“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”

Seth Godin

So we’ve booked onto a introduction to navigation course as a refresher, followed by a mountain navigation course the following day. This makes sense for me as I’ve already signed up to the MTA and if I can’t navigate better with a map and compass things could get real bad real fast.

Apparently as I’m told by my instructor and now also by mountain leader Kerri from our company, navigation is probably the biggest / most important part of being a mountain leader. And it just so happens to be the exact thing I am surely the worst at. My approach so far has been pretty much based on having a rough idea where I am going, making sure i’ve got the right safety gear if things go wrong and just going. Which isn’t so bad when it is just you and a like minded and experienced friend but not good if you are inexperienced or in charge of other people.

Off We Go To Kendal

For all those who haven’t been or are visiting from another country you would be right in thinking that’s where the famous mint cake comes from. How it’s famous I have no idea as for one it isn’t actually cake, and things that aren’t cake annoy me. Also it’s basically a big block of mint flavoured sugar and gloucose which personally I avoid, I hate the stuff. Apparently it was used in 1914 by Ernest Shackleton during the imperial trans-Antarctic expedition and by Chris Bonnington when successfully ascending Everest in 1975. But I’ll stick to my modern energy gels, they work better and they don’t make me reek like a grandmas purse. I’ll keep my self induced diabetes modern thank you.

Anyway when we finally arrive in Kendal there’s there’s no-one to greet us at the property but after a quick call we find out our hosts on a night shift, and apparently the doors open. And the three semi expensive bikes we can see in the window are intended for us. Being from Birmingham we are all in awe of how the door can be left open without the entire house being robbed but this is the countryside. Even though we must have a reputation down our way because he politely (semi jokingly?) asks us not to steal anything.

We get Andy’s car on the drive and he nearly punctures his bodywork on the trailer on the drive and start unloading our stuff and carrying it upstairs to what we can only describe as a very cosy attic room for one tiny man, myself and Richard who is basically a big ginger Brummie viking walking wall of muscle. We all barely fit it but after we get all our stuff in and do a quick repack and kit check for the nav course tomorrow and decide to have a few drinks and put the TV on, which is apparently run through the playstation. We go to hook up the internet and immediately get hit with the previous occupants nasty ass choice of pornography. We all think this is hilarious until we ponder what’s probably happened on the beds we are about to sleep on. Somehow though we all still manage to get to sleep, well at least for a while. I’m rudely awakened by the sound of what sounds like two large angry warthogs hate mating, however looking across the room I realise this is just the noise Richard makes when he is sleeping.

Time To Find Out How Rubbish Our Navigation Actually Is

There are other humans in this residence. And they appear to be Eastern European, and are looking at us funnily for cooking on our camp stoves in the kitchen. Tbf the kitchen looks like it could do with a good clean so I’m making my porridge and GTFO. That done we all jump in the car and it’s about five minutes before Andy misses a turning which he is pretty good at doing. Wouldn’t it be ironic if we got lost on our way to a navigation course though. If not the sort of thing any of us would ever live down.

Time To Learn Not To Get Lost And Die

We turn up at the visitor centre and Nicola is waiting for us with a northern lad Matt and his dad. We introduce ourselves but while we are doing that I throw a few packets of factor 50 suncream at Richard in case he gets extra crispy and Andy because he’s pale as a pint of milk. Nic seems pretty friendly and happy with a pretty broad Northern accent. She runs us through what we are going to do over the course and then we head out.

It’s about ten minutes in as Nicola is showing us a really basic exercise of orientating a map and moving ourselves around the map that I realise I just haven’t really been doing the latter. I realise how little iv’e actually been paying attention to while I’m navigating, and that so far we have been lucky we haven’t been caught in bad weather too often. I’m actually surprised I haven’t just straight up walked myself off a cliff actually. Nicola has a great exercise that’s shows us that we probably don’t know what all the map symbols from the key are and sets up a circuit on the grass for us to navigate and practice our map orientation. We are all in agreement the most important landmark has to be the local pub though.

