Langdale to Scafell Pike. And back

It’s a Lake District walk I’ve done plenty of times, but not for a while.

Recently as I’ve got busier with photography the number of full day mountain walks seems to have dwindled. This isn’t necessarily a full day walk depending on how sprightly you are, but does take in Bowfell, Esk Pike, Great End, Broad Crag, Ill Crag and Scafell Pike. And then I popped up Rossett Pike on the way back before descending back down into Mickleden. I think it’s about 11 miles in total, so factor in a few camera stops and it’s not far off a full day in winter.

All too often these days I’ll rush up a mountain in the dark, snap away in the first glorious rays of dawn, then trot back down again to get processing and get on with whatever else needs doing once the best of the light’s gone.

So it was nice to be able to head out to the hills early with the camera, still out in the morning light, but know I had all day to just wander at my leisure and come back down when I got bored or my legs gave in.

I set off from The Old Dungeon Ghyll just before 8am, knowing I’d get the sunlight catching the Langdale Pikes when I was somewhere along The Band on Bowfell. Having been a couple of weeks since I’d been out on a morning shoot, sunrise caught me quicker than I expected, so I was a bit too front on to them when the light first hit, so the first shots didn’t have as much depth as I’d like.

First light, Langdale Pikes

The light was pretty good, though being a fussy bugger I was after a bit more cloud in the sky to play with. Clear blue skies make for very pleasant walking conditions, but aren’t always the most inspirational for us landscape photographers. Here’s the view back down the footpath, with slight hints of lingering mist and frost in the Langdale valley from where I started the walk.

The Band, Bowfell

I ditched the footpath in favour of flirting with the edge of the fellside, trying to find some nice foreground rocks to play with. I knew there were some higher up that I’ve used a few times, but also knew the best of the light would be long gone by the time I got there.

Instead I found a nice clear patch of foreground which had just a hint of frost left on the grass, and also a couple of handy rocks which just helped to anchor the shot slightly. I fired off the obligatory stock shot with some idiot in the way:

Breakfast view, Langdale

I then decided that actually the light was still pretty damn good, but that I’d like a wider view to try and squeeze in some of the rays of light that were spilling into the valley over Side Pike, without getting too much brightness from the sun in that corner of the image. Happily it was a situation where the light wasn’t changing too rapidly (sometimes I have seconds to work with) and I was able to get my shots, carefully altering grad filter positioning for each one, without having to alter the exposure across each shot. The final result ended up being the product of 8 portrait format shots stitched together. There is almost a fish eye effect due to using the wider end of my 12-24mm lens which I don’t mind and I really love the final photo.

Light, Frost, Pikes

Having made what I could with the best of the first half an hour or so of sunlight, I headed on up towards the summit of Bowfell with a little skip in my step, not too worried about the photography millstone, just enjoying the grand day out. Just time for one last lingering look at Langdale before I headed over the top and turned my attention towards the Scafell and Great Gable aspect of the walk

Langdale Pikes and The Band

Despite it hardly being the bitterest of winter days (note painful lack of the lovely white stuff at the moment, not happy) there was an ill wind on the summit of Bowfell, and with the clear blue skies and waning of the golden morning light everything had begun to look a bit wishy washy.

There’s a bit of ascending and descending on this route, as has to be the case when fitting in a few separate summits. So down and back up it was to Esk Pike, then similarly between Esk Pike and Great End.

Even without great light, I can never resist the views towards Great Gable, Kirk Fell and Pillar from along the ridge between Great End and Scafell Pike.

Great Gable and friends

I carried on towards Scafell Pike, not getting too distracted by photos now. The remaining patches of snow were frozen solid, and I just managed to avoid strapping on the crampons for the last steep ascent to the summit by sticking far too close to the edge than I’d normally prefer to, missing the steep bank that always forms there.

I arrived just after noon, with the place all to myself, having not seen a single other soul in 4 hours of walking. If you’ve only ever frequented the Lake District mountains in summer, particularly Scafell Pike, which in July can be like Ikea (no of course I’ve never been, it’s a guess), then you really should try it. Though just the once please, I’m not up for promoting this too much.

I hung around for about half an hour in the summit sunshine. The chills of Bowfell had vanished and there was now barely a breath of wind. Most of the time with my winter walking stopping for long is not an option, so despite my internal weeping at the lack of snow I enjoyed being up there.

The return journey took me back along the ridge towards Great End and Esk Hause, but then diverted down to Langdale via Rosset Pike and Rosset Gill instead of Bowfell and Esk Pike.

Cloud was now beginning to bubble up again in some of the valleys and cling to some of the fells. As I approached Esk Hause the Langdale Pikes began to look particularly grand again and I changed lenses to the 18-200mm to get in a bit closer.

Esk Hause and Langdale Pikes

Langdale Pikes loving close up

These last couple of shots were an unexpectedly productive end to the day photographically, and capped off the day nicely, as did a pint in front of the fire at the Old Dungeon Ghyll a good hour later 🙂

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6 Responses to Langdale to Scafell Pike. And back

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Langdale to Scafell Pike. And back - Lake District Photos : Stewart Smith --

  2. Shelly Lovegrove says:

    Nice blog Stewy and great to see places I recognise, even if you capture them a darn sight better than I can. I look forward to another attempt with you 🙂

  3. Martin Rye says:

    That wide angle shot is superb. Nice walk to do. Very envies of a day like that on the Lakeland fells.

  4. Claire says:

    I can hardly not comment on this, can I? As always utterly beautiful photographs (although I may be slightly biased) and your usual wonderful way with words. I can’t wait to see some of the stunning vistas for myself 🙂

  5. Chris says:

    I love your first newsletter and especially the walk to Scafell Pike, and back. It’s a great favourite of mine, although it’s quite sometime since last did it – 1977 in fact! Excellent photos, love the writing – and missing being on the high hills all the more now!

  6. Mugo says:

    You are one ace photographer, and writer too. Thanks. In all the world of mountains nothing can match our Lakeland Fells.

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