Outline of Route
Glenridding - Birkhouse Moor - Helvellyn (via Striding Edge) - Lower Man - Whiteside - Raise - Stybarrow Dodd - Green Side - Sheffield Pike - Glenridding (Grid ref. NY 386170)
Total Distance 9.6 miles, Total Ascent 4000 feet, Equivalent Distance 17.5 miles
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Details of Route
Starting from Glenridding Car Park - the charge for a car is currently £5.50 for 24 hours - return to the main road and cross the bridge to the southern side of Glenridding Beck. Follow the road up by the beck - it soon becomes a track. Take the right fork where the track branches, and continue with the beck on your right and a campsite on your left. On reaching Rattlebeck Bridge follow the road going uphill to the left. After about a hundred yards uphill avoid the road to Gillside on the left and continue upwards on the right. Two farm gates block the route here so cross the stile by the one on the left - avoid the one on the right which has a kissing gate - and a couple of hundred yards further on cross the ladder stile. Bear left along the path by the wall and then follow it to the right and on up the fellside by Mires Beck.
At the top of this climb (photo) as you approach a wall follow the path to the right. This path cotinues uphill to a depression on the summit ridge of Birkhouse Moor where the view opens up towards Helvellyn, its two famous edges, Striding and Swirral, and Catstye Cam (photo). Bear right and head for the northeastern summit of Birkhouse Moor, a fine viewpoint for Ullswater. Retrace your steps to the depression and continue onwards by the wall towards Striding Edge. There's a well-known landmark, the Hole-in-the-Wall, where this path meets that coming from Patterdale. Along here Red Tarn first comes into sight, nestling in the corrie between the two Edges.
Striding Edge is dangerous in snow and should be avoided by the walker in such conditions no matter how well equipped - leave it to the ice-climbers. High winds are also a problem and walkers are then advised to stick to the easier path along the ridge. It lies to the right of the crest to start with and crosses over to the left for the final stretch. Mist is not a problem here - if you can find your way to and from the ridge you won't get lost on it. On reaching the crest at the start of Striding Edge - a pinnacle called High Spying How - one gets one's first impression of the path along the top of the arete (photo). It is surprisingly broad in places and in still conditions I'd encourage walkers to stay on the top for as long as they feel at ease. It's easy to retreat from the top to the easy path - there are plenty of routes down. The final section (photo) requires a bit of scrambling to keep near to the crest with the main route just to the left of the pillars on the top (photo). At the end there is a very steep gully (photo) where climbers will naturally turn in to face the rock as they descend. This is the easiest way for walkers, too, where plenty of hand and footholds make it no more difficult that coming down a ladder. After this there is another, much easier, pinnacle to traverse and then a rough scramble up the fellside to Helvellyn's flattish summit (photo).
Striding Edge takes quite a lot of (worthwhile) effort and a well-built shelter near the summit provides protection for your well-earned rest whichever way the wind blows. The views are excellent in all directions (panorama), with the view to the west coming into sight now the main ridge has been reached. It is invariably busy here with walkers coming up not just via Striding and Swirral Edges, but also via various paths on the western side from Thirlmere and Grasmere. Continue along the ridge overlooking Red Tarn (photo), past the trig. point at the true summit and head for the cairn at the top of Swirral Edge (photo). Keep going west round the rim of Brown Cove to Helvellyn Lower Man. At this point great care must be taken to avoid going northwest down to Browncove Crags, which unfortunately seems the obvious way to continue. The direction of our route is just a few degrees east of north down a narrowish ridge (90° panorama). After that little navigational problem the way to White Side becomes clear and the route along the chain (photo from Catstye Cam) becomes obvious. Between Helvellyn Lower Man and White Side there are excellent views of Catstye Cam in its normal state (photo), and under snow (photo). Continuing over and beyond White Side we reach Raise (360° panorama), the top of Sticks Pass, and Stybarrow Dodd.
The main path along the ridge passes to the left of Stybarrow's true summit where there is a small cairn with a flat upright stone in the middle. About a hundred yards to the northeast there is a low wall with a shelter hidden behind it. From the summit head southeast down the grassy slope - no footpath - where a cairn marks a change of direction, due east, to Green Side via a footpath. Continue down the crest of the ridge (photo), which bears slightly to the right and you will find yourself walking between the crags of Glencoyne Head, to the left, and Greenside mine, to the right, where there is, what appears to be, a quarry. I'm told this is, in fact, a collapsed mine. This is best avoided as the grass goes right to the edge but is undercut in places, like a cornice, and there is risk of the edge collapsing. Keep going down this grassy ridge and find a path which leads down to Nick Head. There are numerous paths up the other side on Sheffield Pike but they all converge on the summit.
There are lots of rocky outcrops, boggy areas, tarns and footpaths on the top of Sheffield Pike and it is difficult to know which way to continue. The best views of Ullswater are from the northern edge of the summit so keep to this side, visiting the various crests on the way to find them (photo). Eventually you will have to head south and past a couple of tarns to another crest where there is an upright iron post with the letter "M" on it. From here you will get a view of the southeast ridge whence lies your descent but you need to go southwest before finding the path down. This is a steep descent but there is an absence of loose stones, the footholds are secure, and the going is really enjoyable - if only all steep descents could be as good as this one. Near the bottom of the ridge there is a gap in a broken-down wall and it is easy to see, and join, the path leading down into Glenridding.
Rev. 17 July 2012