Friday 20 February 2009

Helvellyn via Striding Edge July 2006

I started this walk from the village car park at Patterdale. I headed down the main road turning left up a lane just before the stream. The lane headed upwards passing through woods before reaching the open valley. Crossing the bridge over the stream, the path started to traverse the lower slopes of Birkhouse Moor. It had started to rain at this point, and the summits of the Helvellyn range of fells were covered in cloud.

It seemed a long haul up this path before reaching the "gap-in-the-wall". This was a stile at the top of the ridge joining Birkhouse Moor with Striding Edge and the summit plateau of Helvellyn itself. From here I got a good view of Red Tarn, Swirral Edge and Catstycam as I passed the gap in the wall and headed towards Striding Edge. I made the mistake of taking the path which bypassed the top of Low Spying How at the start of the ridge walk. As such I ended up missing some impressive parts of the ridge. It was not until I reached the middle of Striding Edge that I actually scrambled onto the top of the ridge itself. It was still very wet and misty as I progressed along. Before long I approached the far end of the ridge and the final ascent onto Helvellyn itself. As I waited to descend the rock chimney at the end of the ridge, I got chance to look around. Although it was misty I could see the steep ascent of Helvellyn ahead of me which looked awesome, and to my left I looked down into a misty Nethermost Cove. Once I descended the chimney, I started the scramble up to the summit plateau of Helvellyn. This was very steep and the loose rocks made the going somewhat difficult. The mist got thicker as I ascended.

Once at the top I made my way past the summit shelter and looked for the summit cairn in thick mist. After I found it, I returned to the shelter to eat some lunch. Because of the mist there were only fleeting glimpses of what would have been spectacular views towards the east over Ullswater. However, on the western side of Helvellyn, the weather was starting to clear, and I could see something of the central fells.

My next destination was Grisedale Tarn on the other side of Dollywaggon Pike. As I set off I noticed the cloud swirling above Nethermost Cove. The weather on the east of the main Helvelyn ridge was considerably different to that on the west which continued to brighten up. The path bypassed the actual summits of Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike, but not by far. In retrospect, they would have certainly been worth a visit. By the time I reached the zig zag path going down to Grisedale Tarn, the weather had completely cleared all around. It had turned into a sunny day, although there was still a strong wind.

I had not yet decided on my route back to Patterdale. It would have been easy for me to take the direct route down the Grisedale valley, but in the end I chose to walk around the tarn and ascend Fairfield returning via St Sunday Crag. It was a steep climb to the summit of Fairfield and my legs just about took me up after plenty of rests on the ascent. When I reached the plateau on the top, the views all around were very rewarding on what was now a bright fine day.

I descended the north east ridge towards Cofa Pike which involved some light scrambling. At Deepdale Hause the ridge started to rise again to St Sunday Crag. The view across the eastern side of the Helvellyn range was quite spectacular. The Striding Edge ridge was now completely clear. The north wind felt almost gale force though, with strong gusts, one of which nearly ripped the glasses off my head.

The climb to St Sunday Crag along this brilliant ridge seemed never ending due to the fatigue which I was feeling. It was a fascinating fell to which I would like to return one day soon. Eventually I reached the summit, and began the descent towards Birks and then down into Patterdale where I had began my walk. Once down in the valley there was no gale force wind which I had experienced near Deepdale Hause. The weather was now bright and warm like a typical July day. There was no suggestion of the wet windy conditions earlier in the day.

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