The Lake District is a place of wonderful compactness, it’s tallest mountains barely passing 900 meters and from North to South the National park is a mere 40 miles in length but within its boundaries lie a depth and complexity of character completely out of proportion to its scale. Many an epic is there to be had for the unprepared, unwary or simply those happy to search and wander beyond the (very) well trodden path.

The busy fleshpots and main attractions of the area attract ever more tourists, their dogs on stretchy leads leaving perma-urine stains on the shop signs, lamp posts and street corners of Keswick and Ambleside, however even on the busiest of bank holidays it’s still possible to escape far from the madding crowd if you know where to look….


Josh performing a rollover BASE jump into Hodge Close Quarry. Photo: Tom McNally

For those with an adventurous spirit lucky enough to live in the Lake District or those visiting for a shorter stay a feast of opportunity awaits on the mountains, crags, rivers, lakes and hidden places… and here the compactness of the area pays dividends with quick access to even the tallest peaks and remote valleys, however these opportunities can often be fleeting as the constraints of weather ebb and flow. 

Some winters and summers pass by with month after month of grey and windy wetness… Not cold enough for good snow and ice / not wet enough for paddling / not dry enough for cragging / too windy for paragliding… but on those splendid occasions when the ancient Norse weather gods are favourable a good Lake District summer or winter can be sublime. Local climbing royalty Leo Houlding agrees in his foreword to Extreme Lakeland,

When the conditions do align - those long spells of sunny high pressure when all the high crags are dry and the trails become dusty underfoot; when the ice does form and the snow settles, and the north faces come alive with tools in hands or skis on feet; when the rivers are in spate, or the thermals and winds harmonise for a sublime day of flying - I could not agree with ol’ Wordsworth more that this is indeed ‘the loveliest spot that man hath found.

Leo’s foreword to Nadir Kahn and Tom McNallys book ‘Extreme Lakeland’ (a follow up to Nadir’s previous Extreme Scotland) shows a deep passion for his home turf, despite travels which have taken him far and wide to what on paper could be more worthy parts of the world to live, he’s still happy and proud to call the Lake District his home.

Extreme Lakeland is a celebration in images of many of the adventure sports on offer in this wonderful corner of England, more than that however is it’s look at those who also share Leo’s passion for the adventures on offer, for me at least this look at ‘people’ gives the strongest return throughout.

Leo Houlding enjoying Lake District Cragging - One of the many superb images in Extreme Lakeland

The book itself ambles along through the vague themes of Winter / Spring / Summer / Autumn and presents a photo essay of Lakeland with some recognisable spots (surely Black Moss Pot now needs a lifeguard in mid summer?!) and many other areas which will be new to most readers, this is no guidebook with directions and details but simply an effort in superb photography to present those who do what they do at home amongst the Cumbrian fells.

Personally I would have preferred the pages glossier, the satin print does work well for many of the more moody photographs but I like to see my images shiny, YMMV. I would also have liked to see less images in some sections in favour of either wider variety or a better spotlight, for example the two winter images of Great Gable on page 6, or the three BASE prep images on page 112, but again this is personal preference as it’s obvious the authors have taken great lengths to choose what they feel is representative of their aims in presenting the area, a difficult task which has been well met overall.

Anna Taylor soloing May the Foss be with You (E4 6b) at Foss How Crag in the Duddon Valley. Photo: Nadir Khan

The book is scattered throughout with 14 tales from several Lakeland protagonists, albeit most won’t be household names all share the common pleasure of the breadth of opportunity Lakeland provides. These include Anna Taylor’s ‘Solo’ (read our interview with Anna here), which takes a look at the risk vs reward balance for solo climbers, through to a few stories from author Tom McNally himself. The text content adds real depth to the book, although most of these essays aren’t ‘Extreme’ in the traditional ‘high 5’ sense but more an exploration of the thoughts behind the contributors. I’d have liked to see more of these stories which wrap around the imagery so well, an online link up with the book as an Extreme Lakeland website could give a good opportunity to develop the stories further and allow for user submissions for endless streams of inspiration.

In summary, if you’re looking for some inspiration for your own adventures in the Lake District and love to see top drawer adventure photography in print (are we in a great print revival?), Extreme Lakeland is well worth a look.

From The Publisher

Extreme Lakeland by Nadir Khan and Tom McNally is a stunning photographic celebration of all that makes the Lake District a magnet for those with a heart for adventure and who want to immerse themselves in the beauty of the hills and mountains of this jewel in the English landscape.

From the crags of the high fells to the lakes and tarns for which the Lakes is famous, Nadir and Tom showcase incredible adventure sports through the seasons, including rock climbing, mountain biking, fell running, wild swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, base jumping and ski touring.

Extreme Lakeland is available from Vertebrate Publishing for £25

You can also discover more work from Nadir and Tom via the links below.

Nadir Khan
Website - Instagram 
  Tom McNally
Website - Instagram