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All the Walking Routes up Great Gable

By Dave Roberts   

on December 28, 2018    5/5 (2)

All the Walking Routes up Great Gable

Route Essentials

Route Summary

See the end of the article for local information about parking, public transport facilities, pubs and cafes.


5.07 km


756 m


Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.

Start Location


Hard Walk


Weather Forecast:

Met Office Lake District Mountain Weather

Check out our Best Mountain Weather Forecast?
Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Mountain Safety , Navigation and what equipment you’ll need. 

All the Walking Routes up Great Gable Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

View the full route map

All the Walking Routes up Great Gable

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.

Download file for GPS

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

Download file for GPS

Walk up Great Gable via Aaron Slack

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.

Great Gable From Seathwaite via Gillercomb

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.

Great Gable From Honister via Brandreth

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.

Great Gable Moses’ Trod from Honister / Wasdale

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.

Walk up Great Gable from Wasdale Head via Sty Head and Aaron Slack

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.

Green Gable and Great Gable dominate the head of Ennerdale

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.

All the Walking Routes up Great Gable

Local Information and Recommended Maps and Guidebooks

Route Summary:

Route Start Location:

5.07 km 756 m

Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.

Activivity Type: Hard Walk

Summits and Places on this Route


Check out the businesses nearby for more places to stay and drink.


Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Mountain Safety , Navigation and what equipment you’ll need.

Parking :

Public Transport:

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Weather Forecast:

Met Office Lake District Mountain Weather

Check out our Best Mountain Weather Forecast?

Recommended Maps

Great Gable Guidebooks:

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Dave Roberts

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