Helvellyn via Striding Edge and Swirral Edge

Overview

Height: 950 m; 3117 ft
Distance: 8 miles; 13 km
Difficulty: Hard
Estimated Time: 5 hours
Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL5 The English Lakes NE Area
Route: View in Google Maps
GPX File: Download GPX file (desktop only) – What is a GPX file?

Helvellyn is the third-highest point in England. Scafell Pike is the highest point and Scafell is a close second. Helvellyn matches Scafell Pike for popularity among hikers: it’s estimated that over a hundred thousand people climb Helvellyn each year.

Car Parking and Facilities

The Car Park for Helvellyn is in Glenridding. It costs £8 to park for the full day and the car park’s proceeds are used to maintain the local area and Helvellyn routs. The car park fills up quickly, so arrive early if possible. You can pay by cash or card for parking in Glenridding. The car park has toilets.

Glenridding has pubs, cafes, equipment shops and convenience stores.

Equipment

map and compass

It is important to prepare for the trek to the summit of Helvellyn. You will carry all clothing, food, water and equipment in your backpack. The weather at the summit of Helvellyn can be very different to the weather in Glenridding, so ensure you have warm clothes and waterproofs. Take enough water for the return walk. A minimum of 2 litres is recommended.

You can view a full equipment list that covers everything required to complete Helvellyn.

Route

View route in Google Maps.

There are multiple routes up Helvellyn. The popular route, and for good reason, is climbing Helvellyn up Striding Edge and coming down using Swirral Edge. The loop walk requires some light scrambling and provides an element of danger walking across Striding Edge.

From the Glenridding car park, head towards the main road and cross the bridge over the stream. Turn right so the stream is on your right-hand side and follow the road.

Glenridding to Helvellyn

Keep following the path and the stream. Turn right at the cross section, following the signpost for “Helvellyn”

Right turn following Helvellyn Signpost

The path continues with the stream on your right-hand side. You will pass Gillside campsite on your left-hand side.

Path from Glenridding

Turn left onto the main road.

Left turn after bridge

Turn right leading to the stone wall.

Right turn towards stone wall

Keep left at the next split in the path. Follow the signpost for “Helvellyn via Miresbeck 3 miles”.

Left turn at the start of Helvellyn
Path at the start of Helvellyn route

The next turn isn’t obvious because you come away from the main path. Go through the gate and turn left.

Gate to turn left
Turn left after the gate

The next section is tough. You gradually ascend to 700m, which is the majority of Helvellyn’s height. You pass Mires Beck and have great views of Ullswater behind you.

Steep path at the start of Helvellyn
Steep path up Helvellyn
Glenridding and Ullswater

Turn right following the rocky path away from the stone wall.

Turn right at steep section
Path after right turn

There is a grassed route leading away from the main path. This optional detour takes you to Birkhouse Moor, standing at 718 metres with great views from the top. It’s a 5-minute detour if you wish to reach the summit of Birkhouse Moor.

Right turn to Birkhouse Moor
View from top of Birkhouse Moor
Cairn at the top of Birkhouse Moor

Take the same path back down Birkhouse Moore to carry on towards Helvellyn.

Birkhouse Moor to Helvellyn route

On a clear day Helvellyn comes into view quickly. You can see Striding Edge and Swirral Edge too.

Striding Edge Helvellyn and Swirral Edge

The Hole-in-the-Wall section on the map is identifiable by the ladders leading over the stone wall. Keep going straight up towards Bleabarry Crag. The path becomes less smooth and rocky underfoot.

Straight up at Hole in the Wall

The Red Tarn comes into view and tempts hikers on a hot day.

Red Tarn and Helvellyn

Striding Edge

Striding Edge is what makes Helvellyn such a popular climb. It is classed as a Grade 1 scramble (doable for hill walkers in good conditions). Some experienced scramblers have jokingly classed Striding Edge as a Grade 0.5 due to its simplicity for experience scramblers. It’s still a challenge for first timers.

Striding Edge
Top of Striding Edge

There are many paths around Striding Edge. The brave can climb straight over the ridge or you can find easier paths around the sides.

Striding Edge multiple paths

Britain’s Mountain Challenges have a great section on Striding Edge. The video below shows the scrambling required and gives an understanding of what is involved when climbing Striding Edge.

The final section of Striding Edge has a steep climb down.

Steep descent down Striding Edge

After finishing Striding Edge, it’s a steep walk to the to top of Helvellyn. Climbing the final section of Helvellyn provides great views of Striding Edge.

Steps towards the top of Helvellyn
Striding Edge from Helvellyn

You will pass the memorial of Charles Gough who sadly died from a fall while summiting Helvelyn in 1805. Charles’s dog guarded the decomposing body for 3 months before being discovered.

Charles Gough memorial

Helvellyn has a level summit. Once you reach the plateau you will see the stone shelter and trig. Reaching Helvellyn summit after 3 hours is a good indication that you will complete the full walk in 5 hours.

Shelter at the top of Helvellyn
Helvellyn Trig

Continue along the plateau walking past the trig until you reach the small cairn and can see Swirral Edge. Start your descent down Swirral Edge. Swirral Edge is not as extreme as Striding Edge and is much easier to climb down.

Cairns at Helvellyn and Swirral Edge
Swirral Edge
Swirral Edge multiple paths
Path at the bottom of Swirral Edge

Keep right at the next junction of footpaths to start the return to the Glenridding Car Park. For those seeking another peak to bag along the Helvellyn route, you can turn left and summit Catstye Cam (890 m).

Catstye Cam from route from Swirral Edge

Keep left at the next turn. Following the route away from Red Tarn.

Left Turn away from Red Tarn

The route follows Red Tarn Beck. There are a couple of bridges to cross along the way.

Path back to Glenridding
Two bridges to cross

Keep right at the next bridge. The route takes you along a ridge of Moorside.

Keep right at bridge crossing
Path leading through Moorside ridge

Take the cut through leading to the stone wall and turn right at the bottom.

Left turn towards stone wall
Route to stone wall
Turn right at the stone wall

The path leads back to the gate you crossed though at the start of the walk.

Gate back to Glenridding

Head through the gate and turn right onto the path next to Gillside campsite.

Right tun towards Gillside campsite
Gillside Campsite to Glenridding

The path leads back to Glenridding.