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Dawn walk up Catbells to watch sunrise

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Walk up Catbells from Little Town

Recently I took the chance to pop out very early and walk up Catbells to watch dawn.

Since moving to Penrith it easy for me to drive the few miles into the Lake District National Park whenever the light looks good. This has massively increased the likelihood of me getting good photographs, especially somewhere as photogenic as this. In the past I have visited the Lakes for a few days at a time and kept my fingers crossed that the weather would be right. Now I can dart out as soon as it looks promising.

A couple of weekends ago, I saw the forecast one evening and realised that there was a chance of a clear dawn the following day. So the alarm went off just after 4:00am. And by 4:30am I was travelling west on the A66 towards the Lakes, my destination being the top of Catbells.

I could have taken the shortest route up to Catbell’s summit but decided not to. That would have entailed parking at Hawse End and climbing up the spine of the fell. A first steep pull leads onto Skelgill bank, followed by a second up to the summit of Catbells. It was way too early in the day for such physical exertion!

Instead I took the longer but much more gentle climb from the bridge at Little Town in the Newlands Valley. Parking at the small layby next to the bridge (with honesty box) I walked back up the road and, just before arriving at the first buildings of the small hamlet of Little Town, I took the track on the right. After a sharp left turn at the first junction the way now heads towards Yewthwaite Gill. Armed with a torch I walked a few hundred yards along the track, looking for the path up to Yewthwaite Comb. In daylight its easy to spot this turn but not so in the dark before dawn. Having found the path there are no further route finding problems. Just head upwards, bearing to the left and the highest point is the rocky summit of Catbells.

Dawn on Catbells

The downside of climbing Catbells before dawn from Little Town is that the eastern horizon is hidden for all but the very last bit of the climb. It was therefore impossible to tell if the climb was going to be worthwhile from a photography point of view on the way up.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the stunning sunrise that all photographers dream of but it could have been much worse.

The first ‘keeper’ of the day is shown above and was taken just before the sun rose above the horizon. Using a wide angle lens I managed to get both the summit crag and the distant silhouette of Blencathra in focus. I liked the composition of this plus the light was superb.

At this time of the year the sun rises (and sets) fairly quickly. As it does the light changes minute by minute so photographers have to act quickly. In less than an hour the sun had fully risen and the light had totally changed.

Before it had though I managed one more, showing quite how much the light had changed.

Skiddaw from Catbells craggy summit at dawn
Catbells summit view of Skiddaw

And that was it – I was pretty much photographed out and very hungry! It was high time to head back home for some breakfast. And some photo processing, to see what the results of the morning’s walk up Catbells were.

To view more photos from this area of Lake District feel free view my landscape photographs of the Newlands Valley.

Dawn walk up Catbells to watch sunrise was last modified: January 9th, 2019 by Gavin Dronfield

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