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Borrowdale wild camp part 1

Over Borrowdale to Fleetwith Pike
Over Borrowdale to Fleetwith Pike

I went on my first wild camp of the year at the end of June, a beautiful evening above Borrowdale in the Lake District looking towards Skiddaw. All seemed to go well on the night but there was an invisible fly in the ointment that would lead to a large repair bill.

Close examination of the map and some time on Google Earth lead me to choose Dale Head summit as a likely spot. My last wild camp in Borrowdale was just over the valley on Grey Knotts and that hadn't been too productive despite good light and weather. Whatever you see on the map you don't know what you'll get until you arrive. It looked like I'd have some good views but I wasn't at all sure about the light. The western horizon was blocked up with hazy cloud and I thought it would be a bust. I spent the hours of the early evening looking around for compositions , trying to be ready for when I hoped the light would happen.

From Dale Head looking down Newlands valley to Skiddaw
From Dale Head looking down Newlands valley to Skiddaw

Sunset was at ten to ten but it still didn't look promising at the start of the "golden hour" but then the sun found a break in the cloud and shone a beam along the length of Bassenthwaite and things started to happen. I tried all the compositions I'd rehearsed earlier plus some others. I had the Nikon on the tripod and shot hand-held with the Olympus. The last shot was taken just after ten pm but the last good shot had been taken twenty minutes earlier. By ten thirty I was in my bivvy bag for the usual short night of discomfort with the alarm set for four am.

As it turned out I managed to get a number of good shots but with many of them badly affected by smudges and flares. It wasn't until several weeks and another wild camping trip later that I discovered the reason for the blemishes. Tiny black specks inside the lens. Repair specialists Fixation prepared me for some bad news saying it could be as much as £500 to repair. In the end they're charging me £200 and hopefully I'll get it back in perfect condition in another week or so and I'll never have this problem again. I've no idea how long these specks had been there, this was the first time I'd done a lot of sunset shooting with the Nikon.

Location and gear notes

Getting to Dale Head summit is quick and easy. You can park in the large layby near Honister Pass summit, just below the slate mine. Walk up the road to the slate mine and you'll see a footpath signpost on the right. Follow the path first with the fence on your right and soon cross over and keep the fence to the left. Where the fence bends away to the left there's a faint fork. Take the left fork to keep on heading upwards. You'll be on the summit about an hour after leaving the car. Note if you go too far right at the fork you'll end up on lower ground by a tiny tarn. Walk north-ish to the pass between Dale Head and High Spy and you'll find another path going left up to Dale Head.

You can shoot from the summit, where there is a large well-constructed cairn, or walk westwards along the ridge until you find rockier ground with more foreground interest and where you'll get a better view down to the Buttermere valley.

The best view (IMHO) is north along the Newlands valley to Skiddaw in the distance. I also love the view west to High Crag and Pillar. There's a very clear view of Great Gable and the Scafells range but photographically I don't think this gives the best compositions.

I took my Nikon d610 with 24-70mm f2.8 zoom (full of black specks!) and my Olympus OMD-EM10 with Panasonic 14-42mm. I used my Lee 2 stop ND graduated filter on the Nikon shooting at ISO 100 and shot hand-held with the Olympus. at ISO 200 and 400.


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