7 adventure photographers reveal the best UK peaks to summit this winter
© Sarah Rodgers; @theworldwithsarah
Bring new meaning to the phrase ‘cold snap’ this chilly season by capturing some awesome photos on top of these stunning and snowy UK summits.
With winter looming — and because we’re fully aware that it’ll take nothing but a watertight argument to get the sofa-huggers amongst us into the great outdoors — we've handpicked bunch of awesome adventure photographers to tell us the finest UK mountains to summit this snowy season.
As well as giving their most picturesque fave peaks, they've even added practical tips for reaching the top and for honing your photography skills up there, too.
Here’s hoping Santa brings a fresh new wide-angle lens and set of crampons for you this year...
1. Stobh Coire Raineach, Glen Etive, Scotland
As captured by Daryl Walker (@darylswalker)
Why go: “Last winter I ventured out and bagged a couple of Munros in the Glen Etive area. I chose Stobh Coire Raineach as, in the winter, it attracts less of a crowd, meaning I was likely to have the place to myself. Not only that, but this summit is on the same ridge as 'Stob Dubh', so I could tick off two epic Munros on the same route. On this particular day, the sky was super clear, so I got epic views of the stunning Glen Etive and Glencoe surrounds. As I approached the middle section, the clouds started to roll in – the Scottish weather is so unpredictable - which helped me add some soft light across the landscape from the summit of Stobh Coire Raineach, towards Blackwater Reservoir."
Reaching the summit: “There is ample parking next to the starting point, just before the 'Meeting Of The Three Waters' and the 'Three Sisters'. From here the route is marked out and the hike gradually climbs to a steep intersection, where and you first summit between the two Munros. Then take your pick: either head left to Stobh Coire Raineach or right to Stob Dubh, which looks southwest towards the coastline. It would take you approximately 3-6 hours depending on fitness, and how many times you stop to take photos.”
Pack this kit: “For hikes in Scotland, it’s so important to be equipped with quality clothes and snacks. Never underestimate the Scottish weather, so ensure you’re taking a solid and bright head torch for those dark ascents or descents, and a good down jacket and waterproof with big pockets for your mid-hike eats. Finally, bring some friends. It’s always better to share your adventures with like-minded people.”
Getting the shot: “Don’t disregard the ‘pano and stitch’ approach when shooting in the mountains. On a few occasions, I’ve shot scenes at 70-85mm and stitched them together in Lightroom for a wide-angle view but with the awesome compression feel you get using telephoto lenses."
2. Great Gable, Lake District, England
As captured by Callum Thompson (@adventure_cal)
Why go: “Great Gable doesn’t have ‘Great’ in its title for nothing. At 899m it’s only the 7th highest in the Lake District, but this formidable peak overshadowing Wasdale Head is still a worthy challenge, especially in the winter. It’s easily my all-time favourite Lake District hike, and although I’ve summited this one a good few times, I’ve also failed a few times too, largely due to the winter weather turning sour. The aptly-named “Windy Gap” is where battle usually commences. It’s a gully set between Green Gable and Great Gable, where I’ve been blown clean off my feet, so take care and be prepared to admit defeat and turn back at this point if you’re not equipped adequately enough to go on. But things like that, I really think it just adds to my endearment for the place."
Reach the summit: “Of all the ways to tackle this mountain, I like to start in Seathwaite, just off the Honister Road between Keswick and Buttermere. There is a farm with ample parking, even on a weekend. From there, follow the path towards Sour Milk Gill and began the ascent alongside the waterfall. Follow the path up and around to the left towards Green Gable, and enjoy the fantastic views over Ennerdale and Haystacks. From Green Gable, descend down into the notorious Windy Gap, before beginning the final ascent up to Great Gable. Here you will find a war memorial and some incredible panoramas of the Scafell Range, Wasdale, Ennerdale and even the Langdales. It’s roughly seven miles if you complete the circular route returning back past Styhead Tarn to Seathwaite. I’d allow 4-5 hours to complete this walk, but factor in some more time to admire the view from the top!”
