8 - 10 hours
Great Gable, not the highest peak in Lakeland, but undoubtedly the best known and arguably the best loved. Its summit is reached by thousands of walkers every year, its popular crags the birthplace of British rock climbing, and its summit form is used in the badge of the Lake District National Park. Going to its summit however may not be the best way to fully appreciate this fine mountain. Instead try following the network of bridleways and passes that ring it. By doing this you will experience ever- changing views of Great Gable and explore some unexpected corners right at the very heart of the Lake District.
1. From the car park at Seatoller take the road to the top of Honister Pass then take the bridleway that follows the quarry track West to the top col at Dubs. Continue West over the col and past Dubs Quarry on the bridleway and follow it as it descends steeply to the flats of Warnscale Bottom. From here the bridleway swings North and is followed to the road at Gatesgarth Cottage.
2. Follow the valley road a short distance West - North West to the start of another bridleway by Gatesgarth Farm. Turn left after the farm and follow the bridleway across the valley at the head of Buttermere. Cross the bridge and follow the track through a zig-zag and then South as it gradually climbs the fells of Warnscal to Scarth Gap. Continue South over Scarth Gap and descend into Ennerdale following the top edge of the forest. The track then joins the forest road; take it as it leads slightly up hill to YHA's Black Sail Hut.
3. To reach Black Sail Pass continue along the track past the hut South East to a ford and bridge and then South as it skirts the forest edge. Follow the track as it climbs the steep fellside by Sail Beck and over a rock step at which point it leaves the beck and zig-zags to the top of the pass.
4. You are now at the halfway point. From the top of the pass the track drops South West then West into Mosedale and is followed for 3.2km down to Wasdale Head.
5. Just before you get to Wasdale Head you will reach a junction with another bridleway. This is the track to Burnthwaite. The next section up to Sty Head starts here but it is worth continuing South a short way and making a slight detour to the Inn at Wasdale Head.
6. At all times whilst crossing Black Sail Pass, Great Gable has remained hidden by Kirk Fell but once Wasdale Head is reached its South face can be seen in total. Running across the steep screes of the South face is an unlikely looking track which makes a rising traverse to Sty Head - a col set between Great Gable and Great End. This track is gained by backtracking to the junction turning right and heading East past the farm at Burnthwaite until after 1m a bridge is crossed. Continue along the side of Lingmell Beck until the track splits. Take the left branch which steadily traverses the screes and climbs some awkward outcrops before levelling then descending slightly to Sty Head (Mountain Rescue Box). High above this track are the Napes Crags and Napes Needle which were first climbed by W.P.Haskett-Smith in 1886.
7. Sty Head is an important access point to the surrounding peaks with numerous paths and tracks heading off in all directions. Head North East over some boggy ground until you pick up a stony track past Styhead Tarn. Continue North East and follow the course of Styhead Gill first on the left bank and then, after the bridge, on the right bank to a small wood perched above Taylorgill Force. The track now leaves the Gill and heads East steeply down the fell side to Stockley Bridge. From Stockley Bridge take the good track North to Seathwaite and then the road for 2.4km back to Seatoller.
|Time/Effort:||4 out of 5|
|Navigation:||4 out of 5|
|Technicality:||4 out of 5|
|Height gain/loss (metres):||1390metres (4,561feet)|
|OS map:||OS Landranger 90, OS Explorer OL 4 & 6,|
- Tour of Great Gable via the Passes
- Start point: (near Seatoller)