This is a slightly unusual approach to one of the classic Lakeland peaks, reaching the summit of the Old Man of Coniston from the west, via the The Cove and Goat's House. This route has two advantages - it avoids most of the tourists, clambering up the Old Man from the east, and it gives us fantastic views of the cliffs on Dow Crag, which overhang a large part of the route.
Ascent: 2,500ft/ 760m
Length: 7.1 miles/ 11.5km
Map: Explorer 06 English Lakes South West
Last Walked: 10 October 2007
Our starting point is a small area of parking 500 feet above the village of Coniston, at the end of the surfaced section of the Walna Scar Road. This road leaves Coniston from the crossroads in the south of the village, on the branch opposite the road to the lake side and the ferry pier. Our road runs west through the village, then turns sharply to the left and climbs steeply up out of Coniston, before leveling out and running across the fell side. At the end of the tarmaced road a gate leads into an abandoned quarry, where you will find space for a surprising amount of cars.
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For the first mile of our walk we follow the line of Walna Scar Road, as it runs west around the southern flank of the Old Man. From the car park onwards the road is actually a rough track that eventually crosses over Walna Scar and into the Duddon Valley. We follow this track until we reach the eastern side of the valley between the Old Man and Dow Crag, with the steep slopes of the Old Man to the right and more gentle slopes leading down to the lake to the left.
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After a mile on this track, a valley begins to open up to the right. Look out for a very clear path that leaves the Walna Scar Road to the right, heading up the right hand (eastern) side of this valley. Turn onto this path, and follow it as it climbs up this side valley (known as the Cove), with the scree below Dow Crag to the left and Goat Crag directly ahead. Our path leads up to Goat Crag, and then climbs around the western edge of the crag, emerging at the southern tip of Goat Water, a dramatically located tarn. Follow the path as it continues on past the tarn, and then as it climbs up towards Goat's Hause.
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At the top of the climb we reach Goat's Hause, the ridge that links the Old Man of Coniston and Dow Crag. Here there is a crossroads in the path, with the most obvious road heading left-to-right across our path. Turn right onto this path, and follow it as it climbs up towards the summit of the Old Man. After a short distance the path splits in
two - take the right hand branch and follow it as it climbs up and curves around to the right. After about a third of a mile, this path joins another equally clear path, and the combined paths head along the ridge right up to the top of the Old Man.
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After enjoying the views from the summit, we retract our steps back to Goat's Hause.
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This time, when we reach Goat's Hause we continue straight across and climb back up the other side of the pass, heading up towards Dow Crag.
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The only serious obstacle on this ridge is the summit of Dow Crag itself, a rocky outcropping on top of the otherwise smooth and grassy summit ridge that runs all the way back to Walna Scar. At the summit you can choose to climb up and over the rocky outcropping, or to bypass it to the right. On my last visit the rocks were rather too slippery, and so we took the alternative route around to the right (west). Once past Dow Crag, continue south along the ridge, reaching Buck Pike and Brown Pike, before finally the path drops down into a minor pass where it meets the Walna Scar Road.
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Turn left onto this track, and follow it all the way back to our starting point, passing across the mouth of The Cove, crossing over Torver Beck and passing our original turning point from step two on the way.