Walk Report: Great Gable Day 2

 

Date: 31st Aug 2008
Stats: 8.0 miles, 1300 feet
Weather: Misty morning, sun coming out later, followed by rain showers
Trig Points: 0
Fells: 0
Other Info: Tiny free car park at Hawes End
Summary: Wild camp at Gillercombe Head, Fleetwith, Tramway to Honister, Yewcrag Quarries, Dalehead Tarn, Newlands Valley, Little Town, Skelgill, Hawes End

Key to symbols:
= Trig Point     = Yorkshire Top

Morning dawned behind low cloud and mist. All the surrounding tops were completely covered, even diminutive Haystacks was almost invisible through the cloud. I had breakfast in the porch of my tent, with the rain falling gently outside and a slight wind. Flapjacks and Hot Chocolate for breakfast may not sound like much, but its hot and filling and went a long way to raise my spirits.

Great Gable Weekend
Morning brew is going, with rain on the tent – lovely

We decided quite early to reduce the length of the walk today. Walking in the cloud would have been an exercise in stubbornness only and I think we were both feeling a little sore from the ground in the night. Surprisingly I didn’t feel much muscle pain, which I had been expecting from the previous days exertions, just stiffness from a bad nights sleep and the rough ground.

We left camp about 8:15 and headed across the fell side to pick up the fence line below Grey Knotts. We’d both walked here only a few weeks previously and I’d been here a couple of times in the past two years, so we knew exactly where we needed to go. We were soon heading for the dismantled Tramway that leads down to Honister.

Great Gable Weekend
Ennerdale in mist

Great Gable Weekend
Buttermere, somewhere down there

Great Gable Weekend
Fleetwith Pike and Buttermere

Honister Slate Mine is one of those places we should all hate – it’s a mining operation in one of the most beautiful places in the UK, much of it is open cast – visible for miles across the fells – creating a harsh scar on the landscape – but I can’t hate it. From the first time I saw the place in May 2006 I’ve loved it. It speaks of shelter and hot tea, a place to sit and relax for a while, a place of civilisation after the solitude of the fells. When I’ve used it as a car park it speaks of journey’s end, clean socks in the boot of the car, a change of shirt and either air conditioning or heating depending on the season.

It was like that today as well. Grey clouds and mist surrounded us, but below us was the rusty red roof of the slate store and a lone red car in the car park. It was 09:25 when we arrived at the door, to find the shutters in place, locks on the doors and all quiet. Honister was supposed to be our lunch stop, so neither of us had packed a lunch for the day. We’d left later than usual today, hoping to find it open for breakfast and to be able to buy something for lunch for later. We were gutted.

We plonked our kit down on some picnic tables outside the front door and checked the map. We decided to have a short break and then push on up Dale Head and make what time we could back to the car. As we were talking the front door opened and a head popped out. “Morning”, the guy called to us and proceeded to unlock the shutters. “Is the kettle on?” I asked hopefully. “Ready in 2 minutes” he replied. It was as well.

We spent 30 minutes in the cafe; hot tea and All Day Breakfast rolls provided a second meal in two hours and we avoided a rain shower into the bargain. When I’d passed through here on the Coast to Coast in 2006, the cafe at Honister was a table with a hot water heater and a jar of tea bags. You put 50p in a jar and helped yourself – at the time it was great. Honister has undergone a transformation in the last two years and the main building is no exception. There is now a professional looking cafe selling tea and coffee, sandwiches and snacks and plenty of places to sit and relax. It’s still great.

Great Gable Weekend
Honister slate mine

Great Gable Weekend
The path up to Dale Head

We left the shelter of the cafe and headed up the hill to Dale Head. We had no intention of climbing to the summit, not today, we were skirting the summit using a path I’d found on the map, that would bring us round the hillside to Dalehead Tarn and the path that leads down into Newlands Valley.

The climb wasn’t too steep and the slow plodding pace I’d used yesterday worked again today and we were soon contouring around the hillside.

Great Gable Weekend
Looking back down to Honister

Great Gable Weekend
Fleetwith Pike

Great Gable Weekend
High Spy and Dalehead Tarn

Great Gable Weekend
High Spy and Dalehead Tarn

Great Gable Weekend
Dale Head with the tarn below, taken from the sheepfold

A slight navigational error at Dalehead Tarn separated us; with Tex heading off down the hill and me heading back up to find the correct path. I was rewarded with a lovely view of High Spy and the head of Newlands Beck, but spent the next 30 minutes trying to catch Tex as we headed down the valley.

Great Gable Weekend
The head of Newlands Beck, just below Dalehead Tarn

High Spy

Great Gable Weekend
Heading into Newlands Valley – Tex just about visible ahead

Great Gable Weekend
Newlands Valley

Great Gable Weekend
Waterfall with Dale Head behind

Great Gable Weekend
Sheepfold in Newlands, Tex ahead

Great Gable Weekend
Waterfalls in Newlands Beck

It started to rain, inevitable I guess, just as we reached the end of the valley and we spent the last hour or two walking in the light rain, trying to delay putting on waterproofs. In the end the rain increased in intensity and we had to stop and pull on jackets.

Great Gable Weekend
Scope End and Hindscarth

Great Gable Weekend
Little Town

The last couple of miles were a dull trudge compared to the rest of the walk, a real anti-climax I thought. Perhaps that was the rain, perhaps it was my aching shoulders I’m not sure. We arrived back at the car in heavy rain and spent a few minutes trying to get dry stuff on without it getting wet.

It’s hard to walk with a 10-11Kg backpack when you’re only used to a 3-4Kg day pack and as I do this so rarely I’m unlikely to get used to it. However, it’s something I will have to get used to if I’m ever to walk my Lands End to John O’Groats route. The second day was easier than the first and I could feel myself getting more used to the heavy pack. My shoulders were unused to the weight and they hurt after the walk, but they would get used to the weight I’m sure after a few consecutive days of walking.

lonewalker

Fell-walker, trig-pointer, peak-bagger, Wainwright-er & Pennine Way author, with a passion for long paths, malt whisky, fast cars & Man City

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