Respect the mountain

Glenridding>Gillside>BirkhouseMoor>Striding Edge>Helvellyn

The thunder and lightning never came and Friday afternoon brings a gap in the rain. I've been preparing all week to get over Striding Edge and on to Helvellyn and my bag is all packed so I jump in the car and head over Kirkstone Pass to Patterdale.  I lock the car door and the clouds part to let the sun shine through.

But less a kilometre into the walk the sole falls off my boot. I don't fancy a 3 or 4 hours walk in falling apart boots so I turn around and head back down. It's a short detour on the way home to Ambleside where I pick up a new pair of boots. Todays lesson: Respect the mountain. 

So with a new pair of boots I try again two days later. Setting off from Glenridding car-park it's not long before I'm through the fell gate onto Birkhouse Moor. A man in light summer gear sweeps past me all dressed in blue. I try and keep up but after 10 minutes he's out of sight. I'm climbing rough stone steps. There's no rest - its a long slog up the side of the fell.

I stop for a drink of water and looking back at Ullswater I can see almost as far as Dalemain where the Fell Pony Breed show is happening right now. 

After almost an hour's steep climb, the ground levels out and at last I can see my destination. Striding Edge on the left and the summit of Helvellyn in cloud.

There are a few people on Striding Edge. It's my first time here and even though I have seen many photos of the ridge, being there is something else. Waiting for some people making their way down to scramble down the rocks I get chatting to another hiker on his own. His name is Dean. He has a fear of heights but makes his way across the ridge.

Striding edge with the summit of Helvellyn in clouds

At the far end of the ridge I meet up with the man in blue. There's a bit of a queue to get down the far rocks of Striding Edge. A group of East Europeans are a bit stuck and the man in blue is helping them find some foot-holes. He's from Glasgow and has been up Helvellyn about 10 times. We chat about the rocks here. "These rocks are the ones that kill people up on Helvellyn" he says. I follow his lead and climb down backwards. I wouldn't like to be up here in the wind and the rain.

Striding edge looking back with High Street in the distance behind

The last stretch is steep but I just want to get to the top now. I've been out of breath pretty much since the fell gate an hour and a half ago and I've only stopped to catch my breath and drink water a few times. And then the rocks are all behind me and there's a gentle slope to the summit.

NB: Helvellyn is the 3rd highest peak in England not the UK!

No sooner than I make it to the top than the sun breaks through the clouds. I sit down and take it all in and then Dean lands up beside me. We've both got bananas to eat. He conquered his fear of heights and made it over Striding Edge!

The view from the summit to Brown Crag (bridleway on the left)

Striding edge from the summit of Helvellyn

Dean and I chat about which route to take back down to Glenridding. I've already decided to circle Red Tarn and then break off down Glenriding Common. I don't stay long on the summit and bid farewell to Dean.

"I'll see you on the way down" he says.

Red tarn with Striding Edge above and several tents dotted around the tarn's edge.

Red tarn with Striding Edge above and several tents dotted around the tarn's edge.

The first stretch has a few boulders to climb down but soon its easy going the whole way. After 5 minutes I'm passed again by Dean... he's running the whole way down. I keep thinking "He's gonna fall. He's gonna fall..." but I don't see him again so he must have made it down safely. 

Although I've brought bottled water, there's nothing like the taste of a fresh fell-side beck. I bend down to get my mouth in a small flowing pool. It tastes like no water I have ever had before. Totally clean and pure.

The gentler route back down Glenridding Common.

I make it back down. My boots have done well and are truly broken in for the next adventure but I'm glad to take them off.  It's taken me 3 hours 20 minutes in total. 

What I learned:

I didn't need to carry my heavy waterproof up there - I need a lighter one I can pack.