Pack this kit: “In winter some of the footpaths become very icy, so boots with really good grip is a must. If you’re looking for a sunrise shot you need a quality headtorch, and a stove for making a welcome cup of coffee. I always find that helps me stay up there for longer."
Getting the shot: “Once I’ve got all my kit to the top - Canon 5Dmk3, 16-35mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4, 200mm f2.8 and a DJI Mavic Pro, plus food, usually totalling around 14kg - I always keep my ISO as low as possible and ensure my shutter speed doesn’t drop below 1/100th to ensure sharpness when shooting handheld. As for aperture, f8 if you want most of your scene in focus or f2.8 or wider to capture some real depth in your image."
3. Bruach na Frìthe, Isle of Skye, Scotland
As captured by Sarah Rodgers (@theworldwithsarah)
Why go: “I think the UK is so underrated when it comes to its mountains and hiking. There are loads of hidden gems dotted all around, and in Scotland especially. Bruach na Frìthe, for example, is one of the best for exploring and photographing (especially in winter) is because it has one of the most incredible 360-degree views. The peaks surrounding it are jagged and stark and, if it’s clear, you can even see the famous Old Man of Storr in the distance. It’s one of the principle summits on the Black Cuillin Ridge, which is comprised of a black rock called gabbro that’s incredibly grippy - ideal for mountaineering in tough conditions. Bruach na Frìthe is one of the easiest summits to reach on the Cuilin Ridge, but don’t underestimate it, especially in winter. With snow and ice you need to have the experience and correct gear, such as crampons and ice-axe, to be able to complete it safely."
Reaching the summit: “I’d suggest giving yourself nine hours for this one. There are plenty of starting points and routes to consider, but on this particular trip we began at the Fairy Pools car park. I find Walkinghighlands.co.uk to be an incredible resource for planning routes around Scotland, so definitely take a look to pick the right route for you and your crew."
Pack this kit: “Bring an empty water bottle - water found above human habitation is perfectly drinkable in Scotland, so that’s something to definitely take advantage off to save a little weight. I always take an extra down jacket, too.”
Getting the shot: “Don’t be afraid to get yourself dirty to get the perfect foreground. I’ve had myself lying down in mud just to get rocks, the puddles, snow or another person perfectly framed.”
4. Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons, Wales
As captured by Jake Baggaley (@cakejaggaley)
Why go: “Go to Pen Y Fan on a sunny summer day and you’ll be in a long queue of tourists steadily trudging up to the top. But come winter, I guarantee you’ll have the mountain almost to yourself. Although it’s the highest mountain in South Wales, when it’s covered in snow it has the feel of one that’s much higher, especially if you’re lucky enough to experience a cloud inversion like we did when we caught the first snow here last November. Things like that just go to prove its always worth heading out to explore, no matter what weather the UK is throwing at you."
Reaching the summit: “The standard route of Pen Y Fan starts at the Storey Arms carpark on the A470, and it's really well marked. It shouldn’t take much more than 90 minutes to get up, and 45 to come down. If you’re after something a little more strenuous, however, I can highly recommend the 20km circular that’ll adds another four peaks to your hike."
Pack this kit: “I always carry an emergency whistle. Even in the relatively small mountains of South Wales, you can never be sure of what the weather will do. You should always be prepared for the worst."
Getting the shot: “In South Wales you have the luxury of big and wide summits, so don’t feel like you have to shoot with a wide-angle here – a tighter lens can bring the mountains in the background closer and give an amazing sense of scale. Also, as this isn’t a big or difficult hike, it’s really worth carrying your proper (and likely heavier) camera rather than just your phone. That way, when conditions turn epic you won’t be underpowered and will have what you need to get that killer shot."
5. Scafell Pike, Lake District, England
As captured by Tom Kahler (@tomkahler)
Why go: “Scafell Pike is a really popular mountain to climb, mainly due to it being the tallest in England, at 978m. But it’s one of my favourites for many reasons. Not only is located in a stunning areas of the Lake District - Wasdale Head and Wast Water are both beautiful spots worth checking out - but Scafell isn’t particularly difficult or technical, meaning it’s very accessible to all even in winter months. I’ve found it to be pretty plain sailing, even when snow-capped and icy. I've camped nearby and walked up Scafell five times now, and it’s felt like a different place on every occasion.”
