The Harry Griffin 2,000 footers Walk 18 - Helvellyn Days

27th June 2015

This weekend felt more like the summer it was supposed to instead of the washout that we have been experiencing throughout June which meant I could hand pick which walk I wanted to do. My eye had been on perhaps the Mosedale Horseshoe from Wasdale but my heart swayed towards this walk 'Helvellyn Days' which is without doubt, one of the more arduous walks within the campaign made more so as today I would be also collecting St Sunday Crag towards the latter of the walk, something of which Harry had regretted not doing so when he completed it in July 77 instead, adding St Sunday Crag as an 'add on' when he completed a series of two thousand footers above Kirkstone.

For months I've toyed with the idea of following Harry's add on of St Sunday with with the Kirkstone Fells, after all, I am following in Harry's own footsteps, yet after reading about Harry's regret at not including it with the Helvellyn fells I kinda gave myself the green light to do so, I kind of think that from heaven right now Harry is nodding too if you get my drift.

Okay, so I've just made an already difficult walk harder in including St Sunday Crag which will take the tally of two thousanders from thirteen, to fifteen, so let me talk you through the route and its awesome knee crunching switchbacks. Harry started his walk from Glenridding yet seeing as I am including St Sunday Crag I thought it best to leave my car in Patterdale and then make the walk through to Glenridding picking up the original route from there, my reason for leaving my car in Patterdale is purely based on the fact that I will be finishing todays walk on St Sunday Crag, and not the Grisedale valley as Harry had.

From Glenridding four summits on Birkhouse Moor are to be collected via the north east ridge, from where Striding Edge will be traversed before gaining Helvellyn for the first of three summits, Catstye Cam is my next summit collected via a switchback over Swirral Edge and back, from where Helvellyn is summitted for a second time, thereafter Lower Man, White Side and Raise take the summit tally to nine leaving six more to collect in Nethermost Pike, High Crag, Dollywagon Pike, Seat Sandal, St Sunday Crag and finally Gavel Pike which seems a long way away when your stood on Raise summit.

I assigned myself the task to collect all fifteen two thousand footers, that isn't to say, I didn't find a new meaning to 'digging deep'

Freeman of the Hills
H.Griffin's thought's on not includingSt Sunday Crag in 'Helvellyn Days'
I could have finished my longish Helvellyn day with the ascent at St Sunday Crag from Grisedale Hause, returning to Glenridding along the ridge of Birks. This would have made a more demanding round, with 15 summits, but would have been perfectly feasible and is commended as a more sensible method of including the summits south of Grisedale.
Harry Griffin

Ascent: 6,468 Feet - 1,972 Metres
Summits Over 2,000Ft: 15, Birkhouse Moor (NY 365 163) - Birkhouse Moor (NY 363 159) - Birkhouse Moor (NY 361 158) Birkhouse Moor (NY 360 157) - Helvellyn - Catstye Cam - Helvellyn Lower Man - White Side - Raise - Nethermost Pike - High Crag - Dollywagon Pike - Seat Sandal - St Sunday Crag - Gavel Pike
Weather: Bright to start turing overcast with sunny spells, strong gust across the summits. Highs of 19°C Lows of 12°C
Parking: Road side parking, Patterdale School
Area: Eastern
Miles: 16.2
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 10 Hours
Route: Patterdale - Glenridding - Birkhouse Moor North East Ridge - Hole-in-the-Wall - Striding Edge - Helvellyn - Swirral Edge - Catstye Cam - Swirral Edge - Helvellyn Lower Man - White Side - Raise - White Side - Helvellyn Lower Man - Helvellyn - Nethermost Pike - High Crag - Dollywagon Pike - Seat Sandal - Grisedale Tarn - Deepdale Hause - St Sunday Crag - Gavel Pike - Thornhow End - Grisedale Lane - Patterdale

Map and Photo Gallery


Ullswater 8:00 am 12°C

After arriving in Patterdale at 7:10 am I thought I would easily secure myself a parking spot close to the White Lion Hotel yet how wrong I was as all the bays had been taken leaving me the second option of the roadside parking spots next to Patterdale School where I parked with ease. A large organised Fell Run was taking place leaving Patterdale looking quite full with Fell Runners all heading in the direction of Glenridding.

