A night on Blencathra

Winter is beginning to settle in in the Lakes now, and whilst we’ve barely had any snow at lower levels, the felltops are clad white, with more to come.

In between printing and framing duties in the run up to Christmas, I managed to free up enough time for an afternoon stroll and a wild camp somewhere. Preferably in the snow.

With sunset time coming in at something past three, it would have to be a relatively short stroll. As is often the case, I headed out with no real plan, but several options in mind.

The fells around Keswick tend not to attract as much snow as the more southern/central area from Helvellyn across to Scafell Pike, but today Blencathra had managed to swell its light dusting from a few days earlier into a definite snow cap. I was sold.

A straightforward ascent via Blease Fell would do for a short easy summit hit. There’s no tent protection up there whichever way the wind’s gusting, but forecast strength had been downgraded from initial reports so I wasn’t too bothered.

Sadly, I ended up camping below the snowline in the end. I’d just fixed a broken pole from a previous trip, and what was the right length in the living room the night before turned out to be too long to fit when out in the shrinking cold.

Evening light over the Dodds and Helvellyn

After wrestling with it on the summit above Knowe Crags for several minutes, whilst also keeping one photographic eye on the dramatically dwindling sun, I decided it wasn’t going to happen, and resigned myself to heading home with only a brief roll in the snow for comfort.

Sunset over Derwent Water

Zig-zagging back down the path a couple of hundred metres took me out of the wind completely, and in the sudden wintry hush I decided to just sit for a while pondering the quiet, the lights of Keswick twinkling away below.

People would be sat by a pub fire, post – walk pint in hand. I could still do that, even though I hadn’t earned one – I’d be back in town for 5….

But sod it, I was having another go.

Under the light of the head torch, with some base motivational language, and hands slightly warmer and more flexible than they were on the summit, I managed to force the pole to fit. I would have my night out after all, albeit on a slightly wonky pitch.

Frozen camp the next morning

I’d feared for a clear sky washout the next morning, but a wispy overhead glow accompanied me as I messed around on the summit for a while.

Towards Skiddaw, pre dawn

First light on Skiddaw

Along the summit ridge

Nosing over the edge... yeah I know, too close

My remote release decided it wasn’t playing ball, so I’m still yet to perfect the shot I want looking back along the ridge with a figure ideally placed atop Gategill Fell. It will happen this winter, honest.

I turned my attention back towards Skiddaw as the light warmed a little.

Skiddaw warming up

Iced grass and Skiddaw

More frozen turf and warm light

With the best of the early light gone it was time to head back, where the early morning sun soon began to heed the pleas of the tent.

Breakfast in mind....

Poor tent

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9 Responses to A night on Blencathra

  1. Amazing photos.
    Great work, has got me mega inspired to get out 🙂

  2. Katie Russell says:

    These are great photos. I stick to lowland walking, but hills and snow make for an inspiring combination. My next snow weavings will be snow clad ships in the Arctic Ocean next year, but still to weave hills from the West Highland Way. Will struggle to resist the temptation of topping a few hills with snow! I love your work.

    • Stewart says:

      Thanks Katie, the Arctic sounds interesting! West Highland Way is a good walk for seeing hills and not having to climb them.

  3. Megan says:

    Gorgeous photos. What a view to wake up to in the morning. Gotta love this place.

  4. Kate Smith says:

    Delightful photos of an area the family know well. Cheers Kate

  5. Peter Ahern says:

    Great post and extremely inspirational. I don’t know how you do it! Wild camping is a different world to me!!!

    • Stewart says:

      Thanks Peter. It can be a very liberating and enjoyable thing to do with the right gear, though it can also be hard work and exhausting, particularly in winter!

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