Friday, March 14, 2014

A Helvellyn round from Glenridding

Date : 14th March 2014
Route : From Glenridding to Helvellyn via Striding Edge & back via Sticks Pass
Wainwrights : Birkhouse Moor, Helvellyn, White Side, Raise, Sheffield Pike, Glenridding Dodd.
Distance : 10.4 miles (16.7km)
Height Gained : 4009 feet (1222 meters)
Social Hiking Link : click here

The route starting from Glenridding

 The plan today was to climb Helvellyn via the classic striding edge & swirral edge route from Glenridding before the last of the snow disappeared. If the going was good I also intended to tag on Sheffield Pike & Glenridding Dodd at the end. The forecast suggested high winds but the possibility of a clear morning before cloud set in for the rest of the day. I set off at 7am keen to take advantage of the better morning weather and scurried up Birkhouse Moor from the Glenridding side. 

The path up to Birkhouse Moor

Views over to Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd

Looking back to Ullswater & Glenridding

St Sunday Crag comes into view

 The going was easy along a good path which soon emerged onto the broad summit plateau of Birkhouse Moor. Helvellyn was encouragingly free of cloud but Fairfield, just 2 miles to the south west, was shrouded in mist and a strong wind was blowing from that direction. I pressed on past the 'Hole in the Wall' towards the start of striding edge.

Birkhouse Moor summit looking west towards Helvellyn

Birkhouse Moor summit video

St Sunday Crag (left) and Fairfield under cloud

The route ahead; Helvellyn centre

The 'Hole in the Wall'

Helvellyn in its winter coat

 Video - view from Bleaberry Crags

 For those who have never ventured to Helvellyn, striding edge is a classic rocky arete radiating southwards from Helvellyn, which along with a parallel arete 1/2 km to the north, encloses an impressive glacial corrie into which sits Red Tarn. It is a classic lakeland scene with breathtaking views in all directions and a knack of making you feel tiny and insignificant next to seemingly huge exposed ridges and the bulky mass of Helvellyn itself. 

The Red Tarn Corrie looking over to Swirral Edge & Catstye Cam

Striding Edge leading to Helvellyn

 Striding edge looks imposing but is actually a fairly simple simple stroll for most of the way with some 'easy-ish' down-scrambling towards the end. Today it was mostly free of snow except for some sheets clinging to north slope which were easily avoided. Shortly after starting on the ridge wisps of low cloud appeared and then gradually thickened, eventually obscuring Helvellyn.

The start of Striding Edge as the mist rolled in

Striding Edge

 It was best to walk on the very top of the ridge today. There is a less exposed path lower on the right but it was impeded by snow.

An icy Red Tarn with Catstye Cam beyond

Dollywagon Pike

Half way along and the cloud momentarily lifts from Helvellyn. A tiny hiker visible at the far end of the ridge

Looking back along Striding Edge

Looking back after down-climbing the last obstacle of Striding Edge

The scramble up onto the summit

 After crossing striding edge a steepish scramble is required before emerging onto the broad summit plateau of Helvellyn. The usual route is on the right side of the main ridge but the presence of snow forced the route up the steeper left side.  

Looking back along the route taken
 As I got to the summit shelter the last glimpses of surrounding fells faded away and a thick mist filled the red tarn corrie. 

Helvellyn summit shelter

Helvellyn summit trig as the cloud descended

Dangerous looking cornices near the summit trig

 Visibility steadily decreased. Large & dangerous looking cornices clung to the steep eastern edge extending up to 5 meters back. I wandered up and down the edge of the stable snow line looking for the exit route onto swirral edge but the mist was lapping up over the edge and visibility was very poor. There were no obvious foot prints showing the way and I decided that it was too dangerous to wander any closer to the edge. 

A brief gap in the cloud shows the cornice fracture line 5 meters from the edge

 Having convinced myself that discretion is the greatest part of valour I quickly adopted a 'plan B' and headed along the main path towards Sticks Pass via White Side and Raise. This would mean Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd were still accessible but Catstye Cam would have to wait for another day. Mind made up, I headed along the main path north towards Helvellyn Lower Man, keeping well back from the snow line !

White Side summit

Raise summit

 Visibility was still poor on reaching Sticks Pass and I set off down the old quarry path expecting to soon pass through the cloud base. At the point where a rough track (not on the OS map) leaves the main path to head up to Sheffield Pike it was clear that there would be no summit view today. I trudged through peat hags to emerge onto the rocky summit where a  fierce south westerly made the simple act of standing still to take a photo surprisingly difficult.

Sheffield Pike summit - imagination required for the views to Ullswater

 I headed off on a meandering path through more heavy peat hags (I suspect this would be a fell better suited to a summer ascent) towards the rocky crags of Heron Pike where I finally broke under the cloud base. The lovely views down to Ullswater and Glenridding Dodd breathed some much needed life into the weary legs for this steep descent.

The view from Heron Pike

Glenridding Dodd amd Ullswater from just below the cloud level

Glenridding Dodd

 It was then a simple climb up onto Glenridding Dodd summit where the views down to Ullswater and Glenridding itself were a welcome relief from the previous 3 hours of clag. A great spot to enjoy the last of the coffee and a snack. 

Glenridding Dodd summit

Glenridding Dodd panorama east

Glenridding Dodd panorama west back towards Heron Pike

Ullswater from Glenridding Dodd

Glenridding village

 There being no paths on the OS map from Glenridding summit I headed down towards the direction of Ullswater along a path of sorts which then quickly faded away. It was too steep and craggy to continue this way so I veered off left down a steep verge of trees at the bottom of which is an old dry stone wall which I followed down eventually finding a track which lead to the road.

 And so that somewhat unplanned route added 3, rather than the intended 4 new Wainwright's to the count which now stands at 121.

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