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Guide to Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge in the Lake District

by Mandy
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Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge

Nestled in the heart of England’s Lake District, Helvellyn beckons hikers and adventurers from all over – and for good reason! Rising to an impressive 950m, Helvellyn is the third-highest peak in the Lake District. But it is not its height which makes this such an iconic and adrenaline-fuelled adventure. It’s tackling the challenge of hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge is what makes this a stand-out route in the region.

Our guide to hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge covers everything you need to know, including the route we took during our own hike, a map, and important tips you need to know for tackling Striding Edge.

Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge

The hike to the summit of Helvellyn via Striding Edge is one of the most iconic and thrilling hiking routes in the UK. While the hike itself is not particularly challenging, you will need a strong nerve and a head for heights to tackle Striding Edge. But the rewards are stunning 360 degree views over the Lake District and beyond. We could see all the way to the southern peaks of Scotland, and across to Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales.

Striding Edge is a rugged knife-edge ridge, that rises and falls on your final stint to the summit. As a technical grade 1 scramble, it features dangerous steep drops either side of the path, making this route unsuitable for beginners. The path is also rugged and incredibly rocky. You will need to pay close attention to your footing and you can expect to be on your hands and knees for much of Striding Edge. This also includes an unavoidable chimney you will need to descend shortly before the summit.

You should have a good level of hiking and mountain experience under your belt before considering this route. For context, between us both, we have completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks and the UK Three Peaks, plus some ad-hoc hikes here and there. We thought this was a good level of experience for tackling our first grade 1 scramble. (Not including our failed attempt to climb Tryfan in 2023).

Depending on your experience, the route to Helvellyn via Striding Edge should only be tackled in good weather and dry conditions. Even on a sunny day, be careful if it has rained recently as the rocks can still be slippery.

Hike overview

Elevation: 950m

Duration: 4 hours

Distance: 15km (9 miles)

Difficulty: Medium – difficult

Grade: Grade 1 scramble

Start / end: Glenridding

Route: Circular

Experience: Not for beginners

Hiking route to Helvellyn via Striding Edge

It’s worth highlighting up front that most Helvellyn routes descende via Swirral Edge. But we chose to bag an extra Wainwright, and descended via White Side. A map with a copy of our route can be found at the end of this post.

Start the day at Glenridding Visitor Centre and car park. The parking is pay and display or you can use RingGo. Parking is valid for 2 – 5 hours or 24 hours, from £4 – £8.50. There are no facilities along the way when hiking Helvellyn, so your only toilet stop is here at the visitor centre. The toilets cost about 50p per use, payable via contactless. Also make sure you bring lots of water and snacks for the journey. More detail on what to pack is covered at the end of this post if helpful.

We visited the Lakes at the end of May over the Bank Holiday weekend. We arrived (what we thought was early) at 8:45am and the car park was packed already! The car park is a decent size, and we struggled to find a space. The spaces are also incredibly tight. Although we managed to find a space, there wasn’t much room either side! This seemed to be the case for all the parking spaces.

For a May Bank Holiday we were lucky with the weather. It had been torrential rain all week, with weather warnings from the MetOffice. Considering we live in Portsmouth, and would be making a 7+ hour drive up to the Lakes the day before, it was going to be a big gamble! Thankfully we awoke Saturday morning to fresh, clear blue sunny skies, with no rain forecast. We were off to a perfect start and the rest of our Helvellyn hike was much the same!

Onwards from Glenridding

All geared up and ready to go, we left Glenridding car park about 9:30am. From here, head west out of the car park, along Greenside Road towards the Travellers Rest pub. Follow the road up and bear left where it forks, heading towards the Gillside Camping and Caravan Park. All around you are stunning views with rolling green hills and mountains. This is already a tease of the views and scenery that is yet to come!

The route narrows to a single tarmac road eventually crossing a short bridge over the Ullswater River. Follow the road until it splits, changing to a dirt pathway that veers to the right slightly. Follow this route and keep left at the next fork. You’ll start to see the stone path snaking steeply up the hillside (photo below).

Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge - leaving from Glenridding Car Park
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge - heading up the hillside at the start of the walk along the stone pathway

Starting the ascent

The footpath marks the start of your steep (but doable) climb. If you have a good level of fitness and stamina this will be a comfortable workout. You should ideally maintain a pace where you can (roughly) hold a conversation. There are lots of places to stop for a rest and a breather if needed though!

