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A winters day around Helvellyn.

A winters day around Helvellyn.


Postby trailmasher » Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:23 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Helvellyn, Raise, White Side

Hewitts included on this walk: Helvellyn, Raise, White Side

Date walked: 17/02/2018

Time taken: 4.49

Distance: 12.67 km

Ascent: 1084m

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Helvellyn to Raise and Brown Crag.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



As Chris is back at work early after this time onshore we have crammed a third walk into this week, one that is a tad more challenging than the previous two, not because of the height or distance but maybe due to the weather and underfoot conditions that are on Helvellyn just now. The snow may not last much longer so we made plans to get what could be the last of this winter's snow under our boots.

The weather forecast was decent enough with fine conditions, cold strong winds with low cloud at height but as we left my house there was a touch of blue in the sky but not enough to bother donning the speedo's, and it was cold.

Due to the fact that there are parking charges on the Thirlspot car park and the Woodland Trust one at Highpark Wood we elected to use the long lay-by alongside the A591 that already hosted a few cars by the time that we arrived there at around 9:15am. As we got out of the car I couldn't help but take a photo towards where we would soon be walking.

ImageFrom lay-by to Swirls car park

Apart from the diminishing patches of blue sky it was completely grey overhead, and the cloud as forecast was indeed low across the higher fells as we set off towards the path that starts at the car park and toilets in Highpark Wood noting the relatively new work that had been carried out after the last floods caused havoc in this area.

ImageAquaducts feeding Thirlmere

A few minutes' walk along the very muddy roadside verge soon had us at the car park where we couldn't have parked if we had wanted to as it was absolutely packed with cars, walkers, and skiers, I have never seen it so busy, even in summer, what's going on we wondered, people like us catching the last of the snow?

Leaving the car park and mob behind we passed through the gate onto the foot of the fell and began what would be a long 2½ mile climb up the snow covered slopes and on crossing the 1st footbridge could see quite a few walkers up on the skyline.

ImageSnow from the get go

Once that we had got above The Swirls a view back showed us that the cloud had dropped right over Thirlmere itself…

ImageThe cloud dropped fast

and just a few minutes later…

ImageAnd then rose again just as fast

with us hoping that it kept away from us for most if not the whole climb up to the summit that proved not to be the case as shortly afterwards all we would see was snow and fog, not conducive with the taking of a decent photo or two.

At about the 400 metre contour we found that we were catching up to a group of around 50 walkers looking like a team of Sherpa's as they trooped up through the snow.

ImageA crowd of about 50 walkers in front of us

Not long afterwards we were leaving the snow covered regular path and following a track through the snow that was now following the easiest way through the snow as it deepened the higher that we climbed. So far the clouds had stayed above us with some welcome blue sky interspersed amongst them but the absent sun where we was made it no warmer against the cold wind.

ImageSome way to go yet

Another look back to Thirlmere showed the clouds still hanging about over the water.

ImageThirlmere-Great How and the tip of Castle Rock just right of centre

The climb up was pretty uneventful with us sometimes passing other walkers or them us as our rate of climb dictated depending on the state of the underfoot conditions, it getting a bit harder as we approached the steeper section just below and up to Browncove Crags and from this point there was not much to see now due to the fog that had now dropped in around us.

ImageConditions just below Browncove Crags

ImageCould be anywhere

As we arrived at the crags the clag lifted for a while…

ImageBrowncove Crags inspection

and a few minutes later we were back to this as we walked onto the white world of Lower Man.

ImageChris passing over the top of Lower Man

ImageMan and dog plod on

As we started the final walk in to the summit of Helvellyn the great crowd of walkers were leaving and told us that we had just missed the last of the £2 bacon sarnies that were being cooked at the shelter due to the bacon running out. I seemed to remember reading something about this in the local paper a few weeks ago and maybe answer the question of why so many cars and people in this neck of the woods today.

ImageChris at the ice and snow adorned trig column

After the arctic photo shoot we arrived at the shelter to find it mobbed with walkers, climbers, and skiers sitting where they could find a space in the snow filled shelter. Sonny wandered off at one point and we soon heard a shout of "the dogs pinched my butty" and then he came around the shelter wall with the bottom half of a bacon roll hanging out of his mouth - less bacon - but we suspect that someone gave it to him after they'd had their fill of it as they did look rather large.

ImageHelvellyn shelter full of people and snow

The body count kept changing as some left and others took their place in the snow, and to be honest it was too cold to be lingering with food and drink hastily consumed as the body temperature dropped in the all consuming freezing fog and wind. As we left the shelter the snow began to blow hitting us like bullets and feeling like ice pellets against any bare portion of skin that dared to expose itself. It was only when we turned north for White Side that the fusillade of ice pellets being fired from the south eased off as we put backs to the wind.