Actually Navigating

Something which is extremely ironic is that my GPS unit is the thing that having magnets in it that appears to be causing the most compass interference. And the way I’ve placed it on my bag its pretty much 30cm away from the compass the I’m using it! Anyway that’s my first fail of the day. We also get shown pacing which is something I’m already familiar with, which is counting your paces over 100m so you know how long it takes to walk a kilometre for example. Which is pretty easy when the ground is fairly flat but funnily enough no less than a month later me and Andy will realise isn’t so simple on steep ground. And definitely doesn’t cover slopes steep enough to have your eyeballs in the heather……At this point it’s almost 2 years since I was out winter mountaineering so I’v practically forgotten how many double paces (left then right foot) I actually cover 100 metres in. Though I know now again that i cover 59 paces per 100 metres. I also learn that for ages I’d been assuming that scrubland was marshland (seriously!). We don’t do anything particularly hard in terms of hiking, barely getting a few miles away from the visitor centre but Nic is a good teacher and we all brush up well on our skills.

Rydal Caves And Rydal Water

After our first day off the Nav course we take a trip up to Rydal cave which is pretty impressive, it’s not a natural caves, rather the work of miners. Looking out towards the lake below it’s got great views. The cave is huge but not very deep, and if you look into the water from the stepping stones through it you can see baby fish swimming around in the water. The only thing that definitely spoils this place is how easy it is to access. Because of this on ur way up we see numerous dog poo bags that people couldn’t be bothered to take home. And this just highlights the reason why I usually like visiting places that are a bit hardened to get to, because most people won’t go beyond a few miles to see something. I still can’t get my head round why people can bring junk into places but can’t bring it out. And if you come somewhere to enjoy the way it looks why you would destroy that.

The Old Man Of Coniston (Again)

So it’s the second day and we are slightly late arriving to Walna Scar carpark, and the morning weather is a bit less than sunbathing. We get a bit held up on the way and the weather is pure grim as we arrive. In the corner of the car park are a bunch of slightly annoyed looking hikers, dripping rain water. Unsurprisingly this is Nicola and the rest of the group. When we make our apologies and get navigating around the Coniston fells area. We are all a lot more confident about where we are going, and luckily the weather clears and it turns to mainly sunshine.

Moving a long it’s clear that what we hadn’t really considered is some of the older manmade landmarks, and after being shown it’s pretty clear that things I couldn’t find in the past could have been reduced to overgrown piles of stones, that some boundaries might only be visible from the air and in some cases footbridges can literally be piles of rotting planks. Another thing we hadn’t considered is tarns, which are small ponds up to small mountain lakes. In some cases these dry up and the only clue can sometimes only be a only jut discernible shape of a mountain pond where soft rush plants grow. We look for small streams (known as becks in the lakes) which in some cases are also dried up, so we are looking for the telltale signs of that in the landscape. I’m the slowest of the group as just like usual I’m the only dickhead who’s brought a bag big enough to also get most of our caving gear in for the mines later. We’ve decided it probably best not to mention our extra bit of adventure to Nicola because we are pretty sure she’d try and talk us out of it.

Back Up The Old Man

I think it’s always good to give context to what you are planning on doing if you are talking to someone that doesn’t hike themselves. Mainly because when asked what you are doing on the weekend ‘I’m going up the Old Man’ is always going to be met with looks of concern. You might want to add that it’s a mountain first just in case everyone thinks you are over sharing something! Anyway the course finishes and we say goodbye to Matt and his Dad and head off towards the Old Man with me leading the group, something that I’ve got to have more practice at along the way as I progress towards mountain leader.

On the way up the mountain we look for mine access as we climb, and locate at least three potentials. The one area however looks like a vast ceiling has collapsed and exposed the mine workings to the outside of the mountain. A bit out of curiosity we all check the place out but don’t venture much further in, the one place we could likely access looks like a broken shaft that heads what’s probably hundreds of feet down into the darkness. And not far from this there’s cracks in the floor rending the turf apart. This probably isn’t a good place to go stand so we make our way further up the mountain.

