Great Gable

Length 9 Kilometre(s) | Highest point 899 metre(s)

Green Gable 801m, 2627ft, GR 215107

Great Gable – or simple Gable to its many admirers – is a classic Lake District mountain. Despite being 51ft short of the illustrious group of 3,000ft summits, many would argue that its ascent offers one of the finest mountaineering days in England. As Wainwright has pointed out, there are few days in the year when the summit rocks remain untrodden. In consequence, you should expect all routes to be well used, particularly in fine weather and at weekends.

The shapely triangle of Great Gable with its long red screes draws the eye during the approach up Wasdale. During the long walk in up Ennerdale, the twin summits of Green Gable and Great Gable fill the head of the valley. Good ascents are possible from either valley head but the circuit here starts and finishes in Borrowdale.

From the road end at Seathwaite, walk through the farm and along the river to Stockley Bridge; cross the traditional packhorse bridge above deep pools in the river and take the pitched path climbing west up the hillside, through a gate in the intake wall and alongside Styhead Gill to Styhead Tarn (3km, 315m, 1hr 20min). This is part of an ancient route from the west coast across the mountains and was once used for smuggling. An alternative shorter but rougher way of reaching Styhead Tarn is to turn right in the farmyard, cross the river beneath Sourmilk Gill, then immediately left (south) along the riverside before climbing diagonally SW across rather wet fields to Taylorgill Force. The path scrambles up beside this waterfall to rejoin the Stockley Bridge path shortly before the tarn.

From here there is a choice of two ways to the summit of Great Gable. The most popular route continues past the tarn for another 500 metres to the mountain rescue box at the top of the pass and then climbs NW to the summit. An alternative route, steeper but more rewarding in terms of rock scenery, is to ascend WNW from the tarn up Aaron Slack to Windy Gap and then climb left through broken rocks to the summit of Great Gable (5km, 765m, 2hr 35min).

For the best views, walk 100 metres away from the summit south to the Westmorland Cairn for the view down Wasdale, or NE for the view down Ennerdale. On the summit rocks is a bronze memorial map showing the land over 1500ft centred on Great Gable and including several other summits which the FRCC purchased in 1923, in memory of those members who lost their lives in the First World War, and gave to the National Trust. Every year on Remembrance Sunday a simple two minute act of remembrance at this memorial is attended by several hundred walkers.

When leaving the summit in any direction take particular care to select the right path as the proliferation of cairns can be very confusing, especially in mist. Descend NE, gently at first and then over steep rocks to Windy Gap. Ascend the 50m to Green Gable and continue NE down gentle grassy slopes for 1km. Avoid the main path which veers left to traverse west of Brandreth to reach Honister. From the broad grassy col between Green Gable and Base Brown descend the path north into Gillercomb and then follow the pitched path steeply down alongside the foaming Sourmilk Gill back to Seathwaite Farm (9km, 3hr 40min).


There is a lengthy approach to Windy Gap from the NW up Ennerdale either from Gillerthwaite or from Buttermere over Scarth Gap. The ascent from Wasdale Head may be made by traversing the lower slopes to Sty Head to join the route described above, or more directly up Gavel Neese to Beck Head between Kirk Fell and Great Gable. The 5km approach from Honister Pass by way of the broad path to the drum house on Fleetwith and then traversing between Grey Knotts and Brandreth to Green Gable involves the least ascent but is also the least interesting.

To see the impressive crags of Kern Knotts and the Napes (including Napes Needle) take the Climber’s Traverse path rising WNW from Sty Head. This route gives superb views of the crags but requires rock scrambling. To reach the summit, however, involves a steep and loose ascent of Little Hell Gate, or a continuation to Beck Head and then the well-trodden path from there to the top.