Taking advantage of my new-found proximity to the Arrochar region, and a visit from my old friend Craig, we set out for an overnight wild camp within the furrow of the three peaks in the area.
Our route took us around the western skirt of The Cobbler, up on top and down to our chosen camp site. The weather was warm and the skies clear – making for some spectacular views, especially as the evening drew in and the clouds raced in from the sea amidst the distant hills to the north.
So…It was about time we headed this way. As with many who frequent the British hills and mountains, Ben Nevis is often someplace, somewhere on a ‘to-do’ list. It had been talked about for several years but had never come about, thus after moving to Scotland, the excuses for not doing so became few and far between. As such, Sarah and I took a long weekend break and shacked up in a nice, but strangely-decorated, B&B in Fort William. I took along my recently favoured Pentacon Six, with the Biometar 80/2.8 attached and loaded it with a roll of expired Fuji NPH 800, on which all pictures from the way up were taken.
A few years back, a couple of good friends and I spent a few days hiking a circuit around the Cairngorm Mountains, and last year we made another visit; this time with Sarah. We had intended to extend the trip by a couple of days, so as to re-attempt a certain harrowing escapade on Ben Avon without the previous drama. Unfortunately and as is usually the case, when the time came, the weather was again bad, so we opted to take a low route instead.
Anyhoo. As with the last time we were out here, Loch Etchachan was the undoubted highlight. Such an amazing part of the world – a high-level loch at 927 m (the highest in the UK), reasonably remote and surrounded by the hills on all sides. We accessed the loch by a route via the Cairngorm plateau and Ben Macdui and spent two nights there, heading up Beinn Mheadhoin during the intercedent day.
It’s worth a trip up the latter, as the summit structures – built-up rocky outcrops – provide a channelling and shaping of the wind that can be a fun and enlightening experience, whilst breaking up the high level plateau also.
The wondrous subject of histories, mythologies and fantasies. The iconic Incan jungle citadel that was e’er sought after by the Conquistadors and greatly mis-characterised by the U.S.-American contingent that re-discovered it during the early 1900’s. This place is often the main reason for many people to visit Peru and certainly, that was quite evident upon our arrival, but more about that later.
As alluded to in the previous installments of this series, the primary objective of this trip was to embark upon a high-altitude, multi-day trek in the Peruvian Andes. We had organised this a few months in advance through KE Adventure; a Lake District-based adventure holiday company who come with a great track record of fairness towards their employees/affiliates, along with being known for providing varied and quality adventure holiday products.
From our starting point at Tinqui, our route was to circumnavigate the 6372 m Ausangate mountain of the Peruvian Cordillera Vilcanota mountain range. Along the route we would come to traverse high mountain passes, visit small, remote settlements and finally diverge from the typical Ausangate Circuit trail to take in some remote lagoons. Resulting from the latter extension, the trek was to last for nine days as opposed to the traditional five.
Our main reason for being in Peru was that we had booked ourselves onto a 9-day, high altitude trek around one of the highest mountains in Peru – the Ausangate mountain. We had booked with a Keswick-based company called KE Adventure whose operation comes with a good reputation with regards to their guides, customer service, product and treatment of their local staff.
Their Ausangate itinerary lasts for 14 days and includes 4 days of acclimatisation prior to the start of the trek. During these initial days we were taken to several Incan structures both around Cusco and in the Sacred Valley. After the trek we were taken to Machu Picchu for a day-trip which was included as part of the itinerary. I will cover both the trek and Machu Picchu in separate posts.
As we were already in Cusco before the beginning of the itinerary, we met up with our guide and drove out to the airport to pick up some other members of the group. We totalled 6 members plus our guide, so half a regular group. Sarah and I were by far the youngest, with the additional members being >50 years of age. Each of the other members were relatively well experienced when it came to trekking at altitude, and all were well accustomed to KE, some having been on 12 trips with them! Like them and their obvious vote-with-your-feet mentality, I can only praise KE and their affiliate in Peru – Tambo Treks – and would certainly book with them again.
From the airport we travelled for 3-4 hours (including stops), driving to our first port of call – Ollantaytambo – a small town in the Sacred Valley home to a massive Incan citadel. But beforehand we stopped at a village around an hour outside of Cusco, Here we were shown the process and materials utilised to make many of the alpaca knit-wares that you see all over Peru.
Well, I finally managed to get back in the darkroom and try out our new-old Hewes steel developing tank & reels. After the auto-loading Paterson reel we had decided to start giving up the ghost, I figured it might be a good idea to try something that might end up being a bit more reliable, though there are caveats, as always!
