The Harry Griffin 2,000 footers Walk 5 -The Gables and Kirk Fell

4th April 2015

After a break from the fells I was back in familiar territory ready and raring to get boot onto fell side. Today's walk is a combination of two walking projects set between myself & David's Tarn Walks, as it so happens this walk, and the possibility of two more work well where David can collect his Tarns while at the same time sticking to the exact route proposed by H.Griifin.

Today's walk will see me collect seven two thousander summits while David will be able to collect four new Tarns to add to his collection, all this whilst sticking to the exact route worked out really well for the both of us.

It was midweek when the walk was set our only worry was the forecast which back then gave us the green light, daily weather watching pursued which thankfully paid off as the forecast unusually, stayed true.

It all started early morning in a Lay-by on the Borrowdale side of the Honister Pass.

Freeman of the Hills

'The Gables and Kirk Fell'

Very shortly we were on the familiar summit of Great Gable and moved over to the Westmoorland Cairn, out of the wind for lunch. Perhaps the view from here is to familiar to the lovers of Lakeland fells to require any gilding from me.

Harry Griffin

Ascent: 3,290 Feet - 1,003 Meters
Summits over 2,000 Ft: Grey Knotts - Brandreth - Base Brown - Green Gable - Great Gable - Kirk Fell North Top - Kirk Fell
Weather: Overcast to start turning brighter with light winds across the summits, mild. Highs of 13°C Lows of 6°C
Parking: Parking Spaces, Honister Pass
Area: Western
Miles: 9
Walking With: David Hall
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 8 Hours
Route: Honister Pass – Grey Knotts – Brandreth – Base Brown - Green Gable – Windy Gap – Great Gable – Beck Head – Kirk Fell (North Top) – Kirk Fell – Beck Head – Moses Trod – Drum House – Honister Pass

Map and Photo Gallery


Looking back on Honister Pass from Honister Slate Mine 08:20am 6°C

The situation of parking at Honister Slate mine has always been a little sketchy more so when arriving before the Mine opens which was why we chose to park a little down the Pass on the Borrowdale side, cheapskates I hear you say! Well yeah I might agree but as mentioned I was a little unsure at what to expect though as it turned out, you can park all day at the mine for a mere £3.50

Anyway I arrived to meet David who was had already parked at the lay by, my arrival a little later than planned due to the two tanker lorries I got trapped behind along the A66, then the cyclist who was taking on Honister Pass dead centre of the road.

After a quick handshake & boot-up the cars got locked as we set off towards the mine on what I would consider to be a little leg stretcher underfoot as the pass steepens towards the mine itself.

The light was as forecasted, a murky dull which did nothing against a backdrop of wild grass, the air however, was unusually mild.

Our route up Grey Knotts, taken behind from behind Honister Mine.

We soon arrived at the mine not before passing through the Car Park where we crossed over a rather rickety sty, the dampness of the wood didn't help matters much either. Our ground underfoot was considerably wet making use of the stepping stones that had been thoughtfully placed in the larger of puddles.

This is by far the quickest way to gain Grey Knotts but also the steepest too but we seem to power our way up deep in conversation only stopping to admire the cloud movement swirling around the top of the pass which was in a huge mass often obscuring any view further than twenty metres yet, if we were to look again minutes after we were left with just a hint that things might start to clear sooner rather than later.

Fleetwith Pike's Black Star appears through the mist.

Unfortunately for us, it was the 'later' as our ascent on Grey Knotts was done under a thick blanket of cloud and with not much wind to move it along, the cloud stuck with us for all of the ascent.

Despite our visibility the climb was made a little more uncomfortable due to just how mild it was, it really was one of those mop your brow ascents while I seem to just endure the humidity David de-layers close to Grey Knotts summit timed perfectly for that cool summit wind, here I opt to keep my jacket on but not David as he relishes in the cross winds.

Once at the base of Grey Knotts summit we take a right turn in as does the fence we had been following before arriving at a wooden sty, this one much sturdier than than the last, we cross over the sty before a slight scramble over rock before arriving at Grey Knotts summit cairn.

