Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike

6 ratings
Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike is filmmaker Terry Abraham's highly anticipated follow up to his critically acclaimed film The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend.


Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike is filmmaker Terry Abraham's highly anticipated follow up to his critically acclaimed film The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend. It is a celebration through the seasons of life on and around the roof of all England. Accompanied by an evocative musical score from Freddiehangoler, Terry Abraham's spectacular two-hour documentary tells the story of Scafell Pike in the beautiful Lake District through the eyes of the farmers who work the valleys and fells, those who climb the mountain for pleasure and those who try to protect its slopes for future generations.

Featuring local authors and broadcasters such as David Powell-Thompson, Eric Robson and Mark Richards along with internationally renowned mountain men Alan Hinkes OBE, Joss Naylor MBE, Chris Townsend and Wasdale MRT the programme was filmed over a 12 month period and follows the seasons on the mountain from spring lambs through to winter snows with Abraham's trademark time lapse images providing the transitions between seasons.

Through the contributions of the British Mountaineering Council's Carey Davies and the National Trust the importance of maintaining the landscape quality of England's highest mountain plays a central role in the film which is introduced by the inspirational shepherdess Alison O'Neill.

Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike is a unique and inspirational piece of work which cements Abraham's position as one of the finest new independent film producers of recent years.

Don't just take our word for it...

“That [Terry] Abraham should produce such a seminal piece of work in only his second full length film is little short of astonishing...Where Wainwright has had his books tweaked over the years to reflect change they still remain the hill walkers' bible despite imitation and in the same way Life of a Mountain will become the Wainwright of the 21st Century.”  Dave Mycroft, MyOutdoors.  Read full review...

"An absolute treat for the senses",
Jane Watson, former Marketing & Communications Manager at the National Trust's NW Offices, blogs about the premiere, the genesis of Life of a Mountain and her friendship with Director Terry Abraham.  Read more... 

"Mountain film a smash hit.  Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike has been a hit with audiences at Rheged, with two sell-out screenings." Cumbria LiveRead full article...

"From the opening summit daybreak sequence it's clear that you're in for a visual spectacle," Dan Bailey on  Read the full review...

"A true labour of love...breath taking...any lover of the mountains won’t fail to be seduced.”  Adventure sports writer and endurance athlete Nik Cook for Outdoors MagicRead the full review...

"Like Cairngorms, this film is clearly a labour of love and I am in awe of some of these slow, immersive scenes. I think the timelapse sections shot at night affected me the most, but there's beauty in every section."  Mountain fiction writer, Alex RoddieRead full review...

"The best two hours of film I’ve come across in years" says trekking & backpacking blogger Andy Howell ('Must Be This Way') about "Life of a Mountain - Scafell Pike".  Read the full review...

"We need filmmakers like Terry Abraham. Life of a Mountain - Scafell Pike will surely serve to enhance his reputation..." Tony O'Donnell The Outdoor Times reviews Life of a Mountain.  Read the full review...

Note: This film is a large file when downloaded in HD (5.5GB)

About the Film

Release Date
Trekking & Travel
Alison O'Neill, Chris Townsend, Carey Davies, David Powell-Thompson, Eric Robson, Mark Richards, Alan Hinkes and Joss Naylor
Terry Abraham
Terry Abraham
Download Filesize
HD (16:9) 5.5 GB,
SD (16:9)
Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike


