No pain, no gain: a meandering plod around the Scafells. Oh! And Happy New Year.

Scafell Pike, Lake District National Park
The Scafells as seen at dawn from Bowfell. 

I’m sat here typing this blogpost still aching and sore from my recent trip to the Lake District. Was it worth it? You betcha! No pain, no gain so they say – and such words couldn’t be more apt to be honest.

I could wax lyrical about how wonderful it was to be amongst some of England’s finest scenery. Heck, I’d love to. Sadly, I aint no writer. Besides, pictures can say so much more anyway. And that’s what I’ll do here today with some chit chat about the trip and not ‘poetry’.

All said and done, I have to say one of the reasons it was a tough trip was because of the weight of my rucksack. Average weight was in excess of 25kgs due to the amount of kit I needed with me for filming. But despite the agony I went through most days, I pushed on regardless with specific goals in mind.

For example, I had some shots in mind I wanted (or at least hoped!) to capture at sunset or dawn from near Three Tarns by Crinkle Crags. My walk up from Langdale is in most respects relatively easy. A stroll up The Band to the location. What would normally be a 2 hour walk at most took me 5 hours. Admittedly, I did take rest stops to whip the camera out and hit record but iced over paths followed by thawing snow made my stomping giant’s weighty strides all the more difficult.

Thanks to the weight on my back, I also had a wee scare up on Mickledore on the Scafells one day too. Towards the end of my trip, I had planned to leave Wasdale and spend the night up on Lingmell. Alas the weather was a bit shite to say the least. But I did get hold of some weather forecasts via a weak signal on my phone which indicated the following morning would be a shedload better. With that in mind, I changed my course and took the gamble of heading up into the mire to camp on Scafell Pike itself.

The previous 24 hours had been a little warmer than usual and so much of the snow on the high ground had become mush. It wasn’t too bad but it did slow me down and I anticipated I’d reach camp just after sunset.

After negotiating the steep and slippery ascent up onto Mickledore I then had to make my way safely in dimming light (if I could call it that as it was all pea soup up there) along waist deep snow drifts towards the summit of Scafell Pike.

I’d just passed the Mountain Rescue post up there when I suddenly dropped into a deep drift to just above my hips. No drama you may assume. But what followed didn’t half frighten the life out of me. The sheer momentum of falling through the drift and that wonderful invisible force we call gravity then chose to take my rucksack off down the fell side – with me still attached.

Essentially, I was now on my back head first sliding down the slope of Mickledore towards what would no doubt be a fatal drop over the edge. I don’t really know how I did it – perhaps it was instinct, or sheer panic – but I managed to spin round head up, rolled to lie on my front where I then held onto my ice axe for dear life while kicking frantically with my crampons into the snow to arrest my nightmare ride down to certain doom.

Aye, I’m writing this all light-hearted and some may read it as melodramatic. But it’s all true and goes to show accidents do happen. Thankfully I stopped within feet of a cliff edge.

I lay there puffing and panting for quite some time as I endeavoured to calm my adrenaline and cussed at my predicament and what a lucky son of a bitch I was. Carefully, I then made my way back up the slope where after I then sheepishly plodded on in the dark towards the summit.

I was thankful I had a fair bit of port in my pack that night to help calm my nerves and reflect on what happened. Lesson learnt. Never again will I head out onto steep inclines near ridges or cliffs in thawing snow with a stupid heavyweight pack on.

Normally the summit of the Pike is too rocky to pitch a tent but thanks to all the snow, it was easy enough to clear a little and compress it’s surface to make hard ground to put up my home for the night – despite my axe easily slicing vertical into the snow and not touching the bottom.

Was that day worth it? Did the gamble pay off? Indeed it did. And all bad memories were forgotten.

One night I hooked up with Peter Dixon a fellow backpacker from nearby Barrow-in-Furness. It was nice to have his company along with Oscar his dog (who was adorable by the way). The weather had been wonderful in the daytime, if somewhat chilly in the ever strengthening winds. We spent the night on Seathwaite Fell as forecasts indicated a serious storm coming in for the next couple of days with particularly strong winds on the summits the night we met.

