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23 April, 2006

Walk: the Old Man of Coniston

Within moment of A, A & I returning from our walk, J proposed another.  Much as I'd enjoyed the low-level walk to Tarn Hows, one of my planned objectives for the weekend was to climb the Old Man of Coniston; it was the walk H. & I aborted yesterday.  Hence, when J. suggested that, I barely hesitated: I dropped some food into my rucksack (little more than a muesli bar, a banana and a 500ml bottle of Coke) and we left.  I don't think I even stopped for a cup of tea between walks.

The first section, to Coppermines Valley was becoming familiar, but after a few minutes of confusion near the mine workings, we headed left, towards Levers Water, rather than right, towards Wetherlam. Somehow, the footpath on the map didn't match the gravel track on the ground, so the scramble to the reservoir was rather convoluted. I'd recommend simply following the gravel path from the start.

After a brief rest at the dam, we had much the same problem on the ascent to the Prison Band ridge: we kept losing the path. It did occur to me that following the recent introduction of 'right to roam' legislation, people might be choosing their own routes and the pre-existing paths, maintained merely by constant usage, might be becoming overgrown. In hindsight I don't think that was the case; it was just an intermittent rocky path which disappeared when crossing grassed areas, primarily used by those descending the valley. From above it was easy to see the next sections of path, whereas it was less clear from below.

By Prison Band, J. & I were walking in our usual manner i.e. I was quicker on the steep sections and didn't like to stop midslope, so only saw him at cols and summits. Unlike yesterday morning, this evening's sky was clear, so I did stop for a few photos, which prevented me getting too far ahead!

Once on the level ridge between Swirl How and Coniston, the weekend began to catch up with me, and my feet began to hurt. I wasn't looking forward to the steep descent after the main summit (803 m asl).

If anything, it was worse than I'd anticipated. I don't like descents anyway; each step jars and damages my feet in a way ascending & walking on the level don't, and I'm also more sure-footed when climbing. Virtually every time I've fallen on a hill (bruising or grazing myself; nothing serious) has been on the way down. Hence, I like to, er, run down steep hills, if the surface permits. The aspect which hurts is stopping my momentum on each step, so if I can minimise the stopping and merely control my momentum, it's much more comfortable.
That wasn't possible today. The entire route back to Coppermines Valley was on loose slate, so every step had to be carefully placed. Ow. I did manage to run on the lower, stable slopes, but the damage was done. After the culmination of a full weekend of walking, I think I'll lose both little toenails.

As I've mentioned in the photos annotations, we reached the floor of Coppermines Valley at dusk, as the last of the light failed, so the last mile or so along the miners' track was in near-full darkness. Good timing.

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