Winter Walking on Wetherlam

A wintery mountain panorama from the flanks of Wetherlam
A wintery mountain panorama from the flanks of Wetherlam. Photo: Paul Kirtley
At Frontier Bushcraft we don’t need much of an excuse to get outside. In fact we need a good reason to remain indoors. So, on Wednesday after a morning of working on some documents, James Bath and I closed our laptops and headed for the hills to stretch our legs.

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.

Levers Water and the surrounding hills, Coniston Fells
Dammed to raise its level and supply water to the copper mining industry, Levers Water nestles in the hills above. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

As Wainwright wrote of Wetherlam in particular, “This fine hill, however, is too vast and sturdy to be disfigured and weakened by manโ€™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.

Looking down to Levers Water
Looking back down towards Levers Water, with Coniston Water in the distance. Photo: Paul Kirtley

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.

A snowy mountainscape.  Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell and the Scafell range.
A wonderful vista: Looking across to the Scafell range. A great reason to be out of the 'office'. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

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.

Paul Kirtley and James Bath of Frontier Bushcraft Ltd at the summit of Wetherlam
A quick snapshot on the cold and exposed summit of Wetherlam. Photo: Paul Kirtley (camera on timer).

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.

James Bath heading down a spur towards Coniston.
Heading home in the soft light of the late afternoon. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

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.

Wonderful colors as the light fades with Venus coming into view in the centre of the picture

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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Paul Kirtley is Founder and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog. He is the author of Wilderness Axe Skills and Campcraft, as well as having contributed to several other books. Paul has been involved in teaching bushcraft since 2003. He is also a Canoe Leader, British Canoeing Level 3 Canoe Coach and UK Summer Mountain Leader.

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4 Responses

  1. Paul Shakesby
    | Reply

    Just a fantastic day out, captured with brilliant photos.
    Yes! the lakes!! My favourite area is Buttermere, I have gone up, down and round those mountains many a time. It is quiet, pitch black on a night, and just stunningly beautiful. A quiet sunset on haystacks is something to remember. My Girlfriend Kelly (a non walker / non exerciser, non outdoor person!) surprised me when she said for my birthday last year she would come with me, up to my favourite place, Innominate tarn. After 3 hours of her telling me she was going to die, not make it, just leave her for the wolves (?) even she had to admit I was onto something! I then proceeded to be told how mad i was with the route i took back down to the ground. No, she hasn’t come with me again! (Yet!)
    For a challenge, i always aim to complete the “Newlands round” once a year. which takes in the 5 peaks around the Newlands valley, I always forget, and then remember half way up how much I hate Dale Head, but it is always worth it at the top!

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      Hi Paul

      Thanks for your comment. Buttermere is a nice area. I like the Red Pike – High Stile – High Crag traverse. Haystacks as you say is something to remember. Dale Head – what’s worse? Ascending from, or descending to, Honister? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’ve had some great nights bivvied up near Brandreth with views down to Buttermere. Also, on one memorable occasion I got up in the middle of the night to answer the call of nature and, having gone to bed amongst the clouds, was surprised to see a clear sky and a bright moon. Borrowdale was full of thick low cloud/mist and the moon was illuminating it all in an incredible silvery light. It was an amazing view. It looked as if you could walk straight off the hills and cross the valley on top of the cloud.

      Makes me want to get back into the hills just thinking about it…

      All the best,


  2. Duane
    | Reply

    Looks Like the perfect cold crisp day for a good walk, Stunning views too ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply


      It was one of those rare days that you can’t afford not to take advantage of ๐Ÿ™‚

      All the best,


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