Lake District

resent: Richard S (organiser), Martin B, Martin L, Sarah, Maggie, Claire, Alan, Bruce, Andy, Lee, Jarca, Adriana, Tarinee, Anthony, Simon H, Simon P

Location: Coppermines Hut, above Coniston

This was a popular trip, so much so that at one point Richard’s accountancy skills failed him and he had 17 people booked into a hut sleeping 16. Fortunately for him, illness saved him having to make the ultimate sacrifice (ahem) and give up his own place. The early arrivals got the fires going and by late evening the common room was quite cosy, with open bottles a-plenty and several discussions about plans for Saturday. For the majority, an excursion to the Langdales seemed to be the popular option…

… and then the early risers (surely not on an NMC trip?) on Saturday morning contemplated the lashing wind and rain. After a democratic show of hands at the breakfast table, suddenly Claire, Sarah and Maggie’s low-level walk proved a lot more popular. Undaunted, Richard, the two Martins and Adriana still set off for Little Langdale and a good walk followed by a few pints of OP.

The main group walked down the main track to Coniston and followed the Cumbria Way along Coniston Water. From there they cut across through woods and open access land to Torver where they stopped at a pub named the Wilson Arms (appropriate, since Bruce was in the lead at that point). After a pint, there was a choice of routes back to the hut: some chose the higher option towards the Old Man of Coniston, and others went for the less windy route which eventually dropped them down on the other side of the river from the hut.

A bit of a climb… (Bruce)

The lower route (Bruce)

Map faff du jour (Anthony)

Meanwhile, by 8am Lee and Andy were ready to go and first out the door. The weather wasn’t going to thwart plans and rucksacks bulging with climbing gear were eagerly shouldered. From the bunkhouse they joined the Walna Scar Road, an old drovers road connecting Coniston with the Dunnerdale valley. After a couple of miles they cut across country towards Goat Water and the base of Dow Crag. By this time the rain had ceased but visibility was poor – the cliff didn’t come into sight until they were almost upon it.

Water streamed down the rock and the first choice route was quickly discounted. The second choice route was then the challenge for the day – the classic Giant’s Crawl (450ft, Diff, ***, “inescapable and desperate in poor conditions” according to the guide). With wet rock, climbing in walking boots added an extra element to the day’s excitement. Andy started off and then leads were swapped for each pitch. On each pitch the belayer got incredibly cold and climbing in wet gloves did nothing to help warm the fingers. Lee showed a steady head on the ‘narrows’ where the easy line got squeezed between the steeper rock above and below. Higher still Andy used a full repertoire of expletives to overcome a particularly greasy awkward corner. After almost seven hours on the route they emerged on the summit plateau in a howling gale. Climbing gear was removed and dumped in the ‘sacs and a last swig of peppermint was had before heading back down to the Walna Scar Road and the way back to the bunkhouse. After a gruelling 11 hours on the go in the cold and wet they got back to the bunkhouse at 7pm to be greeted with the sight of everyone sat round the table and dinner being served – perfect timing.

Dinner, courtesy of Anthony, was two different types of pasta which was eagerly devoured. This was followed by dessert, apple pie sourced by Sarah and Maggie from (where else?) the Apple Pie cafe in Ambleside. Later on, there was the unexpected bonus of unwanted birthday cake from members of the Barrow Mountaineering Club who were staying in the members’ section of the hut – especially apt as it was actually Sarah’s birthday.

Sunday morning was another fairly early start for Lee and Andy, who went to Grizedale Forest to take on the North Face mountain bike trail, a purpose built trail of about 19km. This was the perfect antidote to the previous day as the sun shone down for the couple of hours they were out. With a slightly later start, the main body of the group did an ascent of the Old Man of Coniston before heading south again. Bruce, Alan, Maggie and Sarah drove to Grasmere and walked up Helm Crag, also getting some unexpected sunshine.

At the top of Helm Crag (Bruce)

Going up the Old Man (Anthony)

Sarah Davies, Andy Miles

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