Ullswater from every angle: a heavenly Helvellyn round
by Alteknacker » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:16 am
Wainwrights included on this walk: Birks, Dollywaggon Pike, Fairfield, Great Dodd, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Raise, Seat Sandal, Sheffield Pike, St Sunday Crag, Stybarrow Dodd, Watson's Dodd, White Side
Hewitts included on this walk: Dollywaggon Pike, Fairfield, Great Dodd, Helvellyn, Raise, Seat Sandal, Sheffield Pike, St Sunday Crag, Stybarrow Dodd, White Side
Date walked: 21/01/2017
Time taken: 8.75
Distance: 27.7 km
Ascent: 2262m6 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
But then Saturday 21st seemed really to be shaping up, and I decided on the Thursday to give it a whirl. Inspired by the pics in recent reports from martinh and johnkaysleftleg (to whom credit for the adjective "Heavenly" in the WHR title), I fixed on a round in the Lake District that would incorporate Helvellyn. The fact that the round trip drive is 6.5 hours, rather than 16 hours for the Highlands helped sway the choice....
Early in the week, the Met Office 5 day forecast was showing sun all day for Helvellyn summit, and even a slight deterioration on the Friday to cloud covered sun for the late afternoon couldn't still the mental momentum; neither could the misgivings of my weather sybil and CEO (concerned about the lack of certainty expressed by the forecasters).
Accordingly, the alarm roused me from hazy dreams of hills at 04.00 am, and I was out of the door by 04.30 am, complete with ice axe and crampons - foolishly I hadn't checked snow conditions, and decided I might as well take them anyway, just in case
I'd plotted out 3 routes: ascending via Striding Edge seemed only to give a more or less half day walk, so in the end I opted for the following round:
It's a joy driving through hills in the small hours, for there's rarely any of that daytime traffic. And so it was this time - perfect! I arrive at Glenridding just after 07.30, where, to my great surprise there are no other cars in the car park
It is pretty chilly - minus 3 degrees - stimulating a very hasty kitting up. Just as I leave, a 2nd walker pulls in to the car park.
20170121_075858. As I walk along the roadside path to Patterdale, the lake is partly veiled in a light morning mist, and the due to the heavy frost, the dominant colour of the land is a strange and wonderful greeny grey. Ethereal.
Turning right off the main road immediately right of the bridge over Grizedale Beck, I head up the minor road that ends in a dead end, a little way after Home Farm. The path up left along the shoulder of Thornhow End starts about 500 metres from the main road, just after the road levels out, and is well signposted.
Already the views are wonderful: it is clear that it's going to be another 100+ pics day!
20170121_081927. Wonderful atmospheric views of Ullswater in frost. This is just a short way up the shoulder, and the colour is absolutely natural - no editing at all!
20170121_082827. This view absolutely fascinates me. I'm turning back and taking pics every few minutes...
The route is broad and very easy to follow - the Highlands it is not! As I soon discover, even when you try to cut away from the path across rough ground, you invariably meet a path before too long...
20170121_084603. I take a direct route straight up Thornhow End, on to Black Crag, and then along to Birks. Looking back again, the rising sun is beginning to illuminate Sheffield Crag and Glenridding Dodd.
I'd started with 4 layers to ward off the frost, but the steepish ascent to Thornhow End soon has me stripped down to my T-shirt. And this becomes a bit of a theme for the day: at this stage there is no wind, so the temperature doesn't feel so low; but once I am up on to Birks and exposed to the breeze - perhaps 10 - 15 knots - it is absolutely freezing, and it is back on with the layers, hat, snood and gloves.
20170121_085125. Yes - kind of obsessed with this view . Place Fell just beginning to catch the first rays of morning sun on the other side of the valley. I'm feeling VERY privileged and happy! Big grin time...
20170121_085859. Looking WNW towards Striding Edge and Helvellyn, with the shadow of Birks (right) and St Sunday Crag (centre left) outlined dramatically on the hillside.
20170121_090309. And looking ahead, the very clear path to The Cape/St Sunday Crag.
I'm in a bit of a trance now, in this wonderfully lit and wonderful landscape, and Stanley Clarke's "School Days" is just repeating and repeating in my brain, a strangely apposite musical accompaniment to the visual splendour.
20170121_092620. Looking back at Ullswater from near The Cape/St Sunday Crag summit, with Birks in the foreground, and Place Fell in the background (the title of this WHR does give you fair warning ... ).
20170121_092809. Striding Edge and Helvellyn, from St Sunday Crag. Amid breathtaking vistas I consume a marmelade croissant, and contemplate my good fortune. Right now I can't imagine anywhere I'd rather be.
