An eagerly awaited 3 days in the Lakes went superbly to plan last weekend. This has now become an annual joint birthday treat for me & my mate Alan, based in Grasmere, staying at the Oak Bank Hotel with it’s superb Masterchef style evening meals. This year I took the Friday off and we arrived in the Lakes at lunchtime to bag a couple of Wainwwrights Sour Howes & Sallows with plenty of time left for cuppas at Baldrys, followed by a 4 course dinner & pint of Loweswater Gold at Tweedies. Yep it’s a tough life 🙂
Saturday brought the expected better weather so the only decision making problem was whether to have a sensible hill breakfast or the full fry up. The problem with the latter is it’s definitely not so easy to digest walking uphill soon afterwards. The problem with the former is it’s definitely impossible not to order the latter. So after a full fried breakfast we set off for an assault on the Coniston Wainwrights from the Three Shire Stone. Alan had done these years ago and was convinced that there was limited parking up there, in fact he’d been worrying about this for the past 2 days also insisting it’d be steep. My worry was the state of my handbreak so when we found ourselves in a long line of traffic heading up Wrynose Pass we grabbed the first parking opportunity which then turned out to be half a mile & 200ft below the starting point. Once we had walked up to the 3 Shires we of course found….loads of parking spaces. Oh well.
Stupidly I chose this moment to familiarise myself with the all new ViewRanger tracking update on my phone. A sensible person would of course have done this beforehand but I am not one of those people so there folloed a slight delay whilst I faffed about trying to find the relevant pressy things. From the Stone we spotted a nice shiny stepped path heading up at a good angle south westish which proved an excellent well maintained route with great views along Wrynose Bottom before swinging south and up. I then discovered ViewRanger wasnt tracking despite it being turned on so I had to close & restart the app before everything worked ok and the route tracking started from the point below.
Actually a slow start was most welcome after that full fried breakfast, in fact I was already very relieved I’d given Alan my sausage earlier…….probably a joke there somewhere?
Once the sloggy uphill was over it looked extremely pleasant up there with great visibilty and nicely different angles on familiar hills. I’d only done the Old Man & Dow Crag before years ago in mist so all this was new and of course the weather was cooperating excellently.
Walking out to Grey Friar reminded me of Lingmell, slightly off the main track and an excellent viewpoint, really liked it up here, will return one day. See the 360 degree panorama video with expert commentary:-)
We then headed back east then southwards skirting below Brim Fell eventually to Goats Hawse another lovely viewpoint and extremely busy with gangs coming up from Coniston. Back in 1988 we hardly saw a sole as we arrived at Goats Water and edged our way up a steep snow filled South Rake into the mist. First use of an axe and whilst the view down through the legs was exciting it was best to keep looking up. Seemed fun at the time but not sure I’d do that nowadays.
It was tempting to spend too long on Dow Crag gazing at the seascape and ant-like walkers buzzing around below, I could see Blackpool Tower (just) and wish I’d brought the binocs. Time was pressing though so we headed back down and quickly up to the Old Man for my first views up there. V busy, seemed to be a queuing system for pics of the trigpoint :-).
After a short break up here it was time to turn back north and move it, so we shot off at a fast pace immediately halted by a couple asking advice on the best way down. The bloke seemed ok but his rather attractive girlfriend was wearing Hunter Wellingtons (not recommended) and very tight riding trousers which brought a welcome addition to the glorious mountain scenery. Resisting the temptation to follow her behind we managed to pick up the pace north over Brim Fell, Great How and eventually reaching Swirl How at 4.30pm for a 15 min rest. We discussed options on top as we weren’t sure if there was enough time to walk out to Wetherlam and get back for the evening meal. Still unsure we headed quickly down the knee jarring Prison Band to the dip at Swirl Hawse for a final decision. Down here Wetherlam looked far far away and just at the point of deciding to head down we decided to sod it and race up. Turned out to be a good path, good angle and good decision, reaching Wetherlam by 5.30pm.
After a 10min break we dashed back down to Swirl Hawse and made our way carefully off the dip north west below Broad Slack on a fairly direct line for the 3 Shire Stone keeping left not to lose too much height. We stumbled upon a few pieces of wreckage from the Halifax bomber that crashed here during the Second World War in 1942. Despite the age they looked like new, Alan said last time here there’d been far more scattered around.
The going here was tough with the final ascent very tough after the days walking and it was a relief to crest Wet Side Edge and pick up the starting path down to Wrynose. With hindsight Alan’s route today was spot on, a really great day out amidst fine scenery.
Course we still had that extra half mile walk down to the car, followed by a quick boot change, drive to Grasmere, 2 quick baths & still in time for the 2nd 4 course meal at 8pm!!.
- Start/Finish Three Shire Stone – various laybys (we started below)
- 7 hrs 43mins (starting at 11.10am, finishing 7.00pm)
- 12.2 miles (19.63 km)
- 4,938ft (1,505m) of ascent
- Accomodation & excellent food – Oak Bank Grasmere
Click on the map below for the interactive Route on Social Hiking
Next day was wet so my knees welcomed the opportunity to go boot shopping in Keswick. All the forecasts agreed on a huge weather improvement so on the way back to the M6 we diverted to the small Wainwright Great Mell Fell. Have always fancied standing up here after passing sooo many times on the A66. Luckily the weather broke just in time and just as forecasted however 5 mins after leaving the car it pissed it down and continued raining all the way up with a stiff cold wind. Fortunately it did break briefly once on top and we managed to get the intended views, I always imagined a late evening summer stroll up here however this was different. always fun though.