I wanted to capture some night timelapse of Great End (which you can see a clip of near the bottom of this post) but the winds were bloody awful. Knocking you about as you walked, flattening flush to the ground the rear of the F10 Nitro Lite tent I was in. It seemed impossible I would get the show I wanted. But after crawling about on the ground in the dark, I positioned my camera under a pile of rocks to ensure it wouldn’t move an inch in the gale force winds.

We headed back to our tents, made conversation with each other shouting through SilNylon and joked about the conditions. After all, it may have been bad but at least we were warm and dry inside our shelters. Which is the most important thing.

Saying that, Pete had to wake me some hours later. Shouting at the top of his voice for me to get out and fetch my camera. I had fallen into a deep sleep! See? I really do head off to the land of nod and a bomb could go off and I would be none the wiser.

Reluctantly, I got layered up and we both headed out into the dark to collect my camera. Was it worth it? Indeed it was.

Those two wee stories pretty much sum up my trip. The pack weight, the watching and waiting, the conditions on the ground and of course in the air. Looking back it’s no bloody wonder I’m still aching and sore. But I tell you what. I’m stronger and fitter for it!

Relating to all the above, I’ve had a few folk ask me in private and on Twitter etc how I get the shots I captured on video. And inevitably (?) asking if they’re real or not.

Of course they’re real!

And to prove the point, cast your eyes on the following photos. All the real deal. And if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll see the exact same scenes in the short video at the end too. OK the photo’s are in 4K resolution and the video is just under 1K resolution (ie, 720p HD) but it’s not rocket science to see they’re the exact same scenes*.

It’s all about being in the right place, at the right time. Naturally, some of it is luck too. But don’t think you or anyone else couldn’t possibly enjoy such scenes. It’s something most wild campers get to enjoy when out on the hills. I’m fortunate enough to have the time to chase such scenes. But it’s not all a bed of roses. As mentioned above, some hard graft is involved. Mentally and physically. But I take it on the chin. I choose to do it. I want to do it. I enjoy doing it. It’s my passion in life. To care, share and dream. Chase a vision.

Much of what I film – no matter the time of year – is done at dawn or sunset when landscapes look at their best. Generally.

I will film during the day of course. But that all depends on the light and conditions. And you’ll see some of that below. Mean and moody landscapes, ethereal scenes on overcast days and so on. But I try to ensure that where I’m walking or planning on camping will accommodate the chances weather-wise and the shots I have in my mind’s eye.

I didn’t get all I hoped for on this trip it has to be said. And I will be returning very soon to ensure I do so. But prevailing conditions put paid to those ideas. Even so, I’m more than happy with what I captured and such principles apply too for backpacking.

It’s all about being in the great outdoors. Taking it all in. It’s truly humbling. If you’re a hillbagger, or one who chases the miles, then fair play to you. But do take the time to head out slowly from time to time (not with a 30kg pack of course!) and savour the sights you could easily miss. Sit a while. Not just a few minutes. Sit for an hour or more. Watch, wait, take in the ever changing scenes on a stormy day wrapped up warm behind a boulder.

Get a tent up, brew in your hand and make your half-arsed walk to a nearby summit at camp and watch the dawn of a new day reveal itself on the world below. Perhaps above a sea of cloud.

That to me is what the outdoors is all about. It’s there. It’s real. It’s free! Don’t take my pictures or videos for it. Head out when you can. And enjoy it. You only live once, and time don’t half fly by. Youth is wasted on the young, so they say. So if you’re not so youthful head out now. Make the most of it. And if you’re youthful….well, get out there and broaden your horizons and see what’s on your doorstep.

There’s not many more accessible and beautifully sublime places like the Lake District to do all that. And that’s the very reason why I chose to produce a documentary featuring Scafell Pike through the seasons here. It’s a special place to me and always calls me back. It’s a bit of a brute, rough around the edges – ugly even. But it’s got pulling power and charisma. Like anything in life, never judge a book by it’s cover (it’s them “old sayings day today I think!).

And the same sentiment can apply to wherever you are in the world. There’s outdoors beauty to be found pretty much anywhere here in the UK. From Richmond Park in London, to the Cotswolds and Chiltern Hills outside the M25. To the Lincolnshire Wolds and down to the Norfolk Broads.

