Feb 13 14
Great Gable is one of the most often photographed and painted sights in the Lake District, mainly for its breathtakingly beautiful views and stunning panoramas. It is placed in a prime central location that offers spectacular views of the Scaffels, Ennerdale, Crummockdale and Windermere, which all provide plenty of fantastic photo opportunities.
However, in order to appreciate the sheer beauty of Great Gable, the only way to do this is to venture up there for yourself. It is for this very reason that a group of friends and I climb Great Gable on an annual basis to coincide with Remembrance Sunday.
You may be surprised to hear that we aren’t the only ones that choose to climb an icy mountain at the crack of dawn on an incredibly frosty morning. Hundreds of people head up to the summit of Great Gable to pay respects, at 3,000 feet, to the members of the armed forces that died in the First World War.
Our annual trip to the summit of Great Gable begins on the eve of the memorial service, when we all pile into one car armed with provisions (an unhealthy amount of sweets & crisps) and head up the M6 to Borrowdale near Keswick.
I was particularly excited about my climb this year, because I was going to try out by new Inov8 Roclite 400 GTX Walking Boots. I had bought my new walking boots from e-outdoor immediately after the previous year’s climb, because my incumbent walking boots made me feel like one of Roald Dahl’s titular Witches; forced to walk with a slight limp due to feeling as if I no longer had toes.
In the spirit of tradition, we always make a point of staying at the same Youth Hostel, the YHA Honister Hause, which was originally a quarry workers house and provides easy access to England’s highest peaks. Most importantly however, this is the scene of the annual battle to become Great Gable Dominos Tournament Champion – keep your eyes peeled for the live broadcast on Sky Sports in a few years! Unfortunately I was eliminated soon after the Boneyard (the catchy name for the start of the game when all the dominoes are laid face down), but I vow to come back stronger next year.
The following morning, we were up before sunrise and headed up towards our first checkpoint, the foot of Sourmilk Gill, which requires ample amounts of steep climbing and scrambling in order to advance onto the next challenge; in case you were wondering, the next challenge is provided by the tricky ascent to Green Gable.
Green Gable is a miniature version of Great Gable, and acts as a calm-before-the-storm-esque prelude to the aptly-titled ‘Windy Gap’. Once you have successfully reached the top of Green Gable, you are faced with a steep descent before you head across Windy Gap, which in the middle of November, definitely lives up to its moniker.
The journey across Windy Gap makes you feel as if you are battling with Mother Nature herself, whilst also managing to closely resemble a scene from a Lord of the Rings film. One thing is for certain, my Movember facial hair certainly helped to shelter most of my face from the biting cold winds.
Once we had successfully scuttled across Windy Gap, we all paused for a few moments to take a deep breath and tackle the final scramble onto Great Gable itself, which is one of the most enjoyable elements of the climb in my opinion.
At the summit of Great Gable, we stopped for a sandwich and a well-earned flask of hot chocolate – not a patch on Italian hot chocolate, but darn tasty nonetheless! There was also the obligatory team photo, in which everyone always has a true sense of achievement etched onto their faces.
As 11:00 am grew ever closer, more and more walkers were reaching the summit, and finding a place to refuel and observe the 2 minute memorial silence; by the time eleven o’clock came, there was nigh on 500 walkers at the peak of Great Gable, which is a truly awe-inspiring sight.
After the memorial service, everyone steadily makes their way back down the mountain towards the warm salvation of the YHA.
Upon my triumphant return to YHA, it dawned on me that my feet were in a much better condition than they were the year before, which was primarily thanks to my new summit-conquering walking boots. In hindsight, this is no mean feat considering my new walking boots had been given a serious 6,000 feet baptism of fire, and my feet are eternally grateful to them for it. They’ve stayed in one piece but they certainly don’t look as pristine as this anymore.
After a quick change of clothes, we all pile back in the car on our way home, whereby we must return to the mundane routine of 9-to-5 life, whilst counting down the remaining 364 days until we can return to Great Gable once again!
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