Rediscovering the fun

‘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).

View to Buttermere

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.

Innominate Tarn

Great Gable over Innominate Tarn

Haystacks itself has many corners to explore, and even feels like it has at least two summits separated by the mini tarn.

Haystacks summit and High Crag

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.

Gable and Kirk Fell from Scarth Gap

Ennerdale and Great Gable

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.

View over Seat towards Great Gable and Kirk Fell

Seat and Great Gable from 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.

Enjoying the view from High Crag

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.

Fading light, Seat Haystacks and Great Gable


I even took Buttermere reflection shot (kind of, just avoiding those damn trees ;))

Robinson and Buttermere

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 ;))

Panorama from High Crag

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.

Pillar from bed

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Products tagged: Buttermere, Camping, Eel Crag, Ennerdale, Fleetwith Pike, Grasmoor, Great Gable, Haystacks, High Crag, High Stile, Hindscarth, Honister Pass, Innominate Tarn, Kirk Fell, lake district, photography, photos, Pillar, Red Pike, Robinson, Scarth Gap, Seat, Skiddaw, wainwright, walking, Whiteless Pike, wild camping
Shop categories: Buttermere, Ennerdale and the North Western Fells

10 Responses to Rediscovering the fun

  1. Tim Parkin says:

    Love the ‘enjoying the view’ shot – really nice lines in the composition leading the eye to the ‘viewer’ and onto the ‘view’. Hoping to get some good wild camps this year.

  2. Great blog post.

    Sounds like you had a fantastic time of it, I’m really jealous :0)

  3. Steve Barber says:

    a beautiful set of pictures

  4. Stewart says:

    Cheers guys. Many more wild camps to come soon hopefully 🙂

  5. krider2010 says:

    The view over Innominate Tarn towards Great Gable may well be a well snapped one, but I really like your portrait one with the grass/reeds in the foreground.

  6. Claire says:

    Gorgeous photos, and beautiful words. Always so emotive. Hope you have many more wild camp stories to wow me with over the next few months.

  7. Great stuff Stewy as always!

  8. Helen Fisher says:

    I really enjoy reading the story behind your photographs, what it involved and how you experienced the process. So thanks for writing this up and I’m going to look forward very much to the next instalment!

  9. Wow! Totally stunning pictures. Wish I was fit enough to get up there to see those views 🙁

  10. Pingback: » My favourite outdoor blog posts (wb 11 April 2011)

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