Monday, 11 November 2013

Lest We Forget: Remembrance 2013

A frosty start from Honister
The crowds coiled their way around the slopes of Green Gable like a rainbow-coloured ribbon and the snow-capped peaks sparkled in the sunshine like polished icing. It was a perfect day to be heading to Great Gable for Remembrance Sunday and as ever, the crowds were out in force.

Great Gable was gifted to the National Trust by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club. In 1924, a bronze memorial was placed on the summit cairn to remember those members of the Club who died in the First World War. Each year on Remembrance Sunday, hundreds of people head to the summit, where a short service is held to remember all those who have given so much for our freedom. 

A colourful ribbon of people
On Remembrance Sunday it is all about the occasion and the atmosphere rather than the views but the long-distance views towards Buttermere, Crummock Water, Ennerdale, Blencathra and the Langdale Pikes were spectacular and certainly added to the atmosphere. 

I was walking to the summit with a few friends, Ray, Andy, Stuart, Jimmy and Cindy and we chose the route up via Green Gable from Honister. I have been on the summit of Great Gable many times but each time I have been unfortunate with the clouds and not seen the views. Today looked like I was finally going to see what I had been missing. 

Buttermere Valley & a cloud banner
We kept a steady pace as we skirted the slopes of Brandreth and towards Green Gable. I kept stopping to take photos as the views that started to open up were sublime. The warm reds and golds of autumn were spreading across the mountain slopes in a striking contrast to the blue sky and the snowy peaks. Buttermere Valley had a cloud all the way across it as though the peaks of High Stile and Grasmoor were holding a banner of cotton wool.

Great Gable in the cloud with a queue of people
Scrambling over rocks and boulders, we reached the summit of Green Gable and saw several other routes converging from the Brandreth, Aaron Slack and Moses Trod paths. From above we must have looked like ants heading to an anthill. Sadly at this point, the cloud came in and it looked as though Great Gable would cling onto its cloud factory once more.

The last section of path to the summit of Great Gable is a rocky scramble and with so many people heading the same way it becomes a bottle neck and you actually queue to get there. I think this must be the only occasion that queuing to get on a mountain not just happens but is totally accepted as part of the experience. It really is part of the experience though and there is always a sense of a shared aim.
Colourful crowds

This year, with the ice and snow, the scramble was tricky in places and the going was slow and often not elegant but before long we were arriving at the summit along with those who had made the ascent from Styhead and Wasdale. With multi-coloured hats and jackets, it was a colourful place to be and there must have been several hundred people there. At this point, arriving rather out of breath from a swift ascent from Honister, our friend Phil joined us.
We will never forget
With the cloud enclosing us, a few words were spoken by a member of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club and then the two minute silence was held. It was thought-provoking and memorable, with only the occasional dog barking. At the end of the silence the crowd applauded and it sounded like deep rolling thunder rumbling up the valley as there were so many people. It was simply awe-inspiring.

Views at last!
The sun was trying desperately to burn through the clouds so as the crowds dispersed we decided to wait on the summit for a while to see if the views appeared. We were not disappointed. The clouds slowly cleared towards Wastwater and the Wasdale fells of Kirk Fell, Pillar and Yewbarrow. The deep blue of Wastwater in the emerald green valley was beautiful. The Scafells and Langdale Pikes slowly emerged from the grey and finally I saw what I had been missing for so long. Great Gable has some of the most stunning views I have ever seen, especially at this time of year.

We headed off the summit, which was much quieter by then and down the tricky slope. I donned my micro-spikes for the occasion and got to the bottom unscathed. We returned via Green Gable again and back to Honister. A really lovely walk with spectacular views but more importantly a superb and poignant occasion. 

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

See more photos here
Read about Remembrance 2012 here

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