Postcard 2 from Coniston – The Billy Nine Mates Tour

The Yorkshire Dales, National Park post on Facebook encourages us to use nature to reduce anxiety. Maybe things are different in Cumbria!

The plan is to walk to Brown Pike along the Walna Scar Road (this is a bit of a misnomer as it’s barely a track but we know that) followed by a walk along the wide ridge to Old Man of Coniston Peak then find a way down either via the old copper mines or a more direct route that would bring us back to the cars and both are quite steep.

We park at the beginning of Walna Scar Road and feed the meter with four hours’ worth of coins with fingers crossed that we’d be back before it runs out. The weather is good but set to deteriorate which doesn’t bode well for the tops. The walk between the car park and Brown Pike is progressive but all ‘up’ and was chosen to avoid the harder but shorter direct route that could involve some scrambling.

We’re all happy with the decision and it does afford some astonishing views as we make out way along the stony surface trying not to stand on loose shale that’s a permanent hazard for all walkers not just elderly ones. It has to be said though that the consequences for a seventy-something-year-old may not be quite as forgiving as for a twenty-something so sticks are used to good effect and concentration is maintained.

The going is easy for a couple of kilometres but then the incline becomes more severe and we take the odd break not just to catch our breath but to take in the views and appreciate what we’re still capable of whilst speaking out loud our intentions to try to keep it up. It’s mutual support that’s got us to this level of fitness and it also helps when one of us may be struggling.

I can see the heavy cloud starting to muster in the distance and a moist curtain of white is beginning to roll over the top of Brown Pike as Berghaus and Paramo are extracted from rucksacks in a pre-emptive attempt to stay dry. In the short term, we may be a little too warm but we can live with that.

Wanna Scar Road disappears over the ridge and takes itself and its pilgrims along the contour to White Pike but we’re making an acute right to zig and zag our way to Brown Pike summit and it’s getting cold as well as wet.

I’m determined to get to the summit of Brown Pike as I’m on a mission to test my ability to handle heights. I’ve been on this mission for over 15 years and it’s beginning to show signs of improvement, especially after some of the adventures in Switzerland. I’m delighted that on this occasion I reach the top where the weather breaks and allows a panoramic view of Coniston and the surrounding mountains. I realise that I’m not paralysed with fear and take some time in between bursts of heavy cloud and rain to take in the fabulous scene beyond the escarpment on which I’m lucky enough to be standing.

This is where we part, Tony and I will be returning the way we came and the others will be making their way along the cloud-shrouded ridge on their way to the Old Man.

Our return is through dense cloud for almost two kilometres and we pass numerous others making their way to the top. Some are not well prepared for the conditions and I wonder why?

For the sake of carrying a bag they could give themselves half a chance and reduce the number of callouts for the emergency services! Oh well!

The rest of the team disappear into the swirling cloud and we wish them well as they fade in to the rain and heavy mist.

They get into the gully between the current range and the Old Man of Coniston to shelter from the vicious wind and manage a drink and a bite to eat before climbing onto the Old Man just as the cloud breaks giving them a superb view of the valleys below. George takes the opportunity to create a few snaps and then it’s back down to continue the return scramble down the fell side and back to the car.

This part of the journey is not without incident as they witness a helicopter rescue across the other side of the fell and a lady in trouble near the tarn when a huge boulder traps her leg then rolls aside leaving her in a lot of pain but, fortunately, still able to walk. There’s nothing to be taken for granted in the mountains.

Their return is welcome and tales are traded followed by fish and chips, beer and frivolity.

A great day, but let’s just say it was ‘a tad difficult’.

Enjoy the snaps. G x

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