Grey Knotts summit cairn.
Sadly lacking in views in almost every direction, however, this is fell walking & this is Lakeland, lets just see what happens...

Brandreth ahead from Grey Knotts Tarn.

We didn't have to wait long for the cloud to clear although this was the best view which I managed to capture before another movement of cloud rolled across the ridge, should this happen to the unfamiliar of walkers the fence seen on the right has a great path either side which will lead you towards Brandreth, or Grey Knotts depending on the direction you are taking.

As this is a combined A.Griffin/Tarn Walk we leave the path and walk around the circumference of Grey Knotts tarn which understandably, was a tad boggy although to see this stillness of the tarn, more than made up for this.

Views in the direction of Kirk Fell under swirlling cloud.

Green Gable shortly seen over Gillercomb Head.

Sadly by the time we arrived at Brandreth's summit the cloud had once again rolled back in leaving a rather limitless view in almost every direction, however, we didn't have to wait long until we had our views again this time looking over the Tarns found just below Brandreth summit.

Ahead awaits Green Gable but our route would see us detour north west before collecting our third two thousander summit of Base Brown.

The cloud begins to lift again as we cross Gillercomb Head revealing Base Brown.

Here, Looking back on Green Gable from our Base Brown ascent.
We made the small trudge on Green Gable before taking on our detour towards Base Brown, it was here we would experience the clearer spells of the morning where we had distant views over the hanging valley of Gillercomb, however these views didn't really warrant a photo as the cloud was still lifting which made for a atmospheric ascent more than anything esle.

Green & Great Gable from Base Brown.

Base Brown summit.

Shortly before arriving at Base Brown summit we passed a fell runner who was on his way down, back then we had clear skies above out heads as we passed comment on what such a lovely morning it was turning out to be, I think it was at that exact moment we cursed ourselves & the fell side as we arrive at our third two thousander, under a blanket of cloud.

With having no views time spent sadly on Base Brown summit was brief to say the least as we soon turned tail & headed back across the col towards Green Gable, with the cloud just above our heads the hints of blue we had seen not ten minutes earlier had quickly been forgotten.

It was while on our ascent on Green Gable did we encounter the last of the snow, its consistence was wet even and with this mildness about the air we wondered would it last the day out.

Things started to clear with the more height we gained towards Green Gable as the summit shelter appeared through thin cloud, behind us two walkers also make for a summit although this wasn't to be the last we would see, or pass comment on them, but more on that later.

With our approach to the summit becoming clearer we stood around a while in hope that the cloud was about to clear.

This time, we would get our wish.

Great Gable from Green Gable.

We didn't have to wait long until the cloud started to lift yet despite the rather murky image of Great Gable here the sky above our heads was a deep blue which was a huge morale boast as we took in a few moments just watching the views open up.

We soon pulled our walking poles from the ground and headed for Windy Gap whose descent is always loose & familiar. Before this we shared a laugh with two Scottish fellows heading up from Windy Gap 'is this Mount Snowdon's summit they laughed' I'm sure David would agree that it took a split second to realise the joke.

Ennerdale from Windy Gap.

The cloud that we had started under had all but vanished although Grasmoor still had a bank of cloud clinging over its summit, our views on the other hand were now simply breath taking as we both agreed, this has to be one of the finest the Lake District has to offer.

Although we could and probably should have stayed here longer the ascent on Great Gable, our fifth two thousander was calling as we marched up the path in great spirits clambering & scrambling the upper crags whilst enjoying the sun on our backs.

Cloud lifting through as the temperatures now start to rise.

Peering down over Styhead Tarn.
Although they can't be seen there are flocks of walkers on the path besides Styhead Tarn, all heading for Scafell Pike no doubt.

Looking back over Windy Gap & Green Gable.
We attacked our ascent in good pace only stopping as I remove my own jacket which got strapped beneath the lid of my pack should I need it later.

Great Gable summit.

We arrived at the summit at the same time as a couple who we later learned were from Birmingham, we had a good chat all the while taking in the the large white cross that had been left behind, a memorial to those lost in the Great Wars.

