THIS is such a promising start. The early-morning sky is dark and clear; frost cakes windscreens and grass verges; the Lakeland peaks stand pale and ghostly at the head of the Duddon estuary. It is the perfect day for climbing Wetherlam and traversing a frozen ridge to the summit cairn on Coniston Old Man. Nothing can go wrong . . .
I leave my mother’s house and drive north through sleeping Cumbrian villages, along roads that wind around farm buildings and through dark woodlands. As I enter the small town of Coniston, the sun rises above the eastern fells and floods the sky with golden light. Mornings like these are to be treasured.
I pull on my boots and climb the southern flank of Wetherlam (762m or 2,500ft) from Coppermines Valley. This is where disaster strikes, only I do not realise at the time. My Canon EOS 1100 camera begins corrupting my pictures. So I spend the day among impressive mountains, and in perfect atmospheric conditions, clicking a camera which is systematically devouring its own offspring. These things happen.
From the summit of Wetherlam I drop down into the gap at Prison Band, scramble up rocks to the cairn on Swirl How (802m or 2,631ft), and point the treacherous camera north towards Helvellyn and Skiddaw. Click. Click. Click.
I modify my plan and head for Great Carrs and its memorial to the crew of a Halifax bomber which crashed into the summit in October 1944. There’s a cairn, the remains of a set of undercarriage, a plaque, a cross, and a wreath fashioned in the form of a Canadian RAF roundel. Poppies have been placed among the stones. They nod poignantly against the backdrop of the sunlit fells. Click. Click. Click.
I continue south to Brim Fell (796m or 2,611ft) and the summit of the Old Man (803m or 2,634ft). Neighbouring Dow Crag is bathed in sunshine and the Duddon estuary glistens in the freezing air. Click. Click. Click.
And then I descend eastwards down the tourist track to Low Water, and hover above Brandy Crag Quarry to watch the quarry fellas working the silver-grey slate with yellow diggers and the occasional gunpowder shot. Boom. Click. Click. Click.
I remain philosophical. It was a good walk on a good day.