Reaching the summit: “There are two options, but the most popular is from the National Trust carpark located at Wasdale Head. From here, there’s a signposted path following the river that leads you up. Give yourself three hours each way for this one. Be warned though, this area is prone to fog and when that occurs, there is a danger of descending into the opposite valley from the summit by accident. This would add some serious miles onto your return back to the car.”
Pack this kit: “In winter months a set of crampons is really useful for when you’re near the top. It can turn to solid ice up there. With crampons on, I’ve walked past people up here in -10*C and below with ease, whilst they struggle and slide all over the place.”
Geting the shot: “Shooting in the mountains during the Blue Hour [just before sunrise, just after sunset] can earn you some epic results. With my Sony A7Riii, I’ve found a 24mm F1.4 GM lens to be ideal for photography at this time of day.”
6. Y Lliwedd, Snowdonia, Wales
As captured by Sam Marshall (@_smarshall23)
Why go: “I reckon this is one of the best sunrise locations in the UK, if not the best. From the summit looking down over Llyn Llydaw, it sure is breathtaking, and I’ll never get tired of that view. My personal favourite mountain adventure was here on Y Lliwedd. On a crisp evening, my good friend Glenn and I headed up for a cold night under the stars. We woke to a beautiful clear morning and enjoyed a warming coffee in our sleeping bags as the sun appeared over the horizon.”
Reaching the summit: “The route begins at the Pen y Pass car park and follows the Miners Track towards the south, up to Llyn Llydaw. From here, take the path southwards again and begin to ascend Y Lliwedd from the east side. The east ridge gets pretty steep and rocky, eventually turning into a Grade One scramble. When you reach the east summit, traverse a slight descent over to the west summit. You’ll be done in around four hours.”
Pack this kit: “If you’re going for that sunrise shot, you’ll need extra warmth. A Jetboil portable stove is perfect for quickly getting coffee on the go, and I would never set off without a pocket full of handwarmers – I get them for £1 from my local high-street bargain shop.”
Getting the shot: “I shoot at a low aperture, between 1.4 and 2.8 and set my ISO to 100 when possible, so I can keep the shutter fast enough for crisp images in low light. If I’m using my DJI Mavic Pro I drone, I’m using it with Polar Pro filters, too."
7. Maol Chean-dearg, Wester Ross, Scotland
As captured by Jack Anstey (@jack_anstey)
Why go: “Summer in Scotland means crowds of tourists and swarms of midges. The winter is the perfect polar opposite. In the best cold conditions, the mountains are covered with snow, the lakes have frozen over and waterfalls turn into the most brilliant alpine ascents, all within easy reach of a great pub at the end of the day. On my trip last winter, the 933m Maol Chean Dearg became one of my favourite mountains, and with the awesome Coire Fionnaraich bothy sitting in the valley beneath it, we made a really great trip of it. We hiked in, spent a night there, then set off early to tackle the southern face with clear skies, fresh snow and incredible views – all the elements needed for a massive winter day in the mountains.”
Reaching the summit: “I tend to plan my own routes using OS maps. This mountain is located between Torridon and Coulags in Wester Ross and on this occasion, we hiked to the overnight bothy from a car park in Coulags. The bothy is about 45 minutes from the nearest road, and we spent around seven hours out on the mountain the next day. But that was with plenty of photo stops.”
Pack this kit: “If you’re heading out on a winter photo mission, you need the right pair of gloves – you don’t want to be taking them off every time you need to hit the shutter or change lens. As well as being wind- and waterproof, making sure they’re thin and tightly-fitting is a must."
Getting the shot: “There are a few challenges to consider when shooting in the winter. Often the light coming off the snow can be really bright, so having an ND [neutral density] filter on your lens can help darken things down a little bit. When editing winter shots, take extra care when correcting the white balance as cameras are notorious for being a bit unpredictable in snow. Fixing the white balance and desaturating the blues helps a lot.”
So there you have it. Pack your camera, water bottle, a trusty can of Red Bull, and all the gear listed above and you're ready to get our there and reach some summits. And should you want to go farther afield than the UK, click the link below...