Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Great Gable 6th June 2009

The Scafells from Green Gable
I had been planning to walk up Great Gable in my shorts and T-shirt on 6th of June in support of Water Aid. Seven of us from work made the climb but it turned out not at all how I expected. We stayed the night before at Buttermere Youth Hostel and that was quite an experience after 30 years - but more of that later. The early morning was overcast and showery, so at Seathwaite we donned our waterproofs and girded up our loins for the ascent via Green Gable. This is a popular route and the first part of the climb, by Sourmilk Gill, is pretty steep. By the time we reached the top most of us were feeling the strain. The next part of the walk is a relatively easy stroll up the Gillercomb and then onto the shoulder of Green Gable. Though it rained through most of the walk it wasn't until we reached the shoulder that the full force of the weather hit us. It was very cold, with a strong wind, and we could see snow on top of the Helvellyn range!

Although we wanted some lunch there was no shelter so after a drink and a snack we pressed on to the summit of Green Gable. These weren't the conditions to hang around in so after a few photos we went down to Windy Gap - which certainly lived up to its name. From the Gap there were great views of Ennerdale but we had no time to waste - weather conditions were worsening so we carried on straight up Great Gable. The climb was much steeper than I remembered it. I was beginning to get tired and cold - luckily I had brought two fleeces and after the second one went on I felt much better. After that it was a struggle to the summit fuelled by a half frozen Mars Bar.

Great Gable from Green Gable
It was a relief to be on top but just as I approached the summit the mist descended and we were in cloud. There were patches of snow on the summit and it began to sleet. This was no place to hang around with tired and hungry bodies so after a few photos we headed straight for the descent to Sty Head. And what a descent it was! Fifteen hundred feet of unrelenting steepness on wet and slippery rocks. My knees were like jelly by the time we reached Sty Head. But there was no time to relax even here - there was a bitter wind and driving rain so we headed straight down to Seathwate and a welcome cup of tea. In the end we raised just over £2500 for Water Aid so thanks to all that helped and contributed.

I just ought to add something about 21st Century Youth Hosteling. Buttermere Youth Hostel is a very pleasant place which is obviously popular with families. Much has changed since I used to go in the 1960s and 70s. You can get alcohol and decent coffee and the food has much improved. However there are still some odd anomalies; Buttermere shuts, yes shuts, at 11pm, get back any later and you are locked out!; the bunk beds are still the same ones I slept on 40 years ago and just as uncomfortable; there is an eerie quietness in the common room - as if you are in church - people speak in hushed tones. Later in the week I moved to Elterwater (stays open until 11.30pm!) with a friend and did some self catering. The kitchen was nice and clean but the pots and pans were still post-war vintage. Not a non-stick in sight! Would I go Youth Hostelling again? Possibly, but despite the modernisation it its still all a bit hair shirt'. I know the YHA is strapped for cash but please get some new bunks!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done - great effort!