As you climb higher the views over Ullswater just get better and better. We found ourselves constantly turning around to take in the views. As you continue up the path you’ll cross through a metal gate, which is another good stopping point and place to further appreciate the beautiful views.

Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge the views over Ullswater at the start of the hike
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge - taking in the views over Ullswater

Bonus Wainwright!

The paths are in very good condition and it’s pretty clear on the way up where you need to go. As the ascent continued we found some boulders as a good place to rest and fuel up on some snacks. This roughly marked the end of ascent also, before the route eventually plateaus heading in the direction of Helvellyn.

This plateau is a welcome change in pace, making for a much more leisurely stroll. As you follow this path, you’ll eventually come to an open “bowl” view, with Catseye Cam and Helvellyn directly in front of you.

Bonus Wainright: At this point you can detour slightly north to the top of Birkhouse Moor to claim your first Wainwright of the day! It’s a very small detour, so adds little time or distance to the hike. From here you have yet more incredible views over Ullswater and the surrounding hills and mountains.

Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge - the top of Birkhouse Moor
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge - views of Helvellyn and Catseye Cam

The first glimpse of Striding Edge

At this point you have conquered roughly two-thirds of the hike to Helvellyn. From the “bowl” view we mentioned above (see image above) you can see the tabletop summit of Helvellyn in the middle, with your first glimpse of the ridgeline of Striding Edge to the left. On the righthand side you have Catseye Cam.

From here you have a clear view of the rest of the route you need to take to Striding Edge, which is a flat easy stroll. Keep the stone wall to your left initially, but the path is very clearly marked all the way to Striding Edge. After a short walk the path veers to the right, away from the stone wall. Follow the path, which undulates its way towards Helvellyn via Striding Edge. At this point in the hike, with a big chunk of the ascent now behind you, Striding Edge will require more mental concentration than physical steam.

Helvellyn via Striding Edge - the pathway to the summit

Tackling Striding Edge

The path follows a gradual incline, eventually becoming less obvious where it should take you, as it turns into more of a boulder field. There’s no technical ability required for this part (see photo above) but it is very uneven underfoot, so just be mindful of your footing.

As you climb higher the route starts to undulate more until you eventually reach a rocky crest. The route starts to narrow and as you come over the crest you will start to see the ridgeline of Striding Edge before you. The views remain spectacular along this route, from start to finish. All around are huge rolling hills and mountains, and below you is a fantastic view of Red Tarn, which stays parallel to you as you head for Helvellyn via Striding Edge.

At this point you’re introduced to some easy scrambling, as the route continues to rise and fall. There are a few sections here where you will need your hands and feet to guide up, down and along the start of the ridge. This section is not hugely advanced or technical, but does start to ease you in for what’s to come. You do start to become a little more exposed at this point also, so concentration and careful footing is required at all times.

If you don’t have a head for heights, but still want to say that you have “done” Striding Edge, there is a slightly lower path you can take, which sits slightly under the ridgeline. This is less exposed and overall less challenging, so might be a better route for some. Overall though our advice is don’t overthink it. If you’re confident in your ability and careful with your footing, you can take this a section at a time.

Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge - looking back along the ridgeline

Your first technical challenge

Roughly two-thirds along Striding Edge you will come across a chimney which you will need to climb down. This is an unavoidable part of the route and can be a little hair-raising for some. It’s a short section of rockface, but this is where the first technical part of the climb comes in. You will need to pay extra special attention to your hands and footing, so don’t rush and take your time.

We had a small queue in front of us, as it’s roughly two or so people down at a time. As we waited, we saw a small rocky shelf below us and a few people did eye up whether that would be a quicker way down. A local guide however advised that would be incredibly dangerous and that mountain rescue teams have been called out a number of times for people who have injured themselves attempting that as a route. Needless to say, everyone decided to wait and climb down the chimney.

Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge - climbing down the chimney

Heading for the summit

From here, the route just gets better and better and more exhilarating. We were absolutely buzzing and loving our scramble along Striding Edge. The final stretch is nearly all hands and feet climbing towards the summit of Helvellyn. Some sections are really steep and remain very exposed.

In this final scramble it isn’t always clear what the main route should be. Take your time at the bottom to roughly plan a route. There are also lots of areas where you can stand to one side to let others pass if needed, or to plan the route in sections. It’s not a big section and should take roughly 20-30 minutes to complete depending on your experience. As you scale higher towards Helvellyn’s summit, the view behind you of Striding Edge becomes more and more breath taking. It’s at this point in the ascent where you can grab those “iconic” shots of Striding Edge.