20170121_093646. Looking N East from St Sunday Crag, it seems that there are significant areas in cloud - just not around Helvellyn. Long may it continue so...
20170121_094056. And now on towards Fairfield (extreme left), with Seat Sandal (much lower hill immediately to the right of it); then moving right: Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike, and Helvellyn. In the far background are (I think) the hills in the general Scafell area.
I'm frozen stiff now with the hanging around taking pics, and I can't feel my fingers at all! Time to really crack on and get the circulation going.
20170121_095337. As I approach Deepdale Hause, Grizedale Tarn comes into view.
From Deepdale Hause I ascend towards Fairfield, when half way up I see the first folk of the day: 2 fell runners leisurely jogging down the path. And this was to be another theme for the day: the quite staggering numbers of fell runners out on the hills. I guess I must have seen around 150 - 200 people during the course of the rest of the day; and a good half of these were fell runners - and of all ages. Most impressive!
I reach the summit of Fairfield, where I plan to have another breakfast snack; but within a couple of minutes of taking off my sac I'm getting really cold in the brisk wind, so I decide to eat on the move. Just to rub it in what a wimp I am, 6 or so fell runners come up behind me, a number in shorts ( ), and wearing little more on top than light fleeces. Truly hard folk! Just before I go, I risk frostbite to take another dozen or so snaps.
20170121_102826. Looking South towards Great Rigg... Should I? Shouldn't I? It would add about 45 minutes to the planned round, which would mean descending Sheffield Pike in the dark. Strict admonishments from the surgeon to be careful - irreparable if it tears again... Which would mean no more scrambling... High risk if I slip and fall; etc., etc., so I reluctantly wimp out.
Before I freeze solid, I manage to shoot off a few more pics, just to remind me when I'm back at base, that it really was as amazing as it now seems.
20170121_102655. Looking due West towards the Scafell area. Great Gable is pretty well dead centre in the pic.
20170121_102631. Cloud beginning to settle in around Scafell as well: Gradually this area is being surrounded ...
20170121_103844. Rapidish descent from Fairfield to try to get the circulation going again, and then up to Seat Sandal. It's a very easy-to-follow track alongside the wall... little chance of getting lost in clag, though you would want to take a careful bearing from the summit of Fairfield to get your descent direction right.
20170121_103901. Same view as a pano: Seat Sandal on the left, Dollywaggon Pike on the right. The route is straight down the shoulder of Seat Sandal and up on to DW Pike.
20170121_110024. Looking back from the summit of Seat Sandal more or less N East. From right to left: Fairfield, St Sunday Pike (middle background), Dollywaggon Pike. I follow the path from Seat Sandal up to Dollywaggon: it is immediately adjacent to the wall running straight up the fellside.
And if you look veeeeeeeeeeery carefully, you can just about see Ullswater in the faaaaaaar background....
20170121_110838. A final look across to Great Gable (centre pic) before I depart the summit. Cloud continues to accumulate in the valleys...
Dollywaggon Pike, and the aforementioned wall.
At this point I discover the perils of holding a sticky marmelade croissant in one hand while trying to take pictures. The streak of marmelade across the screen will not wipe clean, and the camera takes pics at all kinds of odd times, but in any event not when I'm clicking the camera icon. I mess around with it for about 10 minutes, trying to get it clean with tissues and breathing on the screen, but no joy . Looks like the end of photography for today...
The only positive outcome of this turn of events, is that I can now unequivocally advise against the simultaneous mixing of photography with eating sticky stuff. The two definitely don't mix.
20170121_115735. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when, without much hope I try a snap from the Dollywaggon Pike ridge, and it seems to work. How hopeful I was, can be seen by the off-horizontal angle of the pic (no beers at that time of the day...). In the background, a little more visible than in the last shot, is... .... Ullswater! Can't get away from it - but really, you wouldn't want to.
20170121_115810. Pano from Dollywaggon Pike looking back along the ridge I've just walked along. From left to right: St Sunday Crag, Fairfield, and Seat Sandal. Note the cloud in the background.
On the way along the ridge I pass a guy with a drone, and we have a brief but pleasant chat about some of the technicalities. Later the drone comes over the Helvellyn shelter, and I must say, it seems to be closer than the 50m limit that has been mentioned in the recent thread on this subject . Still not sure where I stand on this... I'd hate to be without WilkieMurray's amazing vids And I'm 120% certain he's not the guy to buzz anyone. I guess we all just need to exercise consideration for each other...
20170121_120133. Ahead Nethermost Pike, and then Helvellyn. Lots more people about now. But in some ways fewer than I'd expected, given the sensational weather. I pass a group of runners stopped at a cairn and frantically snapping. "I've spend more time taking pictures than I have running!" comments one. I feel much the same way.
