As a mountain instructor I get to spend some time in the mountains. One of my favorite circuits is Helvellyn in the Lake district which sits at 950mtrs, via the ridge scramble of Striding Edge – potentially one of the most popular ridge scrambles in the UK.
For people who haven’t done any scrambling before, it can be quite daunting. However, its also amazingly rewarding. If the ridge itself is too scary, then there is a bypass track below it to also get you to the summit without the fear of the ridge. Great summer scrambling, but be extra careful in winter unless you are prepared and know what you are doing.
From Glenridding, head west along Greenside Road passing the Traveller’s Rest Inn on the right. A short distance after the pub, the road forks – head left towards the campsite, over the bridge and up through a gate in the drystone wall. Once through the wall meander you way slowly up Mires Beck until you reach the saddle between the two peaks. Turn right and zig zag upto the top of Birkhouse Moor – a wainwright.
The path will reach a rock outcrop at the eastern end of Striding Edge – High Spying How. The exposure appears quite suddenly as you pass by the rocky tower and step out onto the ridge. From this vantage point, the view of Striding Edge and Helvellyn is immense. Below to the right is the bowl of Red Tarn while down to the left is the wild Nethermost Cove.
Striding Edge is best tackled by keeping to the crest. There are no specific directions here other than to follow the undulating ridge as it rises and falls on its way towards Helvellyn. Some sections may require the use of hands. There is an eroded path on the north side of the ridge if the exposure is too much to bear.
The most challenging section of Striding Edge is a descent known as ‘The Chimney’, a rock tower that requires a tricky down climb. While it may seem difficult at first, most walkers should be able to tackle it with no assistance. There are plenty of hand and footholds though keep an eye out for loose rocks.
Once over The Chimney you will be in a depression between Striding Edge and Helvellyn itself. Take a break here before making the final scramble up onto Helvellyn’s summit plateau. The slopes here are heavily eroded so take care with loose rocks. After some steep climbing you’ll emerge onto Helvellyn, passing the memorial to Charles Gough who, in 1805, slipped from a rock and died.
Once on the plateau, pass the cross shaped wind shelter and follow the path uphill to Helvellyn’s summit plateau – so flat that, in 1938, Bert Hinkler landed a small plane on it. The summit is marked by the cairn whereas the focal point of the plateau is the familiar OS trig pillar.
The very best way to continue this walk is by descending Swirral Edge, another steep, exposed scramble in a similar vein to Striding Edge but shorter and more hands on.
Once off Swirral, stay right and head down towards Red Tarn, and follow the path back down the valley to Glenridding.
A fantastic day out – not for the faint hearted – but well worth the effort.
If you wish to join me on a mountain day, please get in touch on 07534 387152 or using the links below;