All the Walking Routes up Great Gable
- Napes Needle was first ascended in 1886 by Walter Parry Haskett Smith
- The Westmorland Cairn near the summit was erected by two brothers in 1876 to mark what they beleived to be the best view in the Lake District.
- There is a memorial plaque dedicated to the members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club who died in World War I with a memorial service held annually on Remembrance Sunday. The club bought 4000 acres of the mountain in their honour, and donated it to the National Trust.
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Where is Great Gable?
Great Gable can be found in the Lake District’s Western Fells, dominating Wasdale Head.
How High is Great Gable in metres / feet? 899 metres (2949 feet)
How long will it take to walk up Great Gable ?
Most of the routes are comparatively short, so you should be able to climb up in a couple of hours.
How Far is it to the top of Great Gable?
The routes are all around 3-5 km in length.
How hard is it to climb Great Gable ?
You can make it hard as you want – especially if you include and ascent of Napes Needle into the day! Other than that, the routes should be fine for any experienced hill walker, though most of them include some steep sections.
What’s the best walking route up Great Gable?
The Gillercomb route from Seathwaite is perhaps the most enjoyable for a few reasons. Great access into Seathwaite and free parking! Gillercomb is excellent; the views from Green Gable are sublime and (on the whole) it’s not too steep. Other Great Gable routes tend to have a pretty punishing climb somewhere (Aaron Slack or Gavel Neese for instance) – according to Dave Chick.
Which is the easiest walking route up Great Gable ?
The Breast Route from Sty Head
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All the Walking Routes up Great Gable Details
Great Gable is perhaps the most iconic mountain in the Lake District. While that’s an overused description that’s practically a cliche. we think that in this case it’s justified. Towering over Wasdale, separated from England’s highest mountain – Scafell Pike – by barely a few kilometres laterally and a cruel 79 vertical metres. Great Gable doesn’t even make it onto the coveted list of Furth Munros, but is still England’s 4th Highest Mountain by our reckoning. It’s no surprise that it’s a popular fell walk, and with no shortage of different routes to the summit you could ascend it dozens of times and still walk a different trail to the summit.
There are ascents up Great Gable from all the surrounding valleys: Wasdale, Eskdale, Brotherdale and even Buttermere. What about walking up Great Gable from Great Langdale? Yes – it’s doable but a long walk in and back out again! If you follow the Scafell Pike route up Langdale as far as Esk Hause, continuing onward to Sty Head. From here you can take one of the various routes up.
What’s clear is that there are a multitude of approaches to Great Gable, which tend to converge into a handful of paths for the final ascent. We’ve struck a balance between including full approaches where the walk in adds interest in itself rather than repetition. Where a route can be approached from a number of directions, we’ve offered one main approach while detailing any alternatives. With the Climber’s Traverses – you can approach any of the ascents from any direction with a bit of planning! So if we have missed your favourite walk up out of the article, tell us in the comments why it’s good enough to be mentioned and we’ll probably add it. If we don’t link to a full description of the route below, then we recommend the Wainwright’s guide to the Western Fells which will detail the walk- but we’ll be adding all the full routes below to Mud and Routes in due course.
Why is it called Great Gable? Simply owing to it’s shape when seen from Wasdale, as a gable refers to the triangular section of wall at at the end of a ridged roof, a gable wall.
Wainwright’s Gable Girdle aka the Climber’s Traverse
While this may sound like some sort of monstrous Victorian corset, its actually a high traverse around Great Gable. While we usually limit our Walks Up articles to just that, we think that the Gable Girdle is far too important and downright useful to be ignored. As it contours around Great Gable it allows you to create a circular walk from almost all the various ascent routes. It also takes the walker past Napes Needle and Sphinx Rock, two of the must see landmarks on Great Gable. Here’s a map of the Girdle route, as it passes between the main approaches of Gavel Neese, Beck Head, Windy Gap and Sty Head.
