Great Gable from Honister

Great Gable

Great Gable is probably the most iconic mountain of the Lake District National Park. It is also one of England's highest mountains at 899m above sea level. The Lake District National Park Authority uses an image of Great Gable on their logo. When seen from Wasdale, Great Gable takes on a triangular pyramid shape from which it gets its name. When seen from elsewhere it takes on the unique flat topped dome shape often compared to that of a bowler hat. This ascent route starts from the popular Honister Slate Mine tourist attraction and outdoor activities centre at a useful height of 356m above sea level. This route walks the ridge of the three neighbouring Wainwrights of Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable. Throughout the walk the views are awesome and the landscape varying and fascinating. There are many descent routes from the wide summit plateau so in bad weather the navigation can be tricky. Therefore as with any mountain of this height it is essential you carry map and compass and know how to use them.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the Honister Slate Mine car park at grid reference NY224135. The car park is nine miles south of Keswick on the B5289 at the highest point on the Honister Pass between Borrowdale and Buttermere.
  2. At the time of writing these directions the car park isn't free but if you buy something from the slate mine shop they will refund your parking. There are a few car parks including a pay and display car park behind the Honister Hause Youth Hostel.
  3. The ascent path isn't too easy to find. Most walkers head up the steep road leading away from the car park then take the obvious path to the old quarry incline. Avoid these obvious routes and instead head to the left or eastern side of the slate mine buildings.
  4. Here at the back you will find a stile over a fence. Cross over the stile and ascend the steep path up the north west side of Grey Knotts. There is a fence on the right hand side of the path all the way up the hill.
  5. The path reaches a tricky section where it heads left away from the fence and an old eroded section. There is a short scramble over rocks and a narrow section through a small gully.
  6. The path will eventually reach a stile. Cross the stile over the fence you have been following on your right hand side. Turn left and continue ascending towards the highest ground on Grey Knotts.
  7. As you approach the crags on Grey Knotts the path will reach the fence again. You don't need to cross this fence to reach the highest point on Grey Knotts. Instead turn right keeping the fence on your left.
  8. The fence will turn left on a right angle. You do not not need to cross the fence here either. A hundred metres south west from this point you will find the highest crag on Grey Knotts at 697m above sea level.
  9. After standing on the summit of Grey Knotts head past a few smalls tarns and continue south along the crest of the wide grassy ridge for four hundred metres. Cross another stile over the fence then continue for another two hundred metres to reach the 715m high summit of Brandreth.
  10. From the many rocky knolls on Brandreth descend south to the tarns on Gillercomb Head. From Gillercomb Head ascend south up the northern side of Green Gable. When you reach the 801m high exposed summit of Green Gable there is an overwhelming view of the huge Gable Crag.
  11. From the summit of Green Gable descend south down a very steep and loose scree path to Windy Gap. This is a tricky path so if you have difficulty take your time and zig zag down the path where possible.
  12. The views either way from Windy Gap are awesome. Looking south east down Aaron Slack across Styhead Tarn and beyond then looking north west over Stone Cove into Ennerdale.
  13. From Windy Gap ascend a steep path in the obvious south west direction of Great Gable. The path switches to the right and ascends steep over and between loose stones and boulders to eventually reach the summit plateau. The path along the plateau is fairly obvious and well cairned all the way to the summit rocks.
  14. Attached to Great Gable's summit rocks is the Fell and Rock Climbing Club memorial plaque which reads "In glorious & happy memory of those whose names are inscribed below - members of this club - who died for their country in the European War 1914-1918. These fells were acquired by their fellow-members & by them vested in the National Trust for the use & enjoyment of the people of our land for all time -".
  15. The summit plateau of Great Gable is so flat and wide that it hides its many fabulous views. Walk a hundred metres south west from the summit rocks and you will find one of the very finest.
  16. Westmorland Cairn was built by and named after two brothers in 1876. They believed the view down the Wasdale Valley to be the finest viewpoint from Great Gable. The views are stunning and the sheer drops below to Little Hell Gate just add to an already incredible atmosphere.
  17. From Westmorland Cairn make your way back up to the summit rocks. There are many descent paths off Great Gable. If the mountain is shrouded in cloud make sure you take a compass bearing from the summit rocks. You want to be heading north west from the summit rocks to reach the descent path to Beck Head. One good piece of advice is to head directly away from the memorial plaque at a right angle.
  18. There are stone cairns at the top of the descent route. Descend the path heading north west. The path is over loose ground with large loose stones and boulders so care needs to be taken. You will eventually reach flat ground and a junction of paths at Beck Head.
  19. At Beck Head turn right and follow the Moses Trod path as it bends right into Stone Cove. The path passes under the huge Gable Crag under which are littered hundreds of huge stone boulders that give Stone Cove its name.
  20. The path heads north crossing two becks and rounding Brandreth. Continue along the path and where it splits head right up to a stile over a fence. After the stile continue heading north along the path rounding Grey Knotts.
  21. The path will reach the old quarry tramway embankment. Mount the embankment and turn right to descend the old quarry tramway back down towards the slate mine. Shortly before the mine the path turns left down to the steep road back to the mine.
  22. After the walk you can take a look around Honister Slate Mine. There are plenty of facilities on site such as Toilets, Cafe, Visitor Centre with Factory Trail and Shop. You can also book yourself on Mine Tours and Britain's most exciting Via Ferrata. If you would prefer a quiet Lake District cafe you can head down to the fantastic Yew Tree Cafe at Seatoller just ten minutes away.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL4 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 90 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Lakeland Central Map Click to buy Harvey Lake District Mountain Map

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Great Gable from Honister

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.