Helvellyn is the third highest peak both in England and in the Lake District (don’t worry, I’ll name the two higher mountains in a later post – we tried to climb those as well!). It can be reached from many directions along numerous trails, but the most famous, interesting, and exciting route is from Glenridding via Striding Edge: the knife-edged scrambling trail, or arête. (Note: Helvellyn is a big mountain – it deserves a big blog post. You have been warned.)
This had been a target of ours through many months of planning for the trip, so after a few preliminary hikes in Wales and England, we now wanted to take advantage of the excellent weather conditions. As I had declared in my first post about this trip, it was time for us to “bag some Wainrights!”
I say to-may-to, and you say to-mah-to. You say walk, and I say hike.
I first want to acknowledge one of the great distinctions between the English language spoken in the US, the UK, and Namibia. As an American, I will consistently use the term “hike” to describe all of our activities along these footpaths. My British friends call them “walks,” even when they involve considerable distance, elevation gain, and unsteady terrain. My Namibian friends know “hiking” as “hitchhiking,” which I did in my university days in Scotland, but now only do in their country.
Because some of our activities were not much more than strolls along the lakes, I will accept the Brits’ referring to them as walks. But I maintain that Helvellyn is not a walk – I won’t call it anything less than a hike. And what a wonderful hike, at that!
As we approached Striding Edge, and the final third of the ascent, the skies were clear but a cold wind was blowing. We could see the optional footpath down the right side of the ridge, but we chose to scramble along the arête.
As the highest point around, the panoramic views were spectacular!
As many ways as there are to climb up Helvellyn, there are just as many routes down. A matching bookend to the ascent of Striding Edge is to scramble down Swirral Edge, thus completing a horseshoe loop around the Red Tarn. Instead, we chose to “bag another Wainright,” and hiked across the high fells to White Side, for our third of the day.
After ten miles, 3,200 feet of climbing, and our first three Wainrights, we returned to Glenridding for a fulfilling dinner in the beer garden of The Travellers Rest pub. The beer, the fish and chips, and the mushy peas couldn’t be beat!