Most of you know I hate summer by now. Actually no I don’t hate summer, just the version of it we get in the Lake District. Too many days offer grey flat muddy light, (even at dawn and dusk) and as soon as there’s any semblance of warmth in the air the thick haze obscures all but the closest views within a couple of hours. Basically, if the day does happen to be perfect, shooting times for my brand of mountain photography are restricted to between about 4.30 and 6am , or a similar 90 minute window at the other end of the day.
But all that seems to be behind us now. Autumn is definitely here, and with occasional snow showers forecast over the last week or so, winter can’t be far behind.
The air clarity is back, there’s time for a couple of extra hours in bed in the morning, and the chilly nights have already brought with them a couple of yummy temperature inversions. One of which I managed to catch.
You can never quite judge when they’re going to happen, but from the forecast this one was pretty much as dead a cert as they get. There had been a couple already earlier on in the week. The kind that as a hill lover make you seethe with jealousy when reading about them on a grey office lunchtime (if you’re a hill lover reading this a grey office lunchtime, look away now).
Given my optimism I thought it worth the cost of a night’s YHA luxury in Keswick, prime location for a jaunt straight to the summits, and headed there straight after work. I can get there for about 7pm, which in summer is just enough time to climb somewhere and pitch the tent, and this time of year is enough time to check in and have few beers and an early night 🙂
I was really in several minds about the route the next morning, but narrowed it down to an east/west split. Either dawn on Blencathra or dawn on Grisedale Pike. Hopefully either way looking down on a sea of cloud. I went with the Grisedale Pike option, just because the walk could be extended to several adjoining peaks, whereas Blencathra pretty much stands alone.
Even with the more reasonable dawn times, and with the walk originating in Keswick, a 5.30 start was scheduled. It may not be far when zooming round the A66, but Braithwaite and the start of the walk is a good hour’s roadside trudge from Keswick. I don’t like roadside trudging, especially in the dark at 5.30am when I really can’t be arsed with very much at all.
I couldn’t quite tell at first if I was going to have my inversion. In fact about half way up Grisedale Pike I decided I wasn’t. I could see patches of clear sky, but also plenty of cloud overhead, along with some lower cloud layers shrouding Causey Pike.
I thought these would make for a nice shot, so managed to arrange a composition I was happy with and sat down to wait for the first warm rays of morning sunlight to hit. Sadly, as is often the case, cloud over towards the Eden Valley and the Pennines looked as if it was going to block out the intense light of dawn.
With about 25mins wasted on nothing, I packed up and moved on, the cloud thickening all the time. At this point it looked as if photographically the day was going to be a complete waste. At this point I always have to force myself into a frame of mind where I can just enjoy the walk, and not let full batteries and empty memory cards sully it too much.
Although as I was approaching the very last steep section of Grisedale Pike, it seemed as if I might get use of the camera after all. The pyramidal summit suddenly began to appear through the cloud, faint at first, but then more solid, and best of all it had a warm glow from what could only be the sun shining on it above the cloud.
I rushed (as fast as I could, as anyone who’s been up it knows, that last section is steep) and finally burst through into the warm morning sunshine, clear blue skies and a sea of cloud below. Only the tippety tops of the highest peaks were poking through – you can just see Blencathra in the top left of the shot below.
The cloud was rising and falling and it wouldn’t be long before it swallowed even me and the highest peaks completely, however I managed to get some nice shots looking the other way towards Grasmoor, Eel Crag and Hopegill Head
It was great being up there, but I just couldn’t help thinking what I might have got if I’d stuck to my original plan and gone straight to the summit. First light on those peaks could have been quite special. However I guess in the mountains you have to play the conditions as you can find them as you really can’t second guess the weather.
Hopefully I won’t have to wait until this time next year for another inversion…