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HomeHikingThe Ultimate Guide to Walking Helvellyn (+OS Map Routes)
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The Ultimate Guide to Walking Helvellyn (+OS Map Routes)

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Helvellyn isn’t just another peak in the Lake District; it’s a beacon for hikers who seek more than just a walk in the hills. Standing proudly as the third-highest mountain in England, Helvellyn offers a unique blend of breathtaking views, exhilarating climbs, and a sense of achievement that resonates long after you’ve descended.

It’s not just a mountain; it’s a rite of passage for many outdoor enthusiasts in the UK.

This guide aims to give you all you need to tackle Helvellyn – from the easiest trails to the more challenging routes like Striding Edge. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a first-timer looking to conquer new heights, Helvellyn promises an adventure that’s as rewarding as it is challenging.

Helvellyn at a Glance

Nestled in the heart of the Lake District, Helvellyn stands as a formidable presence, its summit reaching 950 metres above sea level. This makes it the third-highest peak in England, a fact that adds to its allure among hikers and mountain enthusiasts. Geographically, Helvellyn lies between Thirlmere in the west and Ullswater in the east, offering panoramic views that captivate the imagination.

What sets Helvellyn apart isn’t just its height, but its historical and natural significance. It’s a mountain steeped in history, with paths trodden by adventurers for centuries. Its rugged terrain, steep ascents, and the famous Striding Edge provide a varied and thrilling hiking experience. Whether enveloped in mist or basking in sunshine, Helvellyn’s ever-changing face offers a different challenge with each visit.

Helvellyn isn’t just a peak to conquer; it’s a journey through some of the most picturesque landscapes in the UK, promising awe-inspiring views and a sense of connection with the great outdoors.

Helvellyn via Striding Edge

Walking Helvellyn

Helvellyn’s allure lies in its diverse range of routes, each offering a unique experience to the hiker. Here, we delve into the main trails leading to the summit of Helvellyn, providing essential details to help you choose your path.


Striding Edge Circular Route

  • Starting Point: The bustling village of Glenridding
  • Duration: Around 6 hours for a full circular route
  • Parking: Glenridding village offers ample parking facilities
  • Details: This iconic path is a magnet for those seeking the exhilarating challenge of Striding Edge, a renowned ridge offering a heart-pumping scramble. The route ascends steeply, revealing the beauty of Red Tarn and the eastern fells, culminating in breathtaking views from the summit.

DISTANCE

13 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

6 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

924 m

DIFFICULTY

Difficult


Thirlmere Approach via Helvellyn Gill

  • Starting Point: Swirls Car Park, nestled near Thirlmere
  • Duration: Approximately 5 hours to complete the journey
  • Parking: Available at Swirls Car Park
  • Details: A more serene path, this approach is perfect for those who enjoy a steady climb complemented by the stunning vistas of Thirlmere. It’s a great option for those seeking a quieter ascent, away from the bustling crowds.

DISTANCE

12 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

4-5 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

984 m

DIFFICULTY

Hard


Wythburn Church Route

  • Starting Point: The historical Wythburn Church
  • Duration: Typically 5-6 hours round trip
  • Parking: Adjacent car park at Wythburn Church
  • Details: This trail is a true test of stamina, climbing steeply through dense woodland before opening to expansive views. It offers a tranquil experience, away from the more frequented paths, and is a good option for solitude seekers.

DISTANCE

11 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

5 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

933 m

DIFFICULTY

Hard


Grisedale Tarn from Patterdale

  • Starting Point: The quaint village of Patterdale
  • Duration: 6-7 hours for a round trip
  • Parking: Parking facilities available in Patterdale
  • Details: Starting in Patterdale, this route unfolds through the scenic Grisedale Valley. It’s a longer walk, rich in diversity, passing by the serene Grisedale Tarn and offering varied views of the surrounding fells.

DISTANCE

19.5 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

6-7 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

1414 m

DIFFICULTY

Severe


Each route to Helvellyn’s summit brings its own adventure, challenges, and rewards. Whether you seek the thrill of a ridge walk or a quieter ascent through picturesque landscapes, Helvellyn has a path that calls to your spirit of adventure.

