A Brocken Spectre on Coniston Old Man

Name of walk A Brocken Spectre on Coniston Old Man
Date of walk 2008-12-30
Distance walked (miles) 7
Duration of walk 6 hours 30 minutes
Weather Mist, sunshine and thermal inversion.
Peaks on walk Coniston Old Man, Brim Fell, Swirl How
Walked with Ged and blind Kas
Parking Fell Gate car park.
For our last walk of 2008 Ged, Kas the blind dog and I headed for Coniston. We parked at the Fell Gate and headed for Coniston Old Man (2633ft) via the old mine workings and Low Water. We then went to Brim Fell (2611ft) and Swirral How (2630ft) and down the Prison Band towards Black Sail where we took the path down to Levers Water and back via the Pudding Stone and Boulder Valley. A walk of just over 7 miles.
It was sunny but the tops were covered in cloud. There was a chance of a thermal inversion which was meant to be above the height of the Old Man but I was hoping as the day went on it would sink to just below the tops and we would emerge into the sunshine and be above the clouds.

View to the Bell and Wetherlam beyond. The morning was frosty and rather cold. The car said -1C. So it was going to be a bit nippy on the tops.


Lots of ice covered many of the paths further up causing us to walk on the edges of the grass.


The higher we went the colder and frostier we got. We spent quite a while investigating all the old mine buildings of which there were many.


Bottom left is our route back via the Pudding Stone in Boulder Valley which we would do practically in the dark!


View to all the mining.


With today still being the holidays there were loads of people treking up the trail. At one narrow point near the summit we experienced the same bottle neck problems as at the Hillary Step!


Mine shaft.


I took a small detour to look at a couple of mine shafts in a cave, but it was too dark to see much and my camera flash didn`t illuminate much of interest so I quickly back tracked to rejoin Ged.


More old mine buildings.


Low Water was frozen, but just below the level of the clouds.


Ged braving the ice.


Me too!


We walked around the far side away from the crowds and had lunch looking at the human ants heading into the clouds.


Looking back.


We head up into the mist.


By the time we reached the summit of the Old Man there was just a hint of blue in the sky and the sun could be seem through the clouds, but it was too foggy to see any views. The world and his wife were on the summit cairn so we headed off for Brim Fell with fingers crossed that the clouds would drop.


Within 10 minutes of leaving the summit the miracle happened and the clouds started to settle. We could see the Scafells off to the left.


The Old Man summit we left shrouded in mist also appeared through the clouds.


Then Dow Crag poked its head through the mist.


Then to cap it all we saw a Brocken Spectre! This is the enormously magnified shadow of a climber or walker, cast upon the upper surfaces of clouds opposite the sun. The phenomenon can appear on any misty mountainside or cloud bank. The "spectre" appears when the sun shines from behind a climber who is looking down from a ridge or peak into mist. The head of the figure is often surrounded by the glowing halo-like rings of a "glory", rings of coloured light that appear directly opposite the sun when sunlight is reflected by a cloud of uniformly-sized water droplets. Above is one of me and Ged! You can just make out the rainbow halo.


Looking over to the Scafells with Grey Friar to the left. At this point my camera stopped working, probably due to the extreme cold. So I put the batteries down my bra and the camera snuggled in the warmth of my bosum, and hoped for it to start working again. In the meantime Ged lent me his spare camera and I snapped a few pix with it.


For the next 30 minutes we decended back under the clouds into the mist walking by the cairn of Brim Fell without stopping. We emerged back up the route to Swirl How into sunlight and this was the view back.


Swirl How ahead.



The boobs did their job and my camera was warm and happy again! So now I could take more pix. To the left is Brim Fell and behind that Coniston Old Man, to the right is the summit of Dow Crag peeking through the clouds. Spectacular!


Looking down at Seathwaite Tarn and the banks of cloud.


It is rather like looking down from an aeroplane!


Wetherlam peeking out to the right, the Helvellyn range to the left.


After Swirl How we decended the Prison Band which was rather awkward and a little slippery, we located the turn off for the route down to Levers Water. It was 4 O`clock by the time we reached it and was starting to get dark. We still had to go all the way around to the right and climb over via Simon`s Nick and down to Boulder valley. Then continue on until we reached the path up to Low Water we had taken this morning.

The last part of the walk was done in the dark. I needed to use my head torch to avoid all the ice on the paths we went through this morning. The walk had taken about six and a half hours. But turned out to be one of the best ones this year!