A Kirkstone Pass Sunrise
24th March 2016
A blog by our local friend Alex Wrigley about his recent trip up Kirkstone Pass accompanied by another of his beautiful Lake District landscape photographs.
Kirkstone Pass is one of the many roads in the Lake District that offers spectacular views straight from the roadside. It connects Ambleside with the Ullswater and Glenridding area via a road through the valley between Red Screes and Stony Cove Pike.
As I climbed up the road aptly named The Struggle, the air began to thicken. There was a heavy blanket of fog swirling through the valley, casting doubt over a potential view down to Windermere and Coniston. I pulled into the car park across from the Kirkstone Pass Inn and, upon getting out of the car, realised you couldn’t see more than five feet in front of you.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, my plans invariably never go to plan, and this time was no exception. I started climbing, decided that I would deal with any potential injury later in the day! I still wasn’t planning on walking too far, but I’m sure you can all guess what happened next.
Anyone who has ever had the (dis)pleasure of going on a walk with me will know the scenario well. We’ll be walking along a nicely (rarely) or muddy and eroded (often) pathway, when they will turn around and see me 50 feet above them on the side of a fell. If it looks interesting, I will go and check it out, and unfortunately for the people I walk with everything looks interesting to me!
This photography session was no exception. It’s always a case of “I wonder what’s round that next corner/over that next hill…” And all of a sudden I’m standing next to a summit cairn.
This is precisely what happened here, and it was then that I realised I’d climbed the steep route up to the top of Red Screes, a 776 metre mountain that still had a good amount of snow scattered around the summit area.
On my way the views on offer did have the politeness to make a brief appearance. Fortunately this happened just as the sun rose, and I managed to get just the sort of stunning sunrise photograph that I was hoping from Kirkstone Pass. The winding road below emerged from the thick cloud to lead your eye towards the glinting Windermere and Coniston Water and that gorgeous sunrise.
Red Screes Summit
The air was still thick with fog at the summit of Red Screes, and the wind was blisteringly cold. But while I sat and enjoyed my traditional landscape photography flask of coffee the fog began to thin, and the most spectacular vistas peeked into view before being once again obscured by the swirling clouds. It was promising.
Even without the views there was a lot of photographic opportunity to be enjoyed just exploring the mystery of the mist. The weak sunlight was glinting off the dew covered rocks and the golden light at this time of the morning makes everything seem ethereal.
After half an hour or so of exploring the summit (never letting the cairn out of my sight though – the mist was so thick and I really didn’t want to lose my bearings up here) I started heading down. The fog was definitely starting to burn off thanks to the increased height of the sun, and I got the perfect backdrop to a morning walk. Time for a selfie!
Back at the car it was another world entirely. The cloud was still lingering down in the shade of the valley, and as soon as I entered the cloud the temperature plummeted. Fortunately I was back at the car soon.
8:30am – One mountain climbed, one knee re-injured, one lens cap lost (if anyone finds it up Red Screes get in touch), and more than one beautiful image produced.
A Photography Holiday
So many times I see photographer friends heading off for a week in Iceland, Norway, and all the beautiful locations on offer around this planet. Unfortunately, with a wedding to save for (that’s not the unfortunate part by the way) my budget doesn’t stretch to this.
However, all is not lost. I live in one of the most beautiful places in the country, but when you have to finish a shoot and head back to the reality of chores and work it breaks the day up a bit. That’s why I’m so keen to get away from home for a few days and focus on landscape photography completely and unreservedly.
Norway or Iceland would be nice, but they’re not the be all and end all. Just the north of the United Kingdom offers some stunningly beautiful locations to photograph such as Glencoe, the Isle of Skye, the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and my chosen destination: Northumberland.
In April, during the height of Spring I hope, I will spend a few days camping in Kielder Forest, getting out every single morning for sunrise and every evening for sunset in addition to daytime location searching and night-time astrophotography in one of the best dark sky locations in the UK. Sleep might be a bit low on the agenda, but I’m sure I’ll come back with memory cards stacked full of photographs and a clear mind.