Stunning film
Rick toyer
7 November 2014
Terry Abraham's mountain films have a certain signature style. Sweeping, panoramic shots of mountain grandeur are accompanied by stirring orchestral music. The pace tends to be slow, contemplative, almost lost in the wonder of the mountains. This formula worked incredibly well in his first film, The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend, but when I first heard that Terry was creating a longer film about the Lake District I wondered how his style would adapt. The clue is in the title; or, to be specific, one word of the title: life. This is a film about more than just one mountain, although Scafell Pike is certainly prominent throughout. It's about the life of Wasdale and the Western Lakes, of the people who work the land and who come to climb the mountains; it's about the inherent life and vivacity of the landscape itself, seen through the eyes of many characters. The theme of life underpins everything in this remarkable film. The opening titles and cinematography are absolutely spectacular. These cut scenes, each lasting a minute or two and featuring dramatic shots of mountain scenery (frequently sunrises, sunsets, or timelapse shots of cloud spilling over the hills), act as interludes between the main sections of the film but they are in reality so much more. Terry has a unique skill in capturing the true beauty of the mountains and communicating it in a way that makes the viewer feel immersed in the landscape. It's more than just technical skill or artistry, although both are present in abundance; it's about the remarkable lengths he has gone to in order to get some of these shots. After all, he did most of this work alone and unaided. Like Cairngorms, this film is clearly a labour of love and I am in awe of some of these slow, immersive scenes. I think the timelapse sections shot at night affected me the most, but there's beauty in every section. Amazing as the landscape interludes are, the meat of the film centres on the human beings (and animals!) who live, work and play around the mountain. A number of characters take the stage. The first is a shepherdess, speaking passionately about the heritage and traditions of the Cumbrian way of life, and this section did a good job of setting the scene for the rest of the film. The start was slow paced, but it soon gathered momentum. After an ascent of the Piers Ghyll route, we see the summit of Scafell Pike itself about twenty minutes in and I loved the impromptu interviews with happy walkers on the top. Carey Davies from the British Mountaineering Council discussed the ethical consideration of the Three Peaks Challenge and I thought the role of the BMC in protecting the mountains, and our access to them, came across extremely well. Scafell Pike, viewed from Three Tarns (photo by Alex Roddie) Conservation is an important theme. We see a day in the life of the volunteers who mend paths up the fells, fix drains, and dismantle unnecessary cairns. Nowhere else in England is the impact of humanity on the mountains felt as keenly as Scafell Pike, the highest peak of all, and I think the film does a good job of both explaining the impact itself and how conservation groups are helping to protect the landscape. Other characters of note include Joss Naylor, the celebrated fell runner; Mark Gilligan, mountain photographer; Chris Townsend, backpacker and author; and Alan Hinkes, veteran Himalayan mountaineer. Hinkes brings the climbing heritage of Wasdale to life with energy and humour, and even backs off Broad Stand in slimy conditions! There's so much going on here and the film is really about far more than a single mountain. The pace is brisker than I expected and I learned a huge amount about Wasdale and Scafell Pike that I didn't know before (and I have been visiting the area for years). The overall theme of life and vivacity inspires enthusiasm and fires up the senses. It isn't perfect, of course. The musical score, while very well judged in most places, is a little sentimental in others. Some of the monologues felt natural and unaffected, while others were more obviously scripted — not necessarily a bad thing, but it broke the sense of immersion a little. I also felt that the film could have been a little shorter without losing any of its substance. However, these are minor quibbles and the overall result is both polished and profound. I think it's important to remember that this creation was filmed and produced by a team of one. By any standards that's a staggering achievement, doubly so when you consider the scale, charm, and energy of Life of a Mountain. Terry Abraham continues to go from strength to strength and I look forward to his future mountain films.
Alex Roddie
28 May 2014
