- The Via Ferrata -
Date & Time: Saturday 11th August 2007. 1 pm start. ( NY 225 135 )
Location of Start : The Mine Shop, Honister Slate Mines, Cumbria, Uk.
Places visited : The Victorian roadway across the face, up to Black Star summit.
Walk details : A journey across the mountain face, 2 hrs 30 mins.
Walked with : 25 members of the Online Fellwalking Club.
Weather : Well it was fine before we started, but it wasn't by the time we ended.
The Via Ferrata - the Iron Road - a fixed-rope route up the mountain.
The Fellwalking Club likes to meet occasionally, away from the virtual reality of the internet, so that the friendships made on-line can be cemented in real life. With the announcement of Britain's first mountain "Via Ferrata" at Honister, an idea for a weekend meet was launched.
The Via Ferrata, or iron roadway, would take us on an exposed scramble up the old tramway on the outside of the vertical Honister Crags.
Having completed an underground mine tour yesterday we have had the introduction to the mine and it's history . . . we've seen the mountain from the inside . . . today we take to the outside . . . in a BIG way !
This is Honister Hause with the mine complex and the Youth Hostel in the distance.
We all met at the mine buildings at 1 pm. and the first job was to climb into the specialist Via Ferrata harness. Normal fellwalking gear would cope with the rest.
In view of the weather we accepted a bus trip up to the start.
Using the same mine entrance as yesterday, but taking a different passageway, we ended up on a gallery route adjacent to the face of the mountain. Through the openings we started to get an idea of the view and the exposure we would soon be experiencing outside.
Various methods were used during the life of the mine, in order to transport slate to the valley below.
This was the remains of the late Victorian aerial ropeway which carried slate across the lower part of the crags. It's strategic position can be seen below.
We started the climb along the protected pathway but the weather was not being kind.
The heavy drizzle was making the roadway wet and rather slippery.
The route ahead . . . quite a daunting prospect today.
The route follows the old funicular railway route up the face of Honister Crag, connecting to many of the mine levels along the way.
We're not attached at this point due to the protective handrail, but near the end of this section we use the same handrail to practice clipping and unclipping the harness prior to the start of the steep section.
This first section introduces all the intricacies of the route - exposure, narrow paths, the cable and harness and the steep slippery rock surface.
A short rail section emerges out of one of the many mine tunnels above the bridge section we had just climbed.
All the way up, the roadway connects with old workings on the side of the crags.
Some are old ventilation shafts but this is one of the larger mine entrances complete with the walls of old mine buildings.
To avoid a particularly exposed section out on the cliff face, the miners of old constructed a tunnel through the hillside to carry the slate down from the Ash Crag section of the mines.
The slate from this top section may have been mined as far back as 800 years ago and customers could have included the Monks of Furness Abbey who took roofing slate from Honister to furnish their church buildings.
The inclined tunnel leads up up towards the top section of the mines.
Out into the daylight once more . . .
There are traces of the old buttresses that supported an old track way which clung to the outside of the crags at this point. It fell into disrepair once the tunnel was built.
We pause on the top section of the Ferrata to gather our thoughts and admire the view - what we can see of it !
Due to the poor weather we decided not to venture the extra half mile to get to the true summit of the Pike but headed back down the modern mine road.
Modern standing stones mark the way down the mine road.
Full marks here to Nash, our guide for the trip.
He's the one in the centre, flanked by Mark and Andrew.
Stand aside as this modern heavy duty fork lift truck reminds us that the mine is still very much a working enterprise.
Looking down at the mine complex as we make our way down the hairpin bends.
Back at the mine centre, a hot cup of tea (or coffee) came as a unexpected but welcome reward after completing a successful Via Ferrata.
( left to right ) Jill, Andrew, Richard and Andy.
Looking back at the end of a great afternoon - do I detect a clearing of the sky and a patch of brightness now that we have finished ?
- - - o o o - - -
Technical note: Pictures taken with a Canon Ixus Digital camera.
Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.
This site best viewed with . . . your personal copy of Lost Sheep 6, available from your local OFC member.
Previous event - 10th August 2007 The Honister Mine Cathedral Tour
A previous time up here - 20th June 2007 The Honister Slate Mine Kimberley Underground Trail
Also - 20th March 2006 Honister and Fleetwith with Angie
Next event - 11th August 2007 The Honister Yew Tree - Saturday Evening