Helvellyn from Wythburn


Estimated net time 3-4 hours
Difficulty No difficulties.
The whole route is done on fine path.
Drinking water The very start of the route runs along a big stream. Higher up there are a couple of small streams which are likely to provide running water.
GSM coverage Coverage above approximately 500 metres (October 2010).
Parking Room for many cars at the car park by trail head. There is a "pay-and-display" machine, with cost of something like 4 for 4 hours (per 2010). Only coins accepted (per 2010).
Start height 190 metres
Vertical metres 770 metres for the roundtrip.
Trip distance 7.9 km
GPS-file X


Route photo

  Trail head and parking by Wythburn.


Assuming you drive road M6 north from Manchester. Exit at junction 36 and follow roads A590 and A591 to Kendal. From Kendal stay on road A591 to Windermere and Ambleside. From Ambleside drive road A591 approximately 5.6 km to the round about outside Grasmere. Measure 6.8 km on road A591 from this round about, driving north towards Keswick. You should then exit right onto a gravel road, which immediately bends left, and heads north parallel with road A591. 150 metres along this road you get to a car park, with Wythburn Church located between the car park and A591. Park here.

Start your hike by walking towards the gate at the end of the car park. Pass the gate and turn right onto the wide path heading into the forest. Follow this path uphill, crossing a forest road, and then trough the forest. When you get above the forest the path follows the edge of the forest for approximately 150 metres, does a zigzag, and then turns east. Then another zigzag before the path climbs south onto the south-west shoulder of Helvellyn. After having entered the shoulder the terrain gets a little flatter, and the path will take you north-east and later north up to the small saddle between Helvellyn and Nethermost Pike. At this saddle you will have a steep slope down to your right (east).

From the saddle continue north, approximately 700 metres. You first get to a plaque in memory of the first ever British mountain landing by an aeroplane, then a large shelter, and then a cairn (a pile of stones). From this cairn turn a little left (north-west) and proceed the reminding 80 metres to the summit, which is marked by a proper cairn.

Return by reversing your ascent route.



10. October 2010

This Sunday was the last day of our Lake District visit, and the plan was to hike Helvellyn, the third of the three Lake District mountains with primary factor >700m. Because we had a long drive, back to London, after our hike, we decided to start early. This meant we had to abandon breakfast at the B&D, and instead settle for some rolls at the local store. At 07:30 we were on the road north, and a little before 8 we started our hike.

The morning was a little cold, but we had high hopes that the sun would soon change things. However, as soon as we got above the forest we were met by a strong wind, and when we got up on the shoulder the wind was very annoying and we had to push a bit hard through the head wind. Just as annoying was the fog located above 850 metres, and didn't seem to have any plans to vanish.

By the time we got to the saddle between Helvellyn and Nethermost Pike the visibility was down to a few tens of metres, and only the fact that there was a well defined path made us able to navigate comfortably. But at this saddle there was no wind, so we decided to pause a little, and to see if the fog might lift. And the wait paid off to a small extent, and we got a decent view down the steep east side from the saddle. But after a short spell of improved views below us, the fog crept back in, and we decided to proceed to the summit. Towards the summit we passed a metal plaque, in memory of the first ever aeroplane to land on a British mountain, landing (and taking off again) at Helvellyn in 1926. After the plaque we got to a large stone shelter, and then what we thought was the summit cairn. This cairn was just a pile of stones, like the ones found on many British mountains. But when I later at night, in our London hotel, downloaded our GPS tracks to my computer, I got an indication that we had been approximately 80 metres south-east of the highest point. Further investigations confirmed my suspicion, when I found summit photos of a concrete cairn. But I will still claim Helvellyn, since we were very close, and in terms of altitude I'm confident we were low single digit metres below the summit. It's still a bit annoying, and I'm sure I will have Helvellyn high on my to-do list if I ever return to Lake District.

During our descent we started to meet the first other hikers as we were about to descend the south-west shoulder, at 550 metres, and from here and down we met several other hikers. We, however, were keen on getting back to our car in order to take on the 4+ hours drive back to Heathrow to return our rental car. And after that get the underground into London centre and check in to our hotel at Marylebone.

Photos 10.10.2010