by Mark Richards
The majesty and allure of Lakeland's most walked mountain summit
And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green? Yes, Helvellyn, the very name stirs the soul, laden with romance and emotion. The Cymric name Helfa llyn, “the lake of the hunting ground” referring to the high-set Red Tarn, echoes from a deep past of human engagement with these mighty mountain realms.
Viewed from the north and east the long skyline is a dark brooding presence. Yet this is the most visited of the major fells and has a place in the hearts of most fellwalkers, and little wonder. Crowning the highest range in the district, the broad summit offers probably the most complete panorama of Lakeland.
Helvellyn has bags of character, in fact a split personality. The bulky western slopes fall sharply from high pastures interspersed with scree and comparatively minor crags to the pine-fringed waters of Thirlmere.
While the eastern face, features towering ridges, dividing high glaciated corries. This is a mountain environment simply bursting with adventure, thrilling, uplifting for the wary walker. But by more than equal measure this is a place of danger. The most famous feature here must be Striding Edge, a soaring rocky arête, the wise walker sticks to the spine for the surest footing.
This aspect of the mountain includes other challenges not least the jagged Swirral Edge. Further mighty ridges rise abruptly from Nethermost and Ruthet Coves, shielding the wildest of hanging valleys, seldom visited by walkers, quite simply because the headwalls are formidably steep and unyielding.
Set back from the seductive beauties of Ullswater, the allure of Helvellyn draws the walker by steady paths too. One does not have to tackle the most challenging routes to reach and be rewarded by the summit, as the north-south spine of the range offers free-flowing strides fullest rein.
Ascend from upper Glenridding onto White Side and traverse right over the summit and south by Dollywaggon Pike to Grisedale Tarn and know this to be a welcoming mountain. Under snow, ice and fierce storm the fell becomes the complete and most forbidding mountain of peril. But on still, balmy summer days come and sense the joy of wandering upon a friendly giant.
by Mark Richards,
Presenter of Countrystride Podcasts, Linescape Artist, Author of the Cicerone Guidebooks for walkers and the Ullswater Way Guide. Look out for Mark's latest book, Ullswater Walking Companion, 20 dale, fell and river walks of between 2 and 11.5 miles.
See below the two routes mentioned in the article and included in the Ullswater Walking Companion
Ullswater Walking Companion - 20 dale, fell and river walks of between 2 and 11.5 miles, by Mark Richards