Great Gable, Christmas Eve

After successfully negotiating the holiday get-away traffic, my brother and I took the opportunity to undertake a quick walk in the Western fells. We were aiming for Glaramara from Wasdale Head, but being only the second party up to Styhead, the thick powder snow frustrated our progress, so we settled instead to make an assault on Great Gable.

The conditions were truly amazing. Never have I seen snow lying so extensively over the fells, and although I have had memorable winter outings in previous years, the conditions and visibility made this short outing in a different class altogether. It was hard progress, and halfway up I was ready to turn back, out of condition from a wearisome Autumn and prompted by words I wrote here recently – one needs to know the limit between submitting to and conquering one’s emotions and desires. Clouds were also beginning to build over the higher fells.

Fortunately, we reached the summit within the time limit I set myself. What a reward that greeted us. Having entered thin cloudbase lower down, we exitted this same cloud just below the summit, the silver wisps gradually clearing to deep blue, as we made the last few steps. The panorama was incredible. It was as if we had stepped out upon a blanket of cloud, accompanied only by the surrounding high tops.

The richness of the colours struck me. The intense white of the snow and hoared rocks contrasted with the pure blue of the skies. Having been weaned on the dull greys of hillfog and earthy hues of rock and fauna, these familiar companions now enchanted my senses, snow formations finely sculpted by wind and ice crystals nourished by the cold. I longed to linger and devour the spread of winter vestments that nature had laid out.

Behind us the sun conjoured a Brocken Spectre and hemmed it with a halo of rainbow colours. I now felt in the company of angelic hosts, sharing their abode of the hills and sky. Shortly after the cloud broke to reveal walls and fields far below us, all neatly laid out, but constrained by the rough, tumbling fells that reered up beyond the intake walls. However, we felt separate from our lowly beginnings in Wasdale, highly elevated, soaring and our eyes roving hungrily in the void that stretched out in all directions around us.

Having set off late in the day, our moment to experience the magic of the mountains was fleeting. The sun began to take on a firey hue, as if impatient to bring the day to an end and rest on far western seas. Reluctantly, we set off on the final part of our journey, but chose to decend through the Hell Gates on Great Gable’s western flank. This is the quickest way down the mountain and also the most exciting, but I have never experienced it in winter conditions such as these and sadly do not expect to again.

We were sad to leave such a divine vista, but joyful for the chance to appreciate the Lakes in stunning Alpine-esque glory.

Photos will follow in the next few weeks.


4 Responses to Great Gable, Christmas Eve

  1. Martin Rye says:

    Looking forward to the photos as the text described a wonderful picture.

  2. Simon Cox says:

    Thanks, Martin.Photos will be up when I return home and have the USB lead for my phone!Have you managed to get out at all over the holiday season yet?Blencathra tomorrow for me, and the weather forecast is very good, so hopefully it should be another good day 🙂

  3. Pingback: A time for war, and a time for peace « When Men And Mountains Meet

  4. Pingback: Thorpe Cloud winter solstice #microadventure | When Men and Mountains Meet

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