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Climbing Helvellyn guide

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A complete guide to Climbing Helvellyn - Lake District National Park

The Lake District is a region made up of huge lakes and the tallest mountains in England. Moreover, the region is famous for housing Helvellyn Summit, the third highest point in England. Helvellyn is also the wettest area and the most populous nature park in the whole of the UK. 

Helvellyn - red tarn

Additionally, in 2017, Helvellyn – Lake District National Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is simply the perfect place to go hiking in the UK. Want to know everything about Helvellyn?. If so, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s Start!

Which is the best way to climb Helvellyn mountain?

For the British, Helvellyn is one of their favorite destinations. Moreover, in 2018, it was voted as the best walk in Great Britain. Located on the Scottish border, the Helvellyn Summit is full of grandiose landscapes. It is the perfect place for family trips and hiking lovers. 

Furthermore, Helvellyn includes three deep glacial coves. It also houses Striding and Swirral Edge, two sharp edges that lie on the east side. Additionally, to climb Helvellyn’s Summit, there are 3 roads that I will explain in the following lines. 

For my part, I chose the Swirls Car Park to Helvellyn route via Browncove Crags. Anyway, no more chatter, let’s discover together the 3 best methods to climb Helvellyn – Lake District National Park.

From Ullswater information center:

Via Striding Edge:

This edge is a narrow area linking the summit ridge of Birkhouse Moor to Helvellyn’s summit. Despite the average altitude of Helvellyn, if you are used to easy hikes, be aware that the Striding Edge path has certain difficulties. For instance, rocky paths and cold and stormy weather. So, I urge you to take your precautions! 

Additionally, the facilities along the striding Edge path are limited to nonexistent, so walkers should be physically and mentally prepared. 

In my mind, there is no doubt about the path’s beauty, however, the short descent onto the start of Swirral Edge exposes the hikers to a real problem. Particularly in winter conditions, when it becomes lethally slippery.

Helvellyn - Striding Edge

Besides its hardship, the Striding Edge path is full of incredible views over Ullswater. This route also offers a unique scramble and climb to the top. The Striding Edge walk starts from the Holl in the Wall. 

It is one of the most mesmerizing natural scenes in England. The hole in the wall is a gap in an incredibly steep dry stone. The path stretches for more than 1.5 km to the Helvellyn summit. Long ago, The Hole in the Wall was a gap in the stone wall at the top of the ridge. 

Today, the void has been filled and a ladder post crosses the wall. There you will find a relatively rounded part of the ridge. It presents a solid path along the right side. However, that changes when you reach High Spying How.

Helvellyn - Striding Edge

It is the highest point of the ridge with 863 m. At this point, you will find a narrow path that continues near the top of the ridge. Moreover, the latter becomes more and more narrow. 

If you continue to your right until near the end of the ridge you will have to descend a short ravine from the last rocky tower. 

Once you get to this point the ridge connects with the main Helvellyn – Lake District massif. To reach the top you will have to do a steep walk or climb the Abyss. 

It is a rocky field that was discovered by the author of a series of mountain guides between 1940 and 1960. After climbing the Abyss, only 200m will separate you from the summit.

Helvellyn - Striding-Edge

Concerning Striding Edge’s wonderful views, you should know that this itinerary allows you to discover the head of the valley and the peaks of St Sundays Crag and Dollywaggon Pike. As far as I’m concerned, I believe the walk on the Striding Edge is wonderful. 

However, if you have vertigo, you should know that there is a small path that follows on the slope after the Hole on the Wall. 

At the end of the ridge, continue on the path straight ahead to reach the hole in the wall. Then follow the wall on the left. You will come to the descent, it is steep, but you will quickly reach the bottom.

Via Swirral Edge:

The second way to climb Helvellyn begins at the Glenridding car park which you reach by skirting Lake Ullswater. I strongly advise you to take advantage of the view and the typical small roads around. 

After, you will cross the valley of Red Tarn Beck. So far, it’s a fairly leisurely climb with a view of the old dam that was destroyed by flooding. If you want to avoid this stop, you can cross the river and go up a quieter path. Moreover, you will quickly feel the drop in height at your feet when you cross Lake Red Tarn.

Helvellyn - Swirral Edge

In this area, the land is flat, so you will not need to exert a great deal of physical effort. Furthermore, you will find yourself at the foot of Helvellyn. The latter is the sharpest peak in the Lake District National Park. It is a great area to have a picnic and take a break before the ridge attack. 

Also, take the time to see people tightrope walking on the ridges around the summit. The climb to Swirral Edge is on the side of the mountain, not too steep but watch out for stones! Once on the ridge, you can (if you have time) take a ride on the Catstye Cam and take in the great views it offers. 

