Helvellyn summit in february with Blencathra and Skiddaw on the near horizon and walkers on Swirral Edge
Near The Hole in the Wall with Helvellyn summit plateau in background

Helvellyn 950 metres

Helvellyn is the third highest peak in England after Scafell and is the highest peak on the north-south ridge between Thirlmere valley to the west and Patterdale to the east.

This ridge continues north over Helvellyn Lower Man, White Side, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Great Dodd and Clough Head and south to Nethermost Pike and Dollywagen Pike.

The summit of Helvellyn takes the form of a broad plateau about 500 metres long. The highest point is marked by a cairn and a cross-shaped dry stone shelter; to the north is an Ordnance Survey trig point, a little lower than the summit at 949 m (3,114 ft).

The eastern side of the fell is geographically the most dramatic:

Two sharp aretes lead off the summit, Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, either side of Red Tarn. The knife-edged Striding Edge provides one of the best-known scrambles in Lakeland, while the Swirral Edge ridge leads to the conical summit of Catsycam.

Helvellyn is strongly associated with the poet William Wordsworth, who used to climb the mountain regularly and also wrote about the mountain several times.

In particular he commemorated the death of Charles Gough, a tourist in the Lake District who set out to cross Striding Edge to reach the peak of Helvellyn. He perished there with his dog, who stood at his side for three months before his corpse was found. A plaque commemorating this event can be found close to the peak.

The flat summit also made the first British mountain-top landing of a plane possible, when John Leeming and Bert Hinkler successfully landed and took off again in 1926.

Ascent Information

Choice of route is decided at the planning stage in consultation with the group and is based on general fitness level and the preferred challenge option A, B or C.

Options A and C / 1 day event - From Patterdale or Swirls Car Park Thirlmere

Option B / 2 day event- From Swirls Car Park only

  • Start/Finish: Patterdale via Striding Edge and Swirral Edge / Longest
  • Start/Finish: Swirls Car Park / Shortest

The shortest ascent/descent follows the most direct non-technical route to the summit from Swirls Car Park near Thirlmere which also affords the shortest distance to/from Skiddaw or Scafell Pike with the minimum amount of link transport and mileage on foot.

Alternatively, Option C with less time pressure offers the more challenging classic route to the summit ascending via Striding Edge and descending by Swirral Edge.

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