Helvellyn’s Striding Edge offers stunning grade one scrambling. Daniel Start tackles it…
Early on a perfect mid-summer morning, mist was lifting above the still waters of Ullswater. All was calm. Helvellyn was our target, via the classic ridge-top scramble of Striding Edge and back via Swirral Edge.
Up along Greenside Road, we turned left for Gillside Farm, where the campers were just stirring. We heaved up Mires Beck along the good but steep path, to finally reach Birkhouse Moor peak (718m). It was about 9am and the mountain was ours. The views here are sublime and Ullswater curved away, a glimmering ribbon to the north.
With most of the day ahead of us, we took the scramble along Striding Edge nice and steady, the sun on our backs. It’s all grade one scrambling, and there’s also an easier path along the side for most of it.
Photo: Rob Heath
The top of Helvellyn was equally enchanting. These are some of the best views in the Lakes, and we were the only ones there. We lingered a while with our sandwiches and then descended via Swirral Edge to the Red Tarn for a welcome dip. It was then a quick romp down along Red Tarn Beck to old Greenside mine workings. Until it closed in 1962, this was one of the most successful mines in the Lake District, producing 2.4 million tons of lead and two million ounces of silver.
With a bit of time to spare we looked around the hillside, finding various ruined buildings and dams, an old tramway and the intriguing remains of the high-pressure pipe works that must have once powered the shafts. It’s good to be reminded that this has always been a working land.
Stay high up in Glenridding mines at YHA Helvellyn (private rooms, camping and dorms) or at Gillside Farm on the route (camping and bunkhouse). But our favourite is Side Farm campsite on the lake below (017684 82337), with a beach, canoeing and sunset views over the mountains.
Maps and guides
OS Explorer OL5 (North-eastern area) covers the hike. The Wild Guide to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales by Daniel Start (£15.99, Wild Things Publishing) has great ideas for wild swimming and other adventures in the area, and is also available as an app.