Where is this walk?

Great Gable

April 30, 2019

Head from Seathwaite to Great Gable via Styhead Tarn. At the tarn cut under the steep, rocky south slopes, past Napes Needle and a steep climb to the summit. The return is in direct contrast, easy grassy slopes with amazing views.

The Walk

Great Gable is a ‘climbers’ mountain, possibly the best and probably the most famous in the Lake District. For walkers attempting Great Gable this means one thing. The route up is going to be steep and in the case of Great Gable unremittingly so. It is possible to avoid the worst by starting at Honister Pass but this is a bit of a cheat and still involves a rocky pull from Windy Gap. The other 2 main routes of ascent are hard work, whether the start point is Wasdale or Borrowdale.

However there is one route which simply must be taken by anyone who wants to fully appreciate this magnificent mountain. This is the Climbers Traverse and the Needles Ridge. The traverse crosses the southern slopes of Gable on a visible but ‘loose’ path with stupendous views down Wasdale and up over the Napes and the Sphinx’s Head. I prefer then ‘threading the needle’ ie: taking the direct route on an initial thin but then non-existent track below Napes Needle. This is Grade 3 scrambling but can be avoided by following the traverse over loose scree and some grade 2 scrambling all the way round to the col under Kirkfell. Whichever route you decide on you will be in the most spectacular rock scenery within the Lake District.


Follow the route north over Green Gable and Base Brown before dropping steeply to Seathwaite Farm and a well earned pint.

Navigation Tips on Great Gable

After following the Climber Traverse it is tricky to find the walkers route via Napes Needle and the rocky buttress further on known as the White Napes. Where the traverse turn from west to north a path heads steeply uphill. It is rough and sometimes two steps up one step down. Alternatively follow the main traverse all the way to the col between Kirk Fell and Great Gable and head east to the summit on a much better and easier path.

  • Miriam Eaton says:

    28/7/2017, Did the Circular walk to day, got to Seathwaite at 7.45 to bag a parking spot. I was in no rush now, so I got out my stove and had a hearty Full Monty (from a can) with thick slices of buttered bread. The weather wasn’t kind, sheets of Rain in Driving winds, this did have it’s advantages, being the waterfalls were in full flow, it was cooler, and it kept walkers to the minimum, Anyhow full tum, gap in the rain, best foot forward didn’t last long as I watched the farmer shear his sheep for a while. back into a stride, head down sheltering from the driving rain. (gonna skip everything now to the reason why I’m writing this message,) Gets to the top, My Camera only made it our of the protective cover once due to rain, never the less, I enjoyed a soggy tuna butty and a hot coffee at the top, and I was alone, still early but looking back through the breaks of clouds I can pick out a steady flow of people. pack my stuff up and headed down greeting people with a warm food morning, with satisfaction that I’m on my way down. ALL of a sudden I see this thing coming towards me, I stopped and watched as I genuinely couldn’t believe it, it was a horrendous day people wrapped up in full waterproofs, hats, gaiters, walking poles for some. A young woman coming towards me in a bright pink poncho ( the ones that are see through, like you can get from a £1 shop, with a vest top underneath it, a pair of neon pink hot pants, couldn’t tell where her legs started as they were red raw, no socks, trainers, bright pink lipstick and sun glasses, What made it all worse was the fact her so called boyfriend looks as though he just stepped out of a Berghaus catalogue, laughing at her, SO I REALLY HAD TO SAY SOMETHING WHICH IS NOT ME AT ALL, “excuse me love, there’s no Icecream Van at the top, I’d turn around now as you look like a giant popsicle, and you (directed at the boyfriend,) after looking at him up and down, I just said Show boating are we infront of your girl, enjoy it may be your last day together, bid my farewell and carried on down, Hopefully, they made the right choice and came down, (Which I’d taken a Photo)

  • RLO says:

    Same thing happened to me Mountain Mike, nice walk in the hills turned into a epic. I also sheltered behind that cairn on Green Gable, got to Windy Gap and retreated. Soaked to my underwear, lost in fog, frostnip in my fingers. I took a printed bing map instead of a proper one, GPS track said I walked in circles! (Garmin Geko is only good for a grid ref). Lesson learned.

    Kit list for Green Gable:
    Storm shelter – to keep out of the wind and rain for map reading
    Waterproof Map, 2 x compass, gps – Navigation is everthing
    Waterproof everything – You will get soaked to the skin if it rains
    Mobile phone – Rescue is a possibility on GG
    Walking Poles – I wouldn’t have got down the slippy rocks to Seathwaite without them in my state, wet boots and clothes weighed an extra 8kg!

  • Mountain Mike from Stockton On Tees says:

    I was here four weeks ago doing a scouting mission to bring Gav for his fifth and sixth Wainwright,all will recall a superb day on the fells,but today as Gav and I arrive at Seathwaite we are alone as the heavens have opened up.Waterproofs on and we are on our way up the path next to Sourmilk Gill Falls,the going is tough as all of the path/track is flooded,Gav went off in front as keen as ever I stick to my tried and tested pace,as I reach the scramble I am struggeling getting a grip as the rain is rakeing the open rock after a slight change of direction Im passed it Im soaked already.After a few good pics we are at the top,and heading for base brown visibility is at 100m and closing in and the rain is relentless Gav has said his boots are full of water already my Mammut Raichles are holding there own,as we approach the turn off for Green Gable we are blasted by 40mph winds and the soaking continued till we get to some cover at the Cairn on Green Gable.We are soaked to the skin and the wind that strong that we can hardly stand,we quickly drop down into Windy Gap as Gav is at the bottom I shout do you want to go to Gt Gable he shouts no,my decision to call off this attempt is hard one but as the conditions are treacherous I call it off and we hurriedly drop down to Styhead Tarn and within a half an hour we are in a safer place on our way back to Seathwaite we will be back and Gav still gets Green Gable for his Wainwright Map of the Lakes .

  • Mountain Mike from Stockton On Tees says:

    Today its Great Gable via Green Gable my first time using the Sour Milk Gill route,steep trek from the foot bridge and a little scramble before I reach the wall at the top(some great photos taken),weather is superb.Through the gate its a nice trek to the top of Green Gable two lots of fellow walkers ahead of me,quick stop for some photos of Haystacks,High Crag,Stile etc,weather is superb,drop down to the bottom of Green Gable to the ascent on Great Gable nice path to go round to a surprise 300 ft grade one scramble this is what I came for.Once at the top two hours and twenty mins later Im thankful for putting on the insect repellent lol the Mozzies are out lol,quick break at the top more photos and Im heading down towards Styhead there are a few peoples on the way up,I did speak to David from Ormskirk with whom I had a nice chat and not forgetting to tell him about the Mozzies.Path is good going down and Im soon at the Stretcher Box,good lot of people here I turn back to Seathwaite and have a little run past the Tarn looks like its been wet up here recently passed a few more walkers and Im soon back at the Farm four hours I feel a little chuffed as its boiling hot this is the best weather I have seen after eleven visits to The Lakes lol ………….now I need some after sun cream.

  • Andrew Turvey says:

    Hi. I walked this with my girlfriend and my dog from Seathwaite clockwise. Turning at the base of Great Gable to climb that and returning via Green Gable but traversing the lower slope of Base Brown since it started to pour down with rain. All was good but on descending towards Seathwaite the path becomes uncertain in two places and with wet rocks this was a hazardous descent. Each time refinding the path with difficulty. I think you should make this known since it is a nasty surprise at the end of a tiring day. It wasn’t suitable for the dog or anyone not prepared to scramble down steep wet rocks.

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