20080620 : Honister Hause to Great Gable Walk and return
When : 20 June 2008
Who : Just me
Where : Lake District – England
Approx distance : 8 km 5 miles
Significant height : 1400 m
Parking : Car Parks top of Honister Pass – National Trust/Quarry’s own.
Public Transport : Yes but limited times… from both Buttermere or Borrowdale
Route Summary : Honister Hause – Grey Knotts – Brandreth – Gillercomb Head – Green Gable – Windy Gap – Great Gable … reversed for return.
This was the third of my walks of my short break in the lakes. My post “20080618-21 Lake District – 4 Day break” gives some back-ground and includes a bit about enforced accommodation changes etc. You can go and read that first if you really want to, but it’s not essential for the following diary post to make sense. In summary though, I’d been due to stay at Black Sail Youth Hostel but it’d been temporarily closed, at very short notice, and my nights stay had been switched to Honister Hause Youth Hostel. See the links below if you want to know more about the hostels …
Because of this enforced change to my accommodation, the walks I had planned had been rendered obsolete (at least for this trip). The problem was, I now had to decide what walk to do and I’d poured over my map the night before in the common room of Honister Hause Youth Hostel where I’d ended up.
Not that being at Honister Hause Y.H. was a problem, in fact I really like the hostel with it’s superb setting, good food and friendly staff & fellow guests (oh and no stairs to climb to the dorm’!). All in all, it felt homely and to my mind just like a traditional youth hostel should …. No, the problem was deciding what kind of walk suited me, especially as I hadn’t moved particularly quickly on the previous two days. My preference would be to:-
- Not move the car,
- Stay on high ground for as long as possible during the day,
- Do a circular route,
- Get a decent day of weather (out of my control unfortunately).
Leaving the car where it was, was easy, the warden at the hostel had said I could leave my car where it was, for free, just outside the building and off the road in the very small YHA parking area … what a nice chap! … However, a circular route from here would have meant dropping quite significant heights before rising back up to Honister Pass in the afternoon. I decided against this, as, doubting my fitness levels, I didn’t fancy a stiff climb at the end of the day. Also, I really didn’t want to start the day in the car, because any driving (down towards Buttermere or down towards Borrowdale) would loose all the height I had, already being at the top of Honister pass.
In the end, I decided to stay high and do a short walk, taking in four named tops (and NO, I’m not going to call them Wainwright’s!, they were named long before he’d mapped them in his guides, and I especially dislike the recent apparent Wainwright-isation of everything to do with walking in the Lake-District!). The main goal, weather permitting, was to be Great Gable via Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable. The forecast was mixed but a little more favourable than the previous two days and my hope was for the cloud base to be high and broken enough to give some decent views. Very unusually, I decided on the same route out and return, in fact pretty much a straight line there and back, with just a bit of a dogs leg in the general direction. I took a gamble – shorts were to be worn to give my legs an airing and I hoped any fellow walkers would have sun-glasses to protect themselves from the glare.
Walking out of the hostel, there was no pre-amble to loosen up the slightly stiff muscles from the previous couple of days exertions. The walk started straight-up from the corner of the National Trust car park, heading directly for Grey Knotts. It didn’t take long for the steep slope to slow me down. Mountain walking is really quite different to Warwickshire rambles and uses different muscles and techniques, and my legs were telling me so! My heart felt good though and I was in high spirits as I was joined on the climb by three gentlemen who’d been fellow guests at the hostel the night before (as it happens they too should have been at Black Sail at the same time as me). They were heading to Borrowdale Youth Hostel that evening, another coincidence as that was my destination as well. Their route was the same as mine as far as Great Gable, where upon they were to branch away and walk down into Borrowdale. They became informal walking colleagues at various times all the way to Great Gable. A short sharp shower didn’t have much effect really and with some good humoured chat, Grey Knotts was attained. It felt good, very good! views had opened up, the rain had blown over, only the higher tops were shrouded in cloud …. Absolutely wonderful!
With views viewed and photo’s snapped and after the exertions of the earlier climb, the route ahead to Brandreth was to be easy going and I looked forward to opening up my stride, although a boggy section ahead with some standing pools of water meant a decision had to be made: LH side of the fence stretching ahead or the RH side? I chose the left, my new friends the right and for now we parted company as I strode out ahead, my 6′-4″ height and long legs helping to do this. The non-descript top of Brandreth reached, I stopped and found a little hollow to sit in for some refreshment, taking in the views over Base Brown and beyond – Lovely. If you’ve never walked up high … do it! … It really is worth it; even a mile or so from the road can get you into the most fantastic places.
The drop, pretty much due south, over the stony broad slope of Brandreth was a little taxing on the ankles, but it didn’t last long as the wide saddle of Gillercomb Head was reached and the steady climb up to Green Gable began.
