Bad Back in the Lakes! – Base Brown to Great Gable from Seathwaite and back via Taylorgill Force

Many of us of a certain age have a ‘bad back story’, mine was being blown over many years ago on Glencoe’s iconic Buachaille Etive Mor. Last week I managed to aggravate this by over exerting myself with long handled pruners; as you do. Not the best preparation for a day trip to the Lakes however walking has always seemed to help so after dosing up on Ibuprofen I headed west with my mate Alan.

We had discussed routes in the pub the previous night and favoured a start from Seathwaite up over Base Brown, one of my missing Wainwrights. As usual there was a certain fluidity to the route plans, the most ambitious being Base Brown then Green & Great Gable, Kirk Fell, a pint down in the Wasdale Head Inn, back to Styhead Tarn, then Seathwaite. This was Plan A, while Plan B, C & D were shorter variations depending on progress.

We make a good start parking very close to Seathwaite farm followed by the hardest part of the day trying to put socks & boots on without bending. After more than a few girly yelps of pain we set off turning west through the farm buildings passing the campsite, crossing the bridge & following the path up Sourmilk Gill.

Route up SourmilkGill from Seathwaite Farm

Route up Sourmilk Gill from Seathwaite Farm

First time for me up this route, the path goes straight up the middle in the pic above keeping left of the stream with a touch of easy scrambling, gaining height quickly. We heard a cuckoo proudly cuckooing which always makes me think of some poor Warbler suffering from it’s parasitic nesting habits. As the ground levelled on Seathwaite Slabs my back was already knacking (as the saying goes) this despite the Ibuprofen which didn’t bode well at all. This wasn’t helped by my heavy sack (also as the saying goes) with 2 litres of water & lots of apples etc in case of a hot day. I’d already had to lie down a couple of times to rest & we’d hardly got started.

I trudged up the gently rising path through Gillercomb before reaching the skyline & switch back path up to the top of Base Brown and a new Wainwright. The weather was strange, a mixture of sun, cloud, dark threatening cloud, hint of drizzle & warmth. It was certainly a T shirt & shorts day which meant the people of the Lakes were treated to the incredible view below…..

A true fashion icon, on Base Brown looking south to Great End & the Scafells

A true fashion icon (note matching accessories), on Base Brown looking south to Great End & the Scafells

Yes indeedy a bit of manly eye candy for any female fell walker. The other views were hazy yet giving an interesting angle on familiar landmarks. Alan had done this one long before the days of Wainwright bagging and mentioned how quiet it was back then, I’m sure we could hear the Hovis theme drifting through the winds of time. Regarding wind, Alan had been strangely quiet except for a quick fart at 1,000ft.

Base Brown summit cairn with route ahead over Green Gable to Great Gable

Base Brown summit cairn, with route ahead over Green Gable to Great Gable peeking above

Moody shot of Great End & the Scafells with glimpse of Styhead Tarn in middle

Moody shot of Great End & the Scafells, nice glimpse of Styhead Tarn in the middle

From Base Brown to Glaramara with Stockley Bridge down below!

From Base Brown to Glaramara with Stockley Bridge way down below!

After another lie down we continued on up to Green Gable which would be a magnificent viewpoint if not for the imposing hunk of Great Gable blocking the south. The twin views of Ennerdale & Buttermere are still worthwhile – however I needed another lie down. Now at this point I’d like to mention my shorts because for a while I had never imagined wearing shorts in the hills again, due to the need to wear less than sexy wraparound knee supports. However I trialled this exciting combination successfully in the quiet Cheviot hills, where no one can hear you scream! It was a freeing experience, it felt right, it just felt right! Having worn revealing Ron Hill tracksters for years I’d become used to strange looks from the ladies blatantly checking out my penis area, part of me misses that, probably my penis area. I’ve considered dangling my penis out of my shorts to recreate those halycon Ron Hill days, but for now I’ll remain happy attracting eyes to my nether knees. Note my pride in the picture below as the kneecaps poke seductively out of the sweaty neoprene. I even rolled my shorts up for this one.

A man & his knee supports on Green Gable, Ennerdale & Buttermere behind

A man & his knee supports on Green Gable, Ennerdale & Buttermere behind

Anyway back on Green Gable Alan had been very sensibly pointing out the timing options for the rest of the day. We could go straight down & across to Kirk Fell & maybe, just maybe nip down to Wasdale Head for that pint, or up to Great Gable then possibly Kirk Fell but no pint, or…..etc. Of course I wanted to do it all, anything for that pint, however walking up or down seemed to hurt whilst lying down was good. I took another Ibuprofen and we sensibly decided to curtail the day on Great Gable. I thanked Alan for his patience and we both relaxed having removed all time constraints then strolled down into Windy Gap for the pull & scramble up to Great Gable. Last time here the scramble was annoying but this time I stowed my poles in my sac which made all the difference, although stretching still hurt producing the odd yelp & swear word. Yep a man in shorts & knee supports with Tourettes.

