Walking the Birketts, Sticks Pass to Raise, White Side and Helvellyn

29th September 2018

With plans for the evening I only had limited time for a walk which I had initially planned somewhere in the south of the county which should see me back home in plenty of time for my plans for later. With a dry weekend forecast I planned to take in Birketts tour of Sour Howes and Sallows from Browfoot but the thought of climbing Helvellyn after nine months away was playing heavy on my mind so I threw caution to the wind and followed Birketts route taking in Raise, White Side and Helvellyn from the Thirlmere side of Sticks Pass before returning to Stanah via White Side's western flank from where I would collect the final summit of Brown Crags, the views from which are simply epic.

If anyone would ask what was my favorite season I'd always reply with Autumn, yes its the most scrawly time of the year with hit and miss showers and high winds that leave the trees bare but its the light that I love the most and today mother nature gave me a taste of what to expect over the next few weeks with dark brooding light instantly followed by shafts of light so bright I was almost reaching for the sunglasses, its not all about the perfect blue sky days, its about days like this.

The Complete Lakeland Fells
By Bill Birkett

-Sticks Pass The path was once an important packhorse route, marked by sticks because of its mountain environment. Often snow clad in Winter it reaches an altidude of some 2,500ft.


Ascent: 3,303 Feet - 1,007 Metres
Birketts: 5, Raise - White Side - Helvellyn Lower Man - Helvellyn - Brown Crag
Weather: Overcast With Some Sunny Spells, Strong Winds Across The Summits. Brightening Up Later. Highs of 12°C Lows of 5°C Feels Like -4°C
Parking: Parking Spaces, Stanah
Area - Group: Eastern - C/HEL
Miles: 7.5
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 4 Hours 20 Minutes
Route: Stanah - Sticks Pass - Raise - White Side - Helvellyn Lower Man - Helvellyn - Helvellyn Lower Man - West Flank of White Side - Brown Crag - Fisherplace Gill - Stanah

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA12 4TH
Grid Reference: NY 318 218
Notes: Found on the Thirlmere side of Sticks Pass the parking spaces at Stanah can be found just off the A591 at the junction with the B5322. Look out for the red phone box which is in front of the parking spaces. Sadly there is only room for around four cars meaning parking is at a premium, my advise is to arrive early to be sure of a space.


Map and Photo Gallery


Looking back on High Rigg, Bleaberry Fell and Skiddaw from Sticks Pass 5°C 08:00am

My early start saw me drive to Lakeland under the cover of darkness arriving at the parking spaces next to the village hall at Stanah at around 07:40am. Despite a dry morning the mountain forecast had predicted high winds across the summits but non of this was evident at valley level where the temperature hovered around 5°C but for some strange reason it did feel milder. From one of the cottages opposite the car park a chap steps out to take his dog for a walk and friendly 'mornings' are exchanged. Kitted up I locked the car and headed towards the wooden style at the end of Stanah Lane before crossing Stanah Gill via the footbridge, Stanah Gill was in good form this morning and I could have took a seat and admired the falls if I didn't have Helvellyn to climb.

Having crossed the footbridge I opened the wooden gate using the metal latch where strangely I received a mild electric shock which kinda took me by surprise because as far as I'm aware there are no electrified fences around here. After passing through a small paddock I opened a second gate and here too I received another mild shock, except this time it left an indentation on the end of my thumb, very strange indeed. The Thirlemre side of Sticks Pass is the steepest covering around 2,500ft over a mile and a half so it's worth bearing in mind that's it's a steep start straight from the off.

Views over Stanah towards High Rigg, Castle Rock, The Benn, Bleaberry Fell and Skiddaw from Sticks Pass.
I'm almost at the top of the steep section now where the pass eases. You can kinda tell what type of morning I'm having with the sudden light displays which changed minute by minute and already those winds that I mentioned earlier are starting to feel pretty fresh right about now.

The same view from the sheepfold above Stanah Gill.

Morning light over High Rigg with Skiddaw, Latrigg and Dodd in the distance.

Light and sky.
Having left the sheepfold behind the path climbs easily over the shoulder of the pass before easing once again towards its summit, I'd been treated to brilliant light displays for the best part of the ascent but this view as I stopped to look back over Thirlmere has to be the most dramatic.

Not far from the summit of Sticks Pass now.
Where I was treated to more light dramatics, that's White Side over on the right which is where I'm heading next.

Views towards Sheffield Pike, Place Fell and the Far Eastern fells from the top of Sticks Pass.

By the time I had reached the top of Sticks Pass the wind has started to feel much cooler leaving my hands feeling raw and out of their comfort zone but before I have the pleasure of covering them with gloves I want to summit Raise first.

Think warm thoughts!

Raise summit.
Despite the strengthening winds the summit of Raise was reached relatively quickly where I was joined by a young girl who had followed me up from Sticks Pass, she has stopped just below the summit to add a windproof and she still managed to catch me up 'fell runner' I thowt, I was right, no sooner had she passed me with a 'morning' she was off into the distance.

White Side, Lower Man and Helvellyn from Raise summit.
If pictures could talk this one would be saying "this is what fell walking is all about" I was in my element here so much so I left Raise summit forgetting to add my gloves.

The view towards White Side, Lower Man and Helvellyn from the descent of Raise.
By the time It was my turn to descend Raise the fell runner had long gone although I could see through my now streaming eyes two walkers who were just about to summit White Side up ahead. The wind by now was possibly at its strongest where the direction of where you wanted your legs to go was depicted by the wind, not only that I seem to have adapted a runny nose and watery eyes which is not uncommon for me in strong winds, especially the latter.

