Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts

Walk date – 20th May 2024

Distance – 5.75 miles

Weather – Low cloud, no wind, no sun, mild


For a couple of days or so after our low cloud walk on 8th May the weather improved, becoming sunnier and warmer, and bringing with it the usual seasonal dilemma. Should we make the most of the warm, sunny weather by going out on the fells, or make the most of it by being out in the garden and tackling the many tasks which need dry, warm and wind free days. The growing season up here is short enough as it is so the planting out and other gardening jobs had to take priority and the fells were, very reluctantly I should add, relegated to second place. After all summer is on its way and when all the garden jobs are done there will be lots more sunny days in which to enjoy being out on the fells won’t there?

Well, not this last few days at least, so under cloudy skies and dodging the rain showers we finally managed to get everything done, even to the extent of tidying the garden shed and washing out the remnants of soil from all the plant pots! On Friday the forecast was for another cloudy day but we drove over to Howtown anyway in the hope that the cloud would be high so we could take at least have a walk over Beda Fell. Hopes took a dive as we drove over and saw all the surrounding fells either completely obliterated or little more than smoky grey silhouettes. When we saw the top third of Bonscale Pike covered in thick dark cloud, which on a wind free day wasn’t going to shift any time soon, we turned around and went back home.

Today’s forecast indicated that the weather would be sunny, dry and with hardly any wind. The cloud cover would gradually increase from the east during the afternoon and evening with the best of the sunny spells over towards the west, a weather pattern which has been the norm recently. Not today though, because the weather was completely opposite to what had been forecast.


Honister mine – Drum House – Green Gable – Brandreth – Grey Knotts – Honister mine

A view of Black Star and the mine road leading up towards it from the Honister slate mine car park. Only a few youngsters were wandering around when the shot was taken and as none of them seemed to be getting ready for a day on the fells we could only assume they were just waiting for the mine bus to transport them up the road to begin whatever adventure they had booked for themselves. All the activities offered by the mine are absolutely terrifying to us so we’ve never been tempted to try any of them. When we are ready and the gps has noticed where we are we set off on our own adventure by taking the path on the left of the shot up to the former Drum House.

As we climbed the path I noticed that the morning sun glancing off the old mining area above the Honister side of Dale Head revealed a lot more detail than we have seen previously. This is one of those places that we always say we should go and explore but never quite get round to doing it, one of these days perhaps.

A brief pause for a shot of the cutting before we pass through it, and …..

….. from the same position a view of the slate mine now some distance below us. As we climbed up to this point we noticed that one of the mine buses was on its way up the mine road so presumably the folk who were wandering around in the car park were now on it and thinking about what was to come. Its a few minutes after 9.00 am so it must have been making its first trip of the day.

We had a de-layering stop when we reached the former drum house. We had worked up quite a good head of steam as we walked up the old tramway path and the lightweight jumpers we were wearing just had to come off. What little sun we’ve had so far has vanished and looking ahead we can see that much more cloud is coming in from the west. Hang on a minute, didn’t the forecast say it would be coming from the east?

We had a chat with a solo walker while we were at the drum house. She mentioned that she’d had to de-layer about halfway up as she was too hot to wait until she reached the drum house. We had a chat about our various routes during which she mentioned that she was a little bit nervous as she usually has a walking partner who couldn’t be with her today. She was making her way over to Fleetwith Pike, her only objective today, and she had an OS map just in case, so I expect she got to Fleetwith summit without any difficulty as the path over to it is not difficult to find from the old tramway. Another walker came by just after she went on her way but he didn’t stop or offer any greeting. Before taking the same path as he did we hung back for a few minutes to let him get well on his way. He’s just about visible over on the extreme right of the shot, just above J’s head. Those were the only people we saw from then on until we reached Green Gable summit.

The view across Dubs Bottom towards Haystacks, Pillar (L) and the High Stile ridge (R). The clouds are joining forces and the brightness of the morning has gone.

Looking across to Fleetwith Pike and wondering how the solo lady walker is getting on. She should be well on her way on the path up to the summit by now.

Buttermere and Crummock Water surrounded on all sides by fells of all shapes and sizes. Too many to name individually but you only have to look at a map to find out what they are called. Its an even lovelier view under sunny, blue skies.

In addition to the two waters in the previous shot we also have a view of Ennerdale Water, over on the left, and Blackbeck Tarn, in the centre below Haystacks. The cloud is getting lower and the High Stile ridge is about to be covered by it. We reached the fence line and our plan is to cross the fence, via the very rickety stile, skirt around the lower slopes of Brandreth and make our way over the tarns at Gillercomb Head.

Before crossing the fence I took a few shots. This one above is looking along Ennerdale towards Crag Fell with the top of Pillar, nearest the camera, now partly obscured by low cloud …..

….. directly below is Haystacks and Blackbeck Tarn …..

….. with Mellbreak, to the left of Crummock Water, lowly Rannerdale Knotts on the opposite side, and behind them on the skyline are the Loweswater fells.

Over the rickety stile we go to make our way up to Gillercomb Head. At least Green Gable and Great Gable aren’t cloud covered I said. I spoke too soon as will become obvious later.

J makes his way over to the tarns at Gillercomb Head, I stop to take this shot of Green Gable. I like the walk up to the summit from the tarns as it is more interesting than the long, dull trudge up from Base Brown.

Looking over to Combe Head and Glaramara from one of the tarns at Gillercomb Head …..

….. and a truncated view of the High Stile ridge from one of the other tarns.

We had Mars Bar break at the tarns from where we had this view of the next section of our walk, the path leading to the summit of Green Gable. Great Gable has gone very dark all of a sudden.

