A fine day, clear and cold, so choosing the route to the summit of Helvellyn (950 m.), the second highest mountain in England, to enjoy the views to the maximum.
A fine day, clear and cold, so choosing a high route to enjoy the views to the maximum.
Hiking up from Thirlemere was like an hour on a stepper in a gym, except the stones are uneven and the views gradually revealing the grandeur of the heart of Lakeland. Clearing the treeline, the frost was still heavy as the sun hadn’t yet broken the horizon. The path, as is often the case, is also the way down for water... now still frozen and therefore treacherous, like black ice on the footpath.
Stepping upwards and breaking out of the lower valley, the view opens to the rest of the Thirlemere valley and slowly out to reveal Bassenthwaite Water and Skiddaw beyond. Then the hills and mountains of southwest Scotland far away over the Solway Firth.
Now on a zigzagging path but still hardly anyone else in sight, the gradient lessens just a bit. And then the ridge reveals the other side of the mountain, down to Ullswater and Patterdale. The edge is crusted with blown frost, indeed the fellside has been frosty for a while by now.
The population density increases as I near the summit, still pretty sparse, I saw no more than a dozen others all day. A couple of mountain trail bikers, not on my route, a group up for Patterdale and an individual up via Striding Ridge, which he said had been tough going.
Helvellyn summit is 950 m. altitude, the air in the shade measured -3°C but there was sunshine and almost no wind so it was possible to enjoy local mince pies fresh from a Keswick bakery in the sunshine. The view is truly grand, not only the major Lakeland peaks: Scafell Pike, Green Gable and Skiddaw, but the Pennines and several layers in to the Scottish mountains and the gleaming sands of Morecombe Bay to the south.
You always have to leave a mountain peak and it’s never easy. Today was particularly difficult both emotionally (leaving such a rare view) and physically. Descent is often more difficult physically than going up, definitely the situation today because of the steep path, my foot still recovering from the collision just under ten weeks ago on top of the usual regret at loosing the stupendous panoramic view at the mountain top. Even if my feet are now pretty much OK, my quads are seriously sore as I write this over breakfast the next day.
The waterfalls on Whelpside Gill and the redwoods in the forest alongside Comb Gill were welcome relief to the slogging of my sore feet.
Pedantically, Helvellyn (950 m.) is the third highest peak in England but most people count all of Scafell as the highest, with Helvellyn as second, even though there are two distinct peaks on the Scafell massif: Scafell (964 m.) and Scafell Pike (978 m.)
Thanks to Mike T. of Keswick for his inspiration and encouragement.