is a mountain lying at the very heart of the English Lake District,
appearing as a pyramid from Wasdale, but as a dome from most other
It is one of
the most popular of the Lakeland fells, and there are many different
routes to the summit. Great Gable is linked by the high pass of Windy
Gap to its smaller sister hill, Green Gable, and by the lower pass of
Beck Head to its western neighbour, Kirk Fell.
Fells occupy a triangular sector of the Lake District, bordered by the
River Cocker to the north east and Wasdale to the south east. Westwards
the hills diminish toward the coastal plain of Cumberland. At the
central hub of the high country are Great Gable and its satellites,
while two principal ridges fan out on either flank of Ennerdale, the
western fells in effect being a great horseshoe around this long wild
Great Gable and its lesser companion Green Gable
stand at the head of Ennerdale, with the walkers' pass of Sty Head to
their backs. This connects Borrowdale to Wasdale, giving Gable a footing
in both valleys. The Borrowdale connection is quite tenuous, but Great
Gable is "the undisputed overlord" of Wasdale in that it is paramount in
almost any view up the lake. Once seen, the naming of the fell Great
Gable requires no explanation.
section of Great Gable has a roughly square plan, about half a mile on
each side, with the faces running in line with the four points of the
compass. The fells connecting and subsidiary ridges occupy the corners
of the square.
The northern face is formed by Gable Crag,
prominent in views from Haystacks and the surrounding fells. This is the
longest continuous wall of crag on the fell and reaches up almost to the
summit. Scree slopes fall away below to the headwaters of the River
Liza, beginning their long journey down Ennerdale.
There are few crags on the eastern slopes, although
these fall steeply to Styhead Tarn, a feeder of the Borrowdale system.
About 30 ft deep this tarn occupies a scooped hollow, dammed by boulders
falling from the slopes above. It is reputed to contain trout and is a
popular location for wild camping.
The southern flank of Great Gable falls 2,300 ft
direct to Lingmell Beck, one of the main feeders of Wastwater. Right
below the summit are the Westmorland Crags, and then a second tier
breaks out lower down. These are Kern Knotts, Raven Crag and Great
Napes, all footed by great tongues of scree.
Finally on the west rough slopes fall below the
rocks of White Napes to the narrow valley of Gable Beck, a tributary of
From the north western corner of the pyramid the
connecting ridge to Kirk Fell runs out across the col of Beck Head
(2,050 ft). There is a small tarn in the depression, and sometimes a
second after heavy rain. Both are blind, having no apparent inlet or
Gable Beck runs south from Beck Head, while an
unnamed tributary of the Liza flows northward. The main spine of the
Western Fells continues along the north east ridge to Green Gable,
dropping to Windy Gap (2,460 ft) as it rounds the end of Gable Crag.
This ridge is rough and rocky, further worn by the boots of countless
walkers. Stone Cove lies on the Ennerdale side while the rough gully of
Aaron Slack runs down toward Styhead Tarn.
The south eastern ridge provides the connection to
the Southern Fells, across the pass of Sty Head. This is a major
crossroads for walkers and climbers, the summit being at around
On the opposite slope is Great End in the Scafells.
Kern Knotts lies on this south east ridge, as does the small pool of Dry
Tarn. The south western ridge gives to high level connection, dropping
down Gavel Neese in the angle between Lingmell Beck and Gable Beck
The summit of Great Gable is strewn with boulders
and the highest point marked by a rock outcrop set with a cairn. There
is a plaque set on the summit rock commemorating those members of the
Fell and Rock Climbing Club who died in the First World War; an annual
memorial service is held here on Remembrance Sunday. The club bought a
large area of land including Great Gable and donated it to the National
Trust in memory of these members, and the plaque was dedicated in 1924
by Geoffrey Winthrop Young in front of 500 people.
Due to its
central position within the Lake District and great prominence the
summit has some of the best panoramic views of any peak in the area. All
of the main fell groups are laid out, serried ranks of hills filling the
skyline, although surprisingly Wast Water and Windermere are the only
yards to the south west of the summit, overlooking the Napes, is the
Westmorland Cairn. This cairn was erected in 1876 by two brothers named
Westmorland to mark what they considered to be the finest view in the
Lake District. From here ground falls away into the profound abyss of
upper Wasdale. Further cairns mark the top of Gable Crag. It is
testament to the high regard that many walkers have for Great Gable that
the summit has become a popular site for the scattering of ashes
Routes to climb to the summit start from all of the
main dales that radiate out from central Lakeland. From Wasdale the
south west ridge up Gavel Neese provides the obvious, and consequently
steep and rough, line to take. This can be finished either via Little
Hell Gate, a well named and atrocious scree gully, or more sedately via
The walk up Ennerdale is long, unless staying at
Black Sail Youth Hostel and again Beck Head gives access to the summit
Ascents from Borrowdale or Wasdale can also make
use of Sty Head pass, before slogging up the south east ridge, or the
scree filled Aaron Slack. Finally Gatesgarth (near Buttermere), or the
summit of the Honister Pass road can be used as starting points,
crossing the high hinterland of Grey Knotts and Brandreth to arrive at
Windy Gap or Beck Head.
Among indirect ascents, a popular alternative is to
climb Sour Milk Gill from Seathwaite in Borrowdale, first ascending
Green Gable before traversing Windy Gap.
has cliffs to the north (Gable Crag) and south (Westmorland Crags, the
Napes, and Kern Knotts). The Napes are important in the history of
English rock climbing: W. P. Haskett Smith's ascent of the remarkable
detached pinnacle of Napes Needle in June 1886 (now graded Hard Severe)
is thought by many to mark the origins in England of rock climbing as a
sport in its own right, as opposed to a necessary evil undergone by
mountaineers on their way to the summit.
wishing to climb Napes Needle should be warned that a safe descent is
far more difficult than the ascent as there are no permanent anchors or
bolts to abseil from. Down-climbing is the only way to get from the
summit to the shoulder and gear on this second pitch sparse to say the
least. A relatively simple abseil can be set up to get down from the