It was now close to lunch time as our fellow walkers started to eat lunch whilst sat at the summit, I hadn't really thought about it up until now but I was getting pretty hungry myself. But before we would break for lunch we had to make the small diversion as H.Griffin did to the Westmoorland cairn.

Wast Water & Wasdale seen from the Westmoorland cairn.

We took in the short de-tour west of the summit and followed a small succession of cairns which lead us towards the Westmoorland cairn, here we had the chance to view what is considered to be 'the finest view in Lakeland' which is why the Westmoorland Brothers built the cairn here back in 1876

However unlike H.Griffin we wouldn't be eating lunch here as we decided we would descend to Beck Head first which meant a steep descent had to be had, once that had been done, we figured we would have earned our lunch.

Kirk Fell & Beck Head seen from our Great Gable descent.

We followed the stone cairns across the Gables summit shoulder before arriving at the steep path which would descend us to Beck Head, below numerous walkers arrive and break for lunch which was making me even more hungry, I think we best get this descent out of the way!

We follow the path steeply down which was loose underfoot but short twist in the descent prevent any further or unecessary sliding as more often than not, our boots would roll in a controlled fashion which made the steep descent that bit more manageable, to our right we spot the main approach path that ascends from Beck Head, this is where we needed to be as we soon found ourselves looking down on a rather nasty scree slope. I spot a grassy ledge no longer than around fifty metres or so which we use to cross above the scree before landing ourselves on the main path, it was here we pass walkers making their own ascents on Great Gable.

Wast Water, Illgill Head & Yewbarrow from Beck Head.

We were soon hovering above Beck Head as we decided we would find a nice spot where we could break for lunch. We were staggered to witness in this line of walkers who were attempting to climb Great Gable around three children, all under the age of four, all wearing tracksuits, T- Shirts & trainers, we just simply could not come up with a valid reason why a parent would put their children through this, especially with the hands on scrambling ahead of them.

Lunch became abit of a talking matter as we watched the kids struggle while the parents became 'impatient' at the childrens sluggish progress, we chose to sit over looking Ennerdale and put the matter behind us, that was until we heard the rumble of scree falling sometimes in huge boulders that came crashing down, we could pick out two walkers in the Great Gable's scree run not far from reaching Beck Head, what happened next was the yet another sign of people not having any common sense as higher above the two walkers we heard the scream of ROCK!!! Everybody at Beck Head turned around to see a television size boulder come crashing down as one of the walkers literally had to jump out of his way in order not to be taken out, people were stunned yet as they were still a distance away we couldn't hear what was going on, as it turned out it was the same walkers we had seen on Green Gable hours earlier, only two had become four.

We were passed by a couple who also had witnessed this, their only words were, someone is going to get killed on there today.

It turns out these four where inadequately dressed wearing jogging bottoms & jeans, yes they had a map, which didn't make up for their total lack of safety & common sense.

Well, that was lunch over with, and what a entertaining one it was.

Rib End / Kirk Fell from Beck Head Tarn.
The sun was now blazing as we took on our last two thousanders in Kirk Fell north top & Kirk Fell, ahead of already where the couple with the dog we had just spoken to but we would soon overtake them, not before a wander around Beck Head Tarn which was remarkably crystal clear.

Green & Great Gable seen over Beck Head.

We followed the path which wasn't without its steepness as we ascend Rib End onto Kirk Fell summit shoulder, our pace had dropped a little possibly due to conversation on why people risk thier own, and their childrens lives by making ascents on what are considered to be some of the toughtest routes amongst any of the Lakeland fells.

At some point we had to drop the topic through fear of it taking over ON what was turning out to be a fine day on the Lakeland fells.

Kirk Fell north top seen with Kirl Fell summit beyond.

After shouldering the summit we took a pathless ascent on Kirk Fell north top which after the gruelling descent from Great Gable, then a tough O'l slog up Kirk Fell the legs were starting to show the strain as a few ahhh's were gasped out.

It's always the little ones that get you!

Kirk Fell north top summit cairn.

