It was a clear, crisp and cold winter’s day. We wanted to get up high, into the snow and take in some views of the Lake District. We headed over to Coniston and strode out towards the Coniston Fells.
James and I like to get out walking regularly. Hillwalking keeps you fit and healthy and in good shape for working outdoors. I love the variety of the British landscape too; last weekend I was leading a bushcraft day walk in the steep-sided woods near to Ironbridge, Shropshire and the previous weekend I was immersed deep in the woods of East Sussex teaching a private bushcraft course.
Here we were out amongst the marvellous Lakeland Fells – a good opportunity to exercise some winter hillwalking skills.
Our aim for the afternoon was to complete a circular walk taking in the summit of Wetherlam (762m/2,502ft) at the eastern end of the Coniston Fells. These fells are rugged and steep. They also bear the scars of a long-gone copper mining industry and more recent quarrying efforts. Despite this, these hills retain much of their natural character.
As Wainwright wrote of Wetherlam in particular, “This fine hill, however, is too vast and sturdy to be disfigured and weakened by man’s feeble scratchings on the surface, and remains today, as of old, a compelling presence to which walkers in Brathay will oft turn their eager steps.”
Certainly, once we rose above Levers Water, you could scarcely notice the signs of workings on the lower slopes.
After a final push up a snowy slope, we were met by an amazing vista. A panorama of snowy hills and mountains spread out before us. James, a native of Cumbria, said rarely had he seen such a clear view of this area.
The dusting of snow and low afternoon light, conspired to highlight a huge amount of surface detail and texture in the surrounding hills.
We continued round to the summit of Wetherlam. From here we had good views across to Windermere and further to the Howgills and Shap Fells. We didn’t linger long at the top; it had been 0 degrees Celsius at the start of the walk and up here we figured it was easily the -5 degrees Celsius predicted by the MWIS site. With some windchill from a light breeze, it felt colder.
We headed off down a spur, bathed in a golden light from the last of the afternoon sun. It wasn’t long before the sun dropped behind the other hills in the range to the west of us. And with it, the temperature also started to drop.
As we headed down the narrow path towards the main track back to Coniston, the light had faded enough for us to be able to see Venus in the southwest.
Further south and higher up in the sky was a bright moon, about half full and providing plenty of illumination as our eyes adjusted to the dimming light. We returned to the car without needing the use of our head-torches.
We’d made the effort to get out of the ‘office’ and had been rewarded with a truly memorable day; We’d applied various outdoor leadership skills such as route planning, map reading and dynamic risk assessment; and we’d exercised our legs and lungs. Some people might characterise our afternoon as ‘skiving’ but in our line of work it was an afternoon very well spent.
Let us know in the comments your favourite areas for a day walk/hike.
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