|Tilly admiring the views|
Not content with her new found love of sledging, Tilly the beautiful black Labrador decided to add ice-skating to her list of winter sports on a climb up Coniston Old Man. The weather has been rather wet and sludgy recently and whilst that makes for great waterfalls, it is nice when that blue sky day comes along, particularly when the fells are still snow-capped and you can go and enjoy them. This was the case just before Christmas so Tilly and I set off in search of snow.
Not wishing to be too adventurous given the conditions, we headed up the popular tourist path to Coniston Old Man, which I had been on quite recently and knew it was straightforward. I love making my way through the old mine works and seeing the shattered slate screes and it is made even more picturesque by seeing the summit of Coniston Old Man peeping out above and the views back down the valley to Coniston and to the surrounding fells, including the small mound aptly named The Bell, which runs parallel for much of the path. Even Tilly enjoyed gazing across the fells.
Before long we had reached the pretty and silent tarn called Low Water, nestled beneath the dark, rocky crags of Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell. The water was speckled with patches of thin ice like a patchwork quilt. Tilly loves swimming and ran towards it hopefully but after putting one paw tentatively in the water she thought better of it and ran towards me for a treat instead (and got one as I cannot resist the eyes).
As we headed up the final steep ascent from Low Water to the summit, the conditions changed totally. Ice was starting to cover parts of the stone-pitched path and it made walking a problem-solving exercise to find the non-icy sections. Tilly was rather confused as to why her paws were not working initially as each time she put a paw on the ice it slid. She walked on the grass at the side of the path for a while but then decided it was more fun on the ice so she jumped on the path again with all four paws and kept hopping and sliding in a movement that could have rivalled anything seen on “Dancing on Ice” and could possibly have given Torvil and Dean a run for their money. I tried to encourage her to walk on the grass but she was adamant she wanted to be on the ice and each time she slid she increased the speed her tail was wagging and looked at me with what can only be described as a grin as she skated back and forth across the path.
The higher up the path we got, the icier it was and then we reached frozen snow, which looked beautiful but was really treacherous to walk on. I decided to put my microspikes on so sat on a rock looking back down to Low Water and put one on and then just as I was about to put the second one on Tilly nudged my arm (wanting a treat) and it slipped from my hand, landing with a “chink” on the crystal snow and went sliding down the icy slope a few metres before coming to rest against a rocky outcrop. I looked at Tilly, who looked back with those golden eyes as if to say “well that wasn’t my fault and I still deserve a treat” and then looked down at the microspike. Sitting Tilly on the rock I was on I used my secure microspike to grip with one foot as I went down the slope to reach the other one. There were other rocks to hold onto fortunately so I reached the microspike without incident and put it on before making my way back up. Tilly’s tail continued to wag.
|Scafells from the summit of Coniston Old Man|
I put Tilly on a lead at this point as they have yet to invent microspikes for dogs and whilst she was clearly enjoying herself, she has no sense of self-preservation and there were no longer grassy edges to offer safety and respite and I didn’t want her skating over the edge. The going was faster once I had my spikes on and with ever-increasing views we reached the summit. There was much less snow on the summit as the sun had melted much of it and there was less blue sky but it was still beautiful. Two people were even paragliding just above the summit – they must have had the most wonderful views.
|Larking around in the snow|
The views to the Scafells from Coniston Old Man are superb on any occasion (unless you are plagued with low cloud and mist) but today they were spectacular. Whilst clear blue skies are beautiful, there is something about the texture of clouds and having layers of fells in front that really brings a landscape alive. Looking over Brim Fell and Grey Friar to the highest fells in England was amazing.
|Building up a turn of speed!|
|Sunlight on the estuary|
To avoid the ice on the descent (always more tricky than when ascending and being mindful of Tilly) we went down the southern ridge, which catches the sun most of the day so would be safer. Before leaving the summit however, Tilly found some soft snow to play in and as always, she went sledging and rolling and sprinted around chasing snowballs and having the time of her life. It is so much fun to watch and even though I have seen her do this several times now, she always makes me laugh.
|Autumn colours on the descent|
The sun was low over the estuary in the distance as we made our way off the mountain and the way it caught the sea and made it sparkle was stunning. It was an easy climb down to the Walna Scar road with Dow Crag behind us and catching the last autumn colours on the lower slopes made it feel almost like a different day to the icy ascent we had made.
I love walking with Tilly and she made a good walk a really special one. Thank you Tilly!
More photos of this walk available here.