Thursday 15 September 2016

A Wander Over Helvellyn


A few weeks ago on a brief trip down south to the Lake District I spent a blustery sunny day walking over Helvellyn, a hill I haven't climbed for many, many years. I'd forgotten how its central position gives such wonderful spacious views over the Lake District and beyond to the Pennine hills, the Solway Firth and more.

The Vale of Keswick, Skiddaw and the distant Solway Firth
Our way into the fells led up through the old Greenside Lead Mine, which closed in 1962 but which in the 1940s was the largest producer of lead ore in Britain. Today the signs of the mining are slowly fading on the scarred hillsides. Climbing steeply beside Sticks Gill we entered the wide and long upper valley of that stream and followed the path to Sticks Pass on the main south-north Helvellyn ridge. This is surprisingly quiet country for the Lake District, without many people about even on a sunny August day.

View over the Greenside Mine to Glenridding and Ullswater

This changed abruptly as we reached the summit of Helvellyn. Suddenly there were people everywhere, most coming from the direction of Striding Edge. After gazing at the vast views we debated going down that rocky ridge but decided that the numbers of people meant progress would be very slow. There aren't many places you can easily pass others. Instead we went down the shorter Swirral Edge, along with many others, and then down to the foot of Red Tarn.

View down to Red Tarn and Ullswater

Crossing below Catstycam we lost most of the people and also the wind, making it a hot final walk back to the cars. As we took out last steps I thought of many previous trips on this fine big hill. Swooping along it on skis on a snowy day, skittering down an icy Swirral edge with crampons and ice axe, pacing a friend through the night on his Bob Graham Round, bivvying on the summit to watch the midsummer sunrise. It was good to return.

Looking back to Catstycam

1 comment:

  1. As good walking country as to be found anywhere? Your description of skiing the tops, skittering down Swirral Edge with axe and crampons, pacing on the Bob Graham round, the hot descent sums up what this range offers year round. Popular yes, and justifiably so. I'm currently in the Pyrenees, but looking forward to a return to the wonderfully accessible Lakeland fells.