Twilight on Silver How

Silver How is a small but lovely fell just behind Grasmere, and an ideal place to watch the effects of the setting sun. In the higher latitudes, the sun doesn't simply set beneath the horizon. It proceeds in a leisurely and stately arc that changes the spectrum: at twilight an orange glow baths the world. A person doesn't have to be on top of a fell to appreciate this, but it does add a touch of the dramatic. At first the colors become deeper and deeper.

Silver How

Looking east, toward the summit cairn of Silver How, and across to the Fairfield gang.

Soon a glowing orange predominates everything.

Silver How

Eastward, with the summit cairn in the background.

And as the sun finally disappears behind the mountains, the orange glow moves to the sky. Admittedly, however, it does help to have some handy clouds nearby.

Silver How

Looking west, toward the setting sun.

As the glow leaves, everything resumes its normal colors, though with a difference: much, much darker. Stones and rocks go through a series of gradations from tans and browns to become more and more white, whereas everything wet becomes darker and darker till reaching black. In addition, shadows are pools of nothingness.

While walking on a trail past twilight, one has the decision to try to manuever on the light-colored rocks or step on the darker wet patches. It is impossible to tell from sight whether that wet area is a thin veil of water, thick mud, or a deep pool. A walker depends on memory, luck, and experience.

Once the sun is truly gone, the dark is extremely dark. Alternatively, if there's a full moon, even a half moon, the way becomes quite easy. Under a full moon, you feel that shadows are possible, if not visible.

There's no color at night, except for maybe the stars which don't do much good in terms of finding a trail. (Incidentally, if you ever read a description by any writer mentioning color at night, you can presume that writer has spent his or her life living in or near cities.)

The only answer to getting down a mountainside after sunset is a good flashlight (= torches, when in Britain), though hiking at night is not recommedned by anyone I know. But it does make an enormous difference knowing the trail ahead of time -- however, even then there can be surprise after surprise. If there is some moonlight handy, a pause and sketch is satisfactory, though it's nearly impossible to know what I've drawn till after getting back indoors.


A nightscape.

The reward, after getting down, is a good meal, with a good real ale, and a good bed. And many pleasant memories.

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