Although it was a mere 12°C the morning air felt much warmer as I kitted up behind the car where I made sure nothing was left to chance packing waterproofs a full two litres of Hydration enough calories to keep me going including half a dozen juicy Satsuma's. On the outside of pack I tied in my baseball gap which does the important job of keeping the sweat out of my eyes, but I wont be needing that just yet. With my Bloc Billy's firmly fixed and the car locked I head out of Patterdale towards Glenridding which should take me around twenty minutes or so.

I am passed by more and more Fell Runners most of whom pass on their good mornings those who don't are just concentrating on the task ahead. St Patricks Bay glistens in the sunshine as the buoys gently bob up and down in the calm waters. The main street of Glenridding is reached which despite it still not being 8:00 am is bustling with Fell Runners and tourists who try out gear in the outdoor stores. I make a left at Shermans Stores to be greeted by an Aid Station for the Fell Runners where volunteers hand out hydration wearing those bright high viz waistcoats.

Grisedale Bridge would have been the place from where my first picture would have been taken marking the official start of the walk yet it is hardly visible due to the tourists who plonk there bums on there, tie this in with the Aid Station you may well imagine why the camera stopped where it was, instead I plod up the lane leaving the bustle as views of Birkhouse Moor north east ridge appear through the sun drenched tree tops.

Birkhouse Moor north east ridge.
Soon, my tree lined route gave way for open fell side where views of Birkhouse Moor north east ridge opened out, several options to gain the ridge were available either from the Greenside Road on the other side of Gillside Campsite or, from my line of direction where height is gained steadily rather than immediately, although by all accounts, all that would change once I hit the ridge.

Clear views over Gillside towards Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd.

Birkhouse north east ridge from Mires Beck.
Bracken as far as the eye could see filled the lower flanks of the north east ridge which didn't trouble me as a lined route keeps right from where a single track is soon picked up. My route would see me head for the outcrop of rock (close to the tree) via a right flank from where I would pick up various routes on and off path towards the large Crag seen higher in the photo.


The north east ridge taking shape as it sweeps east towards Glenridding.

Seeing as this was my first ascent via the north east ridge I really didn't know what to expect as sometimes when viewed from below looks can be deceiving. From the base of the ridge the climb is devilishly steep although I did feel that bit more satisfied that I had found the path through the young bracken which by my estimations will be completely obscured within a few weeks time.

Even with a good eye for the lay of the ridge I sometimes found myself over looking where my route would take me, a lesson that I soon picked up was just pick out your next ten-fifteen steps rather than further ahead as the scenery of the rock changes so rapidly. Harry made good of the many rock scrambles found along the ridge but I kept them at bay having more fun picking my way up the steep grassy ledges while being gazed upon by many a sheep.

I cut the ridge into three sections, the last being a steep pull via said grassy ledges from where the ridge narrows over The Nab. Ahead a narrow grassy rake leads onto the shoulder of Birtkhouse Moor where ones breath can be re-gained before the final march towards the summit cairn.

Catstye Cam and Helvellyn from Birkhouse Moor (NY 365 163)

Once the summit shoulder had been crested all that was left was a ten minute stroll towards the main summit cairn. The main thing that struck me first was the never tiring view of Helvellyn flanked by both Striding and Swirral Edges which had sadly made the news this week for all the wrong reasons.

The wind had picked up whilst at the summit which caused the sweat on my face and back to instantly freeze as I de-shoulder and take out my jacket, my sleeves flap in the wind as I add on the extra layer which soon left me feeling comfortable again, if not a little sticky. While on my north east ascent I spotted two walkers making their ascent via Mires Beck, they round the summit themselves and too, stop to add layers but never actually walk over to the summit cairn.

From the summit my views are clear although the light changes often as the wind carries the cloud over my head rapidly across the sky, I soon spot two of the three summits that Francis Faulkingham had found here before making my way over passing on my 'morning' to the two walkers as I walk by.

