A winter’s wander up Helvellyn


Distance: 12.5 miles

Wainrights (round 2): 5

Who with: Susie, the Patterdale Terrier!

After negotiating family arrangements, work commitments, social engagements and general life ‘stuff’ I had managed to find a free day in the diary…. excellent! So, I decided to use it wisely and go and have a much needed ‘get away from it all’ walk. I had been doing my usual trick of tracking the weather for the few days in the run-up, and for once noticed that the forecast was being kind to me, which is not something that I am overly used to! It was not just being kind, but in fact being overly generous – something I was certainly not complaining about. The weather forecast was a cracking winter’s day, so I got the gear ready (eventually)…I am a ‘faffer’ after all.

The gear was packed, the weather looked good, the dog was in the old Land Rover (which required much de-icing at 6.30am), and so it began…well nearly. Or, it would have done had it not been for the old boy’s battery having given up the ghost! So, I unloaded the gear, the dog, and went to load up the pick-up…but couldn’t get into the rear canopy, as the lock was frozen solid. After having a quiet word with myself, I loaded up the seats in the back, de-iced the car and thankfully the truck leapt into life.

We were on our way, albeit 30 mins behind schedule. The roads were treacherous, but we managed to get on the motorway and head North up the M6, negotiating a very icy Kirkstone Pass, and then parking up in front of the cottages in Glenridding. After a bit more faffing, we were ready, and so was the day – a stunning cloud inversion hung over Ullswater, which lingered for most of the morning.

I headed up Greenside Road towards the Youth Hostel, which sits tucked away next to Glenridding Beck, which has caused so much destruction over recent years, but today looked as harmless as a puppy. After passing the hostel, we picked our way up towards the path towards Whiteside, which gently climbs, before zig zagging its way up the fell side, over Glenridding Common, and above Red Screes.


It was at this point, in the shade of Catstye Cam that the wind got us – full bore, with a wind chill well below zero. It was Baltic. Susie, was wondering why I had got her out of her bed at this point to be subjected to such conditions. The sun made such a difference to the temperature when we arrived on Whiteside, before picking our way up Lower Man. The views over towards Langdale, the Grasmere fells, and over Skiddaw and Blencathra were absolutely fantastic, and crystal clear. It is always this part of the walk I enjoy, the ‘sigh’ moment I call it, when you get to the top, and look round at (hopefully) a lovely view.


We carried on towards a relatively busy summit, which is why I don’t often walk Helvellyn, as I am quite an anti-social outdoors type – heading to the hills to get away from people, not trip over them! To be fair, it was relatively quiet, but not as quiet as when I usually head up, when winter is properly here and conditions get very real – this keeps the majority of people away thankfully. A miserable thing aren’t I!

We dropped quickly off the busy summit, and down towards Nethermost Pike, where we found a bit of shelter from the wind, and in the sun (bonus) to enjoy a bit of lunch. Susie never strays far away when food is around, so being sat on the cold ground, I had to eat quickly, and my @rse was getting rather cold, rather quickly. After a couple of cups of coffee to wash the sustenance down, we carried on over Nethermost Pike and towards High Crag, before dropping down again to Dollywaggon Pike. The fells come thick and fast at this point, and I remember a few years ago when I was mid Wainwright-bagging that this made my day! I tend to be more leisurely on the Lakeland fells nowadays, but not the Scottish ones…it is very much still game time with the Munros!!


It was as if Susie had remembered the route home, as she was well into the distance at this point, and a good couple of hundred yards ahead of me, on the zig-zagging path down towards Grisedale Tarn – a lovely little spot, which was made even more pleasant in the sun. We made the most of the sun for a few minutes when we got to the tarn, as I knew we were heading into a sun-deprived valley, which looked very cold indeed! I didn’t pre-warn the dog though…

The path, which was treacherous, due to the lack of sunlight it had received, heads under Tarn Crag, and Falcon Crag, heading down to Ruthwaite Lodge, the Climbing Hut, which is in an absolutely stunning location – surrounded, over-shadowed even by Lakeland fells, which re-enforces the decision to build a climbing hut here. After passing the hut, we crossed the river, with the path still extremely icy unsurprisingly – and continued on our path adjacent to Grisedale Beck through small wooded areas.


We cut through the farm (Elmhow) and followed the bridleway to the point where the path meets the road, which was the point we re-crossed the river and headed up towards Lanty’s Tarn, before dropping into the next valley, Glenridding, passing Miresbeck and Gillside campsite, before arriving back at the car.


An end to a very enjoyable day on the fells which, whilst cold, was absolutely what I needed to de-stress after a busy week. Roll on more snow! 😊





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