Sunday, 9 November 2014

Rememberance Sunday on Great Gable

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Route: Honister Hause, Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Gillercomb Head, Green Gable, Windy Gap, Great Gable, Stone Cove, Moses Trod, Fleetwith, Drum House, Honister Hause

Date: 09/11/2014
From: Honister Hause

Parking: Honister Slate Mine
Start Point: Honister Hause
Region: Western Fells

Route length: 5.6 miles (9.2 km)
Time taken: 03:14
Average speed: 1.7 mph
Ascent: 764m
Descent: 771m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Grey Knotts (697m), Brandreth (715m), Green Gable (801m), Great Gable (899m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: War Memorial, Dubs Quarry, Honister Slate Mine

Annually, hundreds of people gather on top of Great Gable to remember the men and women who lost their lives fighting in conflicts around the world. This year is of particular importance, marking 100 years since the outbreak of WWI.

The summit rock bears a recently refurbished plaque commemorating members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club who died in World War I. The club bought 3,000 acres of land including Great Gable and donated it to the National Trust in memory of these members. The plaque was dedicated on Whit Sunday 1924 by Geoffrey Winthrop Young in front of 500 people and year on year, similar numbers make the journey to the summit to pay their respects. This year it would be my turn to participate.

I had intended on participating last year (2013) but other commitments got in the way. There was no way that I would be missing this one, however, given that this service marked the centenary. We had made plans as far back as the summer months and as a result, the diary was cleared for the weekend (albeit with a gig to attend on the Saturday night). After a short night's sleep and an early start from Wakefield, we arrived in the rain at Honister to get ready.
A full car park at the Honister YHA
The route up Grey Knotts
The mine owners had kindly opened their car park and volunteers were directing the traffic around, asking for donations to the Poppy Appeal rather than the usually extortionate parking fees most places demand.

It was obvious that it was going to be busy, two snaking columns of walkers were disappearing up the fellside, one up towards Dubs Quarry along the old tramway and another climbing the fellside towards Grey Knotts, the route we'd be following.
The ranks of walkers making their way up the fellside
Despite starting from the top of the Honister Pass, the route up to Grey Knotts begins with a steep climb out of the valley, gaining considerably more height as you go. The weather had cleared for now revealing some splendid morning shades being cast on Dale Head and down Seatoller Fell into Borrowdale.
Heading up the steep path out of Honister
Dale Head catching the light
Seatoller Fell and Borrowdale
Fleetwith Pike and Hindscarth
It had started to rain again as we reached the summit of Grey Knotts and we were starting to get pushed for time so we didn't hang around. Grey Knotts was originally just the name for the trio of rock protrusions from the summit of Seatoller Fell but the name has now been attached the separate fell. Two of the outcrops are of equal height, both bearing a cairn and one guarding the remains of an OS column.
One of the outcrops on Grey Knotts
The two summits of Grey Knotts
Leaving Grey Knotts, the view ahead is one that calls to the fell walker. The shallow rise of Brandreth backed by the towering dome of Great Gable is certainly impressive, even if the weather had decided to start pouring again. After negotiating a short bog, Brandreth's summit stands an insignificant distance away and we duly crossed the top as we fought our way through the rain. Brandreth is best seen from Base Brown where the hanging valley of Gillercomb provides a fine foreground to Brandreth's steep eastern face.
Crossing some boot-snatching bogs
Clouds gather over Buttermere
The summit of Brandreth
A cairn marks the highest point
Rain in Ennerdale
Gillercomb Head separates Brandreth from Green Gable, one of my favourite fells on account of its spectacular view of Ennerdale and a close up of Gable Crag. Luckily for us, as we made our way up the slopes Green Gable, the rain had started to ease and there was a distinct threat of clearer skies. Clouds and rain swirling around in Ennerdale made for a striking image. More and more people were joining from the various paths surrounding Great Gable, large numbers coming from routes crossing Base Brown and up from Sty Head.
Clouds part over Ennerdale
The High Stile range with Hay Stacks in the foreground
A rainbow escapes from Ennerdale
The large path leading up Green Gable
Gable Crag on Great Gable
Atop Green Gable
We arrived at Green Gable to witness a long, almost unbroken column of people slowly making their way up Great Gable. Normally this would have annoyed me but, on this occasion, it was a remarkable sight to see so many people braving the elements to stand for a sombre half hour on top of the mountain. We had little over half an hour to make our way up Great Gable so we stepped to it, so to speak, tackling the final steep section at our own paces after agreeing to meet at the memorial after the silence.
The line of walkers making their way up Great Gable
Sunshine illuminates Aaron Slack
A look back to Green Gable
Making our way up the steep slopes
Clouds spill over Glaramara
A close up of Glaramara
I made it with 15 minutes to spare, enough time to edge closer through the crowds to the summit rocks while preparing for a cold wait on the top. A member of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club gave a short address before the mountain top fell silent, impeccably so, as several hundred people reflected on the sacrifices made by those who have fought for our country. It's a moving tribute.
A large number of people we already at the summit
Clouds over Glaramara
Lots of people had turned out
The clouds rolled in during the service, casting the summit in a dull grey light, reflective of the mood perhaps. Many people, myself included, patiently waited for a moment to view the memorial, several laying large wreaths or modest wooden crosses to mark their own personal respects. After reuniting with my party, we made our way to one side to take our first break of the day and eat an early lunch. We had been up since 5 am after all.
People laying their own tributes
The gleaming summit memorial, recently refurbished
Another cross had been placed overlooking Wasdale
A gloomy Great Gable as we make our way down
Clouds swirl around Kirk Fell
A very steep, slippery descent down the northwestern ridge was our next task, made all the more challenging by not being able to see where were actually going. We were aiming for Moses Trod and inadvertently reached it by cutting a large corner down the steep scree slopes below Gable Crag. Out of the clouds now, the path makes its way around the head of Ennerdale, giving impressive views of the valley and the fells of Pillar and Kirk Fell. Despite the large number of people on Great Gable earlier, many had made their way swiftly back to their starting points, leaving us with a largely typical Lakeland afternoon.
A steep descent off Great Gable
Kirk Fell
Descending still, it's a long way down
The scree slope beneath Gable Crag
Green Gable
The menacing rocks of Gable Crag
Hay Stacks
Clouds forming in the leeward side of Pillar
Great Gable, Kirk Fell and Ennerdale from Moses Trod
Clouds on Pillar
The gentle slopes of Brandreth
Kirk Fell
Ennerdale once again
The return route to Honister is very straightforward, following Moses Trod below Windy Gap and the slopes of Brandreth before merging above the other-worldly landscape behind Hay Stacks. The rain had started to fall steadily as we followed the path along the lower slopes of Grey Knotts, reaching the old tramway that served the abandoned Dubs Quarry and making our way down the hillside to Honister.
Buttermere comes into view
High Stile and Hay Stacks
Buttermere and Crummock Water
Fleetwith Pike and Dubs Quarry
Reaching the old tramline
One last view of High Stile and High Crag
Fleetwith Pike and the old tramline
It had been a typically autumnal day; rainy and cold but well worth the effort. It's a truly rewarding and moving experience to see so many people honouring the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, made all the more poignant as this year marks the 100th year since the outbreak of WWI. We owe a great deal to these men and women and they deserve every recognition they receive, even if that's just a silent few moments atop one of Lakeland's greats.

Lest we forget.