Snow on Scafell – October 1923

It was extremely mild, not to say muggy, over the week-end. Then, on Wednesday, the wind blue keenly from the East and somebody said “there’s snow on the fells.” It had been raining heavily all day and, when I looked around at the sun setting, most of the hill tops were shrouded in rolling clouds. At the zenith, huge cumuli were lit golden against a purple background by the sun just setting in a blue washed pool of clear sky. A ridge of hill beneath caught this golden glow and showed through the watery mist a bleached face.

I heard two people arguing whether or not that apparition was due to a sprinkling of snow (for it was only 3rd October and the weather had been distinctly mild). There are many curious illusions under the unusual atmospheric conditions but seldom can bleached mountain grass have the whiteness of snow and I was certain there was none within the range of my vision whatever might be hidden behind that blanket of rolling cloud.

Next morning was clear and keen. The clouds departed — for quite a long period of 12 hours — and there unmistakably the snow capped peak of Scafell lifted its head, the gullies half way down seamed with white. None of the the other peaks visible had retained a frozen cap but what we call the “ back fells,” showing here and there behind the caps, were more or less white.

I am so little travelled that I have never seen a mountain which is above the snow line and therefore white all the year round. That early October cap of snow on Scafell brought to me suddenly a sense of how snow uplifts a mountain, gives it height, majesty and remoteness from the common life of man

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