I was scared this morning. Leaving the car park at 05:50 it was pitch black and cool. My head torch providing my only guide as I ascended into the grey and dank darkness. The low cloud starts to reduce my view and then the glimmering valley bottom is gone, my head torch now blinding me as it bounces off the murk, further adding tension to my tingling nerves. It’s lonely here, cold dark, going up further and darker, the dawn over an hour away. I try not to wish the time away. Some white on the ground, melting snow patches. They get bigger filling the path, the back of the steps of the path fill with snow making it hard to find footing. I slide around. Moving up, nervous now. Winter needs respect. I’m not sure I know at the moment how to respect it fully. The snowy stepped footpath ends as the gradient levels off for the summit ridge and plateau. The snow layer, subjected to days of freeze thaw becomes like an ice rink. I’ve not brought crampons, I weigh up going down. I decide to keep going, carefully, making choices every few metres. The wind howls over the ridge cornice, a steady 30mph buffeting me around on the ice as I try to keep my balance. I just feel scared now, I could go down, back home in a couple of hours. It’s no loss, the cloud is down, the forecast is for cloud all day so zero chance of any photographs or views. I move carefully forward up a narrow gravel bar that breaks through the ice. Which comes to an end a few metres further, ending in sheet ice and it’s over a kilometre to the summit when I check the map. No crampons, it’s cold and dark, I’m scared. I’m going back. I’m putting myself and others at risk if I have to be rescued.
I can hear my inner dark elf shouting to go back. The dark elf is the worrying scared part of me, he’s been a dominant part of my thinking for the last few years leading down some dark mental health paths. I’ve learned to listen to him more this year, to carefully listen to what he has to say. Listening to Safi Bahcall the other day (on the Tim Ferris podcast) he talked about making listening a conversation so I do that, engage with my fear, what lessons it has for me, and what options there might be. And there are options. I step back and left on to a ribbon of soft snow that winds further up the mountain. I carry on like that, when the ice becomes impassable safely I change my position, change my view, listen to the wise elf. It gets steeper at one point before the summit, the cloud flattening perspective to make the slope look steeper than it actually is. Step forward, consider, step forward. I can chose to go back now if the risk increases. I keep going for a bit longer. And in front of me is the square monolith of the trig point. It’s snowy facets reflecting my own constantly changing view. I feel at peace, the image to make coming easily to my mind. I only need to make one exposure. I want to linger in the cloud and the snow. There is no view but cloud, cornice and the trig point. It’s calm here but bitterly cold. Time for coffee and croissants, I make a second exposure to be sure and descend.
Just a little jaunt up Helvllyn before helping my parents in their garden today. The mist was in and I couldn’t see anything. But it was beautiful anyway. I enjoyed making the photograph, investigating the X1D Xpan mode. I’ve not made a print I like yet, but hopefully this interpretation gives a flavour.