Walk up Old Man of Coniston via Dow Crag and the South Rake

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Route Summary:

Dow Crag and Goat’s Water are arguably the highlights on the excellent route to The Old Man on Coniston. Scramblers will enjoy the South Rake option.

Distance
Ascent
Time
6.7 km 691 m 2 hours one way

Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.

Start and Finish: Walna Scar Car Park - The Old Man of Coniston

Facilities:

None at Walna Scar

Hazards:

The crags of Dow Crag are the realm of climbers and should be avoided unless you have the skills and experience to negotiate them. The South Rake is steep and loose but should not pose too many problems for most walkers.

Treat the old mine workings with respect and do not enter any of the mine entrances. Unmarked shafts and adits (horizontal entrances) may exist.

Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Mountain Safety , Navigation and what equipment you’ll need.

Public Transport:

No public transport goes to Walna Scar, though buses serve Coniston village

Traveline for UK Public Transport
Parking and Post Code for Sat Nav (where applicable): LA21 8HE (approx)

Walna Scar Car Park (currently free but the NPA are currently considering introducing Pay and Display)

Weather Forecast:

Met Office Lake District Mountain Weather

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Walk up Old Man of Coniston via Dow Crag and the South Rake Route Map and GPX Download

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Guidebooks:

Summits and Places on this Route

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Walk up Old Man of Coniston via Dow Crag and the South Rake Details

A visit to Coniston is almost unimaginable without climbing its most famed peak; the Old Man of Coniston. It dominates the village with the summit being barely 3km from the centre (although some 600m higher!).

It is popular with walkers and tourist alike as several, well-marked paths snake up to the summit. This route gives you a bit of a head start, beginning at the car park at the end of the Walna Scar road and leads to Goat’s Water – easily one of the most dramatic areas of the Coniston fells. You’ll be climbing Dow Crag first which has some of the most impressive rock architecture in all of the Lake District. It’s no surprise that it is a hot spot for climbers and scramblers.

This route also includes an option to climb the South Rake on Dow Crag, a bit of a hidden gem around these parts.

For more information on the Old Man of Coniston – read our article detailing All the Walks up Coniston Old Man which has a few further walking options from Coniston including the ‘tourist route’ from Walna Scar Road.

Walk up Old Man of Coniston via Dow Crag Full Route Description

1 – Due to the fact it is both high (180m) and free, the car park at Walna Scar can fill up, so arrive early to avoid disappointment. The parking area is part of the old quarry works so don’t expect it to be flat or tarmacked. Low-slung sports cars may struggle here.

2 – Leave the car park at the opposite end to the gated entrance, following the Walna Scar Road as it continues. The road (a restricted byway) links Coniston to Seathwaite in Dunnerdale. It is easily followed as it gradually climbs, passing through a couple of rock cuttings to reach a signed cairn at SD 27406 96469. Here, you can decide if you want to tackle the South Rake or continue on the summit of the road. For the South Rake option, skip to paragraph 3a. If you decide against the South Rake, read on.

3 – Pass the cairn and continue following the road, crossing a bridge, as it snakes up its high point. The track will steepen and become rougher underfoot, passing a small shelter. Shortly after this, you will reach the summit of the road (SD 25838 96470). Take a right at a signposted cairn where a gravel path zigzags up to the summit of Brown Pike, a minor peak along the route. Keep following the path northwards across Brown Pike and the neighbouring Buck Pike where you will eventually make the final climb to Dow Crag’s summit.

Alternative Route – Old Man of Coniston Dow Crag via The South Rake

Coniston Old Man via Dow Crag and the South Rake

3a – Take a right at the cairn to follow a path which climbs more steeply towards The Cove. As you climb Dow Crag will begin to emerge. Keep following the path as it cuts up through some rocks to reach the outlet of Goat’s Water. Here, take the time to inspect the screes below Down Crag to find an eroded path which zigzags steeply up the base of the crags – this is your first objective (it runs up to the base of the buttress that is separated by the two large, dark gullies).

3b – Cross the outlet stream and hop through the large boulders at the foot of the scree to find the beginnings of the eroded path. Once on the path, follow it as it climbs very steeply to the base of the crags. It is very loose in places and you may need to use your hands for balance.

Walk up Old Man of Coniston via Dow Crag and the South Rake

3c – Upon reaching the base of the crags, take a moment to savour the surroundings and get your bearings. To your right is the large Great Gully, separating A and B buttresses (Dow Crag’s buttresses are labelled A – F in a south-north direction). The small gully to the left of A buttress is Easy Gully (easy by rock climbing standards). To the left of Easy Gully, hidden up until now, is the South Rake, a ribbon of scree that curves up from the base of A buttress.

3d – The climb up the South Rake is straightforward though steep and loose. Some scrambling is certainly required at times. It is very similar to Lord’s Rake on Scafell though more sustained. As you climb, you will pass the entrance to Easy Gully on the right. Be aware that many of the rocks you will be using as handholds are loose and can flake away so test them before committing to using them. The rake steepens as it reaches the top before you emerge on the main Dow Crag ridge. Take a right and make the final climb to the summit.

4 – From the summit of Dow Crag, start your descent in a northerly direction towards Goat’s Hause. The path comes and goes until you reach the hause. You will see two paths climbing towards The Old Man, the left of the two is the main and recommended one. The climb isn’t particularly onerous and, eventually, you will reach the crest of the Old Man – Swirl How ridge where the summit of The Old Man will be in sight.

5 – From this point, the summit is a short distance away. To the left, below, you will see a path passing Low Water. This is a good option to continue this walk and get back to the car park at Walna Scar. The Old Man’s summit is topped by a large platform and cairn, along with an OS trig pillar and has a superb, all-round view.

There are a number of descent options with the two most obvious ones being the Tourist Path and the route via Church Beck and the YHA.

Dave Chick

Keen hiker. Can often be found out of his depth somewhere in Cumbria. Brand ambassador for Ascendancy ApparelUse code ALLGEAR10 for 10% discount

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