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Gravity and Great Gable

Gravity and Great Gable


Postby The English Alpinist » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:43 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Base Brown, Brandreth, Fleetwith Pike, Great Gable, Green Gable, Grey Knotts, Kirk Fell

Hewitts included on this walk: Base Brown, Brandreth, Fleetwith Pike, Great Gable, Green Gable, Kirk Fell

Date walked: 15/03/2016

Time taken: 6.75

Distance: 19 km

Ascent: 1541m

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Another one down, 4 to go!

That's 4 more walks to do to achieve my goal of all the Wainwrights in one winter. The deadline is Saturday 26th March, a week and 4 days from the date of this walk. The clocks go forward at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, so technically I have until then. Don't really want to leave it quite that late though!

1 Base Brown.JPG
Stroll through Borrowdale to start, with Base Brown ahead.


2 waterfall.JPG
Planes and waterfalls.


So close to success, I'm feeling a new emotion - nervousness. I've experienced plenty of reluctance, even dread about getting out there during the course of this winter, but this is different. I'm nervous about things going wrong now that could spoil everything. Anything from a twisted ankle to a train crash to an unexpected bout of bubonic plague. Well, I was right to fear injury: I very nearly took a bad fall on this one. It might well have been fatal, and would almost certainly have been a deal breaker (along with a few broken bones). Incredibly stupidly, I decided to climb Base Brown, the first of the day, by a direct assault up its crags. There is a path marked on there, but I saw no sign of the start of it and simply set out up a bit that looked doable. Only when I was on it did I see how difficult it was. Boulders and clefts combined with half-dead heather and wet sponge to make it almost impossible. I got to the point where it was probably more dangerous to go down than continue up.

3 the climb.JPG
About to run into difficulty on ascent of Base Brown.


I squeezed my way up a gully not really wide enough for a human and relied on the smallest of toe-holds. I hauled myself up by hand-holds on the heather tufts and stems of shrubbery, carefully ascertaining first whether they were connected strongly enough to the ground. Some were not, and merely dead remnants that would sent me plunging. Plunge is what I did at one point, a moment of real peril. I had enough sense to choose a line that offered some kind of safety net below, such as a cluster of vegetation, if I did fall. This is exactly what happened. I fell only a couple of metres, but was totally out of control for that instant. I slithered into some thick heather which I was able to grab and took my weight. Below would have been a complete freefall of about 10 metres down steep rocks doing I shudder to think what damage. My heart and lungs were racing. Gradually the contours became safer, and half an hour later I was on the summit, having cost far more energy than saved.

4 Brown summit.JPG
Summit of Base Brown, the Gables ahead.


Here I discovered the damage done, when I tried to take photographs. The LCD screen on my camcorder was busted, showing a few strange zigzags but mostly black. in all the adrenaline I'd forgotten I was carrying it in my trouser pocket. I reckon it got crushed in the gully, or bashed in when I fell. Here's the good news, though: it still seemed to be taking pics, and indeed here they are :) It's just that I couldn't see what I was taking, and from then on had to guess what I had in-frame and hold the thing level as best I could. Just to be sure of getting some good ones, I took lots! Pics are a vital part of the mission to me. I want to remember all this hardship! So, no broken bones and no death, but a rather expensive ascent of Base Brown. All that remained now were the more major fells ahead and 5 more hours of walking.

5 Green Gable.JPG
On Green Gable, with the Great one ahead.


6 plaque.JPG
Great Gable summit.


7 AW plaque.JPG
Some background from AW.


8 Kirk ahead.JPG
I size up Kirk Fell. It seemed big from this direction.


9 col.JPG
Beck Head: rather big dip between Great Gable and Kirk Fell.


10 Kirk summit.JPG
On Kirk Fell.


After almost becoming a mountain rescue statistic earlier, the rest of the walk passed less dramatically. Even so, it was no easy stroll. There was still some snow left above 2000 feet, and the down-up (Wind Gap) between Green and Great Gable was quite hazardous. The trouble is it was so soft, offering no purchase at all, and awkward choosing whether to walk on it or find rocks instead. After meeting a chap on the summit of Great Gable who was very pleased with himself for getting up there soon after a hip operation (and so he should be, well done indeed), my thoughts turned to my own knees.

After the last outing, I was feeling the strain. I've crammed a lot n this month. They were hurting, and I had my doubts about doing this walk. Therefore, losing the path down to Beck Head between Gable and Kirk Fell was not ideal. I found myself scrambling down the steep screes, a bit of a nightmare if not quite the peril of earlier. Things went without hitch after that, but I could have done without the out and back trek up Kirk Fell. Really should have tagged it onto my Pillar day last week, just as I mentioned at the time! It would have added less to that than it added to this. The Western Fells are serious fells, no doubt. And this was in perfect weather!

11 traverse.JPG
En route to Brandreth.


12 gate.JPG
Could that be a 'portal' between the present day and Wainwright's time? I should have tried it.


13 Brandreth AW.JPG
40ish years ago.


14 Brandreth.JPG
Today: the summit of Brandreth.


15 Grey Knott.JPG
Grey Knotts, with Fleetwith Pike in range.


Brandreth and Grey Knotts were far simpler and difficult to have an accident on. Also, they were far less interesting in themselves, but there was a kind of timeless fascination in all the decayed metal fences up there. The views in all directions were excellent too. The day smoothed out happily. At first I wondered why Wainwright bothered to include Fleetwith Pike, a very unexceptional-looking fell with slate mine scarring to boot. However, the view from the end of it is one of the best in the entire district. As a further bonus, just as I was cursing myself for straying off-path on the way back and walking into sponge, I encountered the most interesting bit of wildlife since the stag of Haweswater on New Years Eve. This time the creatures (plural) were smaller: a colony of frogs. At first I only heard them, a real chorus they made. Then, on closer inspection of the patch of water too small to be considered a tarn or even marked on the map, there they were. Scores of the little fellows, some of them eyeing me up above the waterline :)

16 Honister view.JPG
The walk along Fleetwith Pike, Honister Pass road far below.


17 Honister wall.JPG
The face of Dale Head looked huge across Honister Pass.


18 Fleetwith.JPG
Into my top 10 views of the campaign this goes. End of Fleetwith Pike.


19 AW Fleet.JPG
AW thought it was good too.


20 frogs.JPG
There were loads of them!


The day finished with a simple stroll down Honister Pass to catch the bus from Seatoller. The Coast to Coast footpath mostly avoided the need to walk on the road, even though my knees would have preferred the latter. The C to C sign has given me ideas, for when this campaign is over. I hardly dare think that far ahead, though. As I proved spectacularly today, many things can still go wrong. My knees didn't feel much worse, if at all, than they did before I started, so that's some good news. Tomorrow, another train and bus journey, but with the Coledale horeshoe at the end of it. That should be easier!

21 coast.JPG
In answer to ChrisW's question at end of last report... see sign!


22 the end.JPG
This time 20 minutes to spare for the last bus!



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25 appendix.jpg
Appendix: Green and Great Gable as they looked 10 days ago (from Seathwaite Fell).
Last edited by The English Alpinist on Fri Aug 11, 2017 12:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
The English Alpinist
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Re: Gravity and Great Gable

Postby ChrisW » Fri Mar 18, 2016 5:24 am

If it brings photos like these you should break your camera more often TEA :lol: You're lucky that's all you broke by the sound of your ill conceived initial ascent, I've made that exact mistake myself (more than once :roll: ) when you realise it's easier to ascend than to descend you really have to fight that moment of anxiety and start plotting a course :shock: Anyway, another one bites the dust mate and safe and sound in the end :clap:
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