The much anticipated follow up to the Cairgorms in Winter from Director Terry Abraham sees his attention switch to the Lake District in Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike. Although chronologically this new film comes after Terry's Cairngorms debut it's in no way a sequel or linear follow up. If The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend (too give it its full title) was a love letter to the Cairngorms this is a full blown marriage proposal with white horses and a carriage. In his own words Abraham says "A lot of blood sweat and tears literally went into it." We were fortunate to be amongst a select few to obtain a pre-release copy for this review. Life of a mountain:Scafell Pike premieres at Rheged on May 10th Getting over the fact that Director Terry Abraham picks ridiculously complex titles for his films what you get with Scafell Pike (we're going to stick with that for now) is a touch over 2 hours of video that could change the future of outdoor documentaries for a decade or more. That Abraham should produce such a seminal piece of work in only his second full length film is little short of astonishing. The familar trademark time lapses are still there but there's a polish to the finished product that was missing from The Cairngorms in Winter; from the bookending of the 2 hours with the magnificent shepherdess Alison O'Neill to the perfectly matched score from Freddiehangoler. Where in his previous work there was the occassional discordant clash as the moods changed in the Cairngorms there's a beautiful feel of comfort and consistency with Scafell Pike. Alison O'Neill, a star in the making Kicking off the film in a way that set the theme for the next two hours the Wasdale shepherdess extolled the beauty of the Scafells with such a passion and insight that though softly spoken her words resonated a vast crowd. At times she was reminiscent of the writings of John Muir with her perception of the natural features around her and their spiritual value and all the time you could see in her eyes a pride for her workplace mixed with a mother's protective instincts. Though celebrating the joy the Scafells and Wasdale bring she reminded us of the need to guard them jealously and not impose more on them than they can endure. The line up of well known names and characters flows almost seamlessly throughout the film, and not just the well known. The Scotsman at Scafell Pike summit declaring "why would you ever need to go abroad when you've got views like this" may not have got the screen time of Researcher David Powell Thompson or author Mark Richards but his point was as well put. While Scafell Pike always grabs the attention this film gives equal attention to the valley and its people. From the farmer at Church Stile Farm to the coverage of the Wasdale Show, Life of a Mountain portrays every aspect of life under the shadow of England's highest mountain. Scafells sunset from Yewbarrow Naturally the subject of Wainwright was never far from the tongues of many, a common thread connecting Powell Thompson, photographer Mark Gilligan, and broadcaster and author Eric Robson but it never overwhelmed the the conversation, paying due reference before moving on to the valley and mountains today. As the seasons change from Spring, through Summer, into Autumn the film reinforces the shepherdess's plea to look after this special place through the BMC's Hillwalking Officer Carey Davies before a fascinating conversation with the legendary fell runner and shepherd Joss Naylor. Where in the Cairngorms film the dramatic scenery and time lapses were often the focus in Scafell Pike they form the flowing transitions between seasons, no less dramatic but with a sympathetic soundtrack producing a more warm and welcoming atmosphere throughout. The mountain rescue team come and go, revealing along the way the pressure on people and resources both throughout the year and during the environmentally and socially dubious 24 hour 3 Peaks period which sees the valley attract thousands in the dead of night. Before you know it the minutes have ticked by and you're watching another legend of the outdoors as Alan Hinkes celebrates the history of climbing on the Scafell Range combined with a word or two of caution for those taking to the fells, and those taking to Broad Stand in particular. If you're looking for a link with Abraham's earlier work the appearance of the BMC's recently appointed Hill Walking Ambassador, Chris Townsend, will come as no surprise. Where in the Cairngorms he dominated the dialogue, however, here he was in concentrated form, visibly enjoying the opportunity to wild camp in England's highest hills. The experience of the Cairngorms appears to have put Townsend more at ease with both camera and audio, and while not particularly associated with the range his short segment has a clarity of the purpose of wild camping few other films have portrayed. With a symmetry that just seems natural Alison O'Neill closes proceedings and the two hours has flown by. So what's it like? Well in many ways it's a hard film to review. It's so different from anything before, Cairngorms included, that it's almost impossible to reference. It's not going to appeal to the adrenaline junkies of Kendal Mountain Festival or Epic TV but Scafell Pike has the potential to reach out to a bigger audience. If Fiona Bruce or Julia Bradbury had appeared on screen it would have come as no surprise, it had that