Thursday, 25 February 2016

Blencathra

I rarely put any text at all, but I've got a few things to put here. Firstly, it is with thanks to Matty White that I took these photos at all. He's a fantastic photographer (even though he denies it at every opportunity) who puts a really interesting perspective on whatever he photographs (lots of landscapes, motorsport, and boxing). Seeing his work made me realise that I was being very lazy about getting out to interesting places to take photos, so I decided to take his suggestion of climbing Blencathra.

I arrived late in the afternoon (purposefully), and the weather was changeable, with snow showers and clouds scudding across, and a forecast of hill fog later. In my mind, perfect conditions.

With my cold weather gear I sweated like a pig on the way up, with the late afternoon sun occasionally coming through and lighting up the landscape. As I climbed higher, eventually more snow was on the ground, but as almost none of it was fresh, it was hard and icy and rather tricky to walk on, particularly if smooth.

I reached the top, and walked along the edge to Blease fell as the sun was setting behind thick clouds. Almost as soon as the light levels fell and the temperature dropped, huge thick clouds of fog formed on the lee side of the mountain, which was quite impressive.

I turned back, with the intention of walking along to Sharp Edge, and heading down that to Scales Tarn. At this point, darkness was rapidly falling, and the thick fog meant I had to keep my bearings straight. Heading along the northern side of Blencathra towards the top of Sharp Edge was when things started to go a bit wrong: the white stuff looked like snow, but it wasn't: the whole side of the fell was covered in one giant sheet of smooth ice. The gradient was relatively shallow, but the ice was lethally slippery. After falling  a couple of times I realised I needed to be careful, as I was only a few metres above an ice cornice, which if I had slid  over would have dumped me very rapidly many hundreds of feet straight down into Scales Tarn.

I still decided to press on to go down Sharp Edge, and I made progress by hammering my feet down into the ice to get purchase. I slipped a couple more times and only just managed to arrest my slide down to the edge. I eventually got roughly to the top of Sharp Edge. At which point I realised, basically: hell no. In the dark and with conditions as they were, I wasn't going down that: same ice sheet, much sharper gradient.

So after taking a photo from my precarious perch, I secured all my gear in my bag, and proceeded to head up the fell side on all fours, using my torch as a makeshift axe and hammering in my toes, and in this way I managed to crawl several hundred feet to the top of Atkinson Pike, where I made my way back across to Blencathra and down the same way I came up (which was still pretty icy..).

Crampons and ice axe may be on my shopping list after the experience: this was actually the first time when I've been a little concerned for my safety while walking in the UK.

But it was, at the end of the evening, a pretty great experience and I am pleased with the photos.

Also want to say, my £15-from-a-charity-shop ski jacket did a fantastic job, as did my North Face Windstopper gloves, which were windproof and relatively waterproof, and warm enough to keep my hands warm but thin enough to still use the camera. I was toasty and warm even after darkness fell.

Seen from below, this is where I was heading up. That arette on the right hand side is Sharp Edge.

Between snow showers the late afternoon sun gave some beautiful light.






My gear.


Snowbow.






I really hope these guys were wearing some sort of studded footwear..





Still, beautiful place to go for a run..











Scales Tarn.









Probably my favourite shot of the day. The entire way up, it seemed like I was in the right place at the right time for the light and weather conditions. Which, I believe is what most of photography is about..



Slightly dramatic looking skyline..





Keswick.

The fog started to flow off the lee side of the mountain as the temperature dropped rapidly.



















This was my perch around the top of Sharp Edge, when I decided to turn around. I had to be really careful here, because one slip and I'd have ended up sliding/falling all the way down.. and it was maybe a lot further than this very wide lens makes it seem..


Penrith lighting up the sky.


The square shape of the LED beam here didn't really help.. 
But hey, I thought I'd give it a go.