would give a walk of 15.5km with a 1,022-metre height gain, taking around six hours or more.

Take the short walk or the long variation. Both are a great day out.

England - North England - Cumbria - Lake District - South West

Features

Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, Lake/Loch
01/06/2017 - Paul Shorrock

First of all, thanks to Geoff Dixon for his comment. Unfortunately, inserting more waymarks on the section mentioned isn’t an option, as there are few distinctive features that would make an unambiguous waymark. I re-walked the path a week after Geoff, and agree that the path is not immediately obvious in some places. The best action if the path becomes vague is to stop and look ahead – scanning the ground will usually turn up a clue as to the correct way. My wife doesn’t navigate on our walks, so I let her lead this section, and although I have a better ‘eye’ for a line than she does, she managed to find her way up this section. On the OS 1.25k map the route heads mostly west towards ‘Little Arrow Moor’, then turns north heading for ‘Crag O’Stile’ – from there the path is more obvious and heads up the broad South Ridge of Coniston Old Man via ‘Old Man Breast’. Poor visibility would certainly make this section more difficult, as the clues might not be so obvious. If the route is lost, the best option would be to take the easiest line heading upwards – as Waymark 3 is the summit, it gives you something concrete to aim for, so keep heading up! It’s worth repeating that this route does not follow the paths marked on the OS 1.25k and 1.50k maps, nor is it the route described by Alfred Wainwright in his 'Southern Fells' guide published in 1960.

19/05/2017 - Geoff Dixon

The path between waypoint 2 and 3 was far from clear. More waypoints are needed along this section.

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