‘Those hours between night and day are always a keen challenge to one’s courage. One’s body goes mechanically through the correct movements essential to gaining height; but the spirit is not yet awake nor full of the joy of climbing…’ – Heinrich Harrer, The White Spider
Don’t worry, I’ve not gone all pretentious. And that’s a quote referring to scaling the north face of the Eiger, not the simple walks up silly little hills that I do.
But it seemed an apt way to kick off this post. My last outing involved a 3.30am start, a 3 hour climb in the cold and dark, ten minutes of photography, and then back down again. As much as the results can sometimes make the effort worthwhile, sometimes the journey and the experience need to be a bit more rewarding.
And so, with a relative heatwave forecast, it was time to dust off the tent and sleep in the hills again. The 3 metre journey to set up a shot at first light being much more appealing than the 3 hour one…
However, with 2 days of clear warm sunshine forecast, I didn’t have any huge expectations of bringing home any dramatic photos. I was just out to enjoy the walk and the peace and quiet of getting away and having a night back amongst the fells.
Warm sun at this time of year usually means an obscuring haze, which not only spoils distant views, but also filters out the intensity of any direct light on the land.
The plan was to head for Buttermere, and more specifically somewhere along the High Crag, High Stile, Red Pike ridge.
With no Buttermere buses yet in action (summer timetables start next week), the route was a walk up Honister Pass, then over Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks, then up onto Seat and that last killer pull up to the summit of High Crag. Depending on time, light, views and nice looking patches of grass to pitch on, I’d then be cosied up with either High Crag or High Stile (further along the ridge) for the night.
Warm and sunny it was, and throw in the fact it was the first walk I’d done with full camping and camera gear for a while, as well as one dodgy knee (last walk, Scafell Pike, dark, ice, slip, knee twist, bang, rock) my body was holding up quite well and the pace wasn’t bad.
Visibility on friday evening was pretty good actually, and it was worth taking a few snapshots on the way if only for stock (those picture editors love their blue sky).
The view over Innominate Tarn towards Great Gable is a well snapped one, although to be honest I’ve never been convinced by it compositionally, it always looks too messy, with not enough of Gable showing.
However the tarn was just about calm enough to make it worth setting a couple of shots up here, and I’d never been here in nice conditions. As a landscaper they can be hard to resist even when you know you’re not taking anything new. It’s new for you.
Haystacks itself has many corners to explore, and even feels like it has at least two summits separated by the mini tarn.
Sadly rather than explore I had to stick to the plan and head on for my bed. The day was running away from me, and with the sun going down at the far end of the Ennerdale Valley, I wanted to be at least on top of High Crag to get a shot looking back over Seat and Haystacks towards Great Gable in the last of the evening light.
There’s a bit of a descent to Scarth Gap, before you get to climb again. Reascending always seems to be a killer, no matter how small. Mind you there are more gradual climbs than the one up the last part of High Crag.
The views from the summit take in one of the more obviously rugged corners of the Lake District, particularly the handsome ragged steep folds of the east face of Pillar and around the head of Ennerdale to Kirk Fell and Great Gable.
Even Haystacks, of more diminutive stature and a popular family favourite, is of a similar craggy nature, Wainwright’s shaggy dog description suiting it well.
Sadly as I got to the summit, the high level cloud out to the west was thickening up, and as the light was warming up and should have been improving it was already losing its intensity.
For once I wasn’t too bothered, and decided just to pitch there and then. It was a lovely warm spring evening, not a breath of wind, and the views were still great in all directions. And I was enjoying them rather than worrying about how best to turn them into pixels.
Once pitched I had a quick explore of the fringes of the summit, and the steep drop off on the Buttermere side. Here looking back at he fading light on Haystacks and Great Gable.
I even took Buttermere reflection shot (kind of, just avoiding those damn trees ;))
I know you’d all be very disappointed if I didn’t throw in at least one stitched panorama, here looking out towards Grasmoor, Whiteless Pike, Eel Crag, Robinson and Hindscarth, with Skiddaw in the distance (honestly, people do ask, I’m not a total SEO whore ;))
It’s one of the very few nights I’ve had wild camping (so far) where it’s actually been warm enough to sit outside the tent for a while in the evening, and a very pleasant evening’s escape it was too.
A chilly breeze developed at some point during the night, and I hoped the cool air might make for clearer skies at dawn, but sadly the high cloud gave nothing but some dull colours on the horizon.
An hour or so later once the sun had got a bit higher I took my last shot, just a simple view from the tent doorway of Pillar.