Monday, 21 May 2012

Helvellyn by the edges

Helvellyn via Striding Edge and Swirral Edge is a classic route. I've finally managed to get around to doing it again, and with glorious weather forecast, it was up at Sparrow f@rt to get an early start on one of the lake districts busiest routes.

Just had to stop and grab this dawn over the Langdale Pikes from Low Wood Hotel just outside of Ambleside. It's the only problem driving through on mornings like this, they all look sooo tempting!!
I was setting off from Patterdale today at the end of Ullswater, and despite the sunshine it was a chilly 2 deg as I left the car. Looking up Grisedale valley to Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon Pike - Helvellyn is just out of shot on the right from here.
A brief detour on the way to join our path for this view down Ullswater - and disturbing the locals at breakfast!
A 360 deg turn from the pic above shows our path today above the trees. You can just make out a feint track heading from middle right to the dip top left. Was now in shorts and tee shirts at 8am.
A view up the Grisedale valley to the same peaks mentioned before, simply stunning!
We start to climb along the fell side now, and St Sunday crag begins to dominate on the left.
Probably one of the most well know gaps in the lakes, it's on the map and is simply called 'the hole in the wall'. Doesn't Cumbrian imagination really amaze you!! This is the gateway to the plateau that hosts the Helvellyn range of hills
Our first view of Helvellyn as we come through the gap. Our path here heads left to High Spying How, and the start of Striding Edge ridge.
Our first view of Striding Edge, the ridge on the left catching the early morning sun.
The start of the ridge. SE is classed as a grade 2 scramble but becomes a grade 1 in winter as it is treacherous with ice on it. It's popularity means that the rock is polished smooth and with rain or ice on it, it becomes a much more difficult proposition. Conditions today were perfect though, dry rock and no wind, lovely!
The Dixon memorial erected in 1858 to Robert Dixon who fell to his death from the edge. Many people miss this as it's tucked away - a stark reminder to folk starting the ridge..
Taken by a couple who were on here with me, they agreed to let me take pics of them on the crossing to give it some scale... breath in.... click.
Further along the ridge now. Bright blue skies ahead, the factor 25 appled earlier was beginning to wash off with the sweat!! Lovely..
A glance down and across reveals Red Tarn and Catstyecam, our final peak of the day. Look how blue the water is! Amazing.
Michael and his sister (sorry never caught her name) forging ahead across the ridge. He was up visiting from Kent visting her in Keswick. Lovely folk who I walked the 2nd half of the round with, excellent company.
A glance back from where we've come - High Spying How the distant pimple. We were the only folk on here, which was fab. Later on I counted at least 30 people making there way across.
Looking at the final steep climb to the top from the 'chimney' the awkward climb at the end of the ridge.
It ws still quite hazy for far reaching views, bit a good view of the ridge from the climb to the top. the chimney is the shaded rocks in the center. There is an alternative path below the ridge for the not so confident walkers and the chimney can be by passed on the right looking from here.
A boot-iful view showing SE, Red tarn and Catstycam in the distance.
From the top without those tree trunks...
A large memorial to the Manchester artist Charles Gough stands above Striding Edge, close to the summit of Helvellyn, seen in the distance. In the spring of 1805 he slipped on ice from a sharp rock and fell to his death from here. The story of his faithful dog, which remained watching over its master's body for three months until it was discovered by a shepherd near Red Tarn, was later immortalised in the poem 'Fidelity' by Wordsworth and by Sir Walter Scott.
The view across a deserted summit of Helvellyn. I had timed this pretty well, as people were beginning to appear from all over as we descended.
Hazy view across to the distant fells. It was delightful up here, just a gentle breeze to cool you off. I had thought about heading across towards Nethermost Pike and St Sunday crag, but to be honest, it was just too hot and the thought of a paddle in Red Tarn was so inviting!!
I headed across to Swirral Edge, and a glance down into the bowl below housing Red Tarn. can you see a similarity to a cartoon character from a comic book? Clue - DD.
Michael and his sister at the cairn which marks the drop off to the right from here to join Swirral Edge. Still hazy in the distance.
A quick look back at our descent. Swirral Edge is a shorter and less challenging route than SE, but in winter and wet condition care still needs to be taken. Two people tragically fell to their deaths from here last winter.
One final steep climb to reach the summit of Catstycam.
A look back towards Helvellyn just short of the top (any excuse to stop and have a rest!).
Ullswater appears in the distance from the summit.
A direct descent straight down towards Red Tarn. You can just make out a group heading up, there were many big parties out today, I'm guessing from some of the outwards bound centers.
A sparkling Red Tarn.
Looking down the tarn - now that's what I call an infinity pool!!
A couple of ants making their way across SE.
Beautiful across a near flat calm Red tarn.
.. and again...
...and again...
...and again... This could go on for a while, so I'll finish with this one. It was simply amazing sat here. I had my butties and a wee paddle, life doesn't get much better than this :))
Eventually it was time to go, and I glanced back to see this chap just stood drinking it all in.
A last lingering look back before reaching the hole in the wall. As I reached the gap, a chap and his family were heading towards SE, he was carry two supermarket carrier bags, one in each hand! I nearly went round agian just to watch how he was going to manage!! Some folk do amaze you at times.
Looking down towards Patterdale from the descent. I chatted to a bloke from devon here who was returning to conquer SE after an aborted attempt when he was 13 - 48 years ago!! Fantastic story and shows how once this place gets in your blood you can't let it go.
Place Fell over the pines as we near the bottom again.
As I headed back to the car I called in at St Patricks church to capture the graveyard full of these dwarf daffs. It really gives it a wonderful peaceful look, especially on days like today.
Finally back at the car and I managed to resist teh tempation of popping in... I'd still have been there now if I had! I think I'm right in saying the small shop on the left was where Wainwright first sold his walking guides from.

Helvellyn 3117ft and Catsycam 2920ft and a loop of about 8 miles.

A classic route and was great to reaquaint myself with after many years.

I met and chatted to some great folk today to help make it a thoroughly enjoyable day out - and then to top it all Everton beat Sunderland in the FA Cup Smile)

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