Great Gable – Trying to Get Fit!

3 05 2017

Mon 10 Apr 2017
Believe it or not, although it was April, this was the first proper mountain Richard and I had done this year. We’re trying hurriedly to get fit for my Munro Compleation walk on May 18th – I’m not worried myself as I know I’ll keep going no matter whether I’m falling to bits, knackered or what but Richard could be a problem…

Click on photos for full size/resolution – Richard’s digi photos marked

We were quite lucky with the weather as it was fine and quite sunny in the valleys – it was a pretty cold wind though. Great Gable’s summit, being over 2,900 feet, was flirting on and off with cloud when we parked up at Wasdale Head.

We haven’t been down Wasdale for quite a few years now and were delighted to see it again. We’d been wavering between doing Yewbarrow, Kirk Fell or Great Gable but, as we drove down the valley, we were horrified by the look of the route up Yewbarrow’s fierce nose – it was worse than either of us remembered – we just didn’t feel up to that one!

I’ve always been tempted by the direct route up Kirk Fell from Wasdale Head – ‘Kirky Nose’ I call it. We decided we weren’t yet fit enough to tackle it though as it’s very steep and direct for nearly the whole way to the summit. But I do really fancy it for another time…

In the end, we decided Gable would be best and set off directly from the carpark along a very stony and hard farm track for a mile or so. Now, this last week or so, my hip has gone totally against hard, flat tracks and has never liked loose stony ground. I suffered in silence as I limped more and more up the track with my hip stiffening up all the while – I hoped it would keep going to the grass further on.

Our plan was to head straight up Gavel Neese (a bit like Kirky Nose really) and turn off for either the lower or upper track to Beck Head col – whichever we felt like at the time.

The route goes straight up the front but turns before the crags! (R Wood)

In the end, we found we were going superbly well up the steep grassy fellside (indeed, even leaving a group of younger men behind!) so we continued for the higher track which I’ve never done before. It cuts narrowly across very steep scree so I hoped it was okay…

R Wood

Great End from Gavel Neese (my photos now)

The impressive but impassable Ill Gill (sorry for the terrible photo – I think it overawed the camera)

When we reached the path it was, in the main, fine. There was just one section of loose scree where I started my usual panicky scrabbling and grabbing rocks at the side with my hands but this section was soon over. I think for Beck Head on future walks I’ll ascend this way but user the lower, firmer one by the beck to descend.

Richard was struggling more than me as, in the Lakes, I no longer bother with a pack. I just carry my (heavy) Zenith film SLR and a flask in a little carrier. Therefore, on reaching the col, I was feeling a little guilty and foolishly offered to carry Richard’s always-heavy rucksack up the next steep and bouldery section to the summit.

R Wood – Beck Head col – Boat How on the left looks forbidding here!

After a brief rest we set off up the nice zig-zag to start and I plodded up feeling fine.

The next two photos show the playful weather – Richard took the first one and I pulled my camera out of it’s pack for the next one – gone!

On reaching the steep boulders, however, I soon started to regret offering to carry Richard’s awkward pack. It’s a horrible shape (kind of a rounded back), very heavy and wobbles around all over the place. That coupled with the fact that the huge boulders being north-facing were mossy and slippery, meant I made very heavy weather indeed up this section. I kept telling him I had no idea how on earth he carried his pack. Not only that, but it had been horribly skewed when I put it on and I kept having to adjust the shoulder straps until they were more or less level – quite a large adjustment!

I was frustrated to see, near the top of the boulders, that the lagging men from behind had almost caught us up again after being very far behind when we started from Beck Head. I’m very competitive on the hill and things like that upset me. As we cleared the steep section of boulders to more level ground, I put on a spurt to beat them to the summit.

R Wood – I wouldn’t waste film on it!

This is how the view from the nearby Westmorland Cairn should look – taken by me on the film camera on an nice day…

What I call an ‘aeroplane view’

The summit was in total clag and fairly cold and miserable so, after a quick coffee (and me giving Richard his pack back!) we set off down the Breast Track. It was now Richard’s turn to struggle as, in addition to getting his horrible pack back, he hates stone-pitching and there is quite a lot. I get on pretty well with it and concentrated on using my quads and glutes to protect my hip and knees as I descended. I must have got it right as I had aching thighs for the next couple of days.

