Helvellyn from Stanah

11th January 2014

I chose todays fell & route for one simple reason as I needed to take my mind of some very raw recent events that had happened over the last few days for you see I now find myself at the back of the dole queue.

Without going into matters why I should find myself at this low point in my life lets just say I was lied too, made a scape goat of & falsely enticed into a trap with only one outcome, the rawest & coldest feelings of all was is that this was done to me by a person I not only regarded my boss but my friend also.

It seems the law isn’t on my side either after only working for the company for eight months, the same company I left my previous employer of 22 years, yeah I guess I’m still pretty raw. Damn right.

So I guess I should leave it there & let the fells do the talking.

I had intended to keep up with my yearly winter climb on Helvellyn as I do every year, normally, by now the snow has arrived but this year it seems, the fells are only managing snow showers with no real lasting effect on winter conditions on all but some of the obvious routes.

Even so, I got a taste of winter today & although the snow may have only been centimetres deep, the cold wind-chill that swept the summits certainly made up for the lack of snow.

In so many ways this was the walk that I needed & if it meant emptying the fuel tank to get there then so be it.


Wainwright Guidebook One

The Eastern Fells


There is some quality about Helvellyn which endears it in the memory of most people who have stood on its breezy top; although it can be a grim place indeed on a wild night, it is, as a rule, a very friendly mountain.


Ascent: 3,232 Feet 986 Meters
Wainwrights: 4, Raise – White Side – Helvellyn – Nethermost Pike
Weather: Overcast To Start, Low Cloud Along The Tops am. Turning More Clearer After Midday With Sunny Spells. Feeling Cold Across The Summits. Highs Of 5°C Lows Of 3°C Feels Like -10°C
Parking:  Parking Spaces, Stanah (NY318 471)
Area: Eastern
Miles: 10
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 6 Hours 20 Minutes
Route: Stanah – Sticks Pass – Raise – White Side – Helvellyn Lower Man – Helvellyn – Nethermost Pike – Birk Side – Forestry Path Above Thirlmere – Swirls – Fisher Place Gill -Stanah

Map and Photo Gallery


Stanah Lane 08:16am 3°C

The forecast was set to be dry & bright from early morning but this did not stop the wintery showers which I drove through once leaving the motorway at Penrith, most of which fell as rain as I neared my destination of Stanah north east of Thirlmere, here the rain turned to sleet this causing me to ‘sit the showers out’ in the comfort of the car.

I managed to park at the few parking spaces just behind where I stood to take this photo. The car park is situated at the junction with the B5322 & the A591.

Whilst I was kitting up after the sleet had stopped I noticed a woman stood in her dressing gown smoking a cigarette at one of the cottage doorways, I give a morning nod & in return I get a smile.

The mood is dark as the sun hasn’t officially risen so I take my time to kit up after last weeks episode when I foolishly left my lunch behind. As a precaution today I will be packing Crampons although at this stage I do not intend to use them, the Ice Axe gets left behind in the boot of the car.

Taking on Sticks Pass.
Overnight snow lies on the ground from a very low level indeed, the snow is fresh & wet which causes a few traction issues, although it is not long before I find my winter feet & progress with the steep climb.

Views as far as Bassenthwaite Lake together with the Central & Northern fells.
After reaching the familiar Sheepfold the steepness of the initial climb is put behind you for a more gentler ascent up Sticks Pass.

Sticks Pass.
I remembered reading the previous evening that after recent snow the ground would freeze & care was to be taken, here the soft ground underfoot together with the puddles where in a state of freeze & really didn’t cause any boggy issues.

Looking back down Sticks Pass with sunrise at last.
The light is extremely sporadic in all directions causing some great contrast between the fells & the cloud.

Distant views of Dodd & Bassenthwaite Lake from Sticks Pass.

The top of Sticks Pass.

My route towards Raise & Helvellyn is reached by turning right at this point, turning left here would take you towards The Dodd’s & Clough Head, walking straight ahead would lead you down towards Sheffield Pike & Glenridding.

I was lucky enough to keep the light for now, but for how long was uncertain.

Sunburst over Raise with a fresh layer of snow to take on.
It was here the true affect of the wind-chill started to take hold, so, rather than layer up further ahead I decided to do it here as for in the first time in years, I adopted my neck gaiter & firmly fixed my jacket hood over my hat, there, snug as a bug.

Towards the summit of Raise I encountered a rough area of Verglas that had been covered by the recent snowfall.
Although the Verglas was easily avoidable I guess from here on in it would pay to look out for areas such as this.

Raise substantial stone summit cairn.
My surroundings quickly turned to mono whilst at the summit of Raise casting doubt over a cloud free Helvellyn summit.

The light suddenly lifts after descending Raise which gave me a few seconds to take in the view towards White Side.

White Side summit shelter.

I encountered much the same experience with hidden Verglas whilst ascending White Side as I did Raise previously.

The presence of Verglas was almost everywhere but easily avoidable if you are watching your steps.

Spectacular views opened up over Catstye Cam which sadly, did not last.

Helvellyn Lower Man seen from White Side.
It was with a reassuring crunch through the snow did I take on the descent of White Side & indeed the ascent on Lower Man, the views & visibility though…

Had all but gone.

Brown Cove, shortly after leaving Helvellyn Lower Man.
After leaving Lower Man I made my way over towards the main summit path just to keep matters safe; it was here I encountered more walkers leaving, & heading towards Helvellyn’s summit.

