Where Moses Trod

FIVE Wainwright circular walk: Brandreth, Grey Knotts, Base Brown, Green Gable, Great Gable 

Walk Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Time: 8 - 9 hours

Parking: around the 'village green' at Wasdale Head (free)

Great Gable and Base Brown from Lingmell Col

The route described isn't one of the usual suggestions for a walk starting from Wasdale Head, heading first right over towards the Honister Pass before doubling back to finish with the stunning summit of Great Gable. But it makes for a beautiful and varied route, saving the best views until last.

It's also a hike which retraces the old route taken by packhorses to take Honister slate over the fells for transport to the port at Ravenglass. It starts on a track named after Moses Rigg, an eighteenth century quarryman who smuggled whisky and graphite along with his loads of slate, and hid his contraband on a hut amongst the cliffs of Great Gable. True, he wouldn't have added a side-trip to Base Brown (!) but I've thrown that in for good measure.  

Strava estimates a walking distance of around 17km and an elevation gain of over 1200m

1. Start out along the track that passes St. Olaf's Church and along the valley until you cross a narrow wooden footbridge taking you over Gable Beck.

Moses Trod climbing towards the col

Across the footbridge

2. Immediately after the bridge, turn left to follow the path up through the bracken and then, bearing left to the side of Great Gable, along the stony inclined track of 'Moses Trod'. (Experienced walkers and climbers tackling the cliffs above can carry on upwards towards the crags of the Great Napes).

Climbing up Moses Trod out of Wasdale

3. Head up towards the col at Beck Head. A faint path joins from the right across the scree leading from the 'South Traverse' path that skirts under Napes Needle. There's a good view down over the side of Kirk Fell and into the top of Ennerdale.

Beck Head col

4. Follow the path around to the right and down across 'Stone Cove'. Rocks are scattered across the grassy slopes with Gable Crag looming above you to the right.

Gable Crag and Windy Gap across Stone Cove

5. Moses Trod carries on round underneath Windy Gap, between Great and Green Gables, and then on towards the Honister Pass, underneath Brandreth. Judge the best point to leave the track and instead head up the grassy slopes to the top of Brandreth, the stony rise ahead of you.

Walk to the top of Brandreth

6. Carry on along the ridge north-east towards the Honister Pass, taking in the fine views west towards High Stile, until you reach the rocky outcrops of Grey Knotts. Looking down towards Buttermere you'll see the quarry workings of the slate mine at the end of Moses Trod.

On Grey Knotts

7. To vary the return route slightly, wander around the small tarns along the fence that you can follow back towards Brandreth looking out to the east across to Base Brown. If you want to leave this fell for another day, you'll spot the path in the Gillercomb valley below that you can take up from Seathwaite.

Looking east to Base Brown

8. If you are adding in Base Brown on today's hike, then walk up from Brandreth towards Green Gable until you can traverse left safely across the top of Gillercomb. Then descend back down the rocky path heading towards Base Brown. Cross the top of the path up from Seathwaite that heads down to your left and walk on to the grassy top of Base Brown.

Heading across the top of Gillercomb

The Scafells from the top of Base Brown

9. After taking in the views towards the Scafells, climb back up the increasingly very obvious path to the top of Green Gable. Take the time to take in the view across to Pillar and High Stile, and look down on Moses Trod beneath you, in Stone Cove.

The view from Green Gable

10. The path goes down slightly into the dip of Windy Gap, with Styhead Tarn far below to your left, and then climbs back up onto Green Gable.

Windy Gap

11. The cairned path now climbs up steeply across the rocky side of Great Gable but is easy to follow all the way to its peak. Once up onto the summit plateau, a short detour to your right is rewarded with an excellent view from the top of Gable Crag.

The view from above Gable Crag

12. Walk on to the very top (at 2949'), where you'll find, amongst the other walkers admiring their achievements, a memorial tablet (now a replica of the original), erected by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club, set against the summit rocks. 

The memorial at the summit of Great Gable

13. Great Gable is one of the best fells to walk in the whole of Lakeland. However, the broad plateau of its top means that most views from the summit tend to be obscured by a rocky foreground. Therefore, it's best to take time to walk a hundred yards or so away from the summit rocks to explore some key viewpoints. As well as the view from Gable Crag, the other way to head is south-west, in the direction of Wasdale. There you can look down over the crags, perhaps spotting some of the brave walkers/climbers who are ascending via this direct route.

Watching the walkers climbing up from below

14. A tall cairn at the very edge of the crags is the Westmorland Cairn, with a justifiably famous view down towards Wast Water.

The Westmorland Cairn

15. Returning safely to the top of Great Gable, the rest of the route will probably be amongst many other walkers, first trudging down the steps of the main tourist path to Styhead Tarn and then turning right to follow the main trail, traversing down to Wasdale Head. A little more interest can be found by taking the 'Valley Route', following a fainter path below Sty Head. This follows along the course of the Lingmell Beck as it forms a series of pools on its way down to Wast Water. Either way, look back up at Great Gable from Wasdale Head and remember a good day's walk!

Great Gable from the valley of the Lingmell Beck

Worth knowing: The start and finish of the route, in Wasdale Head, passes by the small church of St.Olaf's, surrounded by trees. It's an old church that has more recently built an association with the mountaineering community. In its small churchyard, you'll find the memorial plaque of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club and another dedicated to four climbers who died in a fall on Scafell in 1903, the first time an entire party of roped climbers had met their deaths together.

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