Hills: Birkhouse Moor, Helvellyn, Catstye Cam
Date: Tuesday 24th August 2021
Company: Just myself
Distance: 12.8km, Ascent: 845m
Time: 5Hrs 10Mins

Despite ascending Helvellyn twice previously, on those visits I did not scramble Striding Edge or Swirral Edge. I decided to put that right today by undertaking the classic horseshoe ascending Helvellyn via Striding Edge and descending via Swirral Edge. I also visited Catstye Cam.

For the ascent today I parked in Glenridding where the car park charges are currently £6.60 for five hours or £8 for the day. From the outset the temperature was warm and would get hotter as the day progressed.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

From the car park in Glenridding I made my way towards the campsite and then followed the track starting at Gillside. On gaining height, the view looking back towards Place Fell and Ullswater was nice. I ascended Place Fell a number of years ago on a beautiful autumnal November day.

Looking across to Place Fell from track:

I overtook numerous other walkers during the ascent who were stopping because of the heat. I undertook the full horseshoe without stopping, other than to take photographs, hence the reasonably fast time taken to undertake this walk/scramble.

Ascent towards Birkhouse Moor:

Looking back towards Place Fell with inversion covering Ullswater:


The first of two previously unvisited Wainwrights today was Birkhouse Moor. The path passes the summit of this Wainwright so no need for a diversion to bag this summit.

Helvellyn and Catstye Cam coming into view on approach to Birkhouse Moor:

Alas, as I was approaching the summit of Birkhouse Moor, a bank of low cloud lifted to cover the summits and Striding Edge. The traverse of Striding Edge was therefore undertaken partly in cloud.

At the summit of Birkhouse Moor:

Heading from Birkhouse Moor towards the start of Striding Edge:

Looking back to Birkhouse Moor:

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Striding Edge. I had not researched the route beforehand but knew it is a Grade 1 scramble. Having previously ascended the likes of Sharp Edge on Blencathra and Crib Goch near Snowdon, I expected the scramble to be similarly technical. I also expected that it would not be as difficult as the likes of Liathach, Aonach Eagach or much of the Skye ridge.

Approaching Striding Edge [High Spying How]:

One immediate difference between scrambling Scottish scrambles and this fine English one was the sheer number of people on the route. It was difficult to keep ones distance from others as some were negotiating the ridge incredibly slowly while some loons were running along it.

Onto Striding Edge:

A short distance beyond the start of Striding Edge, I come across the Robert Dixon monument. This monument is to a Lakes man who fell to his death in 1858 while following Patterdale Foxhounds.

Robert Dixon iron monument on Striding Edge:

On traversing Striding Edge, it is possible to stick to the top of the ridge or use several bypass paths. I stuck mostly to the top of the ridge.

Stick to the ridge or take the by-pass:

Short down-scramble:

Red Tarn looked nice from about half-way along Striding Edge.

Catstye Cam beyond Red Tarn:

On reaching the narrowest section of the ridge I had to wait for some ahead to continue before I could make further progress.

Approaching the narrowest section of Striding Edge:

Looking back along Striding Edge:

The final down scramble was arguably the most technical part of the traverse. It is however easier than it looks in that handholds are plentiful.

Down scramble:

Beyond the final down scramble, the final scramble to the summit was also easier than it looked from a distance. I loved the fantastic views looking back along Striding Edge.

Red Tarn and Striding Edge:

On reaching the summit plateau, I passed another memorial. In 1805, Charles Gough was holidaying in the Lake District. He was accompanied by his brown terrier, Foxie. The life of Charles Gough came to a tragic end on Helvellyn. Some weeks later, the well-nourished dog was found next to his former master, alive probably due to feeding on his master's decomposing flesh.


I next visited the shelter, the cairn and trig point on Helvellyn before continuing on a short distance to the start of Swirral Edge.

Helvellyn summit area:

View from Helvellyn Trig Point:

In my opinion, Swirral Edge is nowhere near as good as Striding Edge. Striding Edge is a great scramble with lots of good quality rock and holds. I found Swirral Edge to be somewhat loose in comparison with arguably greater potential for a slip.

Descent via Swirral Edge:

Descending Swirral Edge:

On reaching the base of Swirral Edge I stopped briefly to get the poles from my rucksack before continuing on towards Catstye Cam.

Looking back at descent via Swirral Edge:

Striding Edge beyond Red Tarn:


The walk out to Catstye Cam was straightforward. I did not however hang around for any longer than necessary at the summit as it was swarming with flies.

At the summit of Catstye Cam:

Swarms of flies at the summit of Catstye Cam:

From Catstye Cam, I commenced my descent back to Glenridding.

Looking back to Catstye Cam:

The descent was mostly on excellent tracks.

Descent to Glenridding:

I think this is my favourite walk/scramble in the Lakes to date. If you have a head for heights, this is thoroughly recommended.