Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge was the perfect adventure for our Autumnal trip to the lakes.
We had fallen in love with the feeling of being high up in the mountains where nothing else mattered, where there is no one else around – just you, the rugged landscapes and the mountain air.
This complete guide has everything covered and will help you plan your hike, when to go, where to go and which route to follow. It also has all the facts you need to know about Helvellyn.
This is by far the most exhilarating hike in the Lakes, I can’t wait for you to start.
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Preparing Yourself to Hike Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Both my Mum and Nan have loved the Lake District for their whole lives and have revisited time and time again. My Nan recommended that we visit in the Autumn to see the colourful fells so we headed up at the end of October and it really is magical this time of year.
When hiking Scafell Pike we followed a path that took us scrambling up to the summit, we had never scrambled before and instantly loved the excitement.
So we knew hiking Helvellyn was definitely on the cards.
We were only spending 6 days in the lake district this time and for 4 of them the weather was not favourable for walking!
Luckily though we woke up on the Tuesday morning to clear skies and no sign of any rain. After checking the mountain forecast and seeing there was only light cloud cover we decided that if we didn’t go today we wouldn’t get our chance so we packed our backpacks and off we went.
🗻 Height: 950m / 3117 ft
🥾 Distance: 13km / 8 miles
‼️ Difficulty: Hard
⏰ Estimated Time: 5-7 hours
🚗 Parking: Large car park located in Glenridding
🌤️ Weather: Mountain Forecast
🗺️ Hard Copy Map: OS Explorer Map
📲 Online Map: Outdoor GPS – Lake District map
Helvellyn is the third highest mountain England after Scafell Pike (978m/3,210ft) and Scafell (946m/3,162ft). Helvellyn however matches Scafell Pike’s popularity with estimated over a hundred thousand people summiting each year.
How to get there?
If you are travelling by car Helvellyn is located in near the village of Glenridding. There is a car park here at the Ullswater Information Centre just off the A592. The car park is large and there usually is space however if you are visiting in peak season I would get here early to make sure you aren’t disappointed.
There are toilets next to the visitors centre for a quick stop before heading up. These toilets are 20p and there aren’t any others during the walk.
Parking costs £8 for the whole day. I recommend buying the day ticket so you do not have to rush or worry about getting back to the car in time. You can pay with cash or use the Ringo app.
If you are planning to use public transport there are many bus routes in the Lake District. Check out Rome 2 Rio to find the best way from your accommodation.
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge & Swirral edge is a circular route can take anything between 5-7 hours depending on how fast you walk, how long you stop at the top and how many times you stop to either catch your breath or take pictures which if you’re anything like me is often!
With this in mind I would recommend starting early to ensure you beat the crowds and make the most of the daylight depending on the time of year.
Stupidly we did not follow our own recommendation when hiking Helvellyn and didn’t set off until about 11.45am this meant we returned at 5pm. Completing this in early November meant as we were on our way back down it was starting to get dark and when we got back to the car nightfall was in full swing.
Learn from our mistake and make sure you start by at least 9/10am.
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge & Swirral Edge is a hard route which needs to be treated with respect as do all the mountains. I wouldn’t recommend starting your hiking journey with this peak but I do believe it is achievable for active advanced beginners.
There have been fatalities on this route due to erosion and steep drop offs, I would not attempt it in high winds, rain or icy conditions.
Please ensure you are wearing walking boots with good grip, these are the boots I currently use. They are comfortable, good quality for the price and have lasted me years!
For all of my walking I use the Outdoor GPS app, it is £19.99 for a yearly subscription and well worth it. With this subscription you can download individual area maps, which are available offline they show you every public footpath, bridal way and path.
It is labelled up with well known routes and shows the summits for each mountain. Using the GPS on your mobile it will show your location at all times so you can ensure you are sticking to the correct path.
The Route to Hike Helvellyn via Striding Edge
From the car park, head towards the main road cross over the stream and turn immediately right.
You will then be walking up the road with the stream on your right.
Keep following this path and you will come to a split there is a small wooden sign saying Helvellyn -> follow the sign and keep right.
The path continues alongside the stream and opens up to fields on the left which then lead to Gillside campsite.
At the end turn left onto the main road then as it splits again you will see a path running along a stone wall to the right head for that and follow it to the top.
You will then come across another split, at this one go left alongside the gate.
The next key point is a gate in the stone wall, go through it and turn left up the hill.
Follow the path that has been worn down through the grass, crossing over the stream and up the stoney ‘steps’.
Keep following the path all the way along the stone wall. At one point the path will head away from the wall to the right, keep with it and will eventually loop back around.
You’ll see a ladder over the wall called ‘hole in the wall’ shown on the ‘Outdoor GPS’ app. Here the path again will split, keep left to head towards Striding Edge via Bleaberry Crag.
Keep following this path up, it becomes a bit harder to navigate and isn’t as smooth underfoot.
Eventually you will see the Red Tarn and Helevellyn’s summit will come into view.
Going up Striding Edge
There are 2 options when crossing over Striding Edge’s grade 1 scramble, you can either be brave going straight up and over or follow the paths to the side.
This was a great experience and not one to forget, as you get further along the path it gets narrower and narrower and at one point there are drop offs each side of you! This part I found quite terrifying.
After this bit I continued along most of Striding Edge on all 4’s, much to Jack’s entertainment I found it comforting the closer I was to the ground.
When you finish Striding Edge make sure you look back at where you have walked, it is a breathtaking view and great to see what you have accomplished.
It is then a steep walk to the top and for us this was meant into the clouds due to the low coverage.
You will pass Charles Gough’s memorial, it isn’t the easiest to read but he died in 1805 while summiting Helvellyn. Charle’s dog Foxie stayed with him guarding the body before it was discovered 3 months later.
Keep on up the path and you will see a stone shelter. This is where we hid from the wind and ate our squashed sandwiches, there really is nothing better at the top!
It will then level off as you reach the summits cairn, as we were summiting in November it was freezing!
We didn’t spend a lot of time up here and wanted to get out the wind but I have heard that there are beautiful views on a clear day.
Coming down Swirral Edge
To start your descent via Swirral Edge keep walking along the levelled summit, coming across a pile of rocks turn right.
Take care when coming down Swirral Edge, while not as challenging as Striding Edge it can still be tricky to navigate so keep an eye on your location on ‘Outdoor GPS’ to make sure you’re headed the right way
Keep right at the next split and head down towards Red Tarn unless you would like to take a slightly longer route up Catstye Cam.
Here you will be able to see the path in front of you through the grass, cross over the stream and continue back towards the ‘hole in the wall’.
Once you get there you can either go back the way you came or, cross over the wall and follow a different path down.
If you do cross over you get a beautiful view of Grisedale Beck coming down the valley.
Keep an eye out a little way down for a left turn off the path you’re on, this will lead towards another stone wall.
Cross over the wall and head straight back onto the path you started originally.
As we were hiking in November and it was starting to get dark while we headed down these stoney steps we had a beautiful view of Glenridding and Glrenridding House Hotel was all lit up with Christmas lights.
This will lead you back down along the stream to the gate at the bottom.
Once at the bottom head back through the gate, alongside the campsite and you will end up back in Glenridding where you started.
Congratulations for completing Helvellyn!
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge & Swirral Edge is definitely up there with one of the best experiences I’ve had.
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