The wind had picked up quite considerably, blowing chillily across from the Kirk Fell area, so I reluctantly hid my legs away under my waterproof / windproof / breathable over-trousers (fellow walkers on the path might have been relieved that they no longer needed their sun-glasses, but they were far too polite to say so). Remarkably, the O/trousers were quite comfy directly against my skin – well done Berghaus!
By the top of Green Gable the wind was quite strong and I really began to wonder what Windy Gap and the top of Great Gable (some 100m higher) were going to be like. I had visions of crawling, caterpillar style, over the top of Great Gable, just to say I’d reached the summit.
Oddly, Windy Gap wasn’t! For once it wasn’t living up to its name at-all. The climb up Great Gable was very calm indeed, the route being sheltered by its own massive bulk.
As it happened, it was only mildly breezy on the summit. The Steep, rocky, bouldery, climb up Great Gable was slow (legs, fitness, mountain terrain, etc, again), but the Gods were obviously smiling on me, because, as the sun came out, expansive views could be seen in a fantastic 360-degree panorama.
I could list a whole host of tops etc. that could be seen, but I won’t, suffice to say the views were brill’; the highlight was watching the clouds lift off Skafell and Skafell Pike, revealing England’s very highest places.
Visibility was good enough to make out The Isle of man, out in The Irish Sea and Scotland in the far distance. Looking inland, all the tops were free of cloud. The vistas in all directions competed against each other for my attention … Wow; I’d certainly been away from these tops for too long … how had that happened!
It was so good in fact, that I sat in a warm little hollow under the summit rocks and I phoned my Mum and Dad just to tease them a little, as they would have loved to have been there with me (that’s another story completely, not to be told right now!). Anyway my tease fell a little flat, as they weren’t in! … I had to suffice with leaving a message on their answer phone. I was in good company, loads of people were getting their mobiles out – it was the first place since arriving in The Lakes that I’d got a signal. One young lady close by was talking about uploading a photo to her face-book account or similar. Depending on your point of view (small pun there considering where I was) you can say how wonderful modern technology is …. or, maybe a little intrusive perhaps? I decided that this proud mountain and the surrounding fells were perhaps diminished somehow and I put the phone away, but only after a call to my lovely wife. She said I had to stay over an extra night if it was as good as my obviously enthused voice imparted. I returned to the views and lost myself in the expanse of crags, streams, lakes and sky. In fact I must have stayed a full 1-½ hours on the top of Great Gable. During this time my three “friends” moved off south-eastwards towards Sty Head, where their route was to take in Sprinkling Tarn, Grains Gill and Seathwaite before reaching Borrowdale Youth Hostel.
It was quite busy on the top of Great Gable, with parties, some quite sizeable, appearing from various directions, and there must have been over a score of people at times milling around before moving off on their own routes. My route back was a complete reversal of the outward trip and I reluctantly dragged myself back to walking mode. The descent off Great Gable was easier than anticipated, although concentration was needed to ensure good foot placement etc. The short climb up to Green Gable again brought me into a mini gale, but the breeze dropped once back towards Gillercomb Head and the over trousers came off (and sun glasses were required again should anyone suffer dazzle).
It’s worth noting an iron gate sat all alone on the broad saddle of Gillercomb Head. It’s quite surreal seeing this rusty but still working gate, with no fence to go with it. I think it’s the remains of an old boundary fence, as the boundary posts (BP on the OS map), can still be seen stretching away over the fells. Great navigation aids in mist! The climb up Brandreth was much easier than the earlier stony descent – I picked a better, less stony route.
Grey Knotts was quickly reached afterwards, and this time, I spent a little more time on its rocky outcrops before the really quite knee jarring descent back to the car at Honister Hause.
A short walk, little more than a half-dayer really, but I’d pretty much filled a whole day somehow. A super day and very much more satisfying than what I’d allowed myself to anticipate that morning.
The short drive down Little Gatesgarth left Honister pass behind and brought me through Seatoller. Then just after Strands Bridge, nearing Borrowdale Youth Hostel, I spotted my three “friends” last seen leaving Great Gable, and looking just a little weary. I offered them a lift, not really expecting them to accept … I was right, they didn’t. I‘d been settled in for a while when they arrived themselves and being a nice kind of chap, I brewed up four mugs of coffee for us all. This was later repaid by a glass of organic red wine at dinner, which went down very well with my trout. Youth hostels have changed, sometimes for the worse, but in this case for the better, great grub Borrowdale Youth Hostel, excellent! Anyways-up, it was a much civilised end to a good days walking in the Great Outdoors of the English Lake District.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
Next walk = 20080621, Castle Crag circular in Borrowdale, link = https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/20080620_castle-crag-borrowdale/