Helvellyn, The Classic Ridges of Striding and Swirral Edge

There are many fine ways to climb Helvellyn but an ascent via Striding Edge has to be considered the most spectacular of all. This narrow ridge has a reputation of being scary and difficult. Although anyone who has done a few Wainwright Fells will have already met similar individual obstacles, such as a short down climb, or a scramble up over a boulder here on Striding Edge these are all put together with the delight, or terror, of standing on a narrow walkway with valleys falling away to either side. You can avoid some, or most difficulties by using bypass paths below the crest however they are on arguably more exposed ground with their own problems. One such bypass ends in a loose and steep gully which is quite nasty. At the end of the ridge there is a short down climb of around 7m which can be avoided by descending to the left a short way to a mid-level path, and then down an easier gully to the lower path. After climbing the last rocky tower there is a steep loose stony path to the top.

Swirral Edge is often disregarded as just more of the same. However, it isn't, it has qualities of its own. In descent, it starts with a loose stony drop onto a short steep ridge of jumbled boulders which often require a bit of down-scrambling. A loose and nasty gully going off to the left, into Keppel Cove, is best avoided. Slips are very easy in descent.

A first crossing of Striding Edge and Swirral Edge is best undertaken in summer when the rock is dry and the wind gentle. A moderate breeze is good to keep you cool, but windy can easily knock you off, or unbalance you, and that will have consequences. You want to enjoy the day, right?!

To reinforce the seriousness of these ridges, near the start of Striding Edge is the Dixon memorial. A small but conspicuous plaque reads "In memory of Robert Dixon of Rooking, Patterdale who was killed on this spot on the 27th day of November 1858 following the Patterdale Foxhounds". Once safely across, at the far end of the ridge is the memorial stone to painter Charles Gough which is worth pausing to read. Today people still fall sustaining serious or fatal injuries.

Red Tarn, which sits between the edges and will be seen from many aspects, is home to a small population of the Schelly which is a rare freshwater white fish which is only found in a few tarns in the Lake District and the Arctic.

The walk starts in the village of Glenridding where there is a large Lake District National Park Authority pay and display car park.