Helvellyn

Of all the approaches to the great 'massifs' of Lakeland, none offers a finer collection of routes than those up Helvellyn's eastern 'buttresses', comprising Dollywagon and Nethermost Pikes to the south, the unparalleled drama of Striding and Swirral Edges in the centre, and the somewhat neglected but also very fine northern 'entry' in the shadow of Catstycam via Keppel and Brown Coves and the Lower Man.   The last of this great 'trio' was once again chosen on this occasion, especially in view of having young Sooty in tow, in order not to risk adding gratuitously to the tragic toll of accidents on the mountain which this winter's conditions have so sadly resulted in, on the two Edges in particular!

Although something of a 'seniors' route, being at one time the main eastern pony track to the top, in fact this way up, as already hinted, has much to commend it.  Firstly, the giant cone of Catstycam looms impressively over the walker almost from the start, and then, as the ascent beside Keppel Cove commences, increasingly fine views are had over towards Swirral Edge, White Side and the Lower Man to the south.  Furthermore, these can be savoured at leisure because the path never occupies one's energies unduly, being well-made and well-graded all the way.  Then, once the top of Keppel Cove is reached, there is the dramatic traverse via White Side up the ever-narrowing spine of the Lower Man, culminating in the glories of the extensive summit plateau of the mountain proper.

The conditions on this occasion – a fine sunny day, with the last vestiges of snow clinging on to the steepest edges and thereby producing some very fine cornicing – made for even more impressive views than usual (although it was not possible to get to the best viewing spots for peering down onto Swirral and Striding Edges, due to the steep walls of icy snow above them).   But altogether a great day in the presence of what is some of the finest mountain scenery in Lakeland, and also surely far beyond!

(Highest point (Helvellyn): 3118 ft./ 950 m. Distance: 7.1 miles/ 11.5 km. Ascent: 2886ft./ 879 m.)

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