Hiking Helvellyn: A New Hobby Uncovered
Updated: Mar 7
One of the best things to come out of 2019 so far for myself, besides from starting this blog, is the discovery of a new passion in the form of hiking. For all my love of travelling the world experiencing new cultures, landscapes and people, it’s easy to forget that we have some bloody good places here in the UK too. Beautiful village? Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds springs to mind. Brilliant beach on a beautiful day? I’ve always loved Perrenporth in Cornwall. Rolling hills, craggy mountains and serene lakes? The Lake District please. I’m keen to use this blog to showcase the beautiful locations Britain has to offer, as well as share tales from far-flung, exotic climes, so that both UK and International readers alike can consider good ol’ Blighty for an adventure.
Helvellyn is a brilliant place to start. 3,117ft high, it is one of the most popular walks in the Lake District as it offers incredible panoramic views of the surrounding area. On what was a brisk, April morning, we started off from Glenridding Car Park and Helvellyn “Base Camp”. An inexperienced hiker to say the least, I was raring to go, but also had a slight sense of trepidation as to what lay ahead! It was to be a 6.5km walk taking approximately three hours to reach the ascent, but fat boy was well stocked with some wonderful home-made sandwiches (not made by me!).
I’m not going to turn this into a guide detailing each step of the walk and directions; there’s better, dedicated professional hiking blogs that can provide that detail and do the walk justice. What I will do though is highlight certain areas along the length of the walk that stood out. The first appeared on our right-hand side as we passed the Helvellyn Youth Hostel. A decrepit, abandoned structure which on first impressions appeared to be an old dam, or bridge, I’ve since discovered it was formerly the Greenside Mine, which first began operations in the 1800’s. There was a sense of some lost, forgotten world about these ruins; a bygone era of the like which we will never see again.
We wound through the valley, gradually climbing upwards and keeping the magnificent Catsye Cam to our right, another imposing fell in its own right, whilst following a fast-flowing brook. Eventually, we reached the Red Tarn, an incredible body of water encompassed in what can only be described as a natural amphitheatre, or arena, of rock surrounding it in the form of Helvellyn ahead and both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge to either side. I’m a big Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings geek, so naturally I was immediately able to imagine a Northern Army camped upon the embankment, or the Fellowship stopping for water! If, like myself, you value peace, then it was a great place to take some time out before the big ascent, admiring the serenity of the tarn and it’s bordering fortress.
I’d be a liar if I said the next part of the climb didn’t make me nearly fill my pants with fear, but, I was actually quite impressed with myself to be fair; I definitely thought I’d be paralysed with fear during the scramble up Swirral Edge! Free-moving, but nervous all the same, I embarked on what I believe to be a 500 metre long scramble up the edge to the summit of Helvellyn. Now, 500 metres doesn’t sound far; blimey, it’s nothing at all! But when you’re afraid of heights, and either side of the edge is a very steep (albeit not vertical) slope, it’s miles. Paying the utmost attention to the hand and foot holds along the ridge, whilst keeping my head down (as the wind was doing it’s best to blow me off the mountain!), I still found myself captivated by the surrounding view either side of this rugged terrain. I finally reached the top and was able to breathe a sigh of relief, taking in the incredible landscape from the top of Helvellyn. Stunning.
Far and wide you could see the lay of the land, where giant natural forces had clashed to create huge folds in the fabric driving hills and mountains skywards. Lakes were also visible, scattered across the landscape shimmering in the sunlight. Groups of cloud cast rolling shadows across the hills as they moved lazily in the sky. We really couldn’t have asked for better weather, as the overcast cloud that had dulled the climb broke away into sunlight when we reached the summit. Standing there surveying Swirral Edge and Striding Edge, you can see why these routes have injured, sometimes fatally, unlucky climbers over the years as they are a tough scramble to navigate. The last snows of winter were still present as we stood atop Helvellyn, shining bright in the spring sunshine.
After soaking in the sights, taking plenty of photos and using the opportunity to get some rest, it was time to make our descent and head back towards Glenridding. As we began making our way down via the Pony Path and Keppel Cove, I’d never ever known a wind whip up like it! It was so strong we were nearly getting blown off our feet. It took all our effort to lean into the wind and make our way down the winding track into the valley below. Thankfully, by this point, it’d eased off and we were able to once again enjoy the weather conditions and the magnificent hills arising all around us. Even on the route back, I couldn’t help but continue to marvel at the scenery around me; if you’ve never been to the Lake District you must go, it’s absolutely incredible.
Arriving back at the car tired, but utterly exhilarated from the experience, it set a new resolve to continue this new-found hobby. Britain certainly has a lot to offer in the Lake District, Brecon Beacons and the Peak District to name just a couple of places of natural beauty in what is a very rich, diverse landscape we’re lucky to have. If I can’t always be out exploring the world abroad, I can be out travelling my own country. Let the adventures begin.