We arrived clutching walking poles at the same time as I had a wee wander towards an outcrop of rock which offered fantastic views over Great Gable, it is said that the best view of Great Gable is from Kirk Fell summit and I'll have to admit I tend to agree.

I was soon joined by David after he had taken some photos himself before making the short descent towards Kirk Fell Tarn, found directly between the north top, and the summit itself.

Great Gable seen over Kirk Fell Tarn.

We cross the grassy arch which dips in between both summits before making the last few yards of ascent on Kirk Fell main summit, here we are amazed to find the summit area looking quite busy hence no summit photo as people sat out their lunches in & around the summit shelter.

A guy strikes up conversation asking us had we come from Great Gable, he then looks down at his map and says, it doesn't look as steep on my map, a few erms and what not passed our lips, I cant remember exactly what.

I stood a while regretting we did not have the summit to ourselves, after all this was our seventh and last two thousander of the day but you can't have it all I guess.

The Scafells over Lingmell from Kirk Fell.

Here we have commanding views over the Corridor Route while Great End, Broad Crag, Lingmell & the Scafells tower above.

One last look back on Kirk Fell summit before we drop back down to Beck Head.

Sadly time spent at Kirk Fell summit was brief as shortly after we had taken a couple of photos we decided to head back to Beck Head as per our intended route. It's now early afternoon & the warmth from the sun makes it feel much warmer than that of your typical April afternoon, brows are mopped once more and gone are the sniffles only a cold wind can bring.

It really is starting to feel like spring time on the fells.

Walkers are still making ascents on Great Gable but Beck Head is substantially deserted with the exception of two women who descend their way along Kirk Fell north traverse, from Beck Head we make the short but steep ascent on Great Gable leading north ridge but stop after seventy feet of ascent where we pick up the path below the mighty impressive Gable Crags.

Looking back over Beck Head & Beck Head Tarn(s) towards Kirk Fell.

Gable Crags.

Although I have used a similar route to gain Moses Trod by I have never used the one found directly below Gable Crags (Stone Cove), in an area dominated by scree & loose boulder I was hugely impressed just how good the path was along here.

Especially with views as good as this.

The Ennerdale Valley with Pillar & the High Stile Ridge see from Stone Cove.

Kirk Fell, Looking Stead, Pillar & Black Crag from Stone Cove.
After crossing Stone Cove we cross the beck before picking up Moses Trod, above us scores of walkers are either heading up or down from Windy Gap making ascents on the Gables, for us. all we had left was the couple of miles trot back to the car all under afternoon sun.

Both Ennerdale & the Buttermere valleys from Moses Trod.
Our route takes in the fantastic views over Ennerdale Buttermere, whilst ahead Hay Stacks & High Crag dominate the centre of the photo...but, that's just another walk I have planned.

The Buttermere fells.

To our right Brandreth falls away over gentle grassy slope while our views north west are dominated by High Crag, High Stile & Mellbreak, on the other side of Crummock water sits Rannerdale Knotts awaiting its Blue Bell display while Low Fell & Fellbarrow can be seen at the far end of Crummock Water.

We soon leave Moses Trod behind where we pick up the Drum Hause and the path above Honister, it always strikes me as a path uneasy on the feet in full knowledge of what a grand day had been had, this afternoon was no different.

Descending towards Honister Mine.
This was the moment David realised that we weren't parked at Honister Mine and that we had to bear the pain on the soles of our feet a little further down the pass.

Black Star from Honister Mine.

We were soon down & walking through the busy Car Park where people sat & watched the day go by while sipping tea. Our walk had almost come to an end under a warm spring afternoon, today feels like a seasonal turning point and will be remembered as one of the first walks of the year when we could roll up our sleeves whilst on an ascent on Great Gable whilst peering down on the last pockets of snow winter has left behind.

We take in that last quarter mile in great stead all be it sore pads on our feet, our cars are almost hidden as more cars have by now parked up which lead me to an open a packet of family size Opal Fruits I have waiting for me in the boot of the car, of which I tip half onto David's passenger seat, unbeknown to us, they'll keep us occupied on the jam home.

Another great day on the Lakeland Fells.


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