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Duddon Valley, Walna Scar Road, Dow Crag, Grey Friar, Cumbria.
[ 18.0 km] Wed 01 Feb 2012

SD 2348 9927
The temperature was -1deg C as I drove along the Duddon Valley and quite a few ice patches covered the road. I parked near Birks Bridge and set off south along the road. The surrounding hills were covered in snow but I didnít know how much yet. There was a clear blue sky and this meant the cold weather would continue. I reached my first objective of Hollin House Haw just north of Seathwaite. The map shows a monument on the summit so I had a wander up to investigate.

Cairn on Hollin House Haw

I found a tall tidy cairn but it had no description plate or anything to indicate a monument as opposed to a standard cairn that can be found in many places. At the base and set in the rock was an iron ring and a short piece of rusty chain attached. I have no idea what this is for.

Iron ring at the cairn base

I descended to the Walna Scar Road and set off up towards the summit. At the end of the tarmac a left branch heads over the bridge and up to Seathwaite Tarn reservoir but my way was the stony track directly ahead. By the abandoned Walna Scar Quarries I reached the snow line and was soon experiencing a very strong headwind. At the summit of the Walna Scar Road I was having trouble standing in the wind and with a temperature of -4deg C it felt very cold on my face.

Looking north to Dow Crag

To the left is the path up to Buck Pike which was quite a struggle in the wind. The snow wasnít too deep, about 150mm but it was crusty and I broke through at every step. I made a dash across the flat stretch to Dow Crag where I picked a line to the west of the summit and thankfully get a bit of shelter from the wind. Across to the east I could see the Old Man of Coniston Mountain and many people wandering around the summit. Descending to Goatís Hawse there was a group of walkers who had just come up from Goatís Tarn. As I approached they set off towards Swirl How taking the minor path that climbs diagonally upwards and avoiding the Old Man summit area.

On Grey Friar summit

That is also my route and I followed their tracks through the snow, thankful that they were breaking the trail and not me. Before reaching Swirl How I turned off to the left to take a more direct route towards Grey Friar. Usually there is a path to follow but the snow had obliterated all signs of it. The going was extremely difficult going due to the soft snow. I was glad to reach the final climb up to Grey Friar which was a path that had been used by others. The summit plateau is one of my favourite summits but even though the views of Sca Fell Pikes and many other summits could be seen it was very uncomfortable in the wind.

Dow Crag from the descent of Grey Friar

The descent path to the SW is unmarked but with good visibility it was fairly easy to find the route. Descending further I soon came to the path which again was mostly obliterated by the snow. I was anxious to get below the snow line as descents are difficult with unknown obstacles beneath the surface. By the time I reached the dam of Seathwaite Tarn I was walking on grass and found it a great relief.

The dam of Seathwaite Tarn.
Built in 1904 to provide Barrow-in-Furness with drinking water

The path headed roughly west but as Iíd walked it a few times before as an ascent route I didnít have much of a problem finding my way. At Pike How the path vanished into the pine trees then emerged to an iced up path that took me back to the Duddon Valley road. I short walk took me back to the car.

A view of the Duddon Valley while driving home