Helvellyn summit Trig Point.
The snow was a little thicker on the ground in between Lower Man & Helvellyn, most walkers including myself were using the ‘grassy bits’ beside the main path which was heavily covered with Verglas & fresh snow, once the main summit plateau was reached however, the snow was less substantial & traction was made a whole lot easier.

Here looking towards Helvellyn main summit cairn from the summit Trig Point.

And back again…
It seemed I was in luck as I had my brief summit views, it was time to take a little respite from the wind-chill at the summit cross shelter.

Down at the shelter.

It’s not very often you would find the cross shelter to yourself even as momentarily as I did it which sure puts things into perspective, I figure over the last few hours my mind was free of the stresses that have enveloped me.

Me time was brief but I didn’t mind the company when two blokes very similar to my age arrived at the shelter, after making themselves comfortable we struck up a conversation mostly on routes etc., it turned out they were out for the weekend when after traversing the whole ridge from Seat Sandal they would then leave Helvellyn for The Dodd’s & Clough Head, where after, they would set up camp for the night somewhere around High Rigg (St Johns-in-the-Vale)

Tomorrow morning they explained after kitting up they would return to their car at Dunmail Raise via a clutch of Thirlmere Fells, a very well & thought out route I thought to myself.

Have you taken many photos? here referring to the near zero visibility whilst sat in the cross shelter, yeah I managed a few on the ascent via Sticks I explained but lost the views shortly afterwards, what do you do with them? well I explained, I manage a website where I blog & post the pictures from all my walks, what’s your site called? Its Sharkey’s Dream I said…ohh I know Sharkey’s Dream the guy replied, which I have to say kinda brought about a little smile about my otherwise miserable mush.

Before leaving the shelter the conversation turned to Scotland & the Munro’s & the fact that one of these guys had completed all of them over a span of 22 years, I fail to find out their names only that, one of whom was from Barrow, & the other Durham.

Nice Chaps.

En-route to Nethermost Pike shortly after leaving the summit cross shelter.

Nethermost Pike summit cairn.

Nethermost Pike is easily obtainable from Helvellyn although unless you are familiar with the paths & indeed the summit top, I wouldn’t recommend it in these conditions.

Here I pass two walkers walking in the direction of  Helvellyn, we pass on our good mornings with just a nod & a smile.

After leaving the summit I notice three figures walking towards the summit, they are too far away for a wave or smile so I pay them no attention.

Heading down towards Birk Side after leaving Nethermost Pike.
Still shrouded in mist I start my descent via the zig-zag path, I figure for the first time today I should get out my walking pole as the wet snow is a little too slippery for my liking.

A little colour is most certainly welcome.

Descent with a view.
From Birk Side; Steel Fell & the secluded valley of Wythburn conquer the show, over on the right of the photo is the Nab Crags ridge that rolls down towards Thirlmere’s shoreline.

Thirlmere & its satellite fells from the top of Comb Crags.

It really is turning out to be a beautiful day as it looks like the predicted sunshine has finally arrived.

Here looking back up toward Comb Crags.

Steel Fell & the Wythburn valley still dominate the view before I descend a little further into the forest above Thirlmere.

Oh Dear.

The Forestry Commission have closed the permissive path back to Swirls.

Here I down pack & give it some thought as I munch on some sandwiches, I can feel the naughty side of me creeping in (naughty best describes my stubborn side)

Here I don’t see an option other than to go through the gate & take my chances as I really don’t fancy taking on the A591 at peak time

The Permissive Forest Track back to Swirls.
I think Permissive is a term used lightly this afternoon, I know in the past I often describe how I would plan a route to take all I can out of a walk & this includes the walk back to the car, this is one of the times when the walk back is as addictive as the fells themselves.

The views at times open up revealing Thirlmere.
With Helvellyn directly above my flanks I choose to take in a little ‘me time’ on a bench situated besides the forest path.

Where Steel Fell & Wythburn secure my thoughts.

Back on the Forestry Path.
I am a little under a mile before reaching Swirls when I first came upon any real logging activity.


Strangely enough I passed through a brief rain shower before reaching Swirls, for the life of me I couldn’t see a dark cloud in the sky.

Helvellyn Gill at Swirls.
I had one of two choices I needed to make to reach Stanah, I could either brave the A591 or take in a narrow path that navigates above Thirlspot & Fisher Place. In taking the latter a little more ascent is needed but seeing as the legs still feel fresh, I go with the more scenic route.

Great How, Thirlspot, High Rigg & a distant Blencathra from Swirls.

Brown Cove Crags shortly after crossing Helvellyn Gill.
The Brown Cove route offers a great alternative path to Helvellyn thus avoiding any disconcerting edges especially during the winter season.

The Thirlmere/Stanah Leat clearly seen from the path.


Raven Crag, Swirl How & High Rigg with Thirlspot Farm below seen from the path.

It can be a little narrow in places but rewards are plenty.

The waterfalls at Fisher Place Gill.
Here the falls are first heard from some distance before being seen, which just goes to show how much water is flowing down the fell side here today.

Skiddaw, High Rigg, Blencathra & Castle Rock dominates my view as I near Stanah, which can be seen in the foreground.

A close up of High Rigg & Skiddaw seen shortly before I descend back to the car which is parked just in front of the white cottages in the photo.

I guess it’s time I made my way back home & more importantly, back to reality.

I can’t go without saying thank you for letting me forget


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