“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in an office or mowing the lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac
Helvellyn was both amazing and scary, bearing in mind the only hill I had walked on my own was the day before and was Cat Bells. I had never walked a ridge before, let alone on my own. After spending the evening before looking at pictures of Striding Edge on Instagram I managed to scare myself stupid, luckily I firmly believe I can do anything I put my mind to so I decided I was at least going to try or die trying. I was very worried that it would be the die trying option!
I parked in Patterdale and begin my walk up! Now I was so busy worrying about Striding Edge that I forgot to worry about getting up the bloody mountain. Now at this point the only other mountains I had done were Snowdon and Scafell Pike, granted two large ones but still only two, didn’t exactly get me mountain fit after only two peaks! The walk up to the edge almost killed me off!! I mean I was going so slow I am surprised I didn’t end up back at my car! But I was determined to get up even if I was slow. I stopped when I needed to, the thing I love most about walking is that no one at all judges you. No one makes fun of you or makes rude comments they just smile and sometimes ask if you are ok. They offer words of encouragement and just let you get on and do your own thing.
The good thing about going slow is you get to take it all in, as much as I envy the people that look like they are able to run to the top I do wonder if they take it all in, I, still at 35 get excited by so much. I still squeal when I see a rainbow and sit for hours watching clouds go over head, I am amazed daily by all the colours in the world. It is apart of me that I really hope never fades, I would hate to lose that excitement for life and being. So I go slow, sometimes stopping to take pictures or to talk to sheep, just recently I have found myself telling all livestock how beautiful they are (no idea!!)
So using the AllTrails app for this walk I noticed that there was a Wainwrights near by that wasn’t on my route, feeling confident with the app I decided to take the path and bag an extra Wainwright. Birkhouse Moor is a fell in the English Lake District, an outlier of the Helvellyn range in the Eastern Fells. It is properly an eastern ridge of Helvellyn, but was treated as a separate fell by Alfred Wainwright
Birkhouse Moor has two summits. The true top is on the main ridge to Striding Edge, which is followed by a stone wall. A cairn has been built a little to the west, but the wall appears to cross the highest point. The north top (2,315 ft) lies a quarter of a mile away at the meeting point of The Nab and the north ridge. A cairn has also been built here and there are good views to the north. Between the two tops is an area of marshy ground with a number of small tarns.
Not looking half as cute as Sammy the Squirrel!
Traditionally, Helvellyn was the boundary between Cumberland and Westmorland. Helvellyn is third highest hill in the Lake District, a truly enormous mountain. It’s satellite fells stretch from Clough Head in the north, to Dollywagon Pike in the south, over 8 miles in length. The mammoth bulk of the range divides east and west in a similar fashion to the way the Scafells divide the north and south Lake District.
Wainwright details no fewer that 14 possible routes of direct ascent – 7 from the west and 7 from the east, not to mention the routes of ascents from the satellite fells. He writes affectionately about the fell, describing it as a friendly giant with a long history full of legend and romance.
One of the most common routes to the top is from Glenridding or Patterdale via the Hole-in-the-Wall and of course taking in Striding Edge. The great views from the summit of Helvellyn are extensive. You can see practically every mountain range in the Lake District and possibly the largest number of fell tops.
Red Tarn glistens below the summit, situated beneath a sheer wall of crags that holds a huge cornice of snow and ice in the winter. It is a great place to linger a while and eat your lunch or just savour the scene. From the tarn you can see the pointy top of Catsycam and Swirral Edge.
It may have been scary but boy was it beautiful!!
Took a picture before I started the ridge, you know in case I fell!
Striding Edge is a classic Grade 1 scramble. Scrambling grades run from Grade 1 (doable for most competent hill walkers given the right conditions) through to Grade 3 (borderline rock climbs in fantastically exposed situations where knowledge of ropework is often advisable), and Striding Edge comes in at the lower end of the first grade. The scramble down the Chimney can be a little difficult, luckily I am 5ft11 so I can usually let gravity take over!
I am smiling but weeks on and I can still remember just how much I was absolutely shitting it taking this picture! It took all my strength to stay upright on my shaking knees! And I only took the one picture too scared to take more! I remember putting my phone away and having to touch the ground with my hands, you know in case it had moved!
So see the guy with the red backpack, it was his first time too but he was with a friend that has done it literally a hundred times (lucky him) but Mr red backpack wouldn’t let me out of his sight once he realised I was alone, he would go on a bit and wait for me to catch up (think his mate was getting pissed off with it) he checked I was ok and shouted to me the best way to walk! Now I have to admit the Edge actually looks worse in pictures, it was wider than I imagined it to be however the fear I had was far more intense then I imagined. Not that, that was going to stop me! I was so so lucky with the weather, it had been dry for a couple of days, I had decided that if it was raining I wouldn’t do it.
However with good weather beings the crowds! I was worried that I was slowing people down but no one complained and I ended up walking along with about the same eight faces who were amazing, nothing but positive words. It really helped and made it much more enjoyable.
Now after coming down the chimney, you need to go back up on what feels like a vertical climb! This was by far my favourite bit, I loved everything about climbing upwards, it has really made me want to get into climbing, something I will be starting in the new year for sure.
Finally on a flat surface, just a little windy!!!
And I made it to the summit, its amazing how quickly you forget the pain it took to get there! Big smiles and so proud of myself, I adored Striding Edge like nearly everyone else in the country it now has a special place in my heart and possibly in my top 3 walks! I really did love this walk and looking back now I am still proud of myself I have come such a long way in a short period of time when it comes to walking. I wouldn’t change anything about the last few months and the excitement I have for the next few months is immense.