With a week-long filming assignment on the agenda, the day for packing all of the gear, and even collecting a brand new Mavic 2 Pro on the journey up, had arrived. Lakeland in winter requires all of the extra gear one would expect to need for winter mountaineering, which adds a lot of weight to filming in the mountains, so a checklist was needed (Flight School pilots love a checklist!).
With my van loaded, it was time to head off and after a clear journey up to Threlkeld, I arrived at my accommodation and immediately set-to charging batteries and studying OS maps getting set for the week ahead. The anticipated heavy snow arrived and I found myself preparing for a ‘Dawn Raid’ the next morning.
Up at 5am I drove a very cautious journey to the eastern shores of Ullswater in the dark, with plenty of sheet ice across the approach road to keep me focused. It took some steady steps on frozen ground to get to the top of the fell in the dawn light and it was cold and quite windy, but the views were amazing. As the sun rose above the far eastern fells and the shadows sank lower into the valley, the golden light crept onto Helvellyn, lighting up the snow-clad giant in all its glory.
I carried out a few flights to capture this distant scene with Ullswater looking dark and alluring in the foreground. The next day was a big one, filming Lakeland skiers in the fresh snow. I drove to Glenridding village and due to the depth of snow and the icy conditions on the quarry road, we had to park in the village and walk all the way to the hostel before starting the ascent to the ski slopes. Once the initial zig-zag quarry route had been navigated through, it was onto the Chimney Ridge route up to the cabins and ski lift.
The snow was deeper than knee height in places making the going slower than usual. The conditions were stunning but as we approached the lifts, low clouds were pouring over the mountain-side, clinging to the ski slopes. As you can imagine, it was pretty cold, so, having met with the ski club members to discuss the filming plans, I headed off to find a suitable spot to launch from.
Suffice to say, when you have painful numb fingers, sub-zero degree temperatures and swirling icy winds, it makes for testing conditions… far from ideal! Picking my moments carefully, anticipating windows in the fast-moving low cloud, I carried out 3 batteries worth of flights, capturing some high level film of the skiers having fun on the slopes, and the conditions allowed for some dramatic footage of the fell-side and surrounding mountain ranges too.
The last full day of the trip was another dawn raid with the promise of some cracking morning light on Helvellyn. After another steady drive in the dark to Patterdale, we bundled out of the van, grabbed our gear and set off up towards Striding Edge. As before, the icy paths and deep snow made the going slow and I had to carry out a mid-approach “hand launch and catch” flight on a steep mountain slope in order to capture the golden dawn light on the summit and Striding Edge.
We eventually reached our filming spot and the views were magnificent. The added bonus was a cloud inversion in the valley which covered Ullswater like a blanket. With blue sky and snow-capped mountains all around, I was quite literally in heaven!
I flew two batteries, capturing some wonderful scenes of Helvellyn, but trying to keep powder snow away from my equipment was quite a task, not helped by a passing walker’s dog charging over my kit and launch pad!
On the journey home I reflected on my week in the snow-covered fells, the ‘at the limit’ conditions I found myself flying in, and the rewards for managing those conditions to achieve the results I was after. However, for me, above all, being immersed in these breathtaking moments on the fells is the pinnacle of being alive…. that and being astride a motorbike, riding a curvy road through Luxembourg…. but each to their own of course!