A Winter Ramble by Dennis Hardingham

9am. I leave the Polo cooling in Patterdale. The plan; trek the length of Deepdale and climb up to Fairfield for some panoramas taking in Ambleside, Helvellyn and Grisedale. After a week of clear weather, and despite the Countryfile forecast, the tops of the hills are shrouded in cloud. Bit of a blow, but hopefully it will clear as the day progresses.

Deepdale is a much neglected valley and I have yet to meet a living soul there. Both sides of the valley have steep walls, with St Sunday Crag on one side and Hartsop Above How on the other. It has always held a sombre air of mystery, especially at the far end, which is dotted with strange mounds and solitary boulders.

I work my way up the valley side for a higher viewpoint. Conditions are pretty awful; rock, frozen grass and snow on a steep slope and a long tumble to A&E if I slip. The clouds begin to settle even lower as I follow the contours of the hill and I have to accept that there will be no panoramas today. The descending blanket is cold, dark and wet, intensifying the feeling of isolation and brooding menace. The air is heavy and still. No colour other than the brown of dead grass and bracken.

The camera ISO is set at 500, as low as I dare in the poor light, and picking a fairly tight aperture further increases the risk of camera shake in my hand held shots.

Less than total concentration on where I plant my feet inevitably leads to a nasty fall but I am saved from serious injury by a left hand (mine) that jams into a rocky outcrop. That makes me squeak, and it is possible I utter a few observations on the area which don’t feature in Bill Wordsworth’s eulogies.

Soon afterwards my track meets the narrow footpath leading to the summit, but by this time visibility is down to a scant few metres and the Nikon goes back into its bag to sulk. It isn’t until I am inventing new dance steps, scrambling back down to the valley floor, that I realise my left hand is swollen and numb and my ring finger has developed an interesting extra joint. A serviceable splint is fashioned from a carabina and the cord from my GPS, to some extent justifying my carrying the extra gear.

Walking alone does tend to concentrate the mind and the few images I captured on the day serve me as a strong reminder of an exhilarating experience.

Dennis Hardingham

Deepdale February 2015

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