After eight gruelling weeks of Boxing training (charity event….which I lost by the way) I was set and packed for the the fells just two days after the bout. It had felt like, ages since I was last out on the hills and my god I was ready for it. Red Tarn at the foot of Helvellyn was my destination.
Helvellyn, in the Eastern Fells of the Lake District had long since been on my list to tick off. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get up to Striding Edge this time. I was happy however to take the tent to Red Tarn for a night under the stars. A little recce of the famous Areté for a future adventure was maybe in order.
The drive from Teeside across the A66, didn’t indicate too much in the way of bad weather. I know however that it makes absolutely no difference what the weather is like now as it can change in a heartbeat and I had packed for it.
Past Penrith then Pooley Bridge and along the western edge of the impressive Ullswater, I followed the winding road all the way down to Glenridding. I parked at the main pay-as-you-leave car park and set off for Helvellyn.
Birkhouse Moor via Little Cove
Due to the popularity of Striding Edge, Swirral Edge and their route up to Helvellyn, the route from Glenridding is a route well trodden. It is well signposted from the village and I soon found myself heading towards Birkhouse Moor via Little Cove.
I’ll be honest, having boxed just 2 days previous I was really aching and with a fully laden 60ltr Vango trying its best to pull me back down the hill, I found this part of the walk really quite tough.
The sweat was pouring out of me and the weather has changed from cloudy to a good old Lake District drizzle. This made conditions humid and I soon found myself soaked more from sweat than rain.
It was late afternoon and as I neared the top of Birkhouse Moor, head down, trying not to fall on my face I was greeted with a voice…
“You’re leaving it a bit late aren’t you?”.
“Not where I’m headed”, I replied.
To be honest that was a lie. Although I was confident of the distance I was from Red Tarn, it was my first time up there and I didn’t know what was at the top of the fell. I think the fella must have been a Fell Top Assessor such was his authoritative tone but he seemed pleasant enough. We chatted about the weather and as I’d been on lakedistrictweatherline.co.uk earlier I let him know that I was well aware of the forecast but to expect anything. I told him I was to pitch up at Red Tarn and we parted ways with a “cheerio”.
I finally got to the summit of Birkhouse (it was a slog) and Helvellyn came into view with its two edges, Striding and Swirral stretching out like open arms to greet me. There was rain but it was still clear .and the view up to the mountain and also behind me looking across to Ullswater were breathtaking even in the drizzle.
The path eventually splits; one path leads to Red Tarn at the foot of Helvellyn and the other passes through “The Hole in the Wall”. This takes you to the start of Striding Edge. I took the former and headed to Red Tarn.
Now I know this area is probably one – if not – the busiest place in the Lakes. A lot of people have Striding Edge on their to do list and a lot of people camp up here too so I did expect to find some evidence of humans being there before me. But I cannot however – for the life of me – understand the mentality of some people. Burnt planks of wood, scorched stones, scarred earth were just some of the things I saw around the Tarn. Here’s an idea; IF YOU’RE COLD, GET IN YOUR FUCKING SLEEPING BAG AND DON’T LIGHT A TINY, POINTLESS LITTLE FIRE YOU FUCKING TWAT!!!!!!!!!!!!
In fact, no it isn’t. If you’re one of those people who “litters”, yes “litters” the countryside with orange peel and banana skins etc, expecting some orange peel /banana skin loving animal to scoff it up, FUCKING BEHAVE!!!! How many birds and sheep do you know that eat fruit peel. Exactly, none!!! So it just sits there and rots and makes the whole place look like a back alley on bin day!!!
Rant is really over now….
Apart from the above which (I cleaned some up of myself and took back with me) The place was great. I pitched up just a few meters from the Tarn settled down for some well earned boil-in-the-bag dinner and a wee dram of whiskey.
I sat a while watching the top of Helvellyn disappear in cloud then reappear and repeat. It shows just how changeable the weather can be up there.
I dozed from about 9pm til about 2am. When I popped my head out of the tent I expecting thick clag. I immediately cursed not having a DSLR camera to capture the stars. The night was crystal clear.
The morning was the same and I woke up about 5:30 and immediately shot out of the tent. The sun hadn’t broken the horizon just yet. Yes!! I raced up the hill to the start of Striding Edge hoping it didn’t break before I reached a good height. It didn’t , I was in luck.
I perched on the Areté and waited for the sun – phone at the ready.
A million snapshots later I clambered down the steep slope back to the tent, I brewed a coffee and packed up my gear.
I followed a different route back. This route took me past Greenside Mine and the YHA buildings to Glenridding making the whole walk a circular. The route back was a gentle downhill and my aching body thanked me for it.
I wished I had actually completed Striding Edge. There probably wasn’t a better day to complete it.
I will back up there soon to get that ticked off. Mark my words…
To read about my first ever wildcamping experience click here.