If Carlsberg did backpacking trips in the Lake District?

Dawn and inversion from Scafell Pike
Dawn from Scafell Pike – breathtaking splendour.

“Once the sun begun to rise over a distant Helvellyn range – my spirits soared, and a smile exploded across my face!

I shit you not! This was one of the most beautiful and humbling dawns of a new day I have EVER had the pleasure of seeing with my own eyes. The sun rose slowly above the cloud inversion and began to kiss it’s ever creeping light along the tops of the cloud that eerily flowed around and over many of Lakeland’s fells.

Words cannot describe the giddy joy I felt being on England’s highest summit on a Monday morning taking in such an awe-inspiring scene. I was in heaven – literally. I couldn’t have been more in my element and I’ll admit I did smirk to myself thinking what a bloody plonker I was to have been moaning and griping only minutes earlier.”

I must be one of the luckiest people in the UK when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors with superb weather. Needless to say, I do endeavour to time my trips and shoots just right with the prevailing conditions. Even so, there’s a large amount of luck too! And my recent trip to Lakeland working on ‘Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike’ was no exception and one that will linger long in my memory.

I arrived at the Honister Slate Mine late one Friday afternoon under blue skies and searing heat. The walk out from here was going to be an easy one – or so I thought – to Great Gable where I hoped to spend the night in a bivouac.

Alas, the heatwave that had engulfed large parts of the UK was still in full swing. With my pack at it’s heaviest for quite some time (never mind being out for a few nights) the walk up over the moor and towards the towering cliffs of Great Gable proved rather labourous to say the least. I was pouring with sweat and drinking so much water that a fish could glance at me and blush!

Despite that, the days are still quite long and I was making good time to reach my planned camp on one of Lakeland’s most iconic mountains with the intention of capturing some nice scenes at sunset of the Scafells.

In truth, once I strode upon the summit of Green Gable, the view south captivated me and I suddenly decided to spend the night there instead. The way the light was caressing Great End and Seathwaite Fell with it’s many knolls and tarns was a sheer visual delight. Right place, right time.

Rab Alpine bivi and Rab Neutrino Endurance 200
The weeks shelter of choise, a Rab Alpine bivi along with the new Rab Neutrino Endurance 200

Within minutes I had the tarp and bivvy set up and I began to wander around filming and taking photos. Nothing spectacular I must admit but lovely nonetheless. Thinking about where the sun would rise the following morning, I figured that I might get to enjoy some fabulous views of the bulk of the Scafell massif being gently kissed by the pink glow of our rising star and it proved to be a good decision staying put on Green Gable.

Moreover, when the end of the day approached, I nipped round the corner to Windy Gap where my jaw dropped for minutes on end as Gable’s crag light up in so many wonderful colours, details and contrast as a distant sun set in perfect line with the valley of Ennerdale.

At this point, I assumed it wouldn’t get much better than this! Oh, how wrong I was…..

Sunset Ennerdale, Lake District
Sunset over Ennerdale from Windy Gap.
Sunset from Windy Gap over Ennerdale, Lake District wild camping
Was this the best sight I saw on this trip? Hell, no!
Sunset on the Scafells, Lake District
Setting sun kisses the tops of the Scafell massif as seen from Green Gable.
Seathwaite Fell at dawn, Lake District wild camping
Dawn light on Seathwaite Fell with a distant Langdale Pikes on the horizon.
Dawn on Great End, Lake District, wild camping
Gentle dawn light on Great End. May look better in later summer this scene. Light’s too yellow.

The following morning proved productive and after a short stroll down the screes of Windy Gap to Styhead Tarn I made my way to Sprinkling Tarn where I was to meet Lakeland author Mark Richards – best known for his Lakeland Fellranger series and good friend of the late, great Alfred Wainwright.

I arranged to meet Mark at a given time by this scenic tarn that resides below a menacing Great End (quite an apt name for a fell as it happens) but we missed each other – both of us wandering around the fells like lost, tired lambs seeking their mother.

Of course, eventually we bumped into each other, got talking and then down to the task of me filming Mark expressing his love and thoughts of England’s highest mountain (some of which you can see in the video at the very bottom of this post). Mark’s jovial personality and infectious enthusiasm for the area soon woke my tired brain and he proved to be wonderful company. He shines on camera too! A natural presenter.

With the filming done, we made our own separate ways and I began a late in the day slog towards Esk Hause. I wasn’t too sure where I wanted to spend the night at this point. So after collecting some water from the spring by the cross shelter at Calf Cove I ascended the flanks of Great End to inspect the views and hidden places where I could set up a camp and then wander about capturing the scenery all around. Again, in time it proved to be a good decision.

