Blizzards in the Lake District
January 2010. New Years resolutions and a new found determination to drown myself in my photography again turned into a trip to see my (old) school friend Val Sarno and her husband Paolo Puggioni over New Year in Yorkshire. I intended to use them as a base and travel up to the Lake District with my camera, plenty of film and lots of enthusiasm.
On the second day of the new year I rose from their sofa at the crack of dawn and drove, bleary eyed along the motorway. Unbelievably and unforgivably I had never been to the Lake District before. I planned to drive to Haweswater Reservoir and park at the far end before heading into the hills but as the sun came up it brought with it one of the heaviest blizzards I have ever experienced. It had been snowing on and off for a few months but as this storm intensified it started settling on the motorway and there was a distinct possibility that I wouldn’t be able to continue. But as the traffic increased one of the lanes remained clear.
I turned off the M6 at junction 39 and slid my way as far as Thornthwaite Hall. I tried to go further but it just became too precarious so I left the car in the village, piled on the layers and walked towards the lake. It was about five miles to where I had intended to park and it was an absolutely stunning walk. It had stopped snowing by now but the sun remained hidden and the wind was strong. The road had a couple of inches of snow on it so it was tiring and slippery but eventually I reached the spot in which I had intended to park. Then the fun begun.
I headed up towards Small Water, guessing where the path was in the snow that was now knee deep, sometimes thigh deep. The climb was reasonably steep but felt a lot steeper than it was and the streams, hidden under the snow, caught me out quite a few times. The wind had picked up, whipping the snow around and I was completely alone, loving every second. My fingers were freezing on the metal body of the camera as I found myself creating geometric patterns in the viewfinder, playing with the shapes the stone walls, rocks and shrubs drew in the snow. I was making music with the syncopated rhythms their black lines and dots etched on the white canvass before me.
When I eventually turned round and headed back I was exhausted but grinning from ear to ear. It was a long, long trek to the car and an even longer drive back to Val and Paolo’s, but I knew I had taken what were probably some of the best photographs I had taken in a long time. One right at the beginning of the walk and one at the point at which I had decided to turn round and head back. And ironically neither of them show the Lake District off in all its glory. For that I will have to go back another time, when the mountains decide to grant me the access I crave and perhaps when the prevailing colour is green and not white.