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So, where were we?

It’s been a while since focussed essay writing at uni and I think I’ve lost all grasp of cohesion and structure. Maybe the writing will come together if I keep practising. Look I’m drifting off topic already.

Top of St Sunday Crag. Next thing I was aiming for was more Helvellyn, but this time closer. I’d been after some shots of Striding Edge at dawn for aaaages but every time I’d planned to go the forecast was for brighter in the west of the Lake District rather than the east. There’s often an east/west divide in the weather here. I decided to head home first to process some of the stuff I’d just shot and then come back for Striding Edge the next day. Forecast was still for clear skies, but even colder and wilder…

So next day I basically repeated the walk from the day before, up past Grisedale Tarn to the summit of St Sunday Crag, but then continued down to Patterdale. It was a wild old afternoon, cloudy, very windy and very cold for August (windchill was forecast to be about -5c), but all forecasts seemed to concur that it would brighten up later. I arrived in Patterdale late in the afternoon, with the idea of having a meal at the pub saving on weight to be lugged up the hill.

After dining I then headed up the path up the side of Birkhouse Moor, intending to camp somewhere near the Hole in the Wall, or as close to the start of Striding Edge as I could find a sheltered place to pitch. It certainly wasn’t going to be a calm evening so I’d need some kind of shelter.

As I wandered up, beginning to climb above the Grisedale Valley I got sidetracked a bit as there were some photos to be had with some nice summer evening sunlight falling on St Sunday Crag.

When I eventually made it up to the Hole in the Wall it was clear I was going to need the shelter, so used the lee side of the wall itself to camp behind.  Even then it was still pretty blustery, with the wind screaming through the gaps in the dry stone wall. I could tell it was going to be another cold one too. Happily a cheeky mini bottle of red would keep me warm while I hunkered down in the sleeping bag to read for a bit :) I camped just down by the right hand side of the wall in the shot below.

The Wall, and last of the evening sunlight on Birkhouse Moor

It wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve had, and I love sleeping in my sleeping bag. Not sure about temperatures, but probably around freezing with the wind making it feel colder. I know they had some August snow in Scotland that night anyway!

The day dawned clear again, although the sun was rising behind a bank of cloud above the Pennines which took some of the intensity away from the light. This was almost enough of an excuse to make me stay in the sleeping bag, but to be honest I was getting colder rather than warmer so forced myself out. No better way to warm up than get the legs moving.

For those not familiar with the area, it’s only a shortish climb from here to the summit of High Spying How, effectively the start of Striding Edge. Most of you won’t know, but I actually suffer from vertigo, so this was going to be a test for me, particularly in high winds. I never had any intention of traversing the full length of the ridge, I just needed to coerce the shaky legs out those few steps along the exposed ridge in order to get the shot I was after. I wanted a figure in it for scale, and even Striding Edge is deserted at 6.30am so that figure would have to be me.

(On this subject, I do seem to be improving slightly with increased exposure. I also find it easier when I’m wearing my lightweight trekking sandals rather than the heavy clunky walking boots. More sprightly on my feet. Anyway, I’ll do a wee post on this subject at some point.)

I scrambled up and around the side of High Spying How, which is effectively a rocky outcrop rising above the ridge. Happily it provided something to lean my back against before taking those few tentative steps out. The cross winds were strong, making things slightly more difficult than they needed to be, but despite some shakiness in the jelly legs I wasn’t as bad as I could have been. The main worry was getting the tripod exactly level and sturdy because if this blew off the edge to the left, bye bye camera.

Length of self timer was going to have to be as short as possible. Enough time for me to get out into the shot, but not too long for the battering winds to have enough of a chance to whip my gear off the precipice. I went for 10 seconds and crossed fingers.

Happily the first shot worked well and I was pretty chuffed with myself. If it was calmer and warmer and generally more pleasant I may have hung around and tried a few more slightly different shots but I was desperate to get back into my sleeping bag. Hands were pretty numb even with gloves on. My photography nearly always demands physical exertion, but not always psychological. Hope you like it!

Striding Edge at dawn

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