Mark Richards, Lakeland Fellranger series
Mark Richards author of the Lakeland Fellranger series.

While taking a stroll on the rocky summit I heard a tremendous bang that seemed to happen right beside me! I initially thought – bizarrely – my hydration bladder had exploded. At camp I did a check and all was well. At this point I then assumed I must’ve been hallucinating thanks to the humid air and searing sun. But come the following morning, while packing my kit and doing the usual “idiot check” to ensure nothing is left behind I chanced upon some ash floating out of a package where I was protecting my shotgun microphone.

Upon closer inspection I soon discovered what had caused the loud ‘bang’ the previous evening. One of the microphone’s batteries had exploded and caught fire!!

Turns out alkaline batteries don’t like the heat. The microphone appeared fine – or so I thought – and I consequently used it later that day filming the public talking to camera on the summit of Scafell Pike. It was only afterwards while relaxing at camp on a flank of Scafell Pike that I discovered much of the sound recorded was ruined by electrical interference. I guess the microphone’s diaphragm had been somewhat ‘paggered’ by the battery exploding. Oh well, I managed to salvage some talking head shots but it’s meant I’ve had to spend a considerable sum on a replacement since (sadly insurance cover wasn’t worth bothering with – which seems to be pretty much all the bloody time with such companies!).

Sawyer water filter hydration system
This Sawyer filter and squeeze bladder got hammered on this trip. Review coming soon.
Rab SilTarp 1
Bivvying for multi-days aint much fun in poor weather. So on this trip I brought along
the new Rab SilTarp 1 I’ve been testing of late. Packs tiny and is light. Good shelter so far!
Wild camping, Rab SilTarp 1
Camp on a nice ledge north of Great End summit with Great Gable beyond.
Scafell Pike from Great End, Lake District, Wild camping
Not a bad view of Scafell Pike from camp, eh?
Sunset from Great End, Lake District
Sunset from camp on Great End. Again, another sweet view.

If I may re-wind a little, it’s worth mentioning that the morning I woke on Great End was an absolute cracker. As far as my eyes could see was a sea of cloud to all points on the compass (bar Wasdale oddly) with only the highest summits of Lakeland poking out through the heavenly scene.

I kind of hoped for a cloud inversion at some point on the trip but never fancied my chances. In fact, I nearly didn’t bother waking at dawn that day as I was shattered from the previous days efforts. I’m so glad I did, let me tell you!

I could wax lyrical about the sights I saw, but I won’t bother. I’m no Lakeland Poet. So, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. And even then they don’t do the wonder of the scenes justice!

It’s times like that, where I scrabble out of my bivvy, bleary-eyed and sore, and hobble about blinkering my watering-eyes and fiddling about with my cameras that ironically prove the most surreal to me. I was racing around changing vantage points, seeking new ones, while tripping on rocks and bumping into others as I frantically tried to capture as much as possible.

Only once the sun is high and the light and the contrast becomes flatter (despite the stunning scene to our own naked eyes) that I then get to switch off and take in the wonders of being out on the mountains. And feel honoured to have seen such majestic beauty that one can only ever appreciate when wild camping. It’s quite simply a joy. And fortunately for me, there was more to come….

Great End and inversion at dawn, Lake District
Dawn from Great End and cloud inversion.
Cloud inversion from Great End, Lake District
Mesmerizing – looking to Glaramara from Great End.
Great End and gully at dawn, Lake District
Peeping down one of the fierce looking gullies on Great End.
Sprinkling Tarn at dawn from Great End, Lake District
Sprinkling Tarn and Seathwaite Fell at dawn.
Great Gable and inversion from Great End, Lake District
Captivating Great Gable from Great End.
Esk Pike and inversion
Esk Pike just about keeps it’s head above the clouds.
Terry Abraham filming Lake District
Video camera was hard at work this morning, let me tell thee!
Wild camping, Rab SilTarp 1
Yours truly relaxing at camp on Great End post dawn. Bloody marvellous!
Rab SilTarp 1, wild camping, Great End
Rab SilTarp 1 camp looking to Scafell Pike.

The later camp on Scafell Pike proved to be a dreary one. And to be honest I was pleased! I was by now a biological machine running on just 12 hours sleep since Thursday night. That along with the heat was beginning to take it’s toll. So with some relief I took a gentle wander over to Broad Crag tarn, collected about 6 litres of water and slowly snaked my way through rocks and grasses back to my camp where I relaxed over hot chocolates and food. All said and done, I didn’t hit the pillow until about midnight and that proved to be a mistake for my well-being over the course of the week.

