The mountain of Helvellyn is the highest of Wainwright’s Eastern Fells and the third tallest mountain in the Lake District at 950m tall, making it a Furth Munro. It boasts some of the best scrambling – with the route via Striding Edge and Swirral Edge being one of the best scrambling outings in the Lake District. We’ve not included a possible approach from the north – which has some epic approaches. Nor the multiple possible approaches to Grisedale Tarn and then on to Helvellyn from numerous locations and start an epic approach from further afield, but we’ve kept it simple!
Why is it called Helvellyn? The jury was out on this for a while, with no reason for the etymology given. It’s still uncertain, but was probably hel felen/felyn in Cumbric(?) With hel being moorland and felen/felyn being yellow. While it’s noted that it’s not clear why it would be called a yellow mountain, languages like Welsh and Cumbric have a loose approach to colours with colour like blue and green sometimes synonymous in place names (e.g. glas is used for blue and green – see Glaslyn – more a green than blue lake). Anyone looking for an example in a current welsh place name can look at Esgair Felen on the side of Glyder Fawr – which is red scree and hardly yellow.
Recommended Helvellyn Maps – ORDNANCE SURVEY Explorer OL5 The English Lakes – North Eastern area Map or the excellent Lake District BMC (British Mountain Map)
We recommend the The Near Eastern Fells: Walking Guide to the Lake District (Lakeland Fellranger) guidebook from Cicerone or the usual Wainwright’s Walking Guide to the Lake District Fells Book 1: The Eastern Fells
Helvellyn Weather Forecast: Met Office Lake Distrct Mountain Weather
Height Gained – 850 metres, Distance – 6.5 km, Time –3 hours.
This is not only the must do route if you’re climbing Helvellyn, but the must-do route for anyone visiting the Lake District. The most popular Grade 1 Scramble in the Lakes, for good reason. The route starts off from the village of Glenridding on Ullswater, first ascending Birkhouse Moor before the route gets interesting over Striding Edge. This is an exhilarating, knife edged scramble thats only for those with a head for heights. It’s best avoided in adverse conditions for one of the alternative routes below.
Height Gained – 820 metres, Distance – 6 km, Time –3 hours.
There are few enough scrambles in the Lakes, and Helvellyn boasts two of them, on the same route. The grade 1 scramble up Swirral Edge is best in combination with Striding Edge for a magnificent horseshoe walk. The walk up Swirral Edge starts in Glenridding, along Glenridding and up the summit of Catstye Cam. That only leaves the final steep ascent via Swirral Edge to reach the summit of Helvellyn.
Height Gained – 720 metres, Distance – 3.5 km, Time –3 hours.
Thirlmere is as picturesque an area as you can find in the Lake District, and it’s often a surprise to hear that the lake isn’t fully natural. It was originally an hourglass shape with a bridge in the middle, with an intriguing photo of the original lake here.
This is Helvellyn’s less glamorous side, though it’s hardly something to be ashamed of considering the sheer quality of the first two approaches. This approach from Thirlmere approaches via Helvellyn Gill and Lower Man to the summit. You can also ascend from Wythburn end, directly to Nethermost Pike, with either routes having their merits. Make the most of this most scenic valley, as it will be ruined if the proposed zip wires are built there.
Height Gained – 870 metres, Distance – 8 km, Time –3 hours.
As well as the best scrambling horseshoe in the Lake District, Glenridding also has some less glamorous approaches to Helvellyn. These routes are recommended for when the weather puts Striding and Swirral Edges out of the picture. It was reputedly used by ponies to take tourists up to the summit of Helvellyn, and at a lengthy 8km in length, you can see why they needed the ponies. At least it’s easy under foot and makes a steady route – ideally suited to a sore footed descent at the days’ end.
Height Gained – 920 metres, Distance – 8.8 km, Time –3.5 hours.
The ascent of Helvellyn via Stick’s Pass from Glenridding is even longer and adds the summit of Raise to the days’ efforts. It’s arguably the same approach to Helvellyn as the previous walk up Keppel Cove, but we think it merits it’s own entry as an alternative ascent route. You can also bag Stybarrow Dodd while you’re at it.
Height Gained – 950 metres, Distance – 10.5 km, Time –3.5 hours.
The approach up Grisedale is impressive, with the crags of the Helvellyn range dominating the view, claustrophobically overhead. There’s little wonder that Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route follows this valley! The route sets off from Patterdale, with a choice of route on either side of the valley.
The route bring you up to Grisedale Tarn, eventually, with a steep slog to reach the peak of Dollywagon Pike. It’s then plain sailing across the summit ridge, over High Crag and Nethermost Pike to the summit of Helvellyn.
You can also approach Grisedale Tarn and this route up Helvellyn from Dunmail Rise – the route is the return route on our Thirlmere route above.
Tags: All the walks up Walks From