The top was littered with people arriving/leaving in all directions so we carried on up & over to the south side just below Westmorland Cairn, where it was incredibly peaceful & gave much better views down Wasdale (cloud permitting).

Wasdale, my favourite valley, from Great Gable, it's the dogs doodahs

Wasdale, my favourite valley, from Great Gable, definitely the dogs doodahs!

Kirk Fell, Ennerdale, Haystacks & High Crag from near Westmorland Cairn

Kirk Fell, Ennerdale, Haystacks & High Crag from near Westmorland Cairn

Westmorland Cairn top left, across to Sprinkling Tarn & the Langdales greyed out

Westmorland Cairn top left, across to Sprinkling Tarn & the greyed out Langdales

We spent around an hour up here & only saw 2 people, quite staggering considering the intense popularity just a few hundred yards away. Great views just below here of the Great Napes & sounds of jangly metal bits from climbers. The grass is also nicely shaped to cup your aching back if you fancy a lie down. We discussed bygone days.

A man alone with his knee supports remembering early hillwalking days in Wasdale

A man alone with his knee supports reminiscing on early hillwalking days in Wasdale

Wesmorland Cairn, south shoulder of Gable, definitely worth a visit, mind how you tread

Wesmorland Cairn, south shoulder of Gable, definitely worth a visit, but mind how you tread

The cairn was (according to Wikipedia) erected in 1876 by two brothers named Westmorland to mark what they considered to be the finest view in the Lake District. You can see small areas of fine whitish powder dotted round the cairn which are ashes scattered at this special place, so please mind your feet!

We fleetingly considered going down to the Climbers Traverse, then one back twinge later immediately chose the straightforward option nipping back up to the summit then descending south west along the well cairned path straight down to Sty Head. Uniquely one of my Pacer Pole tips snapped in half, which definitely doesn’t improve grip.

Descending to Sty Head & Sty Head Tarn, nice!

Descending to Sty Head & Sty Head Tarn, nice!

Stopping briefly at the Tarn we noted far more people about than normal, then remembered this was an early descent for us, we are normally still up there, late start, late finish 🙂 To make things a little more interesting we chose the alternative way back to Seathwaite via Taylorgill Force. This path starts at the Patterson Ford footbridge & follows Styhead Gill to the west side instead of the east, staying much closer to the stream.

Heading down Styhead Gill on the western path to Taylorgill Force in the trees

Heading down Styhead Gill on the western path to Taylorgill Force in the trees

The path starts to get more involved with some hands on moments where you need to take a little care skirting the waterfall which is hidden from view on the Greenhow Knott path.

Taylorgill Force, an interesting experience

Taylorgill Force, an interesting experience

We were glad we tried this with plenty of time on our hands as usually by the time we get to Sty Head we just want to get back down to the car as quickly as possible. This route would be more fun in ascent and without dangly walking poles 🙂

A different view down to Seathwaite Farm with the path from Stockley Bridge to the right

A different view down to Seathwaite Farm with the path from Stockley Bridge to the right

A pleasantly slow painful (for me) hike in a pretty awesome area, only one new Wainwright and a new way down to Seathwaite. I still had 2/3 of the water left so had been carrying that around needlessly, one week later the back’s still bad & I’ve just washed my knee supports.

CLICK on the map below for the interactive Route on Social Hiking;-

Base Brown & Gable Route Map

Base Brown & Gable Route Map

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About MART IN THE HILLS

Hillwalker with dodgy knees and dodgier sense of humour. Lover of the outdoors, Lakes, Highlands, Cheviots, nature, good food, real ale and leaf tea.
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2 Responses to Bad Back in the Lakes! – Base Brown to Great Gable from Seathwaite and back via Taylorgill Force

  1. Ray Greenhow says:

    Martin, I’m pleased you took the Taylorgill Force path on the Base Brown side of it. It’s a far more dramatic path & affords better views of The Force. On your route to the summit of Base Brown you could try going direct up from Gillercomb and you come to a sloping rockface. You can go up this if dry or round the eastern face of Hanging Stone and that is just a footpath. Give it a try next time. Sorry about the back.

    • Mart Lawton says:

      Yeah I was keen to try it following your recommendations but as stated I’m usually wanting to get down quickly by then after fun stuff higher up. Did wonder about going straight up to Base Brown though with the back pain any chance of a level path was preferred 🙂

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