Striding Edge, a jewel in the crown of the Lake District, stands as a testament to the adventurous spirit of hikers.

Striding Edge

Striding Edge, a jewel in the crown of the Lake District, stands as a testament to the adventurous spirit of hikers. It’s more than just a route to the summit of Helvellyn; it’s a journey that tests your mettle and leaves you with lasting memories.

The experience of traversing Striding Edge is a blend of exhilaration and challenge. This sharp, serrated ridge, slicing through the sky, offers an adrenaline-fueled adventure. The path, while narrow and demanding, presents an unparalleled panoramic view of the surrounding fells and valleys. It’s a thrilling escapade that combines hiking with elements of scrambling, demanding agility and focus.

Striding Edge is most suited for hikers with a good head for heights and prior experience in scrambling. It’s a challenge even for the seasoned, and not advisable for those new to mountain hiking or who have a strong aversion to heights. However, for the adequately prepared and experienced, it’s a rite of passage in the Lake District.

The risks associated with Striding Edge are real and should not be underestimated. Weather conditions in this area are known for their unpredictability, and what starts as a clear day can quickly turn foggy or wet, making the ridge slippery and more hazardous. Appropriate gear, including sturdy boots and weather-appropriate clothing, is essential. Always check the local weather forecast before setting off and be prepared to turn back if conditions deteriorate.

The art of scrambling on Striding Edge involves a combination of walking and climbing, using both hands and feet to navigate the rocky terrain. It’s a skill that requires confidence in your physical abilities and judgment. Beginners should consider practising on less challenging terrain before attempting Striding Edge. There are guided tours available, offering an opportunity to tackle this route with the expertise of someone experienced.

As you navigate the ridge, take moments to absorb the stunning scenery. The views of Red Tarn below and the surrounding peaks are truly breathtaking. It’s these vistas that make Striding Edge a photographer’s haven and a hiker’s delight.

It demands respect and preparation but rewards with a sense of accomplishment and awe-inspiring views. For many, conquering Striding Edge is the highlight of their hiking adventures in the Lake District.

Winter conditions on Striding Edge, Helvellyn

How Difficult is Helvellyn?

Understanding the difficulty level of Helvellyn is crucial for a safe and enjoyable hike. This section aims to explain the challenges posed by Helvellyn and guide you in selecting the most suitable route for your experience level.

  • Comparative Difficulty: Helvellyn, while being the third highest peak in England, offers a range of routes varying in difficulty. Its challenge is not just in its height but also in the terrain and weather conditions that can change rapidly. Compared to other famous peaks like Scafell Pike and Snowdon, Helvellyn’s unique feature is the Striding Edge route, which adds an element of scrambling and exposure.
  • Routes for Beginners: For those new to mountain hiking or seeking a less strenuous experience, the Thirlmere Approach or the Wythburn Church Route are good options. These routes provide a gradual ascent, allowing hikers to enjoy the scenery without the more technical challenges of Striding Edge.
  • Routes for Experienced Hikers: Seasoned hikers may find the challenge they seek in the Red Tarn and Striding Edge route or the Grisedale Tarn path. These routes offer more strenuous climbs and, in the case of Striding Edge, a thrilling scrambling experience.
  • Weather Impact on Difficulty: Weather in the Lake District can be unpredictable and can significantly impact the difficulty of your hike. Even the easier routes can become challenging in poor weather conditions. It’s essential to check the weather forecast and be prepared with appropriate gear.
  • Physical Preparation: Regardless of the chosen route, physical fitness is key. Helvellyn’s ascent requires endurance, and even the less challenging paths can be taxing over several hours. It’s advisable to prepare with regular hiking or walking to build up stamina.
  • Mental Preparedness: Equally important is mental preparedness, especially for routes involving heights and exposure, like Striding Edge. A calm and focused mindset helps in navigating challenging sections safely.

Helvellyn offers a spectrum of challenges suitable for a variety of hikers. Assessing your physical and mental preparedness, along with careful route selection, will ensure a rewarding experience on this majestic mountain.

Helvellyn

Essential Gear

Preparing adequately for a hike up Helvellyn means packing the right gear and wearing appropriate clothing.

