Helvellyn is synonymous with not just Patterdale and Glenridding, but with the Lake District and fell walking as a whole. It is a big, exciting mountain that entices walkers to climb to the vast summit and traverse the knife-edge arête, Striding Edge.
It is one of the big three mountains that guests in our self catering cottages dream about climbing, a favourite that people return to year after year.
Traditionally, Helvellyn was the boundary between Cumberland and Westmorland. Helvellyn is third highest hill in the Lake District, a truly enormous mountain. It’s satellite fells stretch from Clough Head in the north, to Dollywagon Pike in the south, over 8 miles in length. The mammoth bulk of the range divides east and west in a similar fashion to the way the Scafells divide the north and south Lake District.
Wainwright details no fewer that 14 possible routes of direct ascent – 7 from the west and 7 from the east, not to mention the routes of ascents from the satellite fells. He writes affectionately about the fell, describing it as a friendly giant with a long history full of legend and romance.
Striding Edge and Swirral Edge are crucial features of the mountain. Crags and scree fall away to the valley floor below and a route over the crest of the rock provides and exhilarating walk. Striding Edge is far by the most famous, a feature most visitors to the Lake District have heard of.
A word of caution however. If you do not have a head for heights, then do not attempt to cross Striding or Swirral Edge. Although there are options to traverse the ridge on a lower path, a fall from here could be fatal. In poor conditions such as low cloud, rain, high wind or ice and snow, then it should not be attempted. In fine clear conditions, crossing the ridge is exhilarating. The ridge will always be there and the feeling of conquering it is unbeatable. Save it for a fine day and savour it.
One of the most common routes to the top is from Glenridding or Patterdale via the Hole-in-the-Wall and of course taking in Striding Edge. The great views from the summit of Helvellyn are extensive. You can see practically every mountain range in the Lake District and possibly the largest number of fell tops. You can also climb the mountain from Thirlmere, a much quieter route on a steady climb and best for those who do not fancy the edges.
Red Tarn glistens below the summit, situated beneath a sheer wall of crags that holds a huge cornice of snow and ice in the winter. It is a great place to linger a while and eat your lunch or just savour the scene. From the tarn you can see the pointy top of Catsycam and Swirral Edge.
We have several cottages suitably located for climbing Helvellyn from the east or west. Try Ullswater for approaches via the edges or St John’s in the Vale, Threlkeld and Keswick for quiet western routes. In fact two of our cottages Elm How and Cruck Barn are located directly opposite Striding Edge in the Grisedale Valley. Or browse through all of our Lake District cottages with a Cottage Search.