I can tell this is kicking Richards ass. He is a power lifter so his cardio is pretty much the same as a snails right now, but I’ve got to hand it to the big dude, he looks like he is dying, his face so red I’m expecting his eyes to bleed at any moment but he keeps going, and that’s impressive. This is not the easiest mountain we could have taken him up by far but it was always going to be the option because the thing was right next to us. Luckily it isn’t long before I call a break and we stop at Low Water tarn to catch our breath. It’s good to be here in such good weather, as the last time I was up here with my mate Bracken, the cloud was down and we couldn’t see the amazing view from here.

We pass the tarn and head on towards the summit, through age all walls and broken heavy steel cabling that litters the mountainside. It’s a slightly ominous feeling walking up through these all old mine works, knowing full well we are going to be going inside some of the tunnels in a bit. We finally reach the top and I think Richards as relived as he is buzzing about having hiked up his first mountain. Theres actually a really good view on pretty much all sides this time round too. We stop for a bit and get ourselves together and refuse before grabbing our gear and starting to head back down the mountain and towards the jaws of the mine adits.

Whats yours is mine

The old man of Coniston has been heavily mined over the years, rusting mine equipment is strewn about the mountain like at the rotting corpse of some victorian robot, boilers and winches with thick steel cable crawl across the tracks to the summit. In places ruined winch houses sit around the scree created by the mining works and inside them are rusted boilers and winches. The gear must have be extremely durable because even though it’s routing away oil the mountainside, its still here. The roofs of the huts which must have been wood, have long rotted away exposing the old machinery to the elements.

The majority of the mine adits on what could be considered the main tourist trail appear to be collapsed on themselves, or collapsed on purpose to make sure people don’t explore them, but we finally do find one entrance. Unfortunately we can’t locate the adit which goes straight into the mine which we have seen on a few blogs and videos but this one seems like a good alternative. We stop, gear up and I send our exact position to our emergency contacts and crawl in through the narrow opening into the mine. Once inside we instantly come across the rails put down for the old mining carts, heading off into the darkness and get hit with the sudden eerie silence inside the mine.

Part way down the slightly scary atmosphere is ruined by the fact some bozo has set up a tent down here, now i would pack it up and get rid of it but i’m not sure if some mad dickhead is playing hermit down here or not.I do wish people wouldn’t leave their shit lying all over the mountains, or in this case, inside the mountain. Anyway, beyond the tent there is a partially bricked up wall with what looks like a cavern beyond it so we decide to crawl through and take a look. It’s a bit of a squeeze, and upon finally getting through the place looks like it’s suffered a cave in, covering what I’m going to assume was access to the deeper levels of the mine. I don’t trust how the steel cables (which are rusted but about 3 inches thick) seem to plunge right through the rubble where Richard is about to go for a stroll so I warn him about this. We take a few photos but I’m not willing to go any further as I explain to the lads while I point upwards to huge shapes missing from the roof and then show them the shape of the slabs of rock on the uneven floor of the cavern. We look around more and Richard also identifies huge cracks running horizontally across the rock above our heads.

Not wishing to run the risk of becoming human pancakes we decide to turn back and get out of the place. We end up heading down the mountain checking out some of the other places we saw on the way up. Ruling out where we had seen evidence of a huge mine collapse. We get out of the mine and keep looking around the mountain but we get no luck, it’s a bit frustrating considering but there will always be other days.


I hope you found my blog useful or entertaining, any donations given go towards more adventures and therefore more blogs and equipment reviews! Donation is voluntary, and you can donate as much or as little as you wish, or not at all.

Thanks for reading and your support!

I hope you found my blog useful or entertaining, any donations given go towards more adventures and therefore more blogs and equipment reviews! Donation is voluntary, and you can donate as much or as little as you wish, or not at all.

Thanks for reading and your support!

I hope you found my blog useful or entertaining, any donations given go towards more adventures and therefore more blogs and equipment reviews! Donation is voluntary, and you can donate as much or as little as you wish, or not at all.

Thanks for reading and your support!


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