The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Thrashing Around On The Old Man

Having aborted our trip up The Old Man of Coniston yesterday, and made do with just a trip over Dow Crag, The Old Man seemed like a good objective for today instead.

That idea nearly got abandoned about half a mile in, when we caught sight of quite how low the cloud was. I’m generally a fair weather hill-goer, preferring to see something if I’m going to slog up a hill, so I suggested that we should drop back down and just take a stroll around Tarn Hows instead.

For reasons I now can’t quite recall, we didn’t loop around back into the valley, but continued our route, which was to take us over Little Arrow Moor onto The Old Man.

Perhaps we should have taken one of the main paths up, because we were soon not only in the snow, but also in thick cloud. This snap was taken just a handful of steps before we lost the trodden line entirely:


We thrashed around a bit looking for a sensible line to take, and considered just heading straight up, but the combination of such poor visibility, the snow and the presence of crags/slagheaps in the area suggested it wasn’t a wise plan. Back down we went, as far as the fenced-off deep quarry we had left a wee while before, but instead of retreating from there we looked at the map and decided to see if we could contour around the hill to pick up the main path to the north. The obvious obstacle in our way was another quarry, but we hoped we would be able to pass above it.

Mine workings just before the quarry gave good shelter for elevenses (time was flying; elevenses turned out to be at half past twelve!). As you can see, visibility was still poor:


Alas, when we reached the next deep quarry, we found ourselves thrashing around again. The lack of visibility meant that we couldn’t see whether it was feasible to make our way around it on the uphill side. Neither did an exploration down the hill reveal an obvious way around in that direction, and we didn’t want to risk a ridiculous move which saw us both plunging to our deaths, so we did the sensible thing and turned back. Quite literally, we retraced our steps (handy thing about snow!), or at least we did until Little Arrow Moor where (having dropped below the snow line) I missed a turn and took us a far more ‘interesting’ route back down to the Walna Scar Road.

So, our objective was missed for the second day in a row. But, do you know, I reckon today’s outing was far more interesting than a trip up to the hill-top would have been. Had we simply followed a path it would have been a plod in the cloud with nothing to see. As it went, we saw some interesting relics of the old mining activities and frequently had to stop to think. It may not have been what we intended, but it was a good day out.

With a trip into Coniston on our way back, our outing was 8.6 miles long with around 2400 feet of ascent.


  1. Gosh! I've been geocaching south of Kendal in sunshine, but cold weather and lots of mud, whilst you were thrashing about not so far away in the white stuff. It looks like The Old Man has got something against you?

    1. The other side of the lake looked brighter even as we set out this morning. And, after we dropped back down out of the cloud and headed into Coniston this afternoon there were even some blue patches in the sky. However, The Old Man stayed stubbornly shrouded all day.

  2. I was up in Coniston for the weekend: absolutely awful weather on Saturday....and I came home on Sunday!
    Shame I didn't know you were in the area, we could have gone for a soggy walk!

    1. We only arrived after dark on Sunday. Pity you weren't there a day longer - the weather wasn't bad at all (except for the strong wind) on Monday!

  3. Frustrating but still fun hopefully, it was a pretty full on weekend, I was over at Grasmere!

    1. Funnily enough, I didn't find it frustrating. I think the combination of it not being a good day to be atop a hill, and the fact that we have been up there before, caused me to be quite relaxed about not achieving our objective and instead enjoy our wanderings.

    2. I note you've escaped the flatlands if not the awful weather. That said, poor conditions can bring their own rewards so I can easily identify with your sentiments.

    3. Well, if we're going to have awful weather anyway, we may as well have it somewhere more interesting!