Loading the steel reels is straightforward, but requires practice; there are videos on youtube that are very helpful, I found this one and this one to be helpful. One of the two rolls I developed this time was misaligned and therefore ‘bunched up’, somewhere in the inner spirals, causing the chemicals to pool there during the process. This resulted in lines and blobs on the negatives at around this point on the roll. Like I said, practice will hopefully alleviate this.
I also recently managed to get hold of a Gossen Profispot for around half the price they normally go for – this is the spot meter attachment for my Profisix light meter. For the purpose of testing, instead of using a grey card, I used this to meter on the Edale to Hope walk, and after looking at the ‘scanned’ negatives, it became apparent that a steep learning process is going to transpire, when at last the time arises of course!
Anyhow, I shot a couple of rolls of Tri-X on two separate trips out to the Peak District from the past month or so; one a walk out through Endcliffe Park towards the Norfolk Arms shot using the MIR 45mm f3.5, the other a very wet and windy hike out from Edale towards Hope, via the Roman Road – shot on the Zeiss Flektogon 50mm f4.
The rolls were shot at ISO 320 and developed accordingly in 1:3 Perceptol, for times derived from the Massive Dev Chart. I also performed some cropping, contrast boosting and white balancing in PS, and the negatives were scanned using a Canon 500D, fitted with a Sigma 18-250mm f3.5.
Our annual winter hunt took us to the Lake District this month. Taking up position at Rydal Hall, we stayed in one of their ‘Eco Pods’, which equated to a secure, carpeted but cold, wooden hut. But at least we had no need to carry the tent, and we had access to the best shower block in the Lakes!
Our walking route had been planned to take us from Rydal to the summit of Helvellyn, via Fairfield. However, late starts and winter terrain makes for long days; as such we decided to cut things short on the way down to Grisedale Tarn from Fairfield summit, heading instead for Grasmere and the pub. To make up for it, we took to practicing our glissade technique on the way down. Always fun!
I used the Rolleiflex T and a combination of films on this trip, the remnants of a Fujicolour Pro 400H from last months camp in the Peak, though these were shot at 200 and developed normally, for ISO 400. I also shot a full roll of Kodak Ektar, exposed at box speed. Both films were developed professionally by Ag-Photographic.
I use a Gossen Profisix light meter, (known as the Luna-Pro SBC in the ‘States), reknowned for it’s sensitivity in low light conditions, and overall it is a great device. Though it does tend to get a little wacky in the cold, starting off by being unable to settle on a reading, then by complete cessation of action. It’s had me worried a couple of times, but it starts to work normally after it warms up sufficiently.
I took to metering these scenes using the Profisix in conjunction with an 18% grey card, found on the back surface of my analogbook notebook. Camera light meters are designed to normalise light levels to the reflectance of an 18% grey surface, some more information here. With metering being tricky in the snow, I took it on conventional wisdom that I might get better results if I used a grey card to consistently meter reflected light from.
See for yourself, I do really like the balance in some of these images, though I can’t be entirely sure of what has been done during lab processing.
It’s always a joy when the snow starts to fall, especially when with friends of a similar mindset. Our good friends Dom & Craig are two such fellows and they were our accompaniment for an overnight camp at Edale in the Peak District, followed by a walk around the dreaded-Knoll-that-never-ends, (Brown Knoll to those who don’t know), to Castleton and the refuge of the Old Nags Head pub.
Winter walking can be arduous, with the terrain underfoot being difficult, let alone when carrying weight, but you know the snow is worth it! The weather progressively varied throughout the day and was perfect for a mini winter adventure, and made for some decent shots.
Also, get yourself some winter gas if you need to cook in sub-zero temperatures. It will save some hassle!
This roll of Fujicolour Pro 400H was shot at box speed, on the 75mm f3.5 Carl Zeiss Tessar of the Rolleiflex T, and was developed by Ag-Photographic.
A ‘fun’ film. The Lomochrome Purple can be shot at a range of ISO’s to give a varied, false-colour effect. The link above also brings up some discussions on the subject of ISO selection for this film, it being variably rated between 100-400.
The consensus on Flickr is that 200 is ‘best’, not sure what that means but perhaps the effects are consistent with varying conditions, as despite how pleasing some of the results are, it is evident that 400 is not. I understand that it is marketed as an experimental film, however at >£9 per roll, it’s kind of pricy!
Well, I still have one more roll, that at some point I shall try at 200.