Striding Edge, Helvellyn and Catstye Cam from Birkhouse Moor.

Birkhouse Moor subsiduary summit Grid Reference (NY 363 159)
Birkhouse Moor summit Grid Reference  (NY 361 158)

Birkhouse Moor subsiduary summit Grid Reference (NY 360 157)
With all four summits collected on Birkhouse Moor I make my way over towards Hole-in-the-Wall where I at least expected to see more walkers yet found myself alone on the mountain, for now anyway which helped to savour and put into perspective what I had ahead of me.

Where is everyone?

Here, looking back on Birkhouse Moor from Hole-in-the-Wall.

Apprehensions and nerves start to build as always when on route to Striding Edge, I guess I wouldn't have it any other way which is only human I guess. Behind me the two walkers I had passed on Birkhouse Moor have only just made it to Hole-in-the-Wall as two more walkers approach from Grisedale.

I really didn't want a queue behind me which can build up unwanted nerves which was one of the reasons why I made the trip so early this morning. Having witnessed the walkers down packs my nerves calm leaving me to focus on the next half hour or so.

I run through a mental check list in my head - I question do I really need to keep my jacket on, yes it was a tad windy and yes there was a slight nip to it which left me downing pack once more having made my decision to layer-up not half an hour before. Walking poles are packed away as they are more of an hinderance on such scrambles, it will be well over an hour before I will use them again.

I quickly re-organise myself all the while looking back at the walkers who are still close to Hole-in-the-Wall, from my vantage point beneath Low Spying How I can see two walkers on Helvellyn summit as I check the lonely ridge ahead all the while making my advance on Low Spying How.

Helvellyn from Striding Edge.
Although conditions aren't perfect the low light still captures Striding Edge as imposing as ever as I advance my way along.

Passing the Dixon Memorial along the way found close to High Spying How.

Looking back along Striding Edge.

Distant views over Birkhouse Moor, Stridng Edge and Red Tarn.

After crossing Striding Edge all that is left is the exhilarating scramble towards the summit which personally is just as rewarding as Striding Edge itself, today, however the path is wet underfoot and parts of it are still under regeneration around The Chimney seen in the foreground of the photograph. My options were limited as I usually flank 'The Chimney' after an early scare some years ago, however today I go over and descend via a scramble off the left and not by the Chimney on the right.

The last push towards the summit was done by picking my way over dry rock but wet loose dirt underfoot so footings in some cases were tested first. Ahead the path forks in two, one path traces away to the left towards Nethermost Pike as I take the right path towards the summit not before passing the Gough Memorial first.

Helvellyn summit cairn.
A solo walker eats breakfast while stood at the summit trig point, with half a mouthful he passes on his good morning as I prepare myself for the steep descent of Swirral Edge.

Catstye Cam from the top of Swirral Edge.

Anyone who has descended Swirral Edge will know just how tricky it can be as most of the fun will be made up on the return leg. I think about taking my walking poles out if not only to give a little confidence during descent but opt out instead I pick my way down slowly noting that my hands are taking a beating from the hard rock.

I guess there's nothing like taking a little grit away under your nails from Swirral Edge.

Striding Edge and Red Tarn from Swirral Edge.
Before bottoming out on Swirral Edge a Grandfather and Grandaughter are passed who stop to let me pass "It's a lot easier going up than down" come on son, you can get passed, I offer my thanks.

Ascent on Catsye Cam.

As I reach the bottom of Swirral Edge I am able to cast view over Striding Edge, Red Tarn and as far back as Hole-in-the-Wall which by now seems to very active indeed with walkers coming from Glenridding and Grisedale.

This photo depicts Catstye Cam much steeper than it actually is I pick up a steady pace only slowing down just beneath the summit, my energy levels are good but walking at this pace isn't going to last very long.

At the summit I meet a walker who is just about to leave "bloody cowd on't top in it" I could be mistaken for talking to a fellow Wiganer but I don't ask I just agree. He leaves as I am joined by two more walkers from Catstye Cam north east ridge, two young men who don't stop they just say hello.

