In The Mist
This past October, my good friend Sim and I decided that we wanted to spend an extended weekend in the Lake District. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of London was a top priority for me personally. Also, I have been wanting to visit the Lake District ever since Andrea and I moved to the U.K.! Having never been there, it took some time, researching locations, trails, weather, as well as deciding what to bring! The primary set back was equipment. I needed hiking & camping equipment as I had left all things outdoorsy back in the States. After about a month of stockpiling the necessary items, everything was in order.
Where To go?
Deciding where to go in the Lake District isn't as easy as one would think. You need to consider your purpose of going. Since we were primarily going for photography, we needed somewhere somewhat remote. Away from day trails, and anything easily accessible for normal tourists. After scouring resources (websites, trail guides, etc.) I had finally determined where we should go. Nestled in the peaks of the region, is a small body of water, named "Sprinkling Tarn" (all lakes in the park are called Tarns by the way). It wasn't an easy choice, as it would be quite difficult and time consuming to get there, considering we didn't have a vehicle. The travel there and back would require a five hour train ride, an hour and a half bus ride, another hour bus ride, an hour and a half walk along narrow roads, then onto the main trail itself which would take a good half day to hike up. Nevertheless, we decided that the location would be worth the extended travel. With a location picked and train & bus tickets in hand, we set off.
"Deciding where to go in the Lake District isn't as easy as one would think. You need to consider your purpose of going. Since we were primarily going for photography, we needed somewhere somewhat remote"
The Way There
With the train leaving around 0600, it would be an early morning considering getting ready, and taking a 45 minute train to the main station where we would leave London. Normally I'm not a morning person, but when an opportunity to get out, explore, and take photographs awaits, I couldn't help but spring up out of bed! The morning travels were uneventful, as we spent the majority of the train ride reviewing the route, or dozing off while watching the beautiful, and almost medieval countryside of England blur by. After five hours aboard the train, I tapped Sim on the shoulder, and let him know it was our time to get off the train. As soon as we stepped off the train, we noticed something that we had not anticipated nearly as much as we should have. It was going to be much colder there than we had been seeing on the weather forecasts! As we left the station, we stepped out into the very foggy, and sleepy town of Penrith. Considering the miscalculation, we decided to find the nearest outdoor clothing shop, and pick up some thermals. With an added layer of clothing, we got on the next bus that would take us up into the Lake District, and leave us at Keswick. Upon arriving in Keswick, we noticed how beautiful the area already was. The town was filled with stone laid streets. Old wooden homes and shops lining them, smoke billowing from most of the chimneys. Knowing we were getting close to the trail we got even more excited. We then waited for the next bus to take us to Seatoller, which would be our last stop before our long walk, and then hike. Upon arriving at Seatoller, we wasted no time and started walking along a narrow (but beautiful) road to the trail head. This is where we started feeling the weight of our 50-60 lb ruck sacks. It brought me back to my military days of walking for 30+ miles, on ruck marches in the middle of the night. Fortunately for us, we weren't being yelled at for not keeping at a speed walking pace, with rifles in hand.
After about an hour and a half, we finally arrived at the trail head. We decided to waste no time, and got on the trail, as we were burning valuable daylight. The trail was as interesting as it was beautiful. It crossed creeks via ancient looking stone bridges, weaved back and forth up steep and rock covered hillsides. It was a beautiful sunny day! While it was still colder than we had thought, it was warming up. There wasn't a doubt in our minds that we would set camp, have a beautiful sunset, followed by a calm and quiet night, with opportunities for astrophotography. After a good four to five hours of hiking, we made it! We set up the tent above the Tarn, and started scouting for locations to get some shots. The views were stunning...
The winds of change
Camp Set-Up: ✔️
Dinner Cooked: ✔️
Locations Scouted: ✔️
Good Weather: ❌
After dinner, scouting compositions and eating dinner, we had nothing to do but kill time while waiting for the sun to set. The weather was looking good. But as time passed, we noticed something rather concerning coming from the north west. A heavy wind started to blow in. With that wind, a dark and ominous storm system. For awhile, it looked like it would just pass us to the east. We couldn't have been more wrong. However, I did manage to get a shot of camp, while the sun was setting and just as the storm was rolling in (you can see the beginnings of the storm on the left of the image).