warm, sat in front of a log fire, sipping hot chocolate and listening to the Archers kind of feel associated with the world of mainstream broadcast. It could have been a Countryside Special, except Countryfile probably couldn't build the obvious rapport enjoyed between Abraham and the locals of this isolated and very parochial valley. It feels as though in filming Scafell Pike he's actually walked the mile in each of their shoes to understand the people of Wasdale and the Scafells. Half a century ago Alfred Wainwright set the standard for the written word on the Lake District and now through Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike Terry Abraham has set the standard for the 21st century equivalent in video format. In may ways Abraham resembles Wainwright, from being an outsider whose heart was captured by the country's highest fells to his love of solitary hours and days in his beloved mountains. Where Wainwright has had his books tweaked over the years to reflect change they still remain the hill walkers' bible despite imitation and in the same way Life of a Mountain will become the Wainwright of the 21st Century - there's no point in trying to imitate it or expand on it; in 2 hours it's defined the fells, the valleys and the people - until technology comes up with something more immersive than video. Quite simply outdoor documentaries have changed in the making of a single film and the scale of the change is going to make it very hard for those who follow - perhaps even for Abraham himself. This was his "baby" and his baby's just come of age.
Dave Mycroft
27 May 2014
I found this a wonderful film and didn't think it dragged at all. What we have here is a very thoughtful and reflective piece which loos at the mountain and the people who live and work on it. It is not a big octane adventure film but a thoroughly absorbing piece of mountain documentary. If this sounds the kind of thing that you are interested in then don't hesitate!
Andy Howell
27 May 2014
On Saturday May 10 I was lucky enough to be in the audience of Terry Abraham’s film Premiere: Life of a Mountain, Scafell Pike. We don’t get many Film Premiere nights in Cumbria, but it was an exhilarating night in the company of many local legends, the first being that landscape legend itself – Scafell Pike. From our comfy seats in front of the big screen at Rheged, we were transported up to the the top of the Scafell massif, in every season; up and down to Wasdale Head. I saw the brighter and most prolific shooting stars and experienced rain and fog; felt the heat and stillness of a summers evening… I visited a couple of farms in the early spring, and saw some new-born lambs; then sat on a summer’s day with a Shepherdess and her sheepdog; scrambled up some rocks with a world-famous climber; captured some imageson the shores of that dark, deep lake, with some great photographers and mountain guides; did some tai-chi in the rain; laid some drains and footpaths with National Trust ranger teams, did some dry-stone walling with a fell-running farmer, and had a pint in two local pubs. It was an absolute treat for the senses…. Terry Abraham is one of life’s humble kind of people… A truly inspiring individual with a driven determination to complete his project to an exceptional level of quality. When you’re watching the film, you have to keep reminding yourself this was all conceived, captured and edited by one man, over a period of more than a year. Terry spend days and nights on that mountain, the jewel in the crown of the Lake District. He told us about his special affinity with the fells, and in particular the Scafells. ’ I have a deep love and a passion for the area; and my dream was to do something really special to try and showcase the people, and the culture here, and capture people’s stories about why they love it and why its special to them’ He had no crew with him, no helicopter, no editing suite or realms of producers. Just him filming, walking and talking to people, capturing hours of footage then squirrelling himself back home not the huge job of editing it. His only other ‘partner’ back in the studio being a talented composer – who provided the stirring and emotional music score: Freddie Hangoler from Tel Aviv. The music fits beautifully, sometimes stirring, sometimes gentle and emotional, adding a uniqueness, authenticity and many ‘goosebump’ moments to the film. I first got to know Terry when I received a phone call to the NW offices of the National Trust during my time there as Marketing & Communications Manager; explaining about this lone guy who wanted to capture ‘a year in the life of England’s highest mountain’. Could we give permissions or help in any way? There started the beginning of a developing friendship, as I worked with Terry introducing him to all the right folk on the ground – or on the hillside to be exact. Terry captures the work of some of our footpath teams, the people out there in all weathers – repairing drains, putting in stones, picking up litter and repairing grasslands, all to cope with the thousands of pairs of feet and extremes of