Styhead Pass hove into view on the descent – my photo first and then Richard’s zoom…

The Corridor Route to Scafell Pike with the mist still trying to lift (my photo)

We reached Sty Head in lovely sunshine so sat out of the wind and in the sun for a long lounge and another coffee and snack.

While we were sat I was looking at the gentle grassy slope down Base Brown (sunlit in the photo below) – shows how cowardly I was at the start of my walking career as I was once terrified descending that!! 😮

After 20 minutes or so, we set off down the stony, raking track down under Napes while most others took off down the lovely, grassy track to the valley – I thought that had more or less fallen out of use but appear to be wrong. I was soon regretting my path choice and wishing we’d gone with them as we went back to loose scree in places and my hip didn’t like it! Conversely, Richard did really well down here and left me behind.

Kern Knotts – wonder if I can climb that now?

Great Napes (the rest of my photos are still in my camera as I started a new film here – I may add them to the post at a later date)

We spent a lot of time picking out the Gable Traverse path under Kern Knotts and the Napes from here and looking in awe at Napes Needle. We’d been tempted to have another bimble along the track but decided to leave it for when we’re fitter. In case we never do, however, I’ll include my photos here from last time’s attempt along it…

Looking back to Kern Knotts

Great Napes across the Great Hell Gate

Approaching under Great Napes

Approaching The Needle – gave up just after we passed below it!

Back to the current walk…

A great shot of Great End by Richard (all his digi-photos from here)

I asked him to take these violets

Great Napes again

On reaching the valley, we ignored the horrible, hard, stony farm track and went straight on. Our alternative path was lovely – much softer and grassier and full of interest. It took us about quarter of a mile away from the carpark but my hip managed the road okay.

Gable with a screen of gorse in front

The famous packhorse bridge at Wasdale Head

The walk took us around 5 hours as we didn’t rush and we enjoyed revisiting some Wasdale peaks after ignoring them for so many years.



10 responses

8 06 2017

Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I love the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, good blog!


9 06 2017

Thanks. One reason it loads fast is that I scan all my photos in at a small resolution as that is all a computer screen provides anyway – that way they are very small files.


9 05 2017

Great pictures and report of what looks like a rocky hike! Lovely views from above. It seems I often end up carrying more than my own stuff too. 🙂 My warm clothing also gets used up by others as well. Magnificent looking country!


12 05 2017

I’m carrying less and less. I’m in Scotland next week though so will have to repack the full complement of gear as it’s just too serious there to take the risk of missing things out.


6 05 2017
Blue Sky Scotland

It’s a fine hill Great Gable. I was in my rock climbing period when we used to go down there regularly and the climbs always felt serious and steep- not playful in any way. It’s been usually dry and sunny past few weeks but nearly every day that cold strong wind is present, even at sea level. Hard work on a bike.
Question- How can you be a ‘competitive hill-walker’- yet not rush :o)


12 05 2017

I do rush when I’m fit – just I’m not up to rushing much just now. Having said that, I suddenly seemed to get quite a bit fitter the other day after doing around 4 hill walks in a week. I managed to keep a younger guy behind all the way up the first peak, we swapped over for the next one (which was really steep) and then I beat him to the next one. We split up after that but he caught me up on my descent – it was loose and I’m very slow on loose ground in descent!


5 05 2017

A nice walk by the look of it. Great Gable is one I’ve yet to do.

Liked by 1 person

12 05 2017

It’s a bit of a masochistic route that side we ascended. I’d recommend using the Breast Track for descent and Aaron’s Slack (or a continuation from Green Gable) and the route up from Windy Gap for your ascent. Both nice routes and easy.


4 05 2017

Got both the gables and Base Brown on the list for the summer, probably from Seathwaite. I’ll probably come down the way you did to the stretcher box and then back to Seathwaite. I’ve got the same desire to do Kirk Fell up the nose as well, never been up that one either!!!


12 05 2017

I’ll give you a shout when I’m heading for Kirky Nose then 😉 Actually, it’s more likely to be a spur of the moment type thing for me.


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