Not 30 minutes after the above image was taken, we were consumed in a thick and cold fog. You could only see approximately 10 feet in front of you. Our nicely picked location to set up camp with a good view was all for naught. Upon looking out of the tent door, all you could see is fog. We were now one with the clouds. However, it was not as graceful as it sounds. I'm guessing the winds picked up to 30 to 40 mph. We were being taught a very valuable lesson by our surroundings: that we are insignificant in comparison to nature. It wasn't long before night consumed us. The cold, wet and windy conditions outside left us restricted to staying in the tent, reminiscing on the beautiful sunny hike we had up the trail. We had hoped for the conditions to change, but mother nature had other plans. The winds blew forcefully all through the night, pushing the new tent almost to its limits. With the wind howling outside, it was nearly impossible to sleep. Our tent eventually collapsed once I had finally just nodded off (around 0300 in the morning). Fortunately for us, no poles were damaged, and I was able to get it back together without exiting the tent.
A new day
Once it started getting a bit brighter outside, I decided to open the zipper door, and have a look outside. The wind had died down, but the fog still remained. With a new day ahead of us, and under an hour or two of sleep, Sim and I spoke for a bit about the weather, if it would change at all, and if it was worth staying, all things considered. With the best view I have seen in England thus far, just out of reach due to weather, and most likely unchanging conditions, we decided to head back down. We got all our things together, packed up our tent, and started heading down, with our enthusiasm and willpower sapped from us. The fog began to soak in through our water proof clothing (apparently not very waterproof). A third of the way down the mountains, we were totally defeated. Wet, tired, and hungry. With that in mind, we stopped behind some rather large boulders, that protected us from the wind, fog and rain, and pulled out the gas stoves to make a nice warm cup of tea.
There's something very special about having a nice, hot, and freshly brewed tea/coffee while out in nature in inclement weather. The amount of comfort it brings helps change mindsets, and makes you appreciate where we are now as a society. While sipping my hot tea, I couldn't help but think about the past. Hundreds of years ago, travelers endured this on their routes through the forests and mountains of northern England. This thought brought happiness to me. I am extremely fascinated by medieval history, and have always thought that I would have liked living in those times (except for the disease, violence and inequality and all that jazz). After escaping our current situation by daydreaming, we finished our drinks, and packed up, to continue our journey down into the valley. There was still fog in the air, albeit much less dense. The hike down was quite uneventful, and we were looking forward to a warm meal. To fulfill this desire, we later found a nice cove in the rock, by a rapidly flowing creek. We unpacked our stoves, cooking pots, and food to start cooking. At this point, I began to embrace this feeling of being cold and wet. We were in the mountains, next to a beautiful creek, and cooking a warm delicious meal. I wasn't about to let a little bit of cold get in my way of soaking in the sights and environment around us (pun intended). With full bellies, and an odd sense of comfort and happiness in us, we started hiking again.
The way Home
Three hours later, we arrived at the location that the bus stops every hour and a half. After waiting for half an hour, we were on the bus! A few more hours later, we were on a train back to London. It was now all behind us.
On the train ride back, I had plenty of time to reflect on how it all went. I learned a valuable lesson about camping in the Lake District so late in the year. It's not that I wouldn't do it again (I do plan to go back in October one day), but that I will prepare differently next time. The experience itself was, to this day, one of my favourite moments that I have had camping, and taking photographs. Fortunately, through all that inclement weather, my camera was fine as it is weather resistant. I used it in the rain and fog, and it had zero issues. I really want to go back! In fact, I am thinking of doing another backpacking trip next year, for at least a few days in the summer. Having this memory is very special to me, and it has contributed to my life in many ways. It is experiences like this, that I live for.