(By way of background, in the 1920s members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club purchased a considerable area of the high fells around Great Gable and erected a a bronze tablet dedicated to, and naming, FRCC members who had died in the Great War. Geoffrey Winthrop Young addressed several hundred people at the original dedication and annually since then the two minutes silence on Remembrance Sunday has been observed at the summit by the FRCC with a welcome extended to anyone who wishes to attend. The event has become a strong tradition and, even in the harsh weather conditions that can occur at nearly 3,000 feet in November, it is attended by hundreds of walkers each year.)
Early on the morning of Saturday 12 November, I decided on the spur of the moment to drive from the midlands to Cumbria, stay overnight, then observe Sunday's act of remembrance at the annual ceremony on Great Gable. This was something I had contemplated but had never got round to doing.
I made a last-minute booking into a Travelodge near the M6 and drove to Cumbria on Saturday afternoon. Anxious to be at the summit in good time, I awoke before dawn on Sunday, packed the car, and checked out early. As there was so little traffic at that hour on a Sunday I arrived at Seathwaite earlier than I'd anticipated. Rather to my surprise, I found empty parking places right by the farmyard so I started walking by about 7.15 which allowed very generous time to get to the summit. In fact, even at an easy pace and with a sit-down stop for a snack and cup of coffee at the Styhead MRT stretcher box, it was only 9.45 when I arrived at the memorial atop Great Gable.
There had a been very few walkers on the path from Seathwaite to Stockley Bridge but more started to appear as I approached Styhead Tarn. Nonetheless there fewer people walking than the throng I had imagined. So I was slightly surprised by the number of tents pitched around the tarn - last time I passed there had been one tent. On this ocassion, however, it looked as crowded as a summer campsite and nearly as busy. There were little knots of campers chatting, others brewing up, others striking camp. Passing the tarn, I sat in the lee of the MRT stretcher box, made a coffee and ate breakfast while watching the activity around the tarn. Then, bolstered by the break, I stomped up the well-trodden path straight up the flank of the hill to the summit.
The weather was more-or-less as forecast - dry, mild, patchy sun with cloud lifting from the summits - although luckily the wind turned out less strong than predicted so there was no buffetting. I very rarely carry a camera when walking but, given the clear forecast and the special ocassion, I took my SLR up the hill.
Once at the top, the hour or so's wait passed quickly. From about 10.15 onwards, streams of walkers began arriving from all points of the compass and as the views opened out below the rising cloud cover so there was plenty of intrest. There was a sense of unity among the assembly and lots of people to chat to. I guesstimate there were between about 350 and 500 people present though it wasn't easy to judge accurately.
To be continued...