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Helvellyn

 
   

 

© Gareth James

 

 

Height: 950m (3,117ft) GPS: NY 34167 15158 Walking Routes

Helvellyn is a mountain in the English Lake District, the apex of the Eastern Fells. At 950 metres (3,117 ft) above sea level, it is the third highest peak in both the Lake District and England.

The peak of Helvellyn is the highest on the north-south ridge situated between the Thirlmere valley to the west, and Patterdale to the east. This ridge continues north over Helvellyn Lower Man, White Side, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Great Dodd and Clough Head, and south leads to Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike.

The eastern side of the fell is geographically the most dramatic. Two sharp arÍtes lead off the summit, Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, either side of Red Tarn. The knife-edged Striding Edge provides one of the best-known scrambles in Lakeland, while the Swirral Edge ridge leads to the conical summit of Catstye Cam.


Nestling between the encircling arms of Helvellyn's two edges, is Red Tarn. This pool is named for the colour of the surrounding screes rather than its water, and contains brown trout and schelly, a fresh-water herring. The depth of Red Tarn is now about 80 feet (25m), although in the mid 1800s it was dammed with boulders to increase capacity. This was carried out to provide additional water to the Greenside lead mine in Glenridding, the water race still visible as it crosses the slope of Birkhouse Moor.


A second tarn once existed in Brown Cove between Swirral Edge and Lower Man, but this is now reduced to a couple of small pools widening the stream. Brown Cove Tarn was another creation of the Greenside mine, a stone faced dam being built in about 1860. The dam is still in place but water now leaks through the base, the extended tarn-bed a smooth patch of luxuriant turf. A water leat passing beneath the north face of Catstye Cam to Red Tarn Beck can still be traced although it is now in ruins.Water from Brown Cove and Red Tarn unites at the beyond Catstye Cam to form Glenridding Beck, flowing on through the village to Ullswater.

The western slopes are relatively shallow, and partially forested, with many gills leading down to the Thirlmere valley
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The summit of Helvellyn takes the form of a broad plateau about 500 metres (1,640 ft) long. The highest point is marked by a cairn and a cross-shaped dry stone shelter; to the north is an Ordnance Survey trig point, a little lower than the summit at 949 m (3,114 ft).

There is a subsidiary top, Helvellyn Lower Man, about a third of a mile to the north-west. Its summit is small compared to the plateau of Helvellyn and offers better views north-westwards, as the ground falls steeply away from it on this side.

According to Ordnance Survey maps there is a bridleway along the full length of the Helvellyn range taking in a number of Wainwrights. This can be traversed by mountain bike and the usual route is South to North starting from Mill Bridge. This challenging six hour circular route is 16 miles off road and 10 on road.

Striding Edge is a classic scrambling route on Helvellyn, linking the summit ridge of Birkhouse Moor to Helvellyn's summit by what becomes a sharp arÍte.

Striding Edge begins at Hole-in-the-Wall and then stretches for over a mile to the Helvellyn summit plateau. The initial part of the ridge is relatively rounded and has a good path running along the right hand side. This all changes upon reaching High Spying How which at 863 m (2,831 ft) is the highest point on the ridge. At this point a narrow path continues closely to the top of the ridge which becomes increasingly narrow. Scramblers however will move to the top of the ridge and walk at the very top of the arÍte.

The side path continues until near the end of the ridge where it switches over to the left hand side. Scramblers are forced to descend a short gully down the last tower on the ridge. At this point the ridge joins to the main Helvellyn massif. All that remains is a walk/scramble up loose rocky terrain to reach the summit plateau around two hundred metres from the summit. Typically a cornice will form here in the winter and can represent the most dangerous part of the hike.


S
triding Edge is a notorious accident spot among hikers and scramblers. Conditions on the ridge in early 2008 were described as the worst in 30 years by fell top assessor Craig Palmer. In winter conditions the climb from Striding Edge up to the summit plateau can involve an icy traverse of a dangerous cornice. Without an ice axe or crampons this presents a serious obstacle. Two walkers died after falling from the ridge in separate incidents in the following weeks.Another walker died after falling from Striding Edge in May 2008.

 
Walking routes near Helvellyn
 

 

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