Jess and her dog Toby hike The Old Man of Coniston in the Lake District

Jess Martin and Toby and not letting the bad weather hold them back: the young lady and her Border terrier tackled the Lake District peak, all to raise awareness for the prevention of young suicide. Jess tells Wunderdog about the hike

My friend Sophie, who is doing this challenge with us, Toby and I were very excited to do our third hike out of the 10 we have planned for this year because this is where it starts to get serious with bigger climbs and longer walks. We had to rejig our list of peaks – the original plan to hike in Derbyshire was literally put on ice – and so we headed to the southern part of the Lake District, between Coniston and Ambleside.

Our cause

Why are we doing this? To raise awareness for the prevention of young suicide. I lost my brother and Sophie lost a friend to young suicide. We chat to people we meet on the hikes to raise awareness – and with that little dog by our side, it’s easy to engage people in a conversation. Toby had his fetching new purple jumper on, which is the colour of one of the charities we are raising awareness for – PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide). The other is CALM (Campaign against living miserably).

Our route

Off to the Lake District, we went. The weather forecast was reasonably better and not dangerous (or so we thought). Toby and I have never walked in the Lakes together, so I was very much looking forward to this hike. Sophie has walked in the Lakes a little.

The walk we tackled was Old Man of Coniston, which is 803m (2,634ft) high and a whopping 600m (1,968ft) ascent. The route took us a bit over two hours and was a tough climb, but the views were astounding. The path led us initially on fairly good terrain but soon gave way to a rocky, uneven surface, which is much more Toby’s and my cup of tea.

Professional hiker Toby

My Border terrier, as always, was exceptionally well prepared and had all his equipment with him: first aid kits for people and pooches, which he carried as usual in his backpack, and his Kurgo bottle to make sure he stayed hydrated all the way.

Unfortunately, we were unable to make it to the top of Old Man, because throughout our climb and towards the peak there were a fair few snow showers. We spoke to several more experienced walkers who informed us that no one was going to the top as the path to the summit was just ice and snow and very unsafe.

Toby in the mines

Snowy or not, there are sheep around sometimes, and old mining and quarrying works are dotted throughout. The industrial archaeology makes for an interesting counterpoint to the stunning landscape of the Lakes, however, dogs should probably stay on leads close to the abandoned sites and to the livestock.

We decided that we would get as far as we could and then turn around. Although this isn’t ideal we are planning on heading back to complete the hike another month, and as always our safety is paramount on all of our adventures – otherwise, we could put an even bigger spanner in the works on future adventures.

Our high point

We managed to get as far as Low Water. It wasn’t exactly the summit, but it was a very satisfying point to reach because it was beyond beautiful – slightly covered in snow and very icy underfoot, but beautiful nonetheless. We had a snack of frozen Jaffa Cakes and began our descent. The poor Jaffa Cakes were so cold in Sophie’s bag that they had frozen while we were walking.

The descent was slightly more difficult as there was a little more ice and snow underfoot, and a few sections were fairly steep. We took our time and made sure we all got down safely, we had to stop briefly to perform a de-icing on Toby as he had managed to get some ice balls stuck on his paws (I had packed his Ruffwear boots, but since the weather kept changing we didn’t put them on him). He is fairly easy to de-ice, thankfully, and we were back on our way in no time.

We didn’t manage to talk to too many people about why we were hiking and are very hopeful that now spring has sprung we may come across more people who we can talk to about our challenge and why it is so important to us.

Follow Jess and Toby’s adventures on Instagram @jessyyandtoby

To donate to the charities Jess, Sophie and Toby are supporting, please go to and 

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