Drawing 382: The summit of Great End

Direction of view: WNW

Notes: The summit cairns are now much less impressive than those illustrated by AW.  The fine cairn he shows in his sketch was gone in the late 1970s, as a picture by Peter Messenger establishes. The foreground rocks are identifiable.

Comments: The summit of Great End is a fine place to be: AW located no fewer than 5 sketches from there, and all of them are suitable for taking in afternoon sunlight.  My first visit to enjoy this bonanza was on 5th November 2012 (see Drawing 360 for full account).  Glorious late afternoon light on new snow; but that same snow was deep, and made progress laborious, and the tops of the gullies potentially dangerous.  This picture was taken then, with the shadows lengthening.

The summit cairn (as it was, and without the rest of the sketch) appears on page 50 of Fellwanderer, and on page 125 of Memoirs of a Fellwanderer.

In a letter to his friend Eric Maudsley, Wainwright wrote: “future generations, when they think of Wordsworth and Southey and Coleridge and de Quincey, will think of Wainwright also”. Although he never published any poetry, Wainwright was certainly capable of very evocative prose.  In the Great End chapter of The Southern Fells, AW wrote: “When mist wreathes the summit, and clings like smoke in the gullies, when ravens soar above the lonely crags, when snow lies deep and curtains of ice bejewel the gaunt cliffs, then Great End is indeed an impressive sight.  Sunshine never mellows this grim scene, but only adds harshness.  This is the true Lakeland of the fellwalker, the sort of terrain that calls him back time after time, the sort of memory that haunts his long winter exile.  It is not the pretty places – the flowery lanes of Grasmere or Derwentwater’s wooded bays – that keep him restless in his bed; it in the magnificent ones.  Places like Great End….”