The Coniston Round includes a number of Wainwright Fells. How many depends on how many detours you make. This walk describes the climb of Coniston Old Man before taking to the main ridge to Brim Fell, Swirl How and Wetherlam.
The direct approach to the Old Man of Coniston is ruined by the quarrying. Interesting that the story of the slate mining industry is it makes for an unsatisfactory climb. The quarrying is carrying on today with blasting and digging still recovering the much sought after olive green slate. Better to avoid the old workings by sticking to the valley side ridges. The approach to the high ridge is much more enjoyable with better views and better underfoot.
My favourite ascent of Coniston Old Man is via the Walna Scar Road which links Coniston village with little known Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley. The track leaves the Road and passes under Dow Crag via the narrow tarn of Goat’s Water. A memorable setting. In a similar vein the finest descent of the Coniston Round is over Wetherlam, a large whaleback fell which displays many of the characteristics I so cherish in the Lakeland fells. Here rocky outcrops, bracken strewn slopes and a multitude of confusing ridges offer a good map reading challenge. I say this with some feeling as part of the assessment for my Mountain Leadership qualification included Wetherlam.
The main ridge on the Coniston Round from the Old Man to Swirl How (much debate which of these two is highest) offers some easy walking and is pleasant enough. Detours from the main ridge to Dow Crag from Coniston Old Man and Grey Friar from Swirl How can (and should) be included if time permits.
Arthur Ransome based his books largely on the Coniston area. The copper mines and the ‘charcoal burners’ (now closed) were a large industry on Wetherlam and ‘Kanchenjunga’ is of course the Old Man.
Generally this is straightforward from a navigational view point. However in cloud finding the path to Grey Friar can be difficult. Wetherlam in particular has a number of sheep tracks on the wide summit area which may lead astray.
I like finding my way up one of the many gullies/ridges from Goats Water to Dow Crag. The summit is a grand airy spot. I also really like the outlying Grey Friar, in several visits I’ve never seen anyone else on it even when the Old Man – Swirl How ridge has been covered in holiday makers.
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