The Final Countdown ‘Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike’

Syrp Genie Lake District
Capturing some timelapse of the Scafells with my DSLR and a Syrp Genie.

Been home just 4 days and already I’m packed and about to set back out to the hills again. The clock is ticking ever faster as I’m due to complete filming ‘Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike’ and I must admit nerves are creeping in.

I had originally planned to finish all my shoots for the documentary by the end of March and spend April editing and processing the feature ready for backers, the premiere and DVD. But the bloody weather we’ve had of late has truly put a spanner in the works and it’s really pissing me off.

I’ve ticked most boxes, and am really happy with the footage I’ve captured but time is of the essence now and though my brain and stamina is relishing completion of the film, my body has physically reached the point of severe burnout.

Rheged Centre Life of a Mountain Scafell Pike
‘Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike’ on the IMAX screen, Rheged Centre, 7.30pm 10th May. Box office: 01768 868000

Lugging my rucksack about the valleys and fells of the Western Lake District has taken it’s toll. Honestly, if you could see me at home now – you’d think I’d aged a hundred years. Of course the joy and thrills I get from being outdoors so much at the moment hasn’t faded in the slightest but my aching limbs will be glad to see the back of this project. I need a good break!

Given the recent storms and problems grabbing some scenes and interviews I want for the film, I just bloody know I’ll end up out in April capturing last minute shoots. And that will put even more pressure on me. Processing the completed film for digital cinema projection will take a week alone, for example. So I can scrub almost a week off April for that. Consequently that will mean less time to edit. I suspect I’ll be sat at my PC from dawn til late in the night over a couple of weeks getting it all finished.

The other week after a successful shoot with Chris Townsend in Upper Eskdale, I had arranged to meet Alan Hinkes OBE by Great End where he was going to talk through his avalanche encounter there amongst other things. Having set off with David Powell-Thompson for support on luggage, we reached Esk Hause and Grains Gill in the most horrendous conditions I’ve encountered in the Lakes so far this winter (and believe me, I’ve endured a few!).

Cornices were in action, drifts of snow were waist deep, visibility was less than ideal but workable and most of all the winds were horrific. I think David was knocked over a few times and I would’ve been too had it not been for my cumbersome and heavy pack. We waited quite some time for Alan to arrive as he was setting off from elsewhere, alas the weather gods conspired against us and the shoot didn’t come to be. A hasty retreat off the tops was on the cards. Alan joked to me the following day during a phone call that once he reached Sprinkling Tarn he’d “lost the will to live….”. Again, Alan was knocked over a few times by the winds too.

Chris Townsend and David Powell-Thompson, The Strands Inn and Brewery
Chris and David in The Strands Inn and Brewery, Nether Wasdale.

So, there’s one example of many explaining how my shoots haven’t gone to plan. And therein lies my frustration in getting the film completed – whatever the weather in most cases.

One shoot involved me filming Adrian Kowal from Way of Nature at Lingcove Bridge. Adrian revealed what the area means to him and how spiritually it’s a place he suggest many people should visit to reawaken their senses to Mother Nature. My video camera almost failed on me for this visit due to heavy sleet and rain. But the job got done.

Adrian Kowal Way of Nature
Adrian doing some exercises in Eskdale – keeping in tune with the earth and sky.

Wasdale MRT Lake District
Ian from Wasdale MRT training on Buckbarrow, Wasdale.

I was shaking like the proverbial dog on Buckbarrow Crag filming the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team doing some stretcher training and I nearly lost my video camera over a cliff edge thanks to a gust of wind.

But all said and done I did manage to capture something I was keen to do in ‘The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend’. Night timelapse of a wild camp. A long held goal of mine which I never got round to doing with Chris in Scotland but pulled off while in the Lakes. You can see a peek below in the video. For Chris’ sequence in the film, I was keen to show how awe-inspiring the Scafells (or any mountains in truth!) can be at night let alone in the day. It’s another aspect that makes wild camping so wonderful in my humble opinion.

Poor Chris had to wonder about in sleet and hail for a good couple of hours for me to capture the scenes you’ll see in the clip. To be fair the weather did improve but by then it was close to midnight! The ethereal look you’ll witness is thanks to the glow of the moon. Again, I got lucky there as a little moonlight really does set the fells alight on screen when capturing night time scenes.

So, there you go filming is almost completed for “my baby” but it’s been one helluva journey! Now I’m off for the final run….


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