The (White) Stuff of Dreams

February 24, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Its been a pretty decent start to 2024 for my photography with some really interesting winter conditions and enjoyable trips out with the camera. However, with being a fickle photographer, what I really wanted was a massive dollop of lovely snow. We had been treated to snow at the back end of last year, however I was unable to get out into the Lake District to enjoy them due to utter travel chaos which unfolded because of the severity of the snow. Well it looked like lady luck had been watching over me and granted my wish with a really health dump of the good old white stuff in January.....the only problem was it was in the week and I was in work. So I took an emergency holiday and just prayed that it would hang around long enough for my day off. Again luckily for me the temperatures where looking sub zero all week and this meant that the snow probably wasn't going to go anytime soon. So I planned a full days itinerary, prepared all my winter mountain kit and charged the camera batteries ready for action. 

First Light on the Scafell Massif and stunning Belt of Venus: 

Scafells Snow PanoScafells Snow Pano My first location was back to Dow Crag, which is part of the Coniston Fells, and a bit of favourite of mine. I've been going up to Dow Crag for the best part of a year as I've been convinced there is an image to be had looking North West. Well I think I had cracked the conundrum a bit earlier in the year and had failed on  few occasions to get the shot because of poor conditions, so I thought I would give it a crack in the snow. I arrived in Torver and would make the hike up through the quarries, to Walna Scar road and then the direct ascent up to Goats Water, Goats Hawse and then finally a left turn and  up to the summit of Dow Crag. The path ways from the outset where like a river of sheet ice, so my ice spikes were deployed straight away. This made life considerably easier and quickened my pace, for a while it was like Bambi on ice. All was going well until I hit Goats Water, then the conditions made it really tough going. The shoreline of Goats Water is very rocky with large bolders and picking your way through this in deep snow can be problematic and time consuming. All pathways were not visible so I had to plot my own route past the water and up to Goats Hawse. The ascent to Goats Hawse (in between Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag) is steep at the best of times but even more so with no visible path and energy sapping knee deep compacted snow. 

Dow Crag at Sunrise:  Scafells dow snowScafells dow snow

When I reached Goats Hawse my jaw dropped at the gorgeous snowy views and the pink and blue hues of a stunning belt of venus. I didn't have too much time to enjoy the view and had to press on as still a 15 minute hike to my destination and sunrise was approaching fast. I made it to the summit of Dow Crag literally 2 minutes before sunrise, I quickly set up, got all my winter clothing on and waited for the light. The views where stunning, maybe a little too much blue sky and not enough diffusion from clouds but I really wasn't complaining. I stayed around the summit for about 1 hour before I had to start moving and get my body warm. That can be the problem with winter photography, as it is a waiting game and not moving in sub zero conditions isn't good for the body and can cause hyperthermia. Sounds a bit dramatic but when we are dealing with -10 degree wind chills, keeping the body warm is essential. So off I trotted along the gorgeous ridge from Dow Crag down to Buck Pike and along to Brown Pike and Blind Tarn. I slowly made my way back to car enjoying the gorgeous snowy views and tagging a few images along the way. 

The Ridge - Blind Tarn and Brown Pike from the descent of Buck Pike:

The RidgeThe RidgeThe gorgeous ridge line from the decent of Buck Pike towards Blind Tarn and Brown Pike covered in some winter light. My sunset destination was a location I've definitely become a little obsessed with over the last year, with me visiting on four separate occasions. Illgill Head or Wasdale Screes too many, is a wonderful fell which affords unparalleled views of Wasdale Head, Yewbarrow, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Lingmell and the Scafells. I set off from Irton Pike and it is a good 4 mile journey along the fells to the summit and that glorious view. Its quite a wet and boggy route and of course due to the temperatures this turned to ice so the spikes where yet again deployed making the hike easier to tackle. The snow wasn't as deep to begin with as I made my way over Whin Rigg but soon the going became tougher with deepening snow and gusty winds. Again I was up against it time wise as my journey over to Wasdale was slow with a few road diversions. I arrived on the summit of Illgill head just as we approached golden hour. I quickly set about finding a composition as the light was lovely and looking behind me there was a bank of ominous looking clouds and I may not see sunset if the sun gets caught behind them. It was a challenging shoot with the wind really picking up and the snow blowing across the fell top. I was having trouble keeping my camera still due to the strengthening winds and I was starting to get very cold. However I got my shot and I was pleased that a little cloud had materialised to add some depth and diffuse the sun which created some nice light and shade. The sun then dipped behind the cloud as predicted. Tired, cold and weather beaten, I decided to make the long snowy trudge back to the car before the long drive home. 

Red Pike and Pillar - Winter Moods:   Red pike winterRed pike winter

The walk back to the car was enjoyable, despite the icy patches, as I revelled in the wonderful day I had had. The conditions where spectacular and ones I hadn't experienced in the Fells for a very long time. It was an exhausting day with over 15 miles covered and in very arduous conditions but it was well, well worth all the effort and discomfort. Sometimes it's not about the photography and more about the experience of being out in the outdoors, especially with weather conditions that we are rarely treated to. Luckily on this occasion I came away with a few images I really like, but the over whelming sense of enjoyment and well being I took away with me will well and truly override any images I've taken. This day will stay long in my memory, an experience I can't put into words and one that I'm afraid the photographs probably can't convey fully, but hopefully they give you an idea of what it was like. Hopefully I will get to experience more snow before winter is out, although I shall not hold my breath, as these where exceptional circumstances. If we get no more of the white stuff, then at least I have these memories and images to keep me going until next year and spring is on the way, so its not all bad.

The Wall - Wasdale Head from Illgill head:

Illgill Head - Winter GoldIllgill Head - Winter Gold

Last Light across the Coniston Fells:

coniston fells winterconiston fells winter

Keep Smiling

Tim


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