The annual Remembrance gathering on Great Gable is something I had heard a lot about, even before I moved to the Lake District. I really wanted to be part of it in 2012 as what better way could there be to remember those who have given so much for us? I joined a small group of friends from previous Twitter walks – Paul, Sian, Jim, Phil and Gary at Honister, with Tilly the black Labrador keeping us company and looking forward to being spoilt by everyone.
Several people had told me how popular this gathering was but I was surprised to see by 8am so many cars in the car-parks there and already a long snaking line of people making their way up the various routes to Great Gable. It was a beautiful morning with sunshine and mist and the autumn browns reds and golds still holding on for their last hurrah. I realised as I arrived that I had forgotten my water bottles (too busy packing Tilly’s treats) but decided it would be ok as it was a cold day and I had coffee. This is not the first time I have forgotten water (see my “The Knight & the Water” story) – clearly I had not learnt my lesson.
Our route up was via Green Gable so we headed off, Tilly leading the way. I walk on my own a lot, as a couple and with larger groups and I enjoy them all in their own way but this was something utterly unique. The volume of people heading to Great Gable was amazing – there must have been 30-40 people nearby for much of the route and there was a real sense of friendliness and sharing a common goal. I even managed to overtake people (rare for me as I am usually quite slow) and found myself on occasions at the front of the group!
|Tilly's "forgive me" eyes (photo by Phil)|
As we neared Green Gable, I was becoming incredibly thirsty – it may have been a cold day but walking is thirsty work regardless. Without much hope, I asked the group if any of them had a spare water bottle. Gary fortunately did (thank you!) and at that moment, it tasted better than Dom Peringon would have done (I reserve the right to change my mind about that once the memory has faded though). Tilly was enjoying herself thoroughly but she is not the most considerate walker as she tends to stop unannounced or barge passed to get to the next person with treats. This seemed to be Phil as Tilly bounded up to him and tripped him up! Phil fell forwards and bruised his knee and cracked the filter of his lens. He was fortunately very forgiving and one look from those deep brown soulful “Tilly eyes” still got her a dog biscuit. She is a master I will give her that!
On we went to the summit of Green Gable heading into the mist and then down to Windy Gap and up the final ascent to Great Gable. Here it became rather a bottle-neck as several paths merge around Green Gable and at Windy Gap and the path from there to Great Gable is made of rock and scree and takes careful negotiating. With so many people, it was a slow but steady climb. At least I did not need to declare “Tanya stops” though. Tilly found her mountain paws and she jumped and scrambled up the rocks and we finally arrived at the summit.
|The busy summit|
I have never seen so many people on or near a summit in my life. Scafell Pike is nearly always busy and mountains like Catbells, Loughrigg and the Langdale Pikes usually have a steady stream of visitors. At this moment on Great Gable however, there were literally hundreds of people all waiting on the top and for the next half an hour, probably more than another hundred arrived. We were scattered all over the summit and some had even brought tents up for the occasion (I liked the pink and yellow one best). Other people we knew came to say hello as they arrived, some from other valleys and Tilly thought Ray was Father Christmas as he came bearing gifts of dog treats.
There was only ever a fleeting view to other mountains and valleys but it did not matter. We were all here for one reason only – to remember those who have given so much for our defence and freedom. Those people who have made sure that all of us, whoever we are have the freedom to enjoy such a beautiful place. It was very moving to be part of such a gathering and peering through the mist to the occasional tiny glimpse of other summits and tarns, I felt very fortunate and privileged.
|View to Buttermere, Crummock & Mellbreak|
A few words were said by a representative of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club and we observed the two minute silence. Hardly a dog barked during that time. It was a short moment but poignant and then we all began to make our way down. Again the scramble was slow to get to windy gap but after that, it was a lovely walk without anything too arduous back over Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts. On Brandreth, the mist really cleared and we had views all the way down the Ennerdale and Buttermere valleys. Mellbreak holds special memories for me so seeing it in the distance was wonderful. Great Gable looked menacing looking back with its dark crags on display.
|Tilly finding her mountain paws....|
Between Brandreth and Grey Knotts is a little tarn and whilst it was a hundred yards away, Tilly decided she was ready for a swim and bounded towards it, landing with a not so elegant but very enthusiastic splash. At this moment you know she is a true Labrador. After hauling herself out she decided to expend some of that pent up energy (5 summits are clearly not enough for her nowadays) and started sprinting all around us and making wide circles on the grassy fell side and rushing up to us and diverting at the last second. At this point, a male black Labrador arrived and they gambolled around together as we made our way back down to Honister. The only thing that distracted Tilly was Jim opening some crisps.
|On the summit of Brandreth|
About three hundred yards from the car-park, I was chatting away and promptly slipped backwards and ended up in a not very elegant “splat” on the ground. Not my best look (although nothing damaged except my ego) and fortunately Phil had not managed to capture the moment on camera. Dragging myself back up with all the dignity I could muster, I managed to get back down to the car-park without further incident.
A really poignant and memorable day – Remembrance Sunday on Great Gable. Lest we forget.