With this I de-shoulder and take out a couple of pieces of flap jack washed down with minimum sips of fruit juice. The guy ealier was right though, it was cold, time to re-shoulder and get a move on.

Sheffield Pike and Ullswater from Catstye Cam summit.

Fed and re-shouldered I start to make my way down and prepare for my re-ascent on Swirral Edge which by now is starting to get quite busy. By the looks of things a group of walkers from Red Tarn are on target to meet me right at the base of Swirral Edge, I really could do with getting there first.

With good legs I reach the base missing the walkers by just a few yards, ahead as noted Swirral Edge is looking much busier than that of twenty minutes ago as I hold back and let any walker ahead of me, gain some ground.

With this I make my re-ascent picking my way back via an almost identical route that I had just descended, however three walkers block the route ahead around half way up, two of which are an elderly couple and the other can't make his mind up which is the best way up. I stop to chat to the elderly couple who are indeed, just taking time out and don't seem in any trouble at all, they ask me the best way back to Wythburn and I oblige "Come far today they ask" well as it so happens I'm following a set route as I explained where I'd come and where I had to go pointing towards a very distant looking St Sunday Crag.

Blimey, it was only then did I realise how much ground I still had to cover which left a stark reminder of the route ahead.

In good spirits looking down on Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam.

I soon top out on Swirral Edge leaving a wake of walkers making their own ascents and descents behind me, best push on.

Time taken for the "out and back" to Catstye Cam and back to Helvellyn summit was fifty seven minutes, however I think the next "out and back" may take me a little longer.

On route to Helvellyn Lower Man.
With both Striding and Swirral Edges behind I could now concentrate on the "out and back" to gain my next three summits in Lower Man, White Side and Raise, from which I would make my return back to Helvellyn summit for the third time this morning and my fourth time this month. Gaining Lower Man was done with ease but powerful gusts at times took the mind of what lay ahead.

Helvellyn Lower Man, White Side and Raise seen over Brown Cove.

Catstye Cam from Helvellyn Lower Man.
Helvellyn Lower Man was soon reached passing more walkers in both directions, this isn't by any means the longest "out and back" within my two thousand footer campaign, but it surely is the one with the most descent and re-ascent.

Views over Brown Crags and Thirlmere during my Lower Man descent.

Catstye Cam over Brown Cove, with Sheffield Pike and Ullswater in the distance.

Raise seen from White Side.
With the descent of Lower Man behind me White Side was soon reached not stopping until the summit cairn was reached, in it two walkers taking shelter from the prevailing winds, my time here was minimal, however, I do choose to stop and eat lunch on my next summit of Raise, if only to re-fuel.

Raise summit cairn.

Raise wasn't gained as hastily as White Side, my pace notably slowing down in any case I do not stop until the summit was reached where I find two more walkers taking shelter behind the cairn. I think ahead as by now the wind is strong and I cant come up with another sheltered summit sometime soon so I choose to drop of the back of Raise finding shelter in a grassy hollow over looking Sheffield Pike.

This, my first real stop couldn't have come sooner as I had started to pick at my reserves during the ascent on Raise, no matter the minimum effort needed, I sure felt it. My body felt good and my legs are still strong, however, a good rest right now is what they both need.

I make sure my down time was just that, time to re-fuel and time to lay plan and make those mental adjustments to get me back to Helvellyn in good time.

Time to head back to Helvellyn.
Raise was soon reached as my rest stop must have done me good again not stopping all the way. With the summit of Raise reached I trot down to the col between it and Helvellyn Lower Man where a second wind would come in handy, I guess I best start mustering then!

Ascent Helvellyn Lower Man.
With the col soon reached and the wind blowing a right hooley I plod on taking in the ascent on Lower Man at a steady pace, made slower at times by the sheer number of groups I had to pass who where making there own descents from Lower Man. I do not look up such my determination to not stop and reach the top were at times I considered myself "ignorant" not passing on any pleasantries during my re-ascent of which I offer my humble apologies.