For those looking to use the Gable Girdle on their route, here’s a summary of the distance and ascent involved between sections.
|Section||Distance (km)||Ascent / Drop (m)||notes|
|Sty Head to Gavel Neese||1.4||170 / 80||This section is also known as the South Traverse – passes Napes Needle and Sphinx rock|
|Gavel Neese to Beck Head||0.8||95 / 10|
|Beck Head to Windy Gap||0.7||100/ 10||Ascends the NW Ridge before continuing on the North Traverse beneath Gable Crag|
|Windy Gap to Sty Head||1.5||35 / 300||Via Aaron Slack.|
It’s worth noting that even Wainwright found the going reasonably good and started:
It is a doddle compared with, say, Jack’s Rake or even Lord’s Rake. Here one never has the feeling that the end is nigh. – A Wainwright – The Western Fells.
Great Gable via Gavel Neese and the Sphinx Ridge from Wasdale
Height Gained – 790 metres , Distance – 3.3 km, Time – 2 hours
This is the direct route from Wasdale Head that starts off steadily enough along Gavel Neese until the going becomes rockier and you hit the scree towards the upper reaches. Navigation can be tricky for the upper sections. This is one for those who love steep ascents and a better option would be to join the Girdle route at Gavel Neese and ascend from one of the other approaches.
Great Gable from Esk Hause via The Breast Route
Height Gained – 770 metres , Distance – 5 km, Time –2.5 hours
This is generally regarded as the easiest route up Great Gable, starting from Sty Head. You can get here from Seathwaite or from Wasdale on good tracks. While generally regarded as being one of the most straightforward routes the final section has some loose sections. The route is around the same distance and ascent whether you choose to start from Seathwaite or from Wasdale.
Great Gable Breast Route Map
Height Gained – 850 metres , Distance – 5.6 km, Time – 2 hours
An alternative to the Breast Route from Sty Head is the route up Aaron Slack and Windy Gap which has some impressive views over Ennerdale and the opportunity to bag Green Gable on the way.
Height Gained – 830 metres , Distance – 4 km, Time – 2 hours
While many walkers setting off from Seathwaite for Great Gable will be heading for the easier route up the Breast Route, this provides a much more scenic approach. The going is also steady all the way, with less of the steep climbs associated with many of the other routes.
Height Gained – 680 metres , Distance – 4.3 km, Time –3.5 hours
Along with Moses Trod, this is the other popular route from Honister Slate Mines. This walk also bags the summits of Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable and then ascends the summit via Windy Gap. You can return the same way, or better still via Moses’ Trod back to Honister.
Height Gained – 600 metres , Distance – 5.6 km, Time –3 hours
This is technically an ascent from Beck Head – the col between Kirkfell and Great Gable – from the track known as Moses’ Trod. As Moses’ Trod was a reputed smuggler route used by someone called Moses (allegedly!) between Honister and Wasdale, the walk can be started from either end. The Wasdale route sets off via Gave Neese, but avoids the direct route up by diverging to Beck Head from which both approaches head for the summit.
Great Gable from Ennerdale Black Sail YHA
Height Gained – 600 metres , Distance – 3.2 km, Time –2 hours
Either the Windy Gap or Beck Head routes can be reached from Black Sail YHA in Ennerdale via Tongue. The most natural return route to Ennerdale is over Kirk Fell if you don’t want a linear route or you could descend via Haystacks and Scarth Gap. Arguably, the most natural circuit from Ennerdale would be to take in Kirk Fell and Haystacks at either end of the walk, with Great Gable in the middle.
Great Gable from Gatesgarth in Buttermere
Height Gained – 870 metres , Distance – 6 km, Time –3 hours
This is a longer route that climbs up towards Haystacks from Gatesgarth in Buttermere to join the Moses’ Trod or the Brandreth routes. While it’s an approach to one of the other routes, it offers enough novelty to be included as an alternative option. However there are few natural return routes to form a circular route and is probably best as a linear route. It was mentioned by Wainwright, in no small part as we’re sure he wanted to include his favourite mountain onto the walk as Haystacks is only a short diversion from this route. If you wanted to include Haystacks then you could ascend via Scarth Gap and continue to this route from there.