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Kirk Fell and Great Gable

Kirk Fell and Great Gable stand at the head of Wasdale. A circuit of the two fells from the village green makes for a great relaxed day walk, or you could nip round in an afternoon if keen.

Kirk Fell is so named from the Old Norse word for church: "Kirk", which is more often encountered in Scotland - the tiny single room church of St Olaf's is at its foot. It is quite a tough fell to climb. The direct route north from Wasdale Head is unremittingly steep. The views back to Wast Water are very fine, but oh! that slope. The easiest is perhaps on its eastern side, the spur of Rib End is reasonably walker friendly. To the west is the pass of Black Sail. Here Kirkfell Crags are a formidable obstacle for the ordinary walker. Some guidebooks suggest tackling the 'nose' of the crags directly, but Jessie who usually has a good eye for difficulties was less than keen with that idea. Instead she found a scree gully which is straightforward if rather loose, which we use for this walk.

From Wast Water Great Gable's iconic triangular form catches the eye. It has something of a fearsome reputation of being a difficult fell for walkers. Yet for this walk we found a pleasant ascent route on its north easterly spur having bypassed the more difficult direct route up through Gable Crags from Beck End. Descending the easy south-easterly ridge gives great views of Sty Head and the Scafell range. Great Gable is synonymous with the birth place of climbing in the UK.

Anyone reaching the summit of Great Gable will have seen the memorial plaque affixed to the summit outcrop. It is here on Remembrance Sunday in November that the Fell and Rock Climbing Club holds a service to its members and others who have perished in conflicts around the world. Even in the foulest conditions November can throw down upon them hundreds of people gather, whether club members or not, climbing from all directions to the memorial on the summit to pay their respects. Even outwith the service it has a poignant setting.

In the grounds of St Olaf's, beside the lane to Sty Head, amongst those of from the local communities, are head stones recording the passing of a few of those folk who have perished on the fells. A reminder if any is needed of the seriousness of the surrounding beauty.

The parking at Wasdale Head village green is currently free although this may change in 2014.