Helvellyn from Lower Man.
I topped out on Lower Man feeling a little strained yet nonetheless, pleased I had made the difficult out and back unscathed. Ahead my last summit of Helvellyn will be made followed by Nethermost Pike and High Crag, thereafter Dollywagon Pike, Seat Sandal, St Sunday Crag and Gavel Pike will be waiting for me, but, I'm not thinking about those last three summits just yet.

Helvellyn summit for the third, and last time today.

With the sun on my back I make my third Helvellyn summit of the morning, the "out and back" to Raise had taken me one hour and thirty minutes which also included a good ten minute rest stop back on Raise summit.

I can't count how many people are on the summit itself as more appear within a blink of an eye. I have a wander towards the summit cross shelter which is full on all four sides . It was stated that on a July day in 1966 a total of 614 people where counted on Helvellyn's summit during daylight hours, which when you think about this one moment in time, could easily be matched.

Helvellyn and its masses are soon left behind as I make my descent towards Nethermost Pike, using the grass to the side of the path helps my aching knees which no doubt are starting to come off their adrenalin rushes from Striding and Swirral Edges earlier.

Nethermost Pike, High Crag and Dollywagon Pike.

I soon pass a young girl no older than sixteen or seventeen maybe, I find it odd that she carries a long stick which she uses as a walking pole.

She has ground on me but chooses not to summit Nethermost Pike nor Dollywagon Pike, instead skirting around them on both occasions, we always seemed to meet at the col's between the summits yet we never exchanged a word...a strange memory taken from the day no less.

Nethermost Pike summit cairn.

Helvellyn, Striding Edge and Catstye Cam from Nethermost Pike.

High Crag with Dollwagon Pike in full shadow behind.
With a little less height it would seem that the wind has died down and to complement this it looks like the sun is out and here to stay as I make the short crossing from Nethermost Pike to High Crag.

St Sunday Crag seen over Hard Tarn and Ruthwaite Cove.
For the first time today, St Sunday Crag is starting to look a more realistic target.

Helvellyn, and Helvellyn Lower Man from High Crag.
High Crag takes the total of todays summits to eleven leaving four yet to summit, had these summits been close or easy to attain I guess my mood might have been lighter as the thought of a devilishly steep descent from Dollywagon Pike awaits followed by an equally steep ascent on Seat Sandal, it is at times like these one must dig deep.

Dollywagon Pike seen over Ruthwaite Cove.

Nethermost Pike seen over Ruthwaite Cove.

St Sunday Crag from Dollywagon Pike.

I arrive at Dollywagon Pike much the same time as a large group of walkers had, the push of my twelve summit of the day was done with relative ease as my walking poles are kept aside during the short ascent, a good sign that you aren't finished just yet. At the summit the family surround the cairn which at first frustrated me a little before one member of the group saw me take out my camera, "out of the road he shouts this fella wants a picture"

I smiled and said thanks, but I still got the distinct feeling he thought this was my first summit of Dollywagon Pike, nonetheless, I take my photo before heading off for the Iron post which is where my Dollywagon Pike descent will start from.

Seat Sandal from my Dollwagon Pike descent.

For anyone familiar with this route you will know just how steep it is as the fellside falls away when approached. I keep a good head picking my way down slowly sometimes using the foot holes provided or going off path, which ever was easiest on the knees and feet I guess. Grisedale Tarn starts to appear around the flanks of Dollywagon Pike shimmering in a deep blue which was easy on the eye and took my mind of the steep descent.

Below I witness a wild camp unfold as a father and young son start to put up a bright orange tent, before they both disappear inside.

Seat Sandal summit cairn.

I mentally block out the pain in my feet caused by the steep descent from Dollywagon Pike, instead kicking my feet back into position in both boots who by, now had been carrying little stones in them around my toe area, I simply do not know why I failed to take them out, instead finding it easier to complain about them.

From the summit of Seat Sandal I make my way back towards the summit wall which offered protection from the wind, which although wasn't cold and had warmed up, was still as strong here as it was on top of Lower Man, with this I find myself a stone behind the wall and plonk my backside upon it stretching my legs and curling my toes I open my pack and take out my buttybox and finish of the remainder of my lunch followed by two more Satsuma's.

I quickly do a hydration check by placing my hand down the H2 pocket in my pack, there's still plenty left, yet between it and my Satsuma's I should be fine to see me through to Patterdale.

St Sunday Crag over Grisedale Tarn.
From the summit of Seat Sandal I have a wander over looking Grisedale Tarn which is lit up by the sun in brilliant blue. Below me dozens of competitors from the Fell Race that I had seen back in Glenridding were all converging at Grisedale Hause where a marshall handed out advise to the runners, I've never seen Grisedale Hause looking so busy.

St Sunday Crag and Fairfield and Cofa Pike from Grisedale Tarn.
I soon found myself off path after avoiding Grisedale Hause, with this I still keep my eye on the traverse path that will lead me onto Deepdale Hause and finally St Sunday Crag, which I pick up seen as a faint line running parallel just above Grisedale Tarn.

Here, looking back on Fairfield from the path.

Views open out over Grisedale and St Sunday Crag.
After Grisedale Hause is flanked via the narrow path which then takes on a steady and finally steep approach before spilling you out right on top of Deepdale Hause, from where, St Sunday Crag and my final summit of Gavel Pike is a little over half a mile away.

Fairfield and Cofa Pike over Deepdale Hause.

Deepdale Hause was dually reached by which time my reserves were almost spent, the last push towards the summit of St Sunday Crag wasn't without its stops, while annoyingly to myself, I was still carrying those little stones in my boots which by now, are starting to feel like cannon balls.

It's no use, I shall have to take off the boots.

Which gave time to take this photo while emptying said boots of cannon balls! Here looking back on Fairfield, Cofa Pike, Seat Sandal and Grisedale Tarn.

St Sunday Crag summit.

Emptying my boots boosted morale which was a great reward in gaining the fourteenth two thousander of the day, noticing all the while just how clear the views where starting to get at a time when afternoon starts to become late afternoon all the while noting on the little things like how shadows fall away at different angles later during the day.

I ease my way over to the summit cairn deservedly scratching my wedding ring on the one of the stones before heading out to collect my fiftteenth and final summit of the day in Gavel Pike.

Descending from the summit of St Sunday Crag towards Gavel Pike with clear views over the eastern fells.

Gavel Pike summit cairn.

Heavy footed I tramp down to reach Gavel Pike summit by which was fully exposed to the wind but not the little hollow where I dug myself in lying on my pack taking a five minute break from where my tiredness and general laziness took hold not bothering with the wide views around me but a lasting image from my resting spot.

I guess for me, this was as good as it gets.

Descending over Gavel Moss towards the col between Birks, and St Sunday Crag with glorious late afternoon views of Ullswater.

Here, looking back on a last dash of sun over St Sunday Crag before the predicted cloud arrives from the west.

Ullswater from Thornhow End.

Walkers are passed as they congregate at the col between Birks and St Sunday Crag, most of whom having just made their descents, I ponder on the thought of easing the pain from my sore foot pads by choosing to walk the meadow like summit of Birks before having a sudden change of mind as a glance back west, confirms I am about to lose light given the cloud that has started to roll in over Grisedale and its towering summits, all of which are dark in contrast, looking much more menacing than that of just a few hours ago.

After the steep descent over Thornhow End I arrive at a gate where my choice is to head towards Grisedale Lane and the comforts of tarmac underfoot.

Grisedale Lane is busy and I am pushed into the nettles by careless drivers on more than one occasion, I escape a stinging but still, all the same. At the end of Grisedale Lane Patterdale is bustling not with fell runners but tourists dressed up for evening meals and Saturday night drinks, then there's me, this bloke with a sunburnt head, looking tired and drawn out face with muddied ankles, yet in the corner of his eye there is a glint of happiness confirming that he has just spent the best part of ten hours fell walking and doing what only he does best.


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