The best adventures are the spontaneous ones. The ones planned at the last minute, the ones when you say ‘let’s go and explore’ – and then do so almost at once. The Lake District offers so many opportunities for such adventures, with its countless hills, mountains and little towns and villages just waiting to be discovered. So when Becky messaged me a few weeks ago with the suggestion that we climb one of the South Lakes’ most popular fells the next day, I put the endless amounts of Pilates revision I had to do to the back of my mind and let myself be talked into it almost immediately.
The Coniston Old Man is well known and well loved, but in all my years living in the Lake District I had never climbed it. Monday dawned with clear blue skies and sunshine: I hastily scrambled together a rucksack packed with snacks, water and an assortment of cosy layers, throwing on my walking boots as I left the door. A 15 minute drive and we were stood looking up at a snow capped summit, ready to blow away the cobwebs and prepared for some stunning sights along the way.
Every step closer to the peak offered a more beautiful view than the last. We stopped at Low Water, a gorgeous little water just over half way up, to refuel and allow a fell runner to overtake us. So far, the walk had been easy. Above us, snow covered the path and suggested we’d need to be more than a little bit careful. I can’t stress enough at this point the importance of common sense when out walking. I’m by no means a pro, or even an experienced walker, but I’d advise going with at least one other person, making sure your phone has plenty of battery, and not moving beyond your point of comfort. If you don’t think it’s safe to continue, don’t continue. Normally a fairly easy family friendly walk from what I’m told, on a snowy day like this one, the going was slippy and in parts icy: nothing major, but one wrong move and you could easily find yourself on your bum (guilty) or injured. Also wear the right kit: we’re not talking gear which costs hundreds and wouldn’t look out of place on Everest, but a good pair of walking boots and warm layers make all the difference.
We carefully wound our way to the summit, and stopped: the sound of absolute silence washed over us as we slowly did a full 360 to take in those views. The crystal clear blue sky meant we could just make out the Isle of Man on one side, whilst white tipped mountains stretched as far as the eye could see on the other. All good walks include a picnic, so we unpacked ours (sausage rolls, peppermint tea and chocolate hobnobs) and rested our legs as the crisp, cold air surrounded us. Re-energised, neither of us were ready to head back down into the reality of the world below just yet. We decided to extend our original plans, and a few hours later made it back to our starting point, via another Wainright, Swirl Howe, and the beautiful Levers Water. Our initial agreement to be home ‘before lunch’ was a long forgotten resolution, but when the sky is this blue and the views so stunning, who could ever want to leave?