Helvellyn and Blencathra

Not on the same day obviously. That would be a bit much, even for me.

I’ve been up Helvellyn many times, usually by the same routes, so it is always good to explore new ground. We started from Patterdale and walked up Grisedale as far as the Ruthwaite climbing hut which is owned by Outward Bound Ullswater. The hut burnt down in 1993 and there is a plaque on the wall to mark the rebuild and also to remember two climbers from Outward Bound who died on Mount Cook in New Zealand.

We left the main path here and from the back of the hut headed straight up the hillside aiming for the Tongue, a steep rocky ridge dropping down from Dollywaggon Pike. The way up to the ridge was hard going on steep grassy slopes but once on the ridge it was easier with great views over Helvellyn and Fairfield. We were followed by a solitary walker who caught us up when we stopped and commented that it was a strange way up. I have a feeling he was simply following us, not realising we were well off the beaten track. It was however a superb way up with rugged mountain scenery and a sense of isolation, and unusually for me, I had never been this way before.

I had been somewhere nearby though at Easter 1995 when I rescued a sheepdog from a crag on Nethermost Pike. I had climbed Helvellyn with a university friend and we were walking back down Grisedale when I heard a whining and barking from high above our heads. I can’t leave an animal in distress so I left Margaret waiting on the path and headed up the hillside in the direction of the noise. Sure enough I found a sheepdog stuck on some rocky ledges, scared and unable to move. I scrambled up to it and grabbing its collar pulled it to safer ground. It scrabbled around and panicked and almost pulled me off balance once or twice, but we made it. Further down the valley I handed the dog back to a farmer who had come out to look for it .

Back to 2020 and at Dollywaggon Pike we headed north towards Helvellyn. Striding Edge looked busy with a queue of people at the top of the short chimney towards the end of the ridge. The cloud rolled in as we reached the summit and we stopped briefly for lunch before heading down Swirral Edge towards Red Tarn.

The last time I was here was early March 2020 in full winter conditions. We had come over Striding Edge and returned down Swirral Edge. The top slope of Swirral Edge was banked out with steep, hard snow and I was glad to have crampons to get me down safely.

Today Swirral Edge was the usual rock and scree and we were soon at Red Tarn and so on to the hole in the wall. From here it was a good path back down to Patterdale, stopping only to look across the valley at St Sunday Crag to try to identify Pinnacle Ridge. The sun was warm as we got lower and the trees down in the valley were turning yellow and orange. A beautiful autumnal day out.

Friday was a completely different day weatherwise with low cloud and drizzle. John had not been up Sharp Edge before and we had aborted our last attempt due to rain, so he was determined to have another crack at it. We started from Mungrisdale and walked past Bowscale Tarn up to Bowscale Fell, then through the mist to Bannerdale Crags and round to the start of Sharp Edge.

Sharp Edge is not my route of choice on a drizzly day, but I was happy to go with the flow so that John got to do it. The rock on Sharp Edge is Skiddaw slate which is very slippy when wet so what is an easy scramble when dry turns into a completely different proposition in the rain. Today was no exception. We crawled over the large, smooth slabs on the crest of the ridge and then scrambled up the steep slabs above looking for positive handholds and footholds to avoid having to trust our feet on the slabs. The angle soon eased, the scrambling became easier and we reached the top.

After a brief visit to the summit we descended Scales Fell and returned to Mungrisdale via Souther Fell.

Published by alpinejane

Explorer, hill walker, mountaineer, backpacker, scrambler, Mountain Leader and lover of wild places

One thought on “Helvellyn and Blencathra

  1. Well done for the sheepdog rescue. I’m just off to Patterdale in the next day or so walking but the weather forecast is pants. I was hoping to do something like Nethermost Arete and descend via Dollywaggon Tongue but I don’t think we will be now. It will be nice to get to some different fells from where I live though (northern fells area).

    I wouldn’t even consider Sharp Edge on a wet or drizzy day – I even had trouble getting up Hallsfell one wet day and ended up having to turn back near the top as it became all rock and even my hands couldn’t grip it due to the greasiness with the wet!


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