Sunday, 22 July 2012

Friends, Gables & Tarns

I have been made to feel very welcome in the Lake District and made many new friends in my first few weeks.  Gina and her husband Dave are two of them and through knowing Gina (a social butterfly who makes legendary chocolate brownies) I joined a Twitter walking group on a Sunday morning in July to climb Green Gable and Great Gable.  A “tweet-up”!  I had the advantage of a lift from Grasmere with Gina, Dave and Si and we met Ray (our route master), Phil, Bruce, Gary and Ray’s dog Holly (‘The Beast’) in Seathwaite, Borrowdale.

Sour Milk Gill
Seathwaite is the wettest inhabited place in England (there is even a slate sign highlighting this) and there is even a cottage there called “Rain Gauge Cottage”.  Given the recent weather, this did not bode well but as we started it was warm and there were no rain clouds apparent although the tops were a bit misty so we headed off and straight up the steep Sour Milk Gill path full of anticipation for the walk ahead.

Gina & Me - Seathwaite Valley behind
I have never claimed to be the fastest walker in the world (and there are plenty who can vouch for that) but as it turns out, I think I just may be the slowest walker ever!  The route up the Gill was steep and I had to stop often for a breather (I mean to take photos) whilst most of the others powered ahead with Gina leading the way.  Ray and Phil kept me company and gallantly tried to make it look as though it was not just me being slow.  There were lovely views of the Gill and the valley below however so stopping to look at them was totally acceptable and thank goodness Holly decided to go for a swim in the Gill at one point (a good photo/breather opportunity).  I did eventually get to the top of the steep part and the views to the valley were superb– this is why the pain of ascent is worth it and I love the photo of Gina and me.

The first fell was to be Green Gable and the route took us along the Gillercomb path.  I was still bringing up the rear and trying to avoid being captured in too many of Phil’s photos looking exhausted and having a bad hair day (not the look I aspire to in photos).  Gina and Dave started sprinting (yes sprinting) up the last part of the ascent to Green Gable (I will gloss over my thoughts about that other than to say we possibly have the wrong people in our Olympic team) and before long we had arrived at our first summit, which was free of cloud.  There were excellent views down to the surrounding valleys including Buttermere and Mellbreak (one of my favourite fells) and great views of the closer fells even though the tops of them were hidden in cloud.

Great Gable & Green Gable on a sunnier day
One of the recurring themes given my new role in Fix the Fells was everyone commenting on path erosion and where the Fix the Fells teams needed to focus next.  Seems like we are going to be pretty busy!  It was great everyone was so supportive of the work though and I apologise if I bored everyone to tears with my new knowledge of erosion, path maintenance and techniques to repair paths but I am sure somebody asked at some point and I feel very enthusiastic about it (as you may have gathered)….  And thank you Dave for not placing that large stone on the summit cairn as I think I would have struggled to move it back despite my statement to the contrary!

Summit of Great Gable (photo by @goldenorfephoto - Phil)
Sadly Great Gable was in cloud and that was where we were headed next.  Positions restored (yes I was last again) we made the descent to Windy Gap and then up the steep scramble amongst the rocks and scree to the summit of Great Gable.  Phil had given up waiting for me and it was left to Ray to give me encouragement to the top.  But we made it! 

We sat on Great Gable in the cloud and had lunch followed by Gina’s amazing chocolate brownies.  Word had obviously got around as two guys arrived at the summit and were also fed brownies.  After reapplying lipstick (Phil will no doubt share that photo at some point) we set off down to the stretcher box (named because it does indeed hold stretchers) near Styhead Tarn.  At the stretcher box we decided to take the longer route back via Sprinkling Tarn and Grains Gill.  I must have got my second wind as I led from the front and did not hold up anybody.  In fact, I found myself in the group waiting for others to arrive!  (What kept you guys?)

Piers Gill
Sprinkling Tarn
The route between Styhead Tarn and Sprinkling Tarn is amongst some of the most rugged fells and scenery.  The deep, dark cavern of Piers Gill on the slopes of Lingmell, the rock massif of Great End towering above us and the bouldery slopes of great Gable behind combined with the gentle grassy mound of Seathwaite Fell.  It is an area I love as it looks magnificent.  Sprinkling Tarn always looks beautiful and the walk down Grains Gill, which I have not done for many years, was just a joyous ramble. 

It was great talking to everyone as well.  It is amazing how much you can have in common with people you have not met before when you share a love of something – in our case, walking the fells.  We ended our day with a drink at the Langstrath Inn where I confess I had half a bitter shandy – sorry…you can take the girl out of the south but not the south out of the girl….  A great day and some great new friends – thanks for arranging it Gina (and thanks for waiting for me Ray).
Slate Sign in Seathwaite

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  1. Was s superb day Tanya, great to meet u at last. i was last on the previous tweet up so know how you felt :)
    ps - i was lost in the fog going up to great gable summit, had lost the path & was following Holly at one point. i called out to the others but they remained quiet until i heard Gina giggling in the distance haha

  2. Great to meet you too Phil...
    If in doubt "follow Holly" would be my motto as well! Gina's laughter is a good alternative though :-)

  3. Ray GreenhowJuly 22, 2012

    That dog knows it's way up there the times it's been up. A good account Tanya and the area aptly described. It is rugged though safe if kept to the paths and no mossy grass routes but stunning views when clear. We got a good view just before Green Gable summit, of the Buttermere valley. You did well and will get better and longer now you're in the heart of it.
    To all, 'The Beast' sends her regards.

    1. Thanks Ray :-)
      Yes the view down to Buttermere was great - my photo didn't do it justice but I expect Phil's will.
      Managed to keep up on the last Drain Run at least! :)

  4. Great to meet you Tanya and a great blog it was a great days hiking and good to get some insight into what fix the fells are up to
    Last week on my mid week hike i came across a few gullies which need a clear out pity i didn't have my shovel with me ;-)

    1. Thanks Gaz - great to meet you too. I wonder whether shovels should be made into a lightweight addition to everyone's back pack? Perhaps a new Cotswold line... ;-)

  5. What a lovely account of your Tweet-Up Tanya. And that photo of you and Gina is terrific with that amazing landscape backdrop.
    So you have now tasted the legendary brownies that Phil raves about.
    I would say wish I was there but think perhaps I'm more suited to reading about your intrepid walks that doing one myself! :)

    1. Thanks Chloe! I agree with Phil about the quality of the brownies! Best I have tasted.
      You would love being up amongst the fells - will take you up a lower fell one day and then you will be keen to try a higher one! Addictive! :-)

  6. It is a fantastic walk, and yours is a lovely account. I managed to make it on a good day earlier this year. Was my first time up GG, despite having lived in SL for the first 18 years of my life!

    Must find your twitter group, as I sometimes need a walking companion... or get in touch. Alvina

  7. You are most welcome - @ginapennington is our social butterfly that alerts people to dates and walks. It is all informal. I am @heelwalker1
    Love your blog by the way - great photos.

  8. I know ... I'm sooo late ;) What can I say? Except that I love you stopping along the path to take pictures! So beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    ~ Aithne

    1. Hi Aithne
      No problem at all - kind of you to take the time to leave a comment. I never mind when it is :-)
      Hotos are compulsory!
      Tanya :-)

  9. A brill walk up my favourite mountain. Jill

    1. Thanks Jill - sorry for taking so long to thank you for commenting... No excuse!

  10. Wonderful walk up the Gables, was up there earlier this year.

    1. I went up for Remembrance Day yesterday. Misty still but a lovely day :-)