Crossing over the top of Lower Man we passed these skiers.

ImageSkiers on Lower Man summit

From Lower Man there was nothing left to do but make our way down the north facing slope…

ImageLeaving Lower Man for White Side and Raise

as we continued on to White Side in a covering of fog and windblown snow with these conditions making it difficult to see too far ahead but as we neared the low area that lies between the two hills White Side made an appearance…

ImageA ray of light on the west facing slope of White Side

and we were soon able to see the line of cairns marking the route up to the summit.

ImageCairns mark the route up White Side

The small ray of light that we had seen on the west slope heralded a bit of a clearance in the sky and some welcome blue appeared for a short time with the sun shining over some of the western fells though it had obviously forgotten where we were.

ImageBleaberry Fell and Brown Crag opposite it

We set off up the long slope that strangely today, in the snow, felt a lot easier than the usual climb up it on the stony and sometimes scree covered parts of the path than it does on a day when there is no snow lying on it…

ImageChris sets off on the climb up White Side

and it wasn't too long before the summit was reached.

ImageWhite Side summit shelter

ImageWhite Side summit shelter

And then the clag dropped in again.

ImageVisibility on White Side

ImageChris leaving White Side for Raise

A short descent from White Side found us climbing northeast up the shorter slope to Raise summit but not before we nearly made the mistake of taking the path to the east which would have put us down in Glenridding. We had passed two couples that were on their way to Helvellyn and as they had walked up from Glenridding we inadvertently followed their boot prints until I realised that we had started to descend instead of climb. There was a couple following on behind us who made the same error but a swift swerve to the north and a short climb up the snow covered grass soon had us on the right path again.

ImageHalfway up Raise

An easier climb this time on a more relaxed incline soon had us at the summit cairn, a handsome affair, fairly tall and completely covered in solid ice.

ImageRaise summit

ImageA view across the top of Raise

As we lingered the couple caught us up and then passed on only to be followed by four healthy looking youths - two of each - who seemed to be enjoying the moment. Chris and I had been wanting the strain the greens for quite some time but had not had the opportunity due to passing walkers, skiers, climbers, etc so we made a quick exit around to the west side where the ground is a lot lower and there are plenty of crags to sneak behind. We were going to make our way roughly southwest across the fellside anyway as we made our way to the Birkett of Brown Crag that Chris wanted to add to his list of conquests and as soon as we were at a respectable distance away from the summit and out of the wind relief came as a relief.

We now had quite a walk across and down the snow slopes…

ImageOur way to Brown Crag

and we were now out of the wind as we walked over the hard frozen snow that would suddenly collapse underfoot finding yourself knee deep and coming to a sudden momentary stop whilst a curse was issued and the affected boot withdrawn from the snow hole only for it to be repeated over the course of the walk across to the head of Brund Gill where we then turned to the northwest to traverse the lower slopes of White Side.

ImageWhite Side and Lower Man from below Raise

The cloud had lifted to the west and a view towards Derwent Water sat amongst the mountains was to be seen quite clearly.

ImageHigh Seat-Bleaberry Fell left-Derwent Water centre with Skiddaw right

ImageBrown Crag with Bleaberry Fell and High Seat behind

ImagePassing over the head of Brund Gill

A quick look back showed Raise almost cloud free.

ImageLooking back to Raise and Stybarrow Dodd from the head of Brund Gill

In some places it was like walking with one foot in the gutter as the softer snow patches collapsed underfoot but soon enough we were on the path that would take us to Brown Crag.

ImageBrown Crag from below White Side

Another pair of skiers appeared from the path behind Brown Crag and proceeded to make their way up the way that we had just come down and by the time we had got settled on Brown Crag summit for a short meal break they were skiing back down again.

Once on the top of this Birkett we had a decent view of some of the surrounding fells to the west including those that we had just walked…

ImageWhite Side-Browncove Crags-Lower Man back centre

ImageLooking to Ullscarf and beyond

the view north being exceptionally picturesque with Dodd below Skiddaw, with Great Calve sitting in between Lonscale Fell and Blencathra, Great How, High Rigg, and many more can be seen from this minor summit of 610 metres in height.

ImageThe view north from Brown Crag summit

We sat awhile enjoying our meal break on this grass and rocky summit in the relative warmth that we were feeling just then after the rigours of the higher fell conditions.

ImageBrown Crag summit

I've been here before but never in winter, the views on a clear day are nothing short of exhilarating and a game can be played trying to name all the mountains that can be seen from this outlying fell of White Side.