Low light over Brown Cove towards Catstye Cam.
Not so, the far eastern fells which were being regularly treated to shafts of light or 'angels torches' as I prefer to call them.

White Side summit with High Seat and High Tove catching the sunlight.

Lower Man with Brown Cove over on the left.

The wind continued to gain in strength but at least it had started to brighten at times although the light would change as quickly as it came only adding to the atmospherics. It's time to stop being brave now as I deshoulder my pack to add my beanie and gloves.

You just can't beat the feeling of slipping a pair of gloves over raw fingers.

Catstye Cam.
With Striding Edge in the distance.

Ascent on Lower Man.
Todays route entails me doubling back to around this point after summating Helvellyn and Lower Man (for the second time) before descending White Side's western flank to collect Brown Crag, but that's not for a while yet.

Lower Man.
It's hard to believe that in the valleys right now the sun is warm with little to no wind and people can comfortably walk around in shorts but just 2,600ft above it's a different story with 40mph plus winds which are helping to create some severe windchill, blimey what a shock to the system after the great Summer we've had.

Views over Brown Cove towards Catstye Cam, Stang Birkhouse Moor and Sheffield Pike.
Those with a keen eye might be able to spot the ruined Dam at the base of Catstye Cam north ridge with Browncove Tarn in the foreground.

Stopping to look back on White Side and Stybarrow Dodd from the ascent of Helvellyn Lower Man.
I'm not far from the summit now.

The view over Brown Cove and Kepple Cove looking towards White Stones, Stang, Hart Side and Sheffield Pike.
With a glimpse of Birkhouse Moor north ridge seen centre right and Ullswater in the distance.

Browncove Crags from Helvellyn Lower Man summit.

I always tend to enjoy the ascent of Helvellyn Lower Man when approached from the south and this mornings ascent was no different despite the increasing winds. It was while I was at Lower Man summit did I bump into two chaps one of whom was taking readings from his thermometer device which read a -4°C windchill along with 34mph winds, that would be why I can't feel my face!

After a brief chat I found out the guys had ascended from Thirlspot via Browncove Crags where they laughed that the wind had been behind them the whole way to which I replied "which way you heading back" Browncove they sniggered, best of luck I smiled.

Helvellyn and the top of Swirral Edge over Brown Cove.
Well at least the winds haven't put most off with quite a few walkers heading to and from the summit, most of which, as I do, give Brown Cove the respect it deserves by passing with a wide berth.

Helvellyn summit.
Patches of cloud often obscured the summit but this was temporary which I had witnessed from my ascent of Lower Man, my timing could have been slightly better arriving at the summit as more cloud closed in, but to be honest the view wasn't on the agenda today as all I wanted to do was make it to the summit then begin my descent of Lower Man where I'm hoping I'll get some relief from the wind.

The view over Red Tarn towards Striding Edge.
It's looking pretty choppy down there right now.

Here looking towards the Trig Point from summit cairn.
I did manage a wee look over at the cross shelter which I found as busy as I'd expected, I guess there's no point hanging around in these winds.

It's not often you get the summit of Helvellyn to yourself.
Helvellyn didn't want any visitors today!

Helvellyn Lower Man as I double back over the top of Brown Cove.

Descending Helvellyn Lower Man with views of White Side, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Watson's Dodd and Hart Side.
Stunning light as I descend Lower Man.

A distant view of Brown Crag from the descent of Lower Man.
That's Brown Crag seen on the western flank of White Side which will be todays final summit. Birkett recommends to reach Brown Crag from the col below where a narrow trod can be found which I found to be rough underfoot so I ascended towards the shoulder (the pointy bit seen centre) then descended again.

Browncove Crags and Central Gully seen as I left the col.
Gaining Browncove Crags via Central Gully seen right is a very popular ascent for climbers throughout the winter months, the gully from this distance doesn't look half as steep as it actually is.

One final look back over Helvellyn Lower Man with Swirral Edge and Helvellyn in the distance.

Descending on Brown Crag.
Despite descending head on into the wind the temperature was much milder and I was starting to feel the effects from a warming sun overhead although I think I'll keep the gloves and hat on for that bit longer while I take in the glorious view.

Stybarrow Dodd from Brown Crag summit.
Having contoured the western flank of White Side you can't but help 'drop on' Brown Crag, it's up to you if you choose to summit with little to no effort required but I can assure you...

...the view is more than worth it.

Here looking west over Thirlmere towards Raven Crag, High Tove and Bleaberry Fell.

Descending Brown Crag with views over High Rigg, Dodd Crag, Skiddaw Latrigg and Dodd.
Having left the summit of Brown Crag I rejoined the path to the right of Brown Crag which descended towards the fence you can see in the distance where I passed through a wooden gate, it's from here the path starts to descend steeply all the while the sound of Fisherplace Gill is never far from earshot.

Fisherplace Falls lower falls.
The upper falls despite their height are much more difficult to see at the moment as the view is hindered by tree branches and shrubbery, give it a few weeks once the leaves have fallen and the view will be worth the short climb from the roadside.

The Benn and High Rigg from the intake path above Stybeck Farm.
The winds were now confined to the summits and warmth returned as I walked alongside the intake wall back to Stanah, with my gloves removed during my descent of Brown Crag I left my beanie on on the account that I was too lazy to carry it. I soon found myself at the same gate which had given me a shock this morning and this time I gave the latch a touch test first with my fore finger, it passed. Having crossed Stanah Gill I passed over the wooden style and dropped onto Stanah Lane, my car, and lunch were just moments away.


Back to top