A couple of weeks ago I did a wild camp on the Old Man Of Coniston, a location I had wanted to wild camp at for so long. A few years ago I tried walking the Coniston Round with a bunch of friends but got battered back by winds on Swirl How and had to turn back. I had never made my return to get to the summit and it was something I had longed to do. As coincidence would have it my friend Joe who I often wild camp with also once had to turn back on a different walk he did and also had felt defeated for years. We had been planning our return for some time, but as ever it can be one of them things where procrastination is so easy.
We had penciled in the date in the diary and suggested we did this, with every wild camp we had been ticking our must do’s off one by one and now only have one location left (after this one)! We have to admit, we’ve been lucky so far being able to produce images from each camp and not really having a rough night with the weather. I hope that continues.
What made it even more exciting for me was the fact I had just got my new camera, the Sony A7R. I had always longed for a full frame camera, though I was always a believer in that if like me you’re a landscape shooter then really you’re not going to benefit that much. The Nikon D800E was the only camera that had tempted me, due to it’s 36mp sensor and lack of AA filter showing a clear advantage over a 24mp APS-C sensor. However to go for a system like this with 2 lenses would set you back nearly £5k, the price of a decent second hand car. Professional photographer or not, this is a lot of money. The other thing that put me off was the weight, I had become akin to my Sony NEX-7, a camera that produced high quality images in a small package, it didn’t make sense to go heavier especially when wild camping. Cue the Sony A7R, a camera which for me (and many it would seem) has hit the nail on the head. I don’t endorse Sony in any way by the way but it’s light, offers full frame, the same sensor spec as the D800E (although a redesigned sensor so possibly even better?) and costing a lot less than the D800E. It was perfect and I decided to pre-order right away.
The only problem being that selection of lenses so far aren’t great for the A7R, but I know that if I didn’t buy the camera now it could possibly be out of stock for some time. Another friend who also owned a Nex 7 very kindly leant me a metabones adapter that would allow me to mount Canon EF lenses on the A7R and give me full frame coverage. He suggested the 17-40 f/4 L and I managed to pick one up at a steal with a view of if it wasn’t good enough for the sensor that I could sell for what I paid.
Anyway back to the wild camp, we decided to get there early to ensure we had plenty of time once at the summit and after a quick call in at Ambleside we arrived at Walna Scar Car Park around 10:30. I wasn’t sure if I’m honest if it would be safe to leave the car there, thinking that if I left the car in Coniston it would be much safer but decided it was high up and far enough up out of the way and should be safe. It had the added advantage of cutting a fair chunk of ascent out of the climb.
The forecast for the weekend had been for virtually no wind with blue skies both days. However, Saturday was cold, grey and quite windy.
As with most wild camps carrying as much weight as you do I chose to walk the “tourist path” up which is well paved and the most direct route. It may be a tourist path but it is a fine path passing by the lovely Low Water then up the steep zig zags to the summit. On the east face there was a dusting of snow which was a nice added touch. Walking up we set a fair pace, often overtaking people and while I am no where near the fittest person in the world it’s always nice when you don’t struggle on a walk when wild camping because sometimes it can be torturous. I’ll probably put this down to the good paths over anything. We reached the summit at around 12:30 and it was extremely busy. Icey patches on top and blowing cold winds, a lot of people were huddled around eating their lunch and it was quite obvious we had got up there too early but it’s better to be early than late. While I know how popular the Old Man Of Coniston is it really surprised me at how busy it actually was given the conditions and the fact there was ice about. We even saw a small three legged dog (poor thing, although it looked to be enjoying it) and people carrying up babies (again poor things!).
Getting there early did have one advantage, we were able to catch a rainbow as passing rain kept getting swept by the winds.