Helvellyn stands at 950m which makes it the 3rd highest mountain in the Lake District. To get to the summit you can take a number of routes. Some of these appear in most guide books, some are a little more off the beaten track.
Helvellyn is part of a mountain ridge with the Ullswater valley to the East and Thirlmere to the West. The ridge of mountains runs from South to North with Helvellyn sitting in the middle of the ridge.
With two cars or by hiring a guide you could undertake the classic traverse of the ridge. It is better to do the traverse from North to South if you prefer a steeper descent, or if not, do it in reverse. It is possible to start and finish your walk from either valley depending on where you are staying.
The most famous route starts and finishes in Glenridding. The route takes the walker over Helvellyn’s two classic ridges, Striding and Swirral Edges. These two ridges provide the walker with some great scrambling along rocky narrow ridges with views down to Red Tarn in summer as well as providing a good introduction to winter mountaineering. If you have done this route in summer but lack the confidence to tackle it in winter conditions, then why not hire a guide to take you? Swirral Edge is shorter and a little less technical and so is often used to descend or as an easier ascent to be combined with another descent route.
The popular but less technical routes can be found starting from both sides of Helvellyn. The two most popular routes start on the Thirlmere side just south of Thirlspot and at Wythburn. Both of these routes follow well established paths to the summit and can even be combined to make a circular walk if you take the path through the forest.
On the Ullswater side you can walk up towards Keppel cove and then zig zag up to Whiteside before heading up to Helvellyn. You can then return the same way or go over Raise to Sticks Pass and back down through the old mine workings of Greenside down to Glenridding. Others may choose to head up Grisedale to Grisedale Tarn and then head north over Dollywaggon Pike to Helvellyn. Again, return is by the same way or to combine it with the route already mentioned.
It is possible to combine one of these walking routes to descend after making an ascent of one of the edges to make it a longer but easier way down.
For someone looking for alternative ways up Helvellyn there are a number of options. All of these involve some scrambling. From Glenridding you can head up Grisedale and then either head up the ridges that form the edges of Ruthwaite Cove, or you can head up to Kepple Cove and then ascend the north ridge of Catsye Cam and then traverse along the ridge to ascend Swirral Edge. All of these routes also make great winter mountaineering routes.
From Thirlmere you can ascend into Brown Cove and tackle one of a number of scrambles. In winter these scrambles turn into winter climbs so why not hire an instructor to take you up this way?
Whenever you choose to head up Helvellyn try to choose a good clear day. From the summit it offers great views, but in mist it can be a little confusing as the summit is pretty flat and featureless. In winter this can make it very difficult to find your way in mist when snow is on the ground. The edges in winter will need crampons and ice axe to help you cope with the ice and snow so make sure you are well equipped or hire a guide to keep you safe.
Enjoy a great day out exploring this famous Lake District mountain!
If heading into the Lake District mountains make sure you have the following equipment:
- Rucksack + liner
- waterproof jacket and trousers
- walking boots
- spare warm top
- hat and gloves
- map + compass (and know how to use them)
- food and drink
- head torch + whistle
- crampons + ice axe (winter)(and know how to use them)
- first aid kit (and know how to use it)