The cloud was low, rain beating down on my windscreen, people driving cautiously. I couldn’t wait to get on the mountain. Passing Brothers water, dipping below the low mist I entered Patterdale. I was full of excitement upon reaching Glenridding. The strong wind and white capping water of Ullswater, the fast moving trees and sodden ramblers walking along the road, the perfect Saturday.
I parked at the Glenridding Tourist Information and met Scott and Nick to begin our guided walk. We geared up quickly, got the introductions out of the way, and headed up and on to the trail. The Cloud was rising and there was a patch two of blue sky appearing. The trail was busy as we made our way up to Birkhouse Moor. We followed slowly behind some walkers, crossing Glenridding Beck and up Mires Beck. A light covering of rain began to fall as we passed the slower groups. Turning around occasionally we stopped to admire the beautifully snaking shape of Ullswater.
The lads moved well, a light training trip before their Adventure Peak expedition to Mount Elbrus in July. ‘Give us a beasting’ said Scott. With his flat cap and woollen jumper he looked a bit like Don Willams about to chase some sheep. As the terrain levelled out, the wind picked up, the weather man was right. We began experiencing some strong gusts and driving rain. We used the wall for a brief period for a quick bite and ventured on, following the trail to the top of Birkhouse Moor.
As we marched on the wind picked up a notch. Gusting in and out, we really struggled to keep our feet. The rain lashed ferociously in from the North and our clothes billowed as we walked along the soaked ground. From time to time we caught brief glimpses of Striding Edge and Catstye Cam. But the Summit of Helvellyn was well and truly gulfed in cloud. We passed a few groups along the way, huddled up, map reading, shivering, lost looks. ‘Will it be alright up there? What’s it like? Will it be wet?’ Discussions were rife as we passed.
We carried on, as the cloud lifted, long enough for us to lift our sheltered heads. Like a sleeping giant – the great curving ridge line appeared. It was our first look at Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. The excitement of seeing the mountain, the atmosphere the cloud created, gave us all a buzz, and our feet moved a little quicker.
We sheltered out of the beating rain near High Spying How and had some chocolate before we began our ascent along Striding Edge. Firstly we skirted along the lower path before heading up onto the edge. The cloud was so thick we couldn’t see the drop down to Nethermost Cove or Red Tarn. The boys moved well and we walked the length of the Striding Edge in a matter of minutes, carefully climbing down the end before making the final steep scramble to the top. We ran across the plateau to Nethermost Pike, once the site of a plane landing, before coming back to reach William Wordsworth ‘Fidelity Stone’. A tablet marking the death of a Shepard and the actions of a loyal dog. A beautiful piece of work written in 1805. Wordsworth walked to the scene of the incident with Sir Walter Scott and found inspiration for the poem.
We bunked down at the summit shelter, protected by the gale force wind by my Bothy. Inside we ate sweets, chocolate, sandwiches and pot noodles. It was so warm inside that we didn’t want to leave. Alas the summit of Helvellyn is only half way, we needed to get down. I packed up the Bothy, shared around a few pairs of gloves and we moved fast across the huge wide top to the cairn, which marks Swirral Edge. The wind was so intense that we struggled to keep on our feet. There was snow, then sleet, hail, rain from all directions – bitterly cold. As soon as we dropped below the summit the wind dropped off and the feeling came back to my fingers. I couldn’t believe the weather – in May! Swirral Edge was the second ridge of the day. And every bit as good as Striding Edge. It is a shorter scramble but can be very tricky when descending from the summit. The wind was kind to us, dropping just in time. We walked carefully, concentrating on step, the rocks were so slippery, until we made it safe to the bottom of the edge. Our next stop was our third Wainwright of the day Catstye Cam. A big, sprawling hill, up and over, with great views of the valley below. As we walked across to the summit the sun started coming out, the cloud rose once again and the rain stopped. We all had big smiles as we posed for a picture.
It was a fantastic end to a great walk, an epic day with hostile weather, finished off with a stroll down Red Tarn Beck and Glenridding Beck. Both becks bursting with fresh cool rain water. The sound of white water, waterfalls and pools. Swart Beck ragged as we passed the mine, and the sun lit up the stunning Glenridding Screes. Perfect views to end the day and perfect conditions for Mount Elbrus training!