The second Sunday in November. A day of respect and remembrance for those who fought and were killed in the First World War, and a day of respect and remembrance for those who are still fighting and dying. This is the day that many of us here in the Lake District make the 2-3 hour trek up to the top of Great Gable to pay our respects. I don’t know how six or seven hundred of us fitted at the top of the mountain but the two minutes’ silence was profound and wreaths were laid at the Fell & Rock Climbing Club memorial to those members who fought in the War.
There are several different ways up Great Gable – you can go from Wasdale Head, Honister Pass (at the very top of Borrowdale), or from Seathwaite (again, top end of Borrowdale, turn left before the road starts steeply up Honister Pass). We chose the Seathwaite route as we had Bruno with us, aged 5, and I think it’s the least steep route (although you still have to get to the top of Gable when all’s said and done).
When you park by the farm at Seathwaite, you then have the choice of climbing steeply up Sour Milk Gill to Green Gable and then across Windy Gap to Great Gable, or meandering further up the valley to Sty Head Tarn. We chose the latter. Just beyond Sty Head Tarn is the Stretcher Box (just in case) and here you need to hang in a right to go up Gable. Then just follow the path to the top. If you turn left at the Stretcher Box you go up Scafell, but that’s another walk for another day.
At the top, the views are amazing. You can see so much – the Scafell range, the Helvellyn range, Pillar & Ennerdale, pretty much everything in fact.
The alternative route down to Seathwaite from Sty Head Tarn
We went down the same way to start with, but after Sty Head Tarn we didn’t turn right over the little wooden bridge that would have taken us down the meandering path to Seathwaite Farm, instead we kept to the left of the stream and went down a really interesting path that was cut out of the hillside. I’ve no idea what it was called (who would have thought that I grew up in the Lake District) but it took us back down to Seathwaite Farm all the same. Be warned, it’s tough on the knees, especially when a small boy is sitting on your shoulders. It was also quite waterlogged and slippy. But it’s an interesting walk all the same.
The photos should tell the rest of the story but I’d like to finish with some well known words from Wilfred Owen:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Around 600 people were at the top of Great Gable for Remembrance Sunday
Sean, Doctor of Magnets, contemplating life and death
A spot of bouldering on the way down from Great Gable
The walk described above is handy for anyone staying in our Borrowdale Cottages or our Keswick Cottages. For those of you staying at our Eskdale Cottages or Wasdale Cottages, it would be better to climb up Great Gable from Wasdale Head. The photo below shows the view to Gable (in the middle) as you are driving up to Wasdale Head at dawn.
Great Gable at Dawn with Wastwater in the foreground