20170121_120153. Same view in pano. Striding Edge looks positively benign from here!
20170121_120358. And just so you don't forget, looking N East is ... ...Ullswater!
20170121_121259. I've felt a real idiot all morning, with an ice axe on the back of my pack, and crampons (fortunately out of sight). But now I feel vindicated... Though I have to admit, I don't see anyone else with an ice axe. Or crampons for that matter. Not sure why not .
20170121_123940. Striding Edge is really seething with people, so I abandon any slight thought I'd had of traversing it and then cutting across to Swirral Edge and back up on to the main ridge.
20170121_124331. All gentle walking up to Helvellyn summit (on the LHS). Ahead the ridge extends over Whiteside Bank, Raise, and Stybarrow Dodd, to Great Dodd in the far distance, my furthest point before I head back. In the foreground Swirral Edge extends from left to right to Catstyecam.
I stop for a spot of lunch at the shelter just before the summit of Helvellyn. Again, some great views from here.
20170121_130155. Pano from the ridge: Swirral Edge on the LHS, Striding Edge and Helvellyn on the RHS, Red Tarn in the centre. The threatened cloud is visible on the RHS, but around here is still beautifully clear, with even the pennines visible in the distance.
20170121_130136. Looking along Swirral Edge towards Catstyecam. And there, in the middle background .... Ullswater .
Boy, is it cold once one stops moving: in spite of immediately getting on my down jacket, gloves, hat, etc. I'm very soon too cold to sit eating. I see others are having the same issue too. To survive, I set off moving again. But the views are so brilliant, I have to continue snapping, at severe risk to my already blue digits.
20170121_130955. Pano looking NNW towards Skiddaw and Blencathra. Again, my last target peak - Great Dodd - in the background, far right. With a VERY well trodden path to get there!
20170121_131021. Clear view of the route ahead - a good few folk on the path...
20170121_134113. It's really gentle and easy high-level walking to Raise.
20170121_134705. Big broad path to Stybarrow Dodd. I cut off the path, just for a change. And since the boggy ground is part-frozen, it's quite pleasant to walk in the rough - indeed for this reason, pretty well all the wet ground I've crossed has been no problem.
7 or 8 mountain bikers come down the path as I'm in the rough. Looks like great fun, though I suppose it could adversely affect the state of the paths if there's too much of this traffic.
20170121_134659. Ullswater still there ... Sheffield Pike on the right hand side.
0170121_134721. Pano - Stybarrow Dodd on the left, White Stones/Green Side in the centre, Sheffield Crag and.... .... Ullswater!
20170121_140818. Skiddaw centre stage, in another big pano... I'm really exercised as to how I can even begin to capture this day... One would need a huge screen - actually nature sized - even to begin to do so...
20170121_143741. Looking back towards Helvellyn from Great Dodd. Wow!
20170121_143808. Looking more or less West from Great Dodd. Dem clouds is a' gatherin'
And now back. First to Watson's Dodd, which is definitely a contender for the most inspiring summit in the UK ( a bit like "Framley Parsonage" is a contender for the most inspiring novel title in the English language). There are 3 blokes sat around the cairn when I get there, apparently changing their socks, who laugh politely at my comment on the inspirational nature of this boldly named "summit".
Thence to Stybarrow Dodd.
20170121_150630. Back at Stybarrow Dodd again, and looking forward at the route ahead to White Stones/Green Side. Easy walking. It's almost all downhill from here - enough to put quite a spring in one's step.
[/url]20170121_150557. A quick look back whence I came an hour or so earlier: Skiddaw starring in the background (you can't suppress a great lady); and Great Dodd on the RHS.
20170121_150621. Looking back towards Helvellyn from Stybarrow Dodd. Them threatening clouds is rising...
And down towards White Stones/Green Side. Easy walking, partly off-path (my choice). "School Days" still repeating in the penumbra of my brain: what a day it's been.
Over White Stone/Green Side, and down towards Sheffield Pike.
20170121_153737. Looking back at White Stones/Green Side from Nick Head. The big disused quarry is very visible on the left hand side. A bit of care would be needed in this area in mist: its rather dramatic vertical cliffs are not really evident from the 1:25000. The threatened cloud is really pursuing me now... but not far now to Glenridding.
20170121_153746. And ahead the back of Sheffield Pike. There is no path marked on the map, but in fact there's one there that is quite easy to follow, and would be so, even in clag I think.
]20170121_155255. Uh oh! might get caught...
20170121_160325. Looking back towards Helvellyn from near the top of Sheffield Pike, the cloud continues to build exponentially in the valleys. I hope it doesn't cover Sheffield Pike too densely too soon - I know that there's a big big cliff somewhere on the back side of the pike...
