Drawing 5: Napes Needle, Great Gable

Direction of view: SE

Notes: The viewpoint is the “Dress Circle” above Needle Gully.  A wide angle lens (24mm) is required to replicate the sketch.

This scene appears in four other locations in Wainwright’s work: page Great Gable 12 in The Western Fells, and in Lakeland Mountain Drawings (88), Memoirs of a Fellwanderer (p198), and Wainwright in Lakeland (p118).  It appears that the drawing in Memoirs of a Fellwanderer has been taken from the same original drawing as that in A Lakeland Sketchbook, but reproduced at a smaller size.

Comments:   I first took this photo on slide film on 26th May 1992, on a walk with Peter Messenger (image 1).  My diary describes it as “a classic summer mountain day: shorts and T-shirts for rocky scrambling to the tops, grand views of fells and lakes, fresh green colours and uninterrupted sunshine”.  We did the walk described in the book “Classic Walks”, and photographed no less than 11 sketches.  We scrambled up to the base of the Needle and watched two climbers on it.

I first took this photo on digital on 17th June 2013, on a walk around the “Gable Girdle” with Anne Setright (see Drawing 347 for an account of this day).  There were some climbers descending, and others preparing to go up.  A lively scene, despite the overcast sky.  We both enjoyed the scramble involved in getting to the viewpoint at the Dress Circle.  My photo from that day is not shown here, because…

…I later got a better picture: Image 2 was taken on 6th July 2019, on a visit to the Needle with Peter Messenger (see Drawing 135 for an account of that day).  From the Dress Circle, I made a rather tricky traverse and descent to reach Little Hell Gate near Sphinx Rock.  I thought this would be easier than descending Needle Gully and traversing round.  It wasn’t.

As Wainwright says, there had been forays amongst the crags before Walter Parry Haskett-Smith solo climbed Napes Needle in 1886, but his achievement is usually considered to mark the birth of rock-climbing as a sport.  Fifty years later, he made a Jubilee ascent at the age of 74.  One of the watching crowd shouted up to him “Tell us a story!”, to which he replied, “This is the top storey”.  An Oxford graduate and a barrister, he died aged 85, shortly after the end of the Second World War.