From here, the route just gets better and better and more exhilarating. We were absolutely buzzing by this point and loving our scramble along Striding Edge. The final stretch is nearly all hands and feet climbing towards the summit of Helvellyn.

After the climb, it’s then a short walk to the tabletop summit of Helvellyn! We literally felt on top of the world, with stunning 360 degree views all around us, over the lakes towards Scotland and over to the Yorkshire Dales. 

The hike itself hadn’t been too busy. We probably had a handful of people near or around us at any one point in time. Turns out everybody was already at the summit! It was super packed up there! We nabbed our obligatory photo at the top, and then found somewhere quiet to sit and enjoy our well earned lunch.

As mentioned, the summit of Helvellyn is very flat, meaning it’s very exposed to the elements with very little protection. If you’re there on a sunny day be sure to bring good SPF and a hat, plus an extra layer should the wind pick up.

Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge - standing at the summit
Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge - view from the summit

Descent via White Side

From here, most people start their descent down Swirral Edge. As mentioned, we wanted to bag our 3rd Wainwright for the day, so we continued on towards White Side. Nothing about this descent was technical or challenging, but it is quite a steep hike from start to finish. This made it a little uncomfortable for our dodgy ole knees at times! We had hiking poles with us, but it also wasn’t so bad that we needed them.

We made it to White Side in good time. From here, the path continues very clearly all the way towards Raise. If you choose to hike this way, you can also head up Raise to claim your 4th Wainwright! We were roughly 1 hour away from Glenridding at this point, and so we decided against it (although we were tempted!).

All in all the hike, including our extended descent down White Side took about 5 hours. This included a couple of rest stops and lunch at the summit, and was about 14.7km (9 miles) of walking. Hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge promised a thrilling, challenging but fun day. Did it meet expectations? Absolutely! Would we do the hike again? In a heartbeat! We’d like to try Swirral Edge and also tick off Catseye Cam from our Wainwright list. But all in time!

We hope our guide to hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge was helpful, and gave you some insight of what to prepare for. Although Striding Edge is a challenge, and you do need to be careful, this hiking route is nothing but fun and thrills! Below is some further detail if you’re planning to tackle this hike, but if you have any further questions, please share them in the comments section below and we’ll get back to you!

What to pack for hiking Helvellyn?

In addition to the list in the ‘What to Wear’ section, we also suggest packing the below:

  • Spare hiking socks (there’s nothing worse than getting wet feet!).
  • (Optional) A spare t-shirt. 
  • (Optional) Hiking poles – you don’t need them from a technical standpoint. But depending on your knees you want some extra support.
  • (Optional) Knee supports (as above).
  • Hat / sunglasses / SPF. There is no shelter along the route of summit and you’re pretty exposed to the elements. If the weather is nice you’ll want lots of sun protection!
  • 2L water (we used our hydration bladders which we found really helpful for on-the-go sipping).
  • Waterproof pad. We have these folding sit mats which came in very handy when stopping for lunch.
  • (Optional) Action camera / GoPro.
  • Battery pack to charge your phone if needed.
  • Good sized hiking bag.
  • Carrier bag for your rubbish! We use biodegradable small caddy liners.
  • Lunch and snacks. We chose to bring:
    • Homemade wraps, with veggie “chicken” goujons, mashed up falafel, and Nandos spicy mayo 👌
    • Banana
    • Protein bars
    • Granola snack bars
    • Candy kittens
    • Protein yogurt pouch
    • Lucozade (optional) 

What to wear?

As already mentioned, when hiking Helvellyn you remain very exposed to the elements. Each of the mountains can also hold their own micro-climates meaning the weather can change at a moments notice. Packing easy layers will be your friend on this hike:

  • Base layer.
  • Lightweight T-shirt.
  • Fleece.
  • Rain jacket.
  • Shorts / hiking trousers.
  • Hiking socks.
  • Hiking boots (with good ankle support).

What is a grade 1 scramble?

Routes in the UK are graded 1 – 3, with grade 1 routes being the easiest and grade 3 being the most challenging.

A grade 1 scramble means there will likely be some steep sections, where you will need to use your hands to progress. The route may also be slightly exposed, but ropes are not required for a grade 1.

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