Helvellyn, a very Scandinavian sounding name to me, standing at 949 meters (3113 feet) is England’s third highest peak after Scafell Pike and Scafell. The Helvellyn massif was originally formed volcanically around 450 million years ago. The shape of Helvellyn as it is known today was formed from several glacial valleys. One of these glaciers formed what we know as Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. This naturally occurring terrain makes for some interesting challenges, and a lot of fun.
The walk begins at the car park in Glenridding. This car park used to be great, but someone in their wisdom decided that they should use the ‘Park with Ease’ company and their car registration recognition system. There have been issues with this system for a few people when I’ve looked on the Internet. My advice is to make sure you return before the Information Centre in the car park closes and pay their in the shop. Once paid, you have 10 minutes to leave the car park, or you may receive a fine from ‘Park with Ease’.
From the car park follow the road south towards the village of Patterdale. Immediately after Grisedale Bridge you well see a road off to the right with a sign at its entrance that says ‘Lane to Grisedale’. Follow this lane which leads to the head of Grisedale valley.
Approximately half a mile up the lane there is a smaller lane leading off to the right to Brownend Plantation and up onto the start of the walk up Helvellyn proper.
The path up east side of Helvellyn is pretty much a steady plod. Initially it seems like no progress is being made with St Sunday Crag, off to your left, a constant companion.
The plod eventually reaches a run of steps that lead right up to the stile known as ‘The Hole in the Wall’. Reaching The Hole in the Wall provides you with your first view of Helvellyn proper and a glimpse of Striding Edge.
Taking the path that heads slightly off to the left leads up to and on to Bleaberry Crag, the start point of Striding Edge.
Looking back at this point reveals Birkhouse Moor with Ullswater just visible in the distance and Birk Fell blocking the view of the Lake slightly.
Head further up the path and Red Tarn can be seen in the bottom of what almost appears to be the caldera of a volcano.
Initially you climb onto Bleaberry Crag, onto Low Spying How and High Spying How and then across Striding Edge proper which is an experience hard to put into words. A 300 feet drop on your right and an 800 feet drop on your left, enough to keep your mind on the job at hand. The rocky sections range from 12 inches to maybe around 18 inches wide on the very tops. There is scope for anyone overly nervous to step off to the sides, but there is still risk involved. (Like other scrambles I’ve done and written about, if you want to give it a try, it’s your responsibility. I’m hopefully giving people an idea of what is involved and what can be gained from the experience. As mentioned in previous posts, I would advise going with someone experienced, or do a scrambling course if you aren’t sure.)
There is a steep route down off Striding Edge to a small col between it and the final scramble up. At this point I chose to take the route down to the left as to me the right hand route looked more exposed. Climbing down facing out was pretty straight forward.
From the small col there is a scramble up over a rock outcrop around 50 feet high and then onto a steep path up onto the top of Helvellyn. On this path is an ideal opportunity to take a photograph of Striding Edge and take in what you have just managed to accomplish.
The summit of Helvellyn is off to the right once you have completed the scramble up. Close by is the memorial to Charles Gough who died on Helvellyn in 1805. He took a fall on Striding Edge while walking across with his dog and was found several months later. The story goes that although Charles was dead, his dog was still with his body looking pretty much okay. So I suppose Charles kept his dog alive, even after his ending. Something to keep in mind when you are crossing Striding Edge.
The summit of Helvellyn is an amazing place with so many opportunities for photographs and a shelter just off the summit if the weather is particularly fowl.
For me, my route off Helvellyn was down Swirral Edge, not narrow like Striding Edge, but in some ways just as risky due to the fairly loose surface. Once the path starts to level out I took the route of down to Red Tarn.
From the Tarn it was a pretty straight forward walk along the path that follows Red Tarn Beck and then Glenridding Beck back to Glenridding village.
All in all a brilliant walk and scramble in breath taking surroundings. And for me, something ticked off my bucket list. If you want to get into scrambling then this link may be a good start, some good videos: