Helvellyn twice

10th November 2016

With a few days away from work I had planned to take in Helvellyn which last weekend saw its first snow which I got to witness from Thornthwaite Crag summit last weekend. The lure to climb Helvellyn under such conditions has always been strong which I try to do at least once a year but admittledly this hasn't been as consistent as I'd like it to have been.

With this in mind and with a moderate forecast I planned todays walk to collect Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, White Side and finally Raise before descending back to Swirls via Sticks Pass, a route that I had been very much looking forward to doing.

My walk drastically changed however, after realising that I had dropped my mobile phone sometime during the ascent, it could be anywhere and with fresh snow underfoot the likes of finding it were slim but I thought I had to give it a go anyway given how important our mobile devices are these days, mine especially with videos from when the kids were young and present for that matter, and not to mention my newly updated HD Mapping Software and of course my Spotify account which hosted a trillion... well quite a lot of my music.

Yep, I really need to get that phone back while trying to enjoy the best that Helvellyn had to offer, so much so, today I decided to climb her twice.

Wainwright Guide Book 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 giant.


Ascent: 4.878 Feet - 1,487 Meters
Wainwrights: Helvellyn
Weather: Overcast With Some Sunny Spells. Light Snow Showers Across Helvellyn Summit. Highs of 6°C Lows of 4°C Feels Like -2°C
Parking: Lay-by, Swirls A591
Area: Eastern
Miles: 4.6
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 5 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: A591 - Swirls - Helvellyn Gill - Browncove Crags - Helvellyn - Browncove Crags - Helvellyn Gill - Swirls - A591

Map and Photo Gallery


Browncove Crags from the lay-by found a little further north from Swirls. 08:45am 4°C

With the rain set to clear early during the early hours I timed my arrival for around 09:00am and managed to arrive at the lay-by much sooner parking with ease in front of a bright orange Escort van which from its frosted windows looked like it had been there all night. It was my first drive along the A591 after Storm Desmond and I was trying to visualise from memory parts of the road which had been badly damaged despite the obvious road collapse but I found this a tad difficult while trying to drive so in the end I just enjoyed the views and of course the new road surface. With the traffic whizzing by I kit up which also includes my Gaitors which I hadn't used since crossing the Calder back in August.

Kitted up I lock the car and strike out back up the hill towards Swirls car park (which I later found out was free to park on but more on that later) The air is mild and the ground is a little saturated and from the road I can hear the sound of Helvellyn Gill before it flows into Thirlmere via a aqueduct below my feet. There is only one car on the car park which starts to draw up along side me, a woman is driving whilst eating an apple and nods are shared through the windscreen. Up ahead the little wooden footbridge which crosses Helvellyn Gill before my path rises steeply towards Browncove Crags.

The time is 09:05am I know because I've just checked on my mobile phone before slipping it back into its plastic waterproof wallet then into my left map pocket.

A snow capped glimpse of Browncove Crags from Helvellyn Gill.
By the time I had taken this image and totally unbeknown to me my mobile phone was lying on the ground just feet behind me, unaware, I start the ascent.

Where's Shep when you need him.

After crossing Helvellyn Gill once more I pass through a wooden gate which always provokes memories of being buried deep in snow during one Winter visit sometime ago now, still the memory remains. Further up a herd of dozing sheep completely block the path but as I drew closer they slowly began to rise and trundled off into the Bracken.

This lower section of the path is completely free from snow although thaw from further up the fell is running down leaving the cobble like stones that poke out of the ground quite slippery underfoot and care was taken if only to eliminate the one step up, two down routine.

High Seat, Bleaberry Fell and Raven Crag all under a dusting of snow with Thirlmere and Swirls seen below.

Browncove Crags is just up ahead.
The sound of Helvellyn Gill had been left behind as I followed the stone staircase where I met isolated patches of soft snow from around 1,700ft It was only around 1,900ft did the snow start to drift and accumulate, here the snow is wet soft and slushy although further up once on the shoulder of Browncove Crags the snow drifted up to 2.5ft over the path which still didn't cause any issues, in fact and as always your first snow walk of the year leaves you feeling quite kid like and eager to reach the summit, well, it does for me anyway.

The view over Thirlmere now well into the snowline.

On reaching the shoulder of the fell typically it started to cloud over.

A number of walkers had been before me and had left their footprints in the snow, I tried not to get caught out with those that had walked themselves in to drifts, because of this I adapt the technique which I always use which is to walk a dozen paces or so then look on to choose your next and repeat.

At times while on the shoulder of the fell it was easier to walk as the side of the path where the snow was only centimeters in depth rather than use the path where it had started to drift.

Snow showers pass to the south over Grasmere.
I boy like scurried over the shoulder of the fell safe in the knowledge of the view that awaited me, to the south a snow shower slowly passes over Grasmere after emerging from the Greenburn Valley, all the while the sun beats down through gaps in the cloud creating a rather dramatic skyline, up ahead my view opens out towards...

Nethermost Pike and Seat Sandal.
I pass the summit of Browncove Crags to my left and look down its steep gullies while observing the wondrous drifts along the summit edge. From afar and through the whiteness I can see the interconnecting snow covered ridge in between Lower Man and White Side whose summit is below cloud as too is Helvellyn. It brings a whole new meaning to the word bleak yet with the cloud dramatics further south, and bleakness of the mountain are what appeal to me most when walking in Wiinter.

Hevellyn Lower Man or 'Lower Man'

Up ahead is Lower Man while beyond Helvellyn would just reveal herself for a secondary moment before cloud cover rolled back in, still I'm feeling optimistic I'll get a view from the summit. What happened next changed the whole course of the walk.

I thought I'd take a picture from my mobile phone, you know for a keepsake, as usual I would often tap my left map pocket if only so I know my mobile is there, I tap and feel nothing, eh?

A sudden feeling of horror dawns over me as unzip my map pocket folding it in to my fist and feel nothing, I do the same with my right map pocket although I'm not sure why, I never keep it in there.

A volley of swear words ensues.

Okay where did I have it last? Swirls car park to check the time, it could be anywhere! My legs continue to walk towards Helvellyn summit but I stop just a few feet on...hang on, your life is in that mobile phone, all the texts (that I never delete) my kids photos and videos my mapping software, all my contacts my Spotify account the list is endless, I have to try and find it, I guess it's the least I could do. Just shy of Hevellyn summit I turn heel and start to descend scouring for my foot prints which are still fresh and most of which are, off path.

Back at Swirls.

I would be lying if I started to panic, after all I've never lost a mobile phone before so besides hunting for it during my descent the thought of someone else with all my personal memories drops a bomb in the pit of my stomach, when really, when I thought rationally all that I needed to do was block the phone with my provider and order a new one from my insurance...that's if they cover lost on the mountain in my policy. I meet a few folk during my descent all of whom ask what it was like up top, I answer their questions followed by, oh...by the way you haven't come across a mobile have you?

Two 'old boys' who were in ascent were especially helpful and asked should we find your phone who do you want us to call, I gave them my wife name or home for that matter, will do they said, it wasn't the last I'd see of the two gents but more on that later.

Everyone was helpful and they all offered to ring my number if only I could remember the middle part of my number because after all...you never ring yourself do you? I could have kicked myself for not knowing but I drew a line under the whole episode at Swirls and thought about what to do next.

It's just gone eleven O'clock which leaves me plenty of options yet the one that strikes me most was to continue with my walk, that way I can make what I had intended to do and at the same time, have another look for my phone while at it.

Ok, lets start again.
It seemed a great idea back at Swirls to head back up the mountain but my pace quickly slowed while trying to keep up with a fellow walker of whom I left around a hundred meter gap in between, he was soon out of sight at a time when I struggled to draw that line under what had just happened, the lower part of my second ascent was quite a punishing time both mentally and physically but I continue battling my thoughts of how stupid I was in letting it happen in the first place followed by forgiving myself the next minute but I press on because deep down, all I wanted to do was to see Helvellyns snow covered summit

Browncove Crags.

The view looks familiar only now I'm minus my hat and gloves, it really was that mild. Up ahead I start to approach two walkers and their dog which had to be kept on a long lead because of its relationship with sheep! I was surprised to have caught them back up after chatting to them during my descent where they asked me again any luck? naah, well they said, you've done well to catch us up at least you've got your exercise! I push on towards the shoulder of Browncove Crags noting that within the short space of time the snow had started to thaw leaving footings slippery at times.

I follow an almost print for print ascent and the chap who I tried to keep up with earlier comes back into view.

More cloud dramatics as I shoulder Browncove Crags.
Worth the lack of breath that I'm feeling right about now.

Helvellyn Lower Man is just ahead while further right, Nethermost Pike.
A scene that looks familiar, I pass the stone cairn with walking poles proud at my side. The chap who I had been keen to keep up with has just flanked Lower Man and by now is on his way to Hevellyn summit which is just to the right of Lower Man although from the south once again, cloud is starting to creep in

Snow is on it's way too.

Helvellyn Lower Man.

It didn't take long for the snow and the cloud to arrive by which time I was walking in almost zero visibility. Earlier I had passed a woman close to Swirls who was starting her ascent on Helvellyn, hi's are swapped when through the clag she appears with a joyful hello! which was great to see despite the now biting winds and visibility people with such high morale.

I press on towards Helvellyn summit.

Helvellyn summit Trig Point.
I arrive at the summit trig point and stop to take a solitary shot, it's mind numbingly cold and brain freeze is just moments away. I pass the chap who I had been trying to keep up with earlier as he walks towards the trig point before disappearing into the cloud. I've been on the summit of Helvellyn many times in very similar conditions but it's never felt as cold as today. With this I decide to make my way towards the shelter were I'll de-shoulder and grab a bite to eat, the thought of continuing my walk towards Nethermost Pike and back to Helvellyn summit again gets shelved while I'll ponder on the rest of the route while eating lunch.

A break in the cloud reveals Striding Edge with the summit shelter seen on the right.

The break allows Nethermost Pike to briefly appear before the cloud descends again.

Helvellyn summit taken from the summit cairn.

The 'old boys' ready to leave the cross shelter.

The stone shelter acted as a wind break as I took my mat out and placed it on the snow covered bench. I hadn't realised how dehydrated I had felt as I take long gulps from my hydration tube and start to eat lunch which I had problems digesting due to a sore throat that I had been suffering with over the last couple of days of which I hadn't noticed until I sat down and heard my breath wheezing slightly. The two gents asked me again had I managed to find my phone and I answered no by which time I had already planned my route of descent, it will be via Browncove as the gents went on to say third time lucky you never know.

After speaking to me earlier they had left the path just the Crags which make up Browncove Crags and had ventured into Brown Cove. From where they ascended Browncove Crags via Browncove Central Gully, an ascent that would test the best of climbers in good conditions but these chaps shrugged it off as just another adventure bearing in mind both of them are in their mid sixties and in their playground as they liked to call it, I only wished I had more time to chat but it was becoming un-bearingly cold and I re-shouldered and started to make my way back via the Browncove Crags route, but before I left the gents went onto say that they would be following me down and would continue to look for my lost phone.

It wasn't the last time that I will find total strangers to be so helpful.

Into the abyss.

The cloud lifts briefly revealing Browncove Crags.

White Side white out.

Central Gully, Browncove Crags.

After speaking to the two gents who by now are trailing behind me I thought I'd go and investigate their route of ascent, you might just be able to make out their footprints below the outcrop on the left. One of the chaps who spoke with vast experience spoke of feeling physically sick due to how cold his hands were during their ascent in the gully after continuing to claw at the snow with their ice axes.

My hat totally goes off to them and I hope that one day we will meet again.

Descending Browncove Crags as I dip below the cloud.
The temperature rises within the click of a finger all the while the sun is trying to break through the cloud which illuminates the snow covered fell side.

Skiddaw has been under cloud all day but at least the sun has come out.


Thirlmere from Swirls.

It was noted that it was much trickier underfoot now that the snow was in thaw especially at lower levels leaving the footpath incredibly slippery as I glanced back at the gents progress behind me. Deep down I knew my phone was either still on the path or had slipped below the Bracken never to be seen again and the thought of someone picking it up and keeping it soon diminished after speaking to all the walkers who I had passed who I found were all incredibly helpful.

Three more walkers kit down besides their cars of whom I had asked to keep a look out for my phone "found it they asked" as I walk past, nah I think it's gone for good and with this I head onto the A591 and began walking back to my car. I kit down and switch the engine on and return to the boot of my car where I sit and finish my lunch before returning to the drivers seat ready for the drive home. It was only when I sat down did I notice my phone case attached to my window wiper with a note inside which read " Paul I have found your mobile! I know David Hall and he was able to tell me who you are and identify your car. My home number is...

My heart jumped with joy, literally with joy I was over the moon with a smile so wide you could have seen it from space! My only problem was how do I ring the guy who had found my phone? Luckily I had spare change in the centre console and now all I had to do was find a phone box. This was much much harder than I'd ever imagined. I drove north towards Keswick as I recognised the area code as Keswick. Brilliant now all I have to do is find a phone box which I pass just before entering the town at the top of Nest Brow which was on the opposite side to where I was travelling. I continue towards Keswick and find a second phone box in between Travis Perkins and the Co-op, fantastic! This phone box just swallowed my coins or spat them out and after ten minutes of trying (and losing money) I thought it best to drive into town where I found a second phone box but upon closer inspection it had been turned into a defibrillator phone box.

Okay where next, I drive out of Town back towards the A66 where just past the petrol station on the right I spot another phone box close to the junction of Crossthwaite Road which I found to be vandalised and out of order. Argghh! I continue along Crossthwaite Road and pull up outside the Pheasant Inn, surely they must have a pay phone...The Landlady explained they didn't but after I had explained why I needed to contact this number I had in my hand she let me use the pubs own phone where sadly I got no answer. Knowing I couldn't keep trying for free I decided to head to Threlkeld next thinking that Keswick was just a stones throw away I turned off the A66 and found Threlkelds only phone box which only took credit cards and seeing as I didn't have my wallet with me I decided to call it a day safe in the knowledge that I'd be back here on Saturday and I'll get my phone back then after speaking to its finder when I got home.

After an hour and a half of trying to find a working phone I gave in and drove along the A66 with the Lakeland fells disappearing as dusk began to set in, on arrival at the Rheged Centre as a last ditch to see if they had a public phone which they had I was able to call John Patterson who had found my mobile phone, John answered and suggested we meet half way so we both drove to Scales where I finally got to thank John for finding my phone. I arrive moments before John who quickly pulls into the Lay-by by which time I fling my door open arm aloft ready to shake his hand, we confirm times as it would seem John was only moments behind me when he found my phone and after checking through my contacts he saw David Hall and Rod Hepplewhite of whom he recognised, he then rang David who was still in work but Davids wife Jennifer answered who then contacted John to confirm my type car and who I was.

I couldn't let go of Johns hand and I certainly couldn't stop smiling, John joked about putting news of his find on his Facebook wall and he got plenty of feedback from our mutual friends who confirmed who I was, this was great news. John went onto say that he was checking out a new Squirrel Trail close to Swirls which is when he found my phone, bloody hell 3D Mapping on that! should'er kept it he laughed!


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