I'm pootling along the narrow path, when suddenly I come to an absolutely vertical cliff, 50m drop at least ! To be fair, I was expecting it; but it is weird that this seems to be a well-trodden path that just stops dead (either people continued over the edge, with predictable results, or turned back...). But when I retrace my steps, I see that 10 or so metres back, there is a branch off sharp right, and this is the path for the descent.
20170121_160707. Final view of the lake from the top of Sheffield Pike, just before the steep drop down into Glenridding.
20170121_160658. Looking down from the Sheffield Pike cliff edge to Glenridding. The route down is a very winding but nonetheless reasonably easy to follow path along the ridge on the RHS.
After this I'm focused on descending without incident, so no pics.
Once at the bealach between Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd, the path is less clear, but basically one just cuts down perpendicular to the contours (marked "The Rake" on the OS map) and one quickly reaches a small group of houses. Easy to descend, but it wouldn't be so easy to spot the route up if one were to do this round anti-clockwise.
' ___ As behoves a semi-invalid, I'm now very conscious of the perils of insensible loss of fluid (medical term from my GP brother = sweating cobs), and, following his medical guidance, I repair forthwith to a conveniently located local establishment of cultural, historical and architectural interest, to replenish such loss as may have occurred during the day.
The 3 hour drive back is filled with dreamy recollections of a wonderful day in the hills. I keep saying it; but I do believe it's true: verily we are the lucky ones.
The Highlands are great - the best actually; but there are bits of England that ain't so bad either.
by johnkaysleftleg » Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:02 am
by dav2930 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 8:37 pm
by trailmasher » Fri Jan 27, 2017 9:59 pm
by Alteknacker » Sat Jan 28, 2017 10:55 am
johnkaysleftleg wrote:What an awesome day captured really well even with marmalade incidents . To me the Lakes are just another mountain area of the British Isles, can't be arsed with this England/Scotland/Wales/Ireland guff. they stand favorable comparison with many other areas. As you found out an early start can still give you seclusion in the Lake District, hopefully you'll get yourself back for more days like this
Thanks JKFL. You're quite right about mountains: what I particularly like about the Highlands is the opportunity to walk off-trail, and the vast seclusion of it; but especially when the weather is as perfect as that, pretty well any mountain area is magic. In fact it was reading reports from you, trailmasher and other LD stalwarts that made me realise that the big crowds are in quite localised spots, and started me looking at and eventually walking in the area again .
trailmasher wrote:One hell of a day out that one alte . Great walk, route, and pics Not bad for a recovering invalid and by the tone of your report it also did you the world of good Hope that you get many more like it, wherever you walk
Thanks trailmasher. Yes, it most certainly did me the world of good - as my thigh muscles constantly reminded me over the following few days... Now looking forward to a few days in Glen Shiel in a fortnight's time .
dav2930 wrote:Brilliant stuff AK. A big day for the time of year - not bad going for a 'semi-invalid' (looks like you're recovering nicely). Some splendid photos showing what a cracking day that was; your appreciation really shines through in the report. Glad you enjoyed your day in the Lakes!
Thanks dav. It was indeed a cracking day. The spiritual lift one gets from days like that is indescribable.
by martin.h » Sat Jan 28, 2017 2:37 pm
Great report Alteknacker and the photo's show the Lake District is stunning, it's great to have access to this with relative ease.
Have fun in Glen Shiel
by mamoset » Sat Jan 28, 2017 9:46 pm
by Alteknacker » Tue Jan 31, 2017 8:29 pm
martin.h wrote:Wow! that's how to take full advantage of a glorious day .
Great report Alteknacker and the photo's show the Lake District is stunning, it's great to have access to this with relative ease.
Have fun in Glen Shiel
Thanks martin: the LD surely is stunning when the day is as glorious as this was.
The weather runes are not giving very positive messages about Glen Shiel at the moment; but with 3 of us it won't be too bad, even if the worst comes to the worst.
mamoset wrote:That's a canny effort for an invalid lol, it was a cracking day though
"Semi-invalid" was written a bit tongue in cheek: it was a shoulder op, so doesn't really affect walking. And it surely was a cracking day! May there be many more like it in 2017
by ChrisW » Fri Feb 03, 2017 12:18 am
I think those fell runners only wear shorts to provide motivation....if they stop they'll freeze
yeah....doctors orders mate ..........As behoves a semi-invalid, I'm now very conscious of the perils of insensible loss of fluid (medical term from my GP brother = sweating cobs), and, following his medical guidance, I repair forthwith to a conveniently located local establishment of cultural, historical and architectural interest, to replenish such loss as may have occurred during the day.