Helvellyn 10 Mile Circular Route

Helvellyn 10 Mile Circular Route

Sometimes it’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It might hurt at the time (or even 2 days later) but that feeling of achievement and of simply being alive makes it all worthwhile! Hence we decided, despite both being in the worst shape of our lives, to tackle a 10 mile Helvellyn route. This would be the hardest hike we’d done since hiking up Ben Nevis in the summer of 2014.

a map of our 10 mile route including Helvellyn in the Lake DistrtctA map of our route

I planned a 10 mile circular Helvellyn route, starting from the Glencoyne car park (free to National Trust members-not that that had an bearing on my decision to start there of course), following Sticks Pass, before turning  and taking on the not-unsubstantial Raise (883m) and White Side (863m), before heading to the summit of Helvellyn at a mighty 950m. We descended via Swirral Edge and down to Glenridding, before heading back to the car.

Glencoyne FarmThe start of our epic hike, Glencoyne Farm, with Ullswater in the background

We’ve walked the start of this hike before, and it was great to be back and see the view in its autumn colours. It’s a short, sharp start, and I’m not going to lie, it was hard going. I was almost regretting my Helvellyn route already, but the advantage is that after the first 20 minutes or so, we were already at about 600m.

View over Ullswater The views over Ullswater are spectacular, especially at this time of year

We then had an easy middle section with plenty of flat paths and great views to admire. We were pretty much alone as well, which is always a bonus in The Lakes. It was unseasonably warm, I was just in my base layer (and still sweating) and we were both rather pleased how lucky we were with the weather.

Helvellyn 10 mile routeWe were blessed with blue skies and solitude at the start of our hike Helvellyn 10 mile hikeTaking a breather to consult the map. You can just start to the see the mist and cloud descending in the background

This soon changed as the cloud increased and the mist came down.

As we climbed up Sticks Pass and onto the ridge, we started to meet other walkers on their way down, and worryingly they were all wearing coats, hats and gloves. Visibility was rapidly decreasing and I suddenly doubted my navigating abilities.

HelvellynThis gives a good idea of the visibility (or lack of!) from about 750m

As it turned out there were plenty of other hikers to follow, and the strategically placed cairns helped no end on this Helvellyn route.  We were getting soaked in the mist, so had to layer up with fleeces and waterproofs for the rest of the way. It was such a difference from the start!

The walk along the ridge wasn’t too difficult as we climbed up and down a couple of smaller peaks. However, the final ascent up to the summit of Helvellyn was difficult and I may have cursed a bit. It was hard doing all that work without having the reward of magnificent views. In fact we could only see a couple of metres ahead, with just grey to each side of us.

We finally made it to the top, the summit marked by a pile of stones. A few metres away is a trig point and I’m afraid we had to pose for the obligatory selfie.

Helvellyn trig pointLooking rather bedraggled, but glad to have made it.

Just behind us in the photo above is the famous Striding Edge. Not that you’d know it!  Having seen photos of the views from here, it was slightly disheartening to know that we were missing one of the most iconic vistas in the UK, despite standing just feet away.

There was no time to dwell, we still had a tricky descent to nail. We came down via Swirral Edge (which is right by the summit cairn) maybe not as famous as Striding, but still a tricky section. I basically slid down most of it on my arse, the wet rocks making it especially tough. Again, it was unfortunate tackling this tricky bit without being able to see the staggering views that I knew were each side of us. It didn’t help that my legs were like jelly by this point.

We found a suitable sheltered spot to eat our lunch, before setting off on the final leg of our Helvellyn route. We followed the footpath past Red Tarn and down to Glenridding.

It wasn’t a perfect hike, but it felt good! It was life affirming to have accomplished a difficult route. It has definitely given me confidence that we can do proper day hikes again in the future.

Helvellyn is not an easy peak, and should not be underestimated. I certainly made sure that we had all of the essential hiking equipment with us. The beauty of it is that there are several possible routes, we went the long way round but there are shorter routes from the Thirlmere side. It is also possible to tackle it without the need for scrambling over Striding or Swirral Edges if you’re not a fan of heights.

Have you ever taken on a challenge like this Helvellyn route?

Get the OS Map here:

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  • afamilydayout afamilydayout November 02, at 20:29

    I’m glad I’m not the only one to sit down on the ridges! I’ve perfected a kind of crab style which I’m sure is more dangerous than simply walking along them but I don’t like the exposure. The fog would have been my best friend that day.

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 03, at 20:38

      Oh god, I can’t imagine what I looked like but it was scary! I was just trying not to fall to my death 😉

  • Trish @ Mum's Gone To Trish @ Mum's Gone To November 03, at 15:02

    Such gorgeous weather at the start – such a shame it changed but that’s a lesson to all of us to be prepared. A fantastic achievement though – worth all the aching limbs afterwards!

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 03, at 20:38

      SO worth it, and yes, definitely glad we’d packed plenty of layers!

  • Jonathan Jonathan November 04, at 08:21

    Well done, you! I get a bit freaked out with high places/tricky ridge paths, and I’m never sure if not being able to see the drop is a good or bad thing. At least this way, you can fool your brain that it’s not too far down?!

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 05, at 07:45

      True, I think it probably helped not being able to see how big the drop was! Wouldn’t have minded a decent view though 😉

  • Cerys Lowe Cerys Lowe November 04, at 10:06

    Good job! I think my legs would have been like jelly, too!

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 05, at 07:45

      I’ve just about recovered! Really need to get fitter before attempting anything like that again!

