The Spirit of a Mountain Climber

Today is the birthday of Frank Smythe probably one of the greatest mountain climbers of the early 20th Century. He was born on the 6th of July 1900 and from an early age he had a deep passion for the hills. During his climbing career he pioneered two new routes on the Brenva Face of Mont Blanc, the first ascent of Kamet (India) which in 1931 was the highest mountain yet climbed, and made attempts on Kangchenjunga (the second highest mountain in Nepal) and Mount Everest. His most successful expedition to Everest saw him reaching 28,120ft only a 1,000ft beneath the summit setting an altitude record for climbing without supplemental oxygen that was not broken until 1978! But what is rarely written about Frank Smythe was that not only was he a great alpine climber but also a passionate and gifted photographer. He didn’t just simply record his expeditions, he created stunning photographs of breath taking quality of the mountain landscapes he explored which he published in his numerous books such as “Camera In the Hills” “Over the Welsh Hills”, “Alpine Ways” and many more.

So in my own way I decided to celebrate the birthday of this great man by posting a few pictures from one of my own adventures in the hills. They where taken on a friend’s stag weekend in the southern Lake District. On the morning of the walk a heavy mist had rolled in off the Irish Sea, it lay thickly in the valleys and it wasn’t until we started to gain some height that the landscape around us really came into view.

Fox Haw

Fox Haw and Long Mire. Ilford HP5, Yellow Filter.

The objective of the days climb was the steep rocky peak of the Caw which rises sharply from the craggy mass of the remote Dunnerdale Fells. As we began to near the summit more and more distant fells came into view, Ulpha, Harter, Grey Friar, and the lofty summit of White Maiden. After a quick break on the summit which was just about big enough for us all to sit and have a our lunch we started our descent back.

Caw in the Mist

Caw and Cloud. Ilford HP5, Yellow filter.

We were picking our way down through the crags and mosses back towards where we started earlier that day at Stephens Ground when I stumbled across a small pool of water. It was crystal clear and through its base ran a thick seam of quartz which carried on up through the rock face beside it. I love finding hidden places like this, often overlooked they can be a microcosm of the greater landscape.

Roots of the mountain

Roots of the Hill. Ilford HP5, Yellow filter.

It was a memorable day spent in the hills with great friends and I hope Frank would have approved of the pictures. Though only 1,600ft the Caw is a small hill compared to is more famous neighbours, but what it lacks in height it certainly makes up for in its grandeur, it is a true mountain in every sense, and as Frank put it himself;

“Comparisons between low hills and high hills are invidious. There is no denying the grandeur of the Himalayas; there is also no denying the grandeur of the British hills. I have seen Snowdon on a misty September morning as far removed from earth as Kangchenjunga. Altitude in terms of figures counts for little. It is the instant vision that matters”

                                                                                Frank S. Smythe, “Spirit of the Hills”

 

Thanks for reading!

Graham

 

 

In the Forests of Dunnerdale

Back at the beginning of March with the sense of spring in the air and warm days to come me and my friends Dave Branigan and Tom Sheard hatch a plan to meet in the Lake District for a walking and camping expedition. We picked a date and because none of us had ever been there before we chose Dunnerdale (also known as the Duddon Valley) as our destination,  but as it always happens at this time of year mother nature had different ideas and very quickly the weather began to return to winter. Not to be dismayed we carried on planning while constantly keeping an eye on the ever changing weather reports.

Basically the plan was for Dave and Tom to head up on the Friday afternoon and set up camp, I would then meet them there the next day. By Thursday it looked like the weather was on the turn for the better, and according to the mountain forecasts the high winds and poor visibility was going to clear by the afternoon and Saturday was going to be breezy but clear. So first thing on Saturday morning with my car loaded with cameras and walking gear (in fact a lot more cameras than walking gear) I set off to the Lakes.  When I arrived once again mother nature hadn’t been listening to our plans or the weather reports. Throughout the night Dave and Tom had been hammered by high winds. So much so that the only thing that had stopped the tent from being blown away was them tying it to the roof rack of Toms car,  if they had any phone signal it sounded like I would have got a message telling me not to bother!! But with a little drop in the wind, a brightening sky and a new more sheltered location found to set the tent their enthusiasm started to return.

Dunnerdale lies in the Southwest of the Lakes District and begins west of the Three Shires stone on Wrynose pass where the river Duddon heads south from Pike O’Blisco. In the west are Harter fell and the Ulpha fells; eastward are Dow crag and Coniston Old Man but without  tourist hotspots like Ambleside or Keswick or the famous peaks like ScarFell and Helvellyn draw the crowds it remains quiet and isolated, which in my mind just adds to its appeal. With the guys lack of sleep from the previous nights storms and the chance of more gale force gusts we decided to put off the high summits for another day and explore the tangle of woods and crags of the lower slopes.  Travelling light with only my Rolleicord, a few roles of film and my tripod we set off!

 

 

Beach Trees

Beach Trees. Hp5+ developed in Prescysol and printed on Foma Chamois.

 

Creeping Oak

Creeping Oak. Hp5+ developed in Prescysol and printed on Foma Chamois.

 

Clearing

Clearing. Hp5+ developed in Prescysol and printed on Foma Chamois.

 

Woden Tree

Woden Tree.  Hp5+ developed in Prescysol and printed on Foma Chamois.

 

Farmstead

Farmstead.  Hp5+ developed in Prescysol and printed on Foma Chamois.

It’s was a great walk and without being distracted by distant views I felt I was able to really delve into the atmosphere of  ancient woodland. We finished the day with a few pints of Corby Ale at the Newfield Inn in Seathwaite and then head back to the campsite for dinner. Now this is where Tom and Dave excel, these guys don’t mess around with gas stoves and Trangias, instead out came two fire pits and two cast iron dutch ovens, that night we dined on grouse roasted in hay and smoked breast of duck with new potatoes, now that’s cooking alfresco!!!

The han over and the washing up the next morning was not so pleasant though….

Cheers

 

Graham