Ready to go again after our brief stop at the tarns. There is no-one on the path ahead but as we walked further up we could see some walkers on the top of Brandreth silhouetted against the skyline.

In the short time it took to walk up from the tarns, no more than thirty minutes at a guess, to Green Gable’s summit the cloud had descended on Great Gable and this was the only view we had of it.

There were two other walkers up here when we arrived and they were already moving off and heading for the path down to Windy Gap so we had the summit to ourselves while we were up there. Moving away from the summit cairn gave a slightly better view down to Windy Gap but we couldn’t see much beyond that. Had it not been for the low cloud we might have been tempted to go up Great Gable but there was little point in doing that today.

The surrounding views weren’t much better either. The cloud was very low and very thick on the Great End side so no views to be had in that direction. At least we had some sort of view of Sprinkling Tarn and Esk Pike. Through the swirling cloud little bits of Great End appeared now and again.

Looking across Seathwaite Fell and the Glaramara ridge we could see the silhouetted shapes of the Langdale Pikes.

Looking eastward now where the brighter skies allowed Dollywaggon Pike and Fairfield to be silhouetted against them. Below them is the very dull looking summit plateau of Ullscarf. Nearest the camera towards the right of the shot are the tops of Combe Head and Glaramara.

The north eastern skyline offered something slightly brighter where Clough Head, Calfhow Pike and Great Dodd appeared to be in sunlight although the rest of the Dodds and the Helvellyn group didn’t seem to have been quite so fortunate. Immediately below us is Base Brown.

Looking northwards and seeing Blencathra and Bleaberry Fell bathed in sunshine was a bit of a kicker, especially when we recalled that the cloud was supposed to be arriving from the east and heading west. What a load of BS that forecast turned out to be!

The cloud continued to build as I took this shot looking along the cairned path leading down to Windy Gap. Esk Pike, Great End and Seathwaite Tarn are the only things we can see.

Nothing but a wall of cloud behind J as I take a shot of him beside the summit cairn. Oh well, as there wasn’t much more to see we made our way back down to Gillercomb Head hoping that the views would improve.

Retracing our steps back to the tarns with Base Brown just below us. We’ve just passed a group of walkers making their way up Green Gable so lots of greetings were exchanged. Similar greetings increased in number as we met more walkers at intervals on our way back down.

Blencathra still in sunshine as we look down into the hanging valley of Gillercomb above Borrowdale.

Still descending to Gillercomb Head with Combe Head and Glaramara standing out clearly against the dull skies.

Back down to the tarns with the low cloud still swirling around the fells to the west of us.

We found a comfortable spot to take a break during which more walkers came down from Brandreth and headed up Green Gable, naturally more greetings were exchanged as they passed by.

After our break we began making our way up Brandreth stopping only to take a look back at Green Gable. The last group of walkers who came by us during our break can be seen on the path as it winds upwards through the craggy area. They were a group of four older chaps who were taking their time so I hope they reached the top before the cloud did.

On Brandreth summit now and looking towards Blencathra from one of the several piles of fence posts strewn around the top. Lower down the path we had just passed several more people, who might have been a largish walking group, who were also making their way down to Gillercomb Head. The summit plateau was deserted when we arrived which seemed to support the theory of them being a large walking group all leaving at the same time. Usually there are at least a couple of folk still taking a break up here.

We can see that there’s still much more brightness to the north and east as we make our way across Brandreth’s summit plateau. Our lightweight jumpers are back on now as its quite cool beneath all this cloud.

Looking ahead to Grey Knotts from the walk across Brandreth.

Cloud still covering the High Stile ridge as we walk over to Grey Knotts.

Today’s first clear view of Great End, Esk Pike and the north top of Bowfell although Bowfell itself still has some cloud around it.

Below the bump of Bowfell’s north top is Allen Crags followed by the ridge line between it and …..

….. Glaramara and Combe Head.

We reach the tarns area just below the two peaks of Grey Knotts, not too messy to negotiate around today.

Now that some of the cloud had lifted I took this shot looking across Fleetwith Pike to the fells we couldn’t see earlier on. Starting with the big lump of Grasmoor on the centre skyline and moving across to the right we can see Crag Hill, Sail and Grisedale Pike. Just below the skyline is Robinson, below which is Littledale Edge leading over to Hindscarth on the extreme right of the shot.

Looking towards the High Stile ridge and Buttermere from one of the high points (704 metres as per the gps) on Grey Knotts.

From the other high point (706 metres as per the gps) a view of Combe Head and Glaramara.

From Grey Knotts we followed the path beside the fence line back down to the slate mine. It was rough going all the way down.

Black Star and the mine road come back into view so while I’m scouting around for somewhere firm to stand and take the shot J takes advantage of a flat topped boulder right beside the path for a brief break. The green slopes of Hindscarth Edge are between Hindscarth, in the distance, and the steep, craggy slopes of Dale Head.

After dealing with the last of the crags on the descent of Grey Knotts and finding somewhere solid to stand I took this shot of the Honister slate mine still some distance below us. It will be a relief to finally reach the end of this path because it has been quite awkward to deal with in quite a few places. It is probably less awkward as an ascent path rather than a descent route.

The path comes to an end amongst the various mine buildings and we stroll back to the car park where today’s walk comes to an end. Plenty of people around now and both the cafe and car park are busy with folk coming and going. Notice the shadows which have appeared on the ground, by the time we were back at the car, a minute or less after this shot was taken, the cloud had broken up and the sun was shining! Ah well, we had sunshine at the beginning of our walk and at the end so at least it wasn’t dull and overcast for the whole of it. It was the in-between bit which was disappointing.