From the Cheshire Plain to the moody uplands of the Peak District and Pennines.

From South Wales right through to North Wales. Much of Northern England and onwards to arguably Britain’s best scenery – Scotland.

It’s all there and on the coasts too.

I do hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and have a Happy New Year. Until 2013, take care, speak soon and thanks for popping on by…..

*Some photo’s in this post were taken on a DSLR, compact camera and mobile phone.

terrybnd, wild camping, Lake District
Happy man reaches Three Tarns at long last!

F10 Nitro Lite 200 tent, wild camping, Lake District
Camp near Three Tarns just before dawn.

Pike O Blisco, Lake District National Park
The sun is about to rise above Pike O Blisco.

Langdale Pikes, wild camping
Temperature inversion in the Langdale Valley. It lasted for much of the day.

Great Langdale, cloud inversion, Lake District
Quite a sight eh? I soon whipped the video camera onto ‘record’.

Crinkle Crags and Pike O Blisco, inversion
Some temperature inversion. One above and one below. I was in the right place!

Eskdale from Bowfell, Lake District
Into the head of Eskdale from Bowfell.

Wild camping, Bowfell, Lake District
Camp on Bowfell. Before….

Bowfell wild camping, Lake District
After….well, the following morning. Superb!

Dawn from Bowfell, Lake District
Dawn from Bowfell. Beautiful sight. Looks nice here, but in person? Awesome!

Great Langdale, Lake District dawn
Dawn creeps in over Pike O Blisco. On the horizon you can clearly see the summit of Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales.

Great Langdale, dawn
Dawn light kisses the Langdale Pikes. Marvellous stuff.

Backpacking Lake District
Chilling out – literally. Enjoying the view.

Scafell Pike, Lake District National Park
Looking to the Scafells from the flanks of Esk Pike.

Force Ten Nitro Lite 200 tent, wild camping
Not a bad view to wake up to, eh? Tent is the new Force Ten Nitro Lite 200. Performed beyond my expectations. No joke.
Lovely spec, no doubt about it. But in terms of use out in the field, it’s one to watch out for. More kit talk in the future….

wild camping
Pain in the arse – melting snow for water. Needs be. It was cold out and all water sources were frozen. Stove’s the new Primus Express Spider. I like it. I’ve given up on meths stoves this winter. Long story….

Wild camping, Lake District. Seathwaite Fell
Camp made on Seathwaite Fell. Ask Peter how his Scarp tent got on via Twitter. It aint as roomy as the Nitro, but it shrugged off the storms just as well in the night.

National Trust camping pod
Camping pod I spent a couple of nights in at Wasdale, thanks to the National Trust. Kit dried,  batteries re-charged – happy days.

Wasdale, stag
Stag on the campsite. This fine fella hung about for a while as I made coffee just outside the pod.

Robin, Wasdale
I should’ve sang like Mary Poppins! Wee Robin joined me for company too.

Wastwater from Brown Tongue
Moments respite. Diverting from Lingmell, I headed towards Mickledore en route for Scafell Pike summit.

Force Ten Nitro Lite, wild camping, Scafell Pike
Camp on Scafell Pike.

winter wild camping
Looks lovely, but it was bloody cold!

Scafell Pike summit
Summit of Scafell Pike at dawn.

Scafell Pike, Lake District winter
Some lovely mountain views on the flanks of Scafell Pike. All in all, a superb trip.

Special thanks to the following sponsors for supporting me on this project. Good ole Rab for top clothing and a sleeping bag as always (Will they ever churn out kit that’s mediocre? Nope) and Force Ten and Vango. The former for what is so far turning out to be a top drawer lightweight tunnel tent and the for a new nifty and comfy pack for lugging all my crap around with.
Big thank you to the National Trust team in Cumbria for their wonderful support on so many levels. I’d only bore you by singing their praises but they’re a fab bunch of people who work hard to care for these iconic fells. And of course Cumbria Tourism – who I’d say are the best tourism board I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Well, equal with the team at Staffordshire County Council. All genuine folk with a real love and passion for their respective areas. If they don’t mind me saying so, of course.


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