Cloud conjuring, Great Gable

Back to Great Gable again!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently in the midst of a year in the life of Great Gable project for Trail magazine, which will be published at the start of 2012. So as you can imagine I’m getting ever more familiar with one of my favourite Lake District mountains.

The choice of mountain for the feature was left to me, and I chose Gable not just because it’s a Lake District icon, featuring in the national park logo, but also because of the almost endless photographic possibilities.

For a start you can see most of the rest of the Lakes from the summit. And each side of it is different; from the numerous gulleys, rock formations and graceful scree slopes down to Wasdale Head, to the abrupt rock face of Gable Crag high above the head of the Ennerdale Valley.

And so another ascent, onwards and (literally) upwards with the project once again.

Starting from Seathwaite, I planned to ascend via Styhead, and then skirt around under Napes to get a shot of the Needle and also Sphinx rock, both of which are somehow missing from my back catalogue, and then round via Beckhead and over the top and back down via Green Gable.

Although cloudy first thing, the forecast was for it to clear, but maybe with some hanging cloud lingering through the day. Which sounded just grand to me 🙂

Although distinctly grey in the south Lakes, patches of blue sky began to appear as I approached Keswick, and it was sunny by the time I arrived in Borrowdale, with, as promised, some hanging cloud at around the 500m level.

Being a confirmed winter lover, as much as I hate to admit it the almost springlike conditions as I wandered along the track from Seathwaite Farm along to Stockley Bridge felt lovely… warm sunshine… trickling streams…

By the time I got to Styhead Tarn it could have been a different day in a different season.

In the intermediate cloud layer, temperatures were back around zero and visibility not much better.

From the views lower down I knew this was only temporary until I climbed out of it again, but what to do? Should I carry on with my plan of skirting round Great Gable at this lower level, or just head high and fast where I suspected I’d be in blue skies and warm sunshine?

A quick 15 minute detour along the Kern Knotts path told me all I needed to know. Cloud. You can plan all you like as a mountain photographer, but you can rarely second guess the conditions, you have to adapt to them. So I headed as high as I could and as directly as I could.

It soon paid off.

About 50m added altitude and I broke through the cloud layer into clear blue skies and a good 10 degree increase in temperature.

Great End and Scafell Range from Gable

From here on in, it was really just a glorious blue sky walking day above a classic temperature inversion. Even the haze was restricted to lower levels.

Towards Wasdale

And the view towards the Scafell range above the cloud

Scafell peeking through

Cloud at lower levels was swirling around, and at its thickest only the very tips of the highest Lake District summits were poking through, here looking towards Pillar (and making the most of my 20 second self timer!)

Legal high, Pillar from Great Gable

And a close up of Pillar – you probably can’t make them out at this size but there are the dots of three people on the summit:


And looking in the opposite direction towards Langdale, with Harrison Stickle and Pike of Stickle just poking through:

Harrison Stickle and Pike of Stickle

Unable to resist a wider view as always, I stitched a panoramic image including Kirk Fell, Red Pike, Scoat Fell and Pillar

Mosedale Cotton Wool

There was barely any wind at all on the summit and I spent a couple of hours just soaking up the sunshine and the views. A few others were doing the same, and I finished off with this shot of someone clambering on to the summit rocks.

Summiting Great Gable

My only regret was not having the tent with me, it would have been lovely to just hang around, watch the sun go down and not worry about having to get home.

Sadly, hometime it was, and I descended back down to Seathwaite via Windy Gap and Green Gable, and down the steep path next to Sourmilk Gill.

Hopefully the next post might involve the tent again 🙂

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Products tagged: Borrowdale, Cloud, cumbria, Ennerdale, Gable Crag, Great End, Great Gable, Green Gable, Harrison Stickle, Kern Knotts, Keswick, Kirk Fell, lake district, lakeland, Lakes, landscape, Langdale, Langdale Pikes, Mosedale, Mountain, Mountains, Napes Needle, panorama, panoramic, photo, photograph, photography, photos, Pike Of Stickle, Pillar, Red Pike, Scafell, Scafell Pike, Scoat Fell, Seathwaite, Sourmilk Gill, Sphinx Rock, Stockley Bridge, Styhead, temperature inversion, valley, walking, walks, Wasdale, Windy Gap
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11 Responses to Cloud conjuring, Great Gable

  1. tookiebunten says:

    Great post. Fantastic photographs. Wouldn’t be great to carry a tent all the time and not to have to worry about work in the morning 🙂

  2. Stewart says:

    Cheers Tookie, sadly yes I had to get back for that too!

  3. skynewsnorth says:

    Know nothing about photography but enjoy seeing your beautiful work.

  4. Martin Rye says:

    As ever superb and shows your skill with a camera. Fantastic and thanks.

  5. Stewart says:

    Thanks Martin!

  6. Lovely photos, Stewart. I have Martin Rye to thank for pointing me in your direction (and JJ who took your photo).
    I’m not a proper photographer, but I must learn how to take those pictures into the sun – they are great.
    Have fun in the hills.
    Martin B

  7. Helen Fisher says:

    Just catching up as I’m reading this in tandem with but just staggering views. You are so talented Stewy! And I loved the words :o)

  8. Stewart says:

    Thanks Helen! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  9. annie says:

    A perfect walk among the clouds. Thanks again, Stewy for another excellent read and look at your beautiful corner of the world.

  10. Stewart says:

    Thanks Annie, hopefully conjure up something as good for you in November 🙂

  11. DARKSKY says:


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