The Old Man of Coniston also known as Coniston Old Man or The Old Man is 802 metres high. It sits west of the village of Coniston, overlooking Coniston Water.
This mini mountain is popular with tourists and fell-walkers with many well-marked paths to the summit. The Old Man of Coniston was the site of extensive slate mining activity for eight hundred years. The evidence and artefacts from this can still be seen along the paths.
The summit has a unique construction of combined slate and cairn. On a clear day, there are views to Morecambe Bay, Blackpool Tower and Winter Hill in the Pennines.
Our plan for the day was to walk to the waterfall by the copper mines at the bottom of the Old Man of Coniston. As the walk from our site to the bottom of the hill takes roughly an hour we had no intention of climbing to the summit.
My legs were already aching from all the walking we’d done over the past three days. Adding that to the fact that I’m scared of heights meant I most definitely was not climbing to the top of the Old Man of Coniston. Apparently, running around a kitchen for twelve to fourteen hours a day isn’t the same as walking around the countryside. Therefore, Nik’s legs were also feeling the strain. With this knowledge, I felt safe that Nik wouldn’t be tempted to try and drag me up this mini mountain.
Oh, how wrong was I?
Following a route we’d seen on a notice board we started our walk past the Ruskin Museum. The beginning part of the walk was a steady climb towards the Coppermine’s cottages. This was a pretty barren and therefore boring beginning route. We later discovered a path that starts along the side of the Sun Hotel, this looks far more interesting.
Once we reached Coppermines Valley we could see two waterfalls in the distance. We’re still not sure if either is the waterfall that we’d come to see. The reason for this is that we got distracted. Nik was on a mountain, and all the joy he gets from climbing these things had awakened. He kidded himself, and me, that he just wanted to see around the corner.
I should have known better.
Once I let Nik start even the smallest journey up a hill we were climbing it. Knowing that we were both too unfit for a hill this tall, should have stopped him. It didn’t, Nik loves climbing hills, the taller the better. Against my better judgement and because I really did want to be able to say I’d reached the top. I let Nik drag me kicking and screaming up this mini mountain.
The route he chose wasn’t the easiest. Although judging by a number of people we met, it was the most popular.
We mostly followed the paths used as mining tracks. They were pretty steep and just to make the walking harder they were covered in loose slate and other rubble. However, there are several points of interest all the way up. For instance, there are the remains of old mine buildings and bits of mining machinery. Amazing walls and pathways that really make you think about the poeple that built them at that height. A beautiful pond not too far from the top, called Low Water and most importantly views to die for.
I have to admit that I didn’t make it to the top. We’d stopped beside the pond for a drink and to let me catch my breath. My legs were suffering and I did tell Nik that I didn’t need to see the view, that I’ll admit. I had made it that far though and so far with only a tiny little twinge about the height. So Nik was determined that having reached the pond I could get to the top. We were nearly there.
Unfortunately, after this point in the walk the path becomes very steep. If like me, you’re scared of heights it starts to become impossible to ignore how high you are.
I managed to get about ten minutes from the summit. I have no idea how high that is. At this point I found myself on my hands and knees clinging to a rock, unable to move.
Having come this far it would have been cruel of me not to let Nik finish. He came back the conquering hero, with a huge smile of satisfaction on his face. And told me that closer to the summit the path becomes more like a gully and there is no way I’d have been able to continue. So it’s a good job I scared when I did.
Although I’m gutted not to have completely conquered my first mini mountain, I’m still chuffed to have climbed as high as I did.
The climb back down was somewhat unpleasant. To begin with I had to slide down on my bottom until I felt safe to stand. Just as we reached the area that was most unstable under foot a sheep poked it’s head out. Ella may only be a small dog, but when she sees sheep she has the pull of an elephant. And I’d forgotten to bring her halti. So I had to walk almost to the bottom using every ounce of will power not to slip, whilst holding back an over excited sheep chaser.
My shoulders and knees were in agony for days after.
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