The following morning, I woke at about 3.30am for a call of nature and it was then I saw yet another sea of cloud all around the Scafells and beyond. Quick as a flash I got dressed, lashed out and grabbed my cameras and made a slow staggering plod up onto the summit of Scafell Pike with a coffee in hand. Every limb was screaming at me to take it easy and get some sleep but my heart argued otherwise. For once, it took the lead of my mind and body.

I’ll admit I was cussing, thinking “The shit I go through to get some of these shots!” but of course that was all a load of crap as I took out my frustration of being tired and grumpy.

Once the sun began to rise over a distant Helvellyn range – my spirits soared, and a smile exploded across my face! Now, I got my adrenaline rush and there was no stopping me.

I shit you not! This was one of the most beautiful and humbling dawns of a new day I have EVER had the pleasure of seeing with my own eyes. The sun rose slowly above the cloud inversion and began to kiss it’s ever creeping light along the tops of the cloud that eerily flowed around and over many of Lakeland’s fells.

Words cannot describe the giddy joy I felt being on England’s highest summit on a Monday morning taking in such an awe-inspiring scene. I was in heaven – literally. I couldn’t have been more in my element and I’ll admit I did smirk to myself thinking what a bloody plonker I was to have been moaning and griping only minutes earlier.

Inversion and Great Gable pre-dawn from Scafell Pike
Inversion pre-dawn creeps round Great Gable as seen from the summit of Scafell Pike.
Dawn from Scafell Pike, Lake District
The rising sun over a distant Helvellyn range from the summit of Scafell Pike.
Langdale Pikes and inversion from Scafell Pike
Langdale Pikes just peep through the cloud.

I saw no one else for at least 2 hours up there until I was approached by 6 Three Peaks Challengers. What a sight they came to behold. They were in no rush back down either. But I was….my filming was complete. Job done. And so I made my way gingerly back down to my camp where upon I conked out to pay a much needed visit to the land of nod!

It was lunchtime (I think!) when I woke and realised I was lying in the sun slowly being burnt! But I didn’t mind. I cared not a jot to what I might look like later when descending to the Wasdale Head Inn to enjoy some food and ale and collect a food parcel for the rest of my trip.

It’s funny how enjoying the outdoors for more than just a couple of days that any consideration or thought for one’s own vanity is soon kicked out and into the dust. Bits of ‘sleep’ in the corners of my eyes? So what. A messy beard forming with stains from food and drink? Who cares, I don’t. Clothes that are covered in filth and perhaps smell a little? Pah. No bother.

I was over the moon to have felt at one with the great outdoors for those few days and the others yet to come and really didn’t give a shit what I looked like. And peculiarly no one else seemed to either who I later met in the pub, and days after.

OK, I did have a shower. I’m not a complete tramp. And that was when I reached Kendal to visit the KORS outdoor trade show. I thought better of my dismissive comments above then!

KORS is an outdoors show for the trade. Gets a bit of hype and to be honest I found it boring and shite.

The only innovative (and that’s largely being kind) gear to come out was mostly from UK based manufacturers. I did get to see the new Vaude tent that’s incredibly light – but incredibly expensive too! And some new kit I’ve already seen anyway in some capacity in recent months.

Anyone who goes to such places and raves about it, with a catalogue of pictures really needs to get outdoors more in my opinion. Gear freaks would likely find it a little underwhelming too.

But I’ll talk more about that in another future post.

wild camping, Rab SilTarp 1
Miserable view out to Buttermere post thunderstorm.
Sunset wild camping
Sunset as seen from camp near Buttermere.
Wild camping, Lake District
Camp over Buttermere the following morning. Rather splendid!

Post Kendal I dragged my scruffy ass off north to Penrith ready to show my face along with Chris Townsend at the Rheged Centre for the IMAX size screening of ‘The Cairngorms in Winter’ film we worked on.

All went well, the film looked bloody stunning on the 70 foot high screen and I was pleased I made the effort to encode the sound into Dolby Digital surround – the raging winds and Chris’ gently assuring voice boomed around the auditorium.

It felt like I was watching a totally new film produced by someone else! It was all very humbling.

In fact the whole trip had been from the off. One I’ll not forget in a hurry and has only made me more eager to head back to the Scafells and continue working on my next documentary.


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