Catstye Cam and Helvellyn

Sunday 17 April 2016. Having walked on 9 out of the last 11 days I felt a need for a rest yesterday and, as I often do on a Saturday, I spent the time watching sport on TV. When I went to bed last night, I’d thought that I might do a coastal walk at Arnside today. However, when I got up it was such a beautiful day and I needed to make the most of it with a more challenging walk. Talk about going from one extreme to another; from sea level to 3,113ft above sea level.

Today’s walk was one that I’ve wanted to do for many reasons including ticking off a new Wainwright (Catstye Cam 2.919ft) and a chance to try out my newly acquired ice axe and crampons. So it was a drive across the Kirkstone Pass to Glenridding for a walk up Catstye Cam and Helvellyn (3,113ft). Other than the scramble up Swirral Edge it was a fairly gentle walk up to Red Tarn where the panorama of Striding Edge, Helvellyn and Swirral Edge opened up before me. I spent some time at Red Tarn taking pictures on what was an ideal day for photography. I’d already climbed over 1,800ft to Red Tarn and from here it was another 400ft or so to the summit of Catstye Cam. Other than taking a few photos, I hadn’t stopped on the way up and it was now time for lunch.

After spending some time on Catstye Cam I had to retrace my steps down to the foot of Swirral Edge before starting the scramble to the top of Helvellyn. The lower part of Swirral Edge required some 3-point contact rock climbing and isn’t for those who don’t have a head for height or a dislike of exposure. Not far from the top I encountered a steep 1in3 snow bank which I wouldn’t have wanted to climb without my ice axe and crampons. Although it was a little daunting it was quite exciting to have made it to the top. A few weeks ago a walker fell 600ft off Swirral Edge into Brown Cove. I’m not sure how he managed this as he must have been closer to the edge than me.

I was surprised how few people there were on the summit of Helvellyn which is often very busy. Walkers seemed to be outnumbered by mountain bikers who seemed to take great pleasure in pushing their bikes to the top for a thrilling ride back down. The route down was just as gentle as that on the way up with no nasty steps to negotiate and a nicely graded zig-zag path to follow. The walk took me 6½ hours to complete and was 9½ miles with a total ascent of 3,500ft.

Helvellyn – walk route





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