Also, note that the end of the ridge requires a bit of climbing in the rocks. It’s not rock climbing yet, but the path lacks equipment, so be careful! I advise you to wear good shoes and hydrate yourself along the way. 

Helvellyn - Swirral Edge

Additionally, watch out for people above you who could drop rocks. Also, the rocks remain very slippery so try to hold your footsteps well. After this stage, you will finally reach Helvellyn’s top. 

It is about a 500m flat field which offers a nice view of the Red Tarn, Lake Ullswater, and the other peaks all around. If you don’t want to go all the way to the top, you can join the return path by going to the left of the lake via the famous Hole in the Wall. 

Furthermore, if you suffer from vertigo, I advise you to rest well before taking the road to descend. You will descend the rocks towards the ridge, it holds well under your feet, but don’t forget your precautions anyway. 

Additionally, on your way back, you’ll pass by the coves covering Swirral Edge. There, you can admire the rocks of Helvellyn Tuff. It is a series of pyroclastic flows. Moreover, this Helvellyn tuff is only found in the fault limits of the caldera.

From Swirrals Car Park to Helvellyn via Browncove Crags:

The last itinerary is Swirrals Car Park to Helvellyn via Browncove Crags. It is the one I did since it’s an average difficulty path. The climb lasts 2 hours, you can access it via the notorious A591 road by the Thirlmere lake.

Swirrals Car Park - Helvellyn

The A591 is a famous road that runs through the Lake District National Park. It is also the most popular road in the UK. By taking the A591, you will pass by several splendid places. Among these, you will find Windermere, Ambleside, White Moss Common, Dunmail Raise, and Thirlmere lake. 

Regarding the latter, it is a sizable reservoir supplying water for Manchester. This touristic place surrounds the mighty Helvellyn falls. Additionally, Thirlmere is one of the first mesmerizing landscapes in the Helvellyn – Lake District. Thirlmere Lake is also the dividing point between the north and south Lake District National Park.

Climbing Helvellyn - Stairs

Concerning the A591 road, it turns up the west bank of Thirlmere lake and crosses Stockhow Bridge. Immediately after crossing the bridge, you’ll pass by a parking area. You can either stop there or carry it until Dobgil Bridge. 

Once you’ll cross the bridge, you will be at the Swirrals Car Parking area. From there, the trail starts. You’ll see a signed trail leading uphill. It goes through a gate set into a stone wall. Then, you’ll go steeply through Helvellyn’s woodland. As you climb you can catch glimpses of Thirlmere lake below you.

View of Thirlmere from Browncove Crags, Helvellyn

From the beginning of this path, you’ll be amazed by the natural beauties of the region. You’ll have a great sight on Gill waterfalls. They are located in a beautiful woodland zone stretching west from the western bank of Thirlmere lake. 

Reaching Gill waterfalls is relatively easy. Additionally, very few people know about the Gill waterfalls, which makes it a great place for a stopover without being surrounded by hundreds of tourists.

Climbing Helvellyn

Once at the top, you can get a beautiful glimpse of Red Tarn. With 718 meters (2,356 feet) in height and a depth of 25 meters (82 feet), Red Tarn is considered one of the highest in the Helvellyn- Lake District. Additionally, the Red tarn’s wall rises 300 meters (1,000 feet) to the Helvellyn’s Summit. Furthermore, the Tarn’s formation began when the glacier in the eastern side of Helvellyn’s Summit had melted. 

Helvellyn Top

Additionally, the Red Tarn is nourished by numerous streams and in the nineteenth century, it was used to supply power to the Greenside Lead Mine. At the top, you’ll also get the opportunity to admire Herdwick sheep, Ravens, Buzzards, Skylarks, Wheatears, Peregrine Falcons, and Ringlet butterflies. The latter is Britain’s only alpine species of butterfly. 

As much as the climb is “Easy” and full of natural wonders, be aware that the weather can change quickly and it can become very windy at the top. So to avoid any unwanted situation, I urge you to wear Hiking shoes or special running shoes. Additionally, I suggest you equip yourself with Jackets or leather gloves and even winter hats. Also, water and some food are highly recommended.

Conclusion

Helvellyn is undoubtedly one of the best natural and touristic places in Great Britain. With mesmerizing landscapes, rich history, and luxurious fauna and flora, Helvellyn charms every visitor. There are numerous climbing paths to reach Helvellyn’s summit. If you are in a hurry, I recommend the “Swirrals Car Park to Helvellyn via Browncove Crags” route. It is the one I took. 

However, if you are an adventurous and experienced mountain climber, then, you can go for the other two paths, namely: Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. I hope now you have a clearer idea about Helvellyn and that you’re ready to climb its summit. Additionally, let me know how was your experience there. I look forward to reading your comments!

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