GUEST POST: PETE ELLIOT - THE LAKES
The Lake District is located in Cumbria, on the northwest coast of England. It is well known for its incredible craggy fells, mesmerising waterfalls, gorgeous timeless villages with quaint little cottages and stunning U-shaped valleys formed from the last ice age, which are now filled with water. It’s a utopia for hiking in the UK and has a plethora of activities for more family orientated groups or even the most hardened outdoor adventurers. Add to this it’s relatively compact size (around 30 by 40 miles) and you’ve got a recipe for an amazing trip soaking up all the great outdoors has to offer.
With my tent packed, I started the 6 hour journey from the south coast of England to enjoy a long weekend out in the fells. I was joined by a few friends from further north, and we’d planned a few longer hikes mixed in with some wild camping to make the most of our short excursion here. Our first stop would be Glenridding, to tackle Striding Edge one of the more famous routes in the Lakes and a classic scramble that can get a little airy in places. On the drive to Glenridding from Ambleside it becomes clear that the allure of this place is in the name, with dozens of beautiful lakes grabbing your attention as you pass through the rolling valleys of the Lake District.
After meeting up with my friend Joe in Glenridding, the journey started in a way that felt natural to me, with a long hike. We packed our bags with the essentials and a few bevs to reward ourselves later and set off for our first adventure of the week. It being late in the day we opted to take the simple route to Red Tarn, passing the YHA youth hostel and heading up the valley.
The path climbs at a decent rate, and soon you’re surrounded by peaks either side giving you a feeling of being somewhere truly wild as you approach Red Tarn. Unfortunately for us, the higher we got the closer we got to a foreboding cloud that engulfed the summits around us, further to this the wind was picking up which wasn’t a good sign for our planned wild camp. Regardless, we pushed on reaching Red Tarn in about 2 hours where we set up camp and beat a hasty retreat into our sleeping bags to shelter from the miserable, but fairly authentic Lake District conditions.
The next morning we awoke at 5.30am, after reviewing the mountain forecast the night before we’d pushed back the alarms to allow the heavy cloud to subside. On emerging from our tents, the conditions didn’t look promising, but the thick cloud shrouding the ridge quickly disappeared giving us our first look at Striding Edge and Helvellyn. As fast as the ridge emerged, more clouds engulfed it. We knew that conditions would be fast changing which could make for some incredible photographs with a little patience, so we headed up to the ridge, our excitement brewing. Up on the ridge conditions were as expected, it was blustery but not dangerous, and the ever changing clouds made for some dramatic conditions.
We pushed on along the ridge, a daunting drop either side meant we needed to stay sharp. Luckily for us at 5.30am not mant others are awake, and we had the whole ridge to ourselves. Waiting at certain points for it to invariably clear, giving you seconds to snap a shot of the ridge before the next clouds rolled in. These moments were few and far between, but when the ridge did emerge it was breathtaking and both of us came away with some photo’s we were happy with.
Conscious of getting our tents put away before others arrived, we opted not to summit Helvellyn, but headed down contempt with our first little mission and the fruits of our labour.
After treating ourselves to a full english in Glenridding (essential) I said goodbye to Joe, and headed for Ambleside where we planned a slightly less strenuous, but arguably just as beautiful hike up Loughrigg Fell. The weather was perfect, blue skies as far as the eye could see and a nice sunset and sunrise were forecasted meaning I’d be able to shoot with some golden light for the first time this trip. I met up with my friends Andy and Steve at around 3pm and set off on our little hike up Loughrigg. At only 335m this fell punches above its weight, giving views over Windermere and the surrounding Wainwrights that dwarf this fell.
After a short hour or so hike up, we found a nice little spot to set up camp with ample time to relax and enjoy the views, and they really are stunning. To the north the River Rothay flows through Grasmere and Rydal Water and to the south you get unparalleled views of Loughrigg Tarn and Elter Water with the backdrop of the Langdale Valley.
Although we lost the sun early due to it dipping behind Bowfell, the sunset was beautiful leaving some lovely soft pastel colours in the Sky. The temperature was pleasant and we sat outside, snapping photos as the pastels faded to blue and the blues were replaced by darkness. Being a photographer in the summer months is difficult as the late finishes and early alarms can often be tiring, but with the short hike the 5am alarm seemed easy to wake up for.
The views over windermere welcomed me as I unzipped my tent, with perfect reflections on the lake and not a drop of wind. Sitting there, almost in complete silence immersed in the natural beauty of the surroundings was surreal, just for a few moments I felt removed from everything else going on below. I was snapped back into reality by the piercing sound of a stove being lit, but my brief anger subsided as a coffee was much needed.
After a morning of grabbing some more photographs whilst basking in the golden light, we set about packing up camp, making sure to remove all trace of us being there. This is true wild camping, not what has been so often shown in the news with groups leaving all their litter for others to deal with. As an adventure photographer and someone who grew up loving the great outdoors I feel protective of our mountains in the UK and around the world. I feel it’s necessary to use this platform to show humans how to properly enjoy these beautiful places. Contempt the site was clear; we headed down, excited for another fried breakfast before setting off on the long trip back down south.
The Lake District never disappoints, and really is a place to be treasured in the UK. Hopefully it isn’t long until I'm back.