  • Clothing: The weather in the Lake District can be unpredictable, so layering is key. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add an insulating mid-layer, and finish with a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Remember, conditions at the summit of Helvellyn can be drastically different from those at lower elevations like Glenridding or Patterdale.
  • Footwear: Proper hiking boots are essential. They should provide good ankle support, especially if you’re tackling routes with rough terrain like Striding Edge or the paths near Dollywaggon Pike. A sturdy grip is vital for navigating rocky areas safely.
  • Backpack Essentials: In your backpack, carry a map of Helvellyn and its routes, including a detailed OS map. Include a compass or GPS device for navigation, especially useful in areas like Grisedale Tarn or around Red Tarn where visibility can be limited in bad weather.
  • Safety Gear: A whistle for emergencies, a first aid kit, and a head torch in case your walk extends into the evening are crucial. For hikes during colder months, consider carrying an ice axe and crampons, particularly if venturing near Helvellyn Lower Man or Swirral Edge.
  • Food and Water: Take enough water to stay hydrated throughout the hike and energy-rich snacks. Long walks around the Eastern Fells or the circular route to the summit can be physically demanding.
  • Other Accessories: Consider a walking pole for additional support. On clear days, sunglasses and sunscreen are advisable and always have a mobile phone for emergencies. A camera is also recommended for capturing the stunning views from the top of Helvellyn.

Remember, what you carry can make a significant difference in your hiking experience. Being well-prepared not only ensures safety but also enhances your enjoyment as you explore the diverse landscapes of Helvellyn.

Helvellyn FAQs

How high is Helvellyn? Helvellyn stands as the third highest mountain in England, reaching an elevation of 950 metres. It dominates the landscape of the Lake District, offering some of the most impressive views in the region.

Where is Helvellyn? Located in the heart of the Lake District National Park, Helvellyn lies between the valleys of Thirlmere to the west and Ullswater to the east. It’s easily accessible from nearby villages like Glenridding and Patterdale.

How long does it take to climb Helvellyn? The time to climb Helvellyn varies depending on the chosen route and individual pace. Generally, it takes between 5 to 7 hours to complete a round trip on the most popular routes.

How tall is Helvellyn compared to other UK peaks? At 950 metres, Helvellyn is the third tallest peak in England, following Scafell Pike and Scafell. It’s a prominent feature in the Eastern Fells of the Lake District.

Is Helvellyn easier than Scafell Pike? The difficulty depends on the chosen route and weather conditions. Generally, Helvellyn offers a variety of routes with different difficulty levels, some comparable to the challenges of Scafell Pike.

Has anyone fallen off Striding Edge? Striding Edge is known for its exposure and has been the site of accidents, underscoring the need for caution, appropriate gear, and possibly the guidance of experienced hikers or guides.

What are the best routes for beginners? The Thirlmere Approach and the Wythburn Church Route are considered more accessible for beginners, offering a gradual ascent with stunning views of the surrounding Lake District.

Are there facilities on Helvellyn? Helvellyn is a natural landscape with limited facilities. Hikers should come prepared with all necessary supplies. However, amenities are available in nearby villages and at some car parks like Swirls or those in Glenridding.

Make it a Weekend Adventure

After conquering Helvellyn, why not extend your adventure in the Lake District? This region is brimming with activities and sights that can turn your hike into a memorable weekend getaway. Here are some suggestions to make the most of your time in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Explore Nearby Attractions: The Lake District is home to picturesque villages like Glenridding and Patterdale, perfect for a post-hike meal or a stroll. Visit the serene Ullswater Lake for boating or the charming Thirlmere for a relaxed day by the water.
  • Other Hiking Trails: If you’re still up for more hiking, consider exploring nearby peaks such as Catstye Cam, Great Dodd, or Dollywaggon Pike. Each offers unique vistas and varying degrees of difficulty.
  • Water Sports: For water enthusiasts, Ullswater and Thirlmere provide excellent opportunities for paddle boarding, kayaking, and sailing.
  • Cycling and Mountain Biking: The area around Helvellyn offers numerous trails suitable for cycling and mountain biking, catering to all skill levels.
  • Accommodation Options: From cosy bed and breakfasts in local villages to camping near Swirls Car Park or Grisedale Tarn, there’s an array of accommodations to suit any preference.
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