Sated of both food and drink but not the views we wrapped up and made our way off over a short distance of rough ground to find our path still heading northwest but now descending quite steeply and as the skiers had been using it it was quite slippery. The skiers left the path at some point which made it easier for us as we made the long drop off towards Fisherplace Gill where the path then turns to the southwest as it continues its steep descent down to Thirlspot Farm. At about the 300 metre mark we walked into a rain shower that lasted but a few minutes although it didn't make the already greasy path any easier to negotiate. Once at the farm it was but a short walk along the roads grass verge back to the car where the conversation immediately turned to which hostelry should we call in for the replenishing of moisture lost due to our most recent activity?

A walk that felt especially good after being confined to barracks for around 6 weeks despite the fact that I have had two less challenging ones during the week, and it was great to get my boots on a big one again especially in the alpine like conditions of today. Under normal circumstances I would have probably moaned about the amount of people that we had passed either on their way up or down and on the summit but today the atmosphere was different with everyone cheerful and full of the joys of some great snowy conditions. We heard one group of climbers saying that they had only climbed for about 15 minutes around Browncove Crags but seemed happy enough with that. It was foggy, cold, windy, with snow showers, but what a great days walking we had.
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trailmasher
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Re: A winters day around Helvellyn.

Postby malky_c » Tue Feb 27, 2018 10:49 pm

Some tantalising glimpses of sunshine and snowy hills in there - almost makes me regret spending the day on the razz around Newcastle and Durham instead of getting up some hills....but not quite!
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Re: A winters day around Helvellyn.

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Feb 27, 2018 11:13 pm

In the end you got quite a decent day out of it: clag and wind aren't so bad I find if interspersed with reasonable views - which you certainly had from time to time.

Reassuring to read that you've had the same medical advice as I in respect of replenishing the insensible loss of fluid that occurs when walking immediately on completing a walk... :D
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Re: A winters day around Helvellyn.

Postby trailmasher » Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:04 pm

malky_c wrote:Some tantalising glimpses of sunshine and snowy hills in there - almost makes me regret spending the day on the razz around Newcastle and Durham instead of getting up some hills....but not quite!


Not the best days for views from the top but a good day nevertheless :D and Chris and I have sometimes ended a days walking with a good session :lol: Thanks for your comments :D
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trailmasher
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Re: A winters day around Helvellyn.

Postby trailmasher » Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:11 pm

Alteknacker wrote:In the end you got quite a decent day out of it: clag and wind aren't so bad I find if interspersed with reasonable views - which you certainly had from time to time.

Reassuring to read that you've had the same medical advice as I in respect of replenishing the insensible loss of fluid that occurs when walking immediately on completing a walk... :D


Not too disappointed about no views from the summit as seen 'em all before although would have been nice to see both edges clothed in snow again 8) As you know Alteknacker dehydration is very debilitating so it's very important to top up the fluid levels in a place of good company, comfort, and a roaring fire if available :lol: Thanks for your comments :D
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Re: A winters day around Helvellyn.

Postby dav2930 » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:44 pm

Looked a great day out in some impressive winter conditions TM. Nice mixture of whiteouts and views! :clap: I've never been up from that side; will have to give it a go some time.
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Re: A winters day around Helvellyn.

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Fri Mar 02, 2018 10:08 am

Looks like a great, if at times testing, day out. Some fine pics to complement the usual excellent report. Particuarly like the ray of light on Whiteside.
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Re: A winters day around Helvellyn.

Postby trailmasher » Fri Mar 02, 2018 3:19 pm

dav2930 wrote:Looked a great day out in some impressive winter conditions TM. Nice mixture of whiteouts and views! :clap: I've never been up from that side; will have to give it a go some time.


Thanks dav it was great day out :D This route is far easier in non winter conditions at a fairly easy gradient and used to be know as the 'White Stones' route due to there being whitewashed stones marking the way of which there is no sign of now. :? It makes a nice change from the usual routes from Patterdale or Glenridding with some great views as an excuse for a rest on the way up :lol:
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Re: A winters day around Helvellyn.

Postby trailmasher » Fri Mar 02, 2018 3:23 pm

johnkaysleftleg wrote:Looks like a great, if at times testing, day out. Some fine pics to complement the usual excellent report. Particuarly like the ray of light on Whiteside.


Thanks JK :D and it was a bit a tussle at times with the fierce wind and bullet like snow :crazy: Pleased that you picked out one of my pics for a 'like' as the ray of light only lasted a moment so was fortunate to grab it really 8) Again, thanks for your comments :D
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