  • M.Barrett M.Barrett November 04, at 18:21

    Great route which I may give a go if I ever get back to the lakes. It’s been so long. Brilliant photos too. I always get jealous of people with decent cameras that can capture sky. I only have a cheap and cheerful camera and the sky always just looks white. I’ll have to start saving!

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 05, at 07:47

      Thanks, I’m lucky in that my husband is an excellent photographer. I’ve got his old camera and am trying to learn, the experts make it look very easy!

  • tinboxtraveller tinboxtraveller November 04, at 19:13

    Well done on getting it done. I’m not sure I could make it at the moment. What a shame about the weather. A beautiful view is always the best reward but at least you get to say you did it! #MondayEscapes

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 05, at 07:48

      The mist was very atmospheric, I would have preferred a good view though!

  • paddlepedalpace paddlepedalpace November 04, at 21:30

    Looks amazing well done! I really really want to go to the Lake District, it’s on my list for next year to finally go up there!

  • Mark Kelly Mark Kelly November 06, at 11:13

    Great post and photos.
    Shame about the low cloud but it added to the atmosphere 🙂
    – I had the same misty conditions a couple of years ago, we came down via Striding Edge – I was glad I couldn’t see anything below me at that point 😉

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 06, at 18:51

      Thanks! I was too scared to attempt Striding Edge this time, might try it in the summer, although it was quite nice not being able to see the drop!

  • Mini Travellers Mini Travellers November 10, at 21:48

    Sorry it took me so long to comment, I thought I had done but clearly got distracted after reading! You have some brilliant photos, well done you! I always end up doig these type of walks in rain and mist too!

  • Nano @ #TravelWithNanoB Nano @ #TravelWithNanoB November 15, at 04:12

    OMG, those views are incredible, and you are the troopers for completing the hike. I’m a total urbanite, so an adventure like this seems absolutely amazing. xoxo, nano | http://www.travelwithnanob.com

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 16, at 18:29

      Ha, I don’t know about that! You get so far that you just have to keep going. In all honesty it was a bit tough for us, but you have to do these things once in a while!

  • Bex Bex February 05, at 18:09

    Amazing photos! I’ve been looking for some hikes to do in the Lakes so will add this to my list.

  • Hannah Hannah March 01, at 17:33

    Nice post 🙂 Helvellyn is brilliant. It’s one of my fav places, especially early in the morning. Have you tried out Striding Edge yet?

    • The Helpful Hiker The Helpful Hiker March 01, at 17:42

      No I haven’t been brave enough yet! I will do it one day, hopefully in the summer with good views!

  • Kimba Kimba March 18, at 22:51

    What beautiful pictures-at the beginning! It sounds like quite the adventure.

  • Jennifer Hewitt Jennifer Hewitt March 19, at 15:28

    Gorgeous photos! I wasn’t much into hiking when I visited England, so only got to see what country was available off the roads, maybe now I’ll have to go back.

  • Suzanne Suzanne March 29, at 22:01

    This is on my hit list for the next Lakes trip. Still traumatised by my last weekend up there where is couldn’t move for 3 days!!

  • Outdoor Veteran Outdoor Veteran July 04, at 20:23

    Your pictures are amazing! This is high on my list of places to go hiking

  • Agness of aTukTuk Agness of aTukTuk August 03, at 15:43

    Wow! This would be an amazing hike! Do you have any tips I should consider before undertaking it?

  • Jono Jono August 11, at 14:04

    Stunning photos and congrats on making it to the top. We were there a couple of weeks ago and didn’t get time to get the top with a 6yr old in tow. Will def. be going back! Snowdonia this weekend 🙂

  • worms eye view worms eye view November 08, at 09:54

    wow! Such stunning views and quite an experience. Well done on that hike. Looked hard work! #Adventurecalling

  • Eli Eli November 08, at 10:53

    and I forgot to hashtag #AdventureCalling. Sorry!

  • The Outdoor Dad The Outdoor Dad November 08, at 11:27

    Had a belting walk top there this summer in near perfect weather. Came over Catstyecam on the way back down – what a great little summit that is. Would be an awesome spot for a wild camp. The sunrise would be fantastic

  • Clare - Flip flops or Wellies Clare - Flip flops or Wellies November 08, at 16:52

    Looks like it was a good achievement, I think I would like to do more walks like this so need to find a walking buddy locally #AdventureCalling

  • Well done for completing what looks like a difficult hike. It reminds me of a family hike we took to Djouce, which offers some of the finest views over Wicklow here in Ireland, yet the day we did it was a complete white-out!

  • Lauren Lauren November 14, at 10:23

    This look s like a fab walk! I’ve done Helvelyn from Striding Edge and come back down Swirral Edge. Scary but so worth it! And I also regularly use that third foot (my bum). I blame my short legs 🙂

    It’s fab seeing the wonderful views, but there is also something special about being out in the weather. Really invigorating.


  • David - Potty Adventures David - Potty Adventures November 21, at 22:36

    A great route. Such a shame you didn’t get the views up top that you got lower down.. you’ll have to tackle it again on a clear day haha. #adventurecalling

  • Helena Helena November 22, at 09:16

    The Lake District is a wonderful place in which to walk. It’s a pity that you didn’t get to see the vista but a reason to return hey? #AdventureCalling

  • Mountainotes LCC Mountainotes LCC March 22, at 13:53

    Great job fabulous views it seems very hard walk you have completed. Great achievement thanks for sharing with us.
    I would like to share my site which will be very much helpful for shopping your trekking and climbing accessories at Mountainoteslcc.com


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