weather that Scafell and its surroundings experience every day. Terry would also stay down at Wasdale campsite when the weather got too bad, even for him to endure. I’d get a text or email from him up on the fell, asking if there was a dry pod available on the site – we always made sure there was… Terry would hole up there, dry himself off, and sort out his kit, whilst engaging with a couple of local pubs of course – usually the Strands and the Wasdale Head Inn. The film flowed from character to character, with Terry’s jaw-dropping scenery making your eyes hurt. His technique of interviewing each person and having them talk about what they loved about this place, then close-ups on their faces, usually raggy and windswept just drew you in more and more. The film starts and finishes with Alison O’Neill, Cumbria’s Shepherdess, talking evocatively about her experience of the fells, what it means to her, citing provenance, heritage and how it ‘gets you in the heart.’ Alan Hinkes, climber and mountaineer – and the only Briton to have climbed all 14 of the world’s highest mountains – the likes of K2 and Everest – talks about the attraction of the Scafells and what it means to him to come here and be able to climb and enjoy his own English mountain. There are stories and banter from the National Trust Rangers, working tirelessly to get on and repair footpaths and drains and clear rubbish from the fell. Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team and the BMC talk about about how people are drawn to the place, to climb, walk and challenge themselves. Their dream is that people will come to Wasdale, not just to achieve a ’24 hour’ challenge, but to enjoy it, savour it properly over a weekend, with their family and spend time and money – in and around the villages, sharing the benefit with the B&B’s and pubs and shops. There are mountain guides, photographers and a meditation guru all getting emotional about their link with this land. A farmer and his wife in the lambing shed talk from the heart about their Herdwick flock and their farm here. Wasdale Show features, and its character is summed up by Eric Robson and David Powell-Thompson: ’Its all about the highest mountain, the deepest lake the smallest church.. and the biggest Liar’ An important village tradition and competition which carries on today at the Shepherd’s meet, along side the equally important ‘Best Beard’ competition. The final scenes of night time over the fells, with the most amazing camera -work, and time-lapse photography find you in the milky way and millions of stars, constellations and shooting stars ever heavenward. On that huge screen you do feel like you might be floating into the universe, and the music is perfectly matched. Terry looked visibly shaken after the rapturous applause from the audience, and as ever, humbled and modest, he talked to us and told us about his journey. He said the toughest part of the editing process of course, had been the heartbreak of choosing which scenes to cut out. His favourite memory was dawn one summer morning, when he was on the summit, filming the sunrise on a time-lapse, the warm heat rising with the sun from the east and he reminded himself it was a Monday morning… not a bad start to the working week. His worst times were inevitably when the winter storms hit and the weather and exhaustion threatened to beat him, and he confessed to being close to tears at such moments. But it never did beat him. This is the tale of a man possessed – possessed by this amazing place and by his own ambition to capture, nurture and present it all through his own work. The final word that night went to the oldest star of the film: Joss Naylor MBE, Wasdale born and bred, farmer and fell-runner, who was in the audience that night. ” Did you like it Joss?” asked Terry, almost like a schoolboy, looking for approval… the answer could not have been better: “Aye lad, it were spectacular…..” Terry dedicated the film to his wife Sue, and the people of Cumbria. All those who love this place should spend two hours engrossed in its company.
Jane Watson
27 May 2014

I found the pace of this film to be too slow. I found myself using the fast forward button on numerous occasions in the hope that the films pace would quicken somewhat, sadly it didn't. I think the film could be quite easily be shortend by 30 minutes and not lose anything. Some of the camera work "Wobbles" badly, particularly when Alan Hinkes is being interviewed in front of the stretcher box. The sound track is also a little overbearing at times and detracts from the visuals. The star of the show however, is the scenery, which is stunning and captured well, but a little overdone in my opinion, hence being able to shorten the film. After now watching both films by this film maker, I feel a slight change of direction is needed in the next one. A faster pace for sure. Disclaimer. I bought and downloaded this film with my own money from Steepedge. I am in no way associated whatsoever with the film maker.

20 May 2014

Have you seen this film? Let us know what you think .... login and post a review