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A moody day on Helvellyn (and beyond).

After watching the weather forecast carefully for the last few days, I knew if I was going to get a walk it would have to be Thursday. So I packed my waterproofs and headed for Helvellyn.
It didn't quite turn out how I imagined, but was still a great days walk.


I was up and about very early this morning, so it was still dark as I arrived at Swirls car park at the Keswick end of Thirlmere. A tip if you venture here: if there's room park in the layby opposite the car park, it's free and the bonus is there's usually an ice cream van parked there later in the day!!
Here we are looking up towards Browncove Crags from the start of the path beyond the car park (WC's available here as well). The path is well marked all the way by sign posts, so no chance of getting lost....

The path up to Browncove crags is a fairly ponderous one along the man made pathways which are needed because of teh high level of traffic up here.
The veiws into St John's Vale below are stunning, especially if you get a dawn like today.
Skiddaw can be seen in the distance just touched by the morning sun with the end of Thirlmere below.

I should have known it was going to be one of those days when I bumped into these 'locals' on the path. Talk about stubborn, they were most reluctant to shift and I had to use my magic phrase to get them moving.. 'mint sauce'.

Further up the path now, and the conditions below were changing by the minute as the low cloud and mist were creeping through the vale.
I had my camera out all the while now as I was scared I would miss some weird effect.
It's quite a steep climb up here, but it passed quicly looking at the amazing conditions mother nature was mixing.

More locals, and I disturbed this poor chaps breakfast.
Look at all the different markings and the tags in his ears, would be interesting to know what they all mean.

Nearly at Browncove crags now, and the views are spectacular. You can see the line of the path following the old ruined dry stone wall disappearing into the distance.
The path becomes steeper from here as it winds its way through the rocks above.

With all the changes going on below it was distracting me from what lay ahead. Browncove Crags loom above with an ever increasing flow of low clouds floating around it's rocks. It wasn't looking good!!

How right as I was. Soon as the crags were reached, a heavy mist descended making visibility about 20yds. With little wind it made for quite an eerie ascent, and this was the only time it was worth getting the camera out as it lifted for about 30 sec revealing the distant fells to the west.
I liked how the nearest bank of cloud appeared as the shape of a hill. As quick as it had come, the view vanished again in a wet clag, and it was time to get my jacket on.

The summit of Helvellyn!!
As you can see the visibilty wasn't the best now, so it was make your mind up time.
My intentions from the top today was to drop down via Swirral edge, and then regain the summit by the infamous Stridng Edge, two sharp arete's,the latter being the more well known.
Due to the fact that you couldn't even see the edges never mind walk them, I decided to head off towards White Side instead.
You can just about make out the silhoutte of the final bit of Striding Edge on the left beyind the trig point.

The cross shelter just off the summit which offers much appreciated protection on the top, especially when there is a biting wind.
The shape allows for you to get out of the wind no matter what direction it is blowing. A simple but effective design.

Having not done the route from Helvellyn to White Side, I was bit unsure of the path, and these conditions weren't helping.
I liked this pic as it looks as if the path descends into nothingness.
I've included these pictures to show what conditions on the tops can be like when the mist comes down, it's easy to get lost if you're not prepared with a map etc. It's not meant to put anyone off, just an awareness.

Finally a break in the mist as I descended from White Side. You can see Swirral Edge now as the dark arete in the background to the left.
After reaching the top I decided to push on to Raise as time was on my side and the descent from there picks up the path back to the car park anyway.

A shot that in my opinion portrays the atmsophere of the day in one image. Sunshine on White Side and moody clouds across Swirral Edge.

The impressive summit cairn on Raise looking across towards Bassenthwaite in the disatnce. You can see the contrasting conditions in the north, but many of the higher peaks are still covered in cloud.
The route of descent is along the lighter coloured ridge in the distnace after dropping down to Sticks Pass. Within 5 minutes of leaving here I was in full waterproofs as the rain descended, so perhaps I had had the best of the day

I was walking in rain, while to the north there was bright sunshine, ah the fickle weather the Lakes throws at you.
One of my favourites shots of the day. I love all the different colours and tones in the landscape. Give it another 2 weeks when the leaves turn and this will be a spectacular view.
Again, looking down the vale with Skiddaw in the background under cloud.

All most down into the valley now when I chanced across some lovely waterfalls. These are on Stanah Gill, but the path along the bottom crosses many streams and after the recent rains, plnety of impressive falls.
I think this place will be worth a revist with a tripod.

A view back towards Thirlmere and Swirls car park from the path across the bottom. If I'd have known how muddy and rocky (and very slippy) this track was, I think I'd have braved the road. MY leggings were filthy by the time I got back to the car!!
You can see the mist coming down the valley ahead, another soaking :-(

One final last view back up at Browncove Crags from the car park. There was wonderful sunshine now, and this couple (from Wiltshire they said) were also taking advantage of the beautiful view.

I hope you enjoyed this walk of about 8 miles.
Helvellyn 3018, White Side 2832 and Raise 2897.

Thanks for stopping and the book is under way, hopefully out in time for xmas!!


5 people like this.

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Date Fri, 01/10/2010 - 14:45

Worth more than 5 stars.

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Date Fri, 01/10/2010 - 14:59

Wow, worth waiting for Ian. A wonderful walking photoblog once again with superb photography highlighting the weather and scenery. Lovely presentation and narrative. Thanks for sharing and for all the time it took in compiling too. Well, I'd better go and clean my walking boots and get ready for your next one. 

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Date Fri, 01/10/2010 - 15:25

Thanks for that Ian.

As far as the dye is concerned I always thought they put it on the belly of the male  and then you would know when the female had been serviced.

It's no good as identification because it can be removed from a carcass.

I could be wrong about that though.


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Date Fri, 01/10/2010 - 15:45

Hi Ian

Well I asked for more and you have delivered.  Smashing stuff as usual.

Thanks again for putting this together and posting. The low cloud shots are my own faves.


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Date Fri, 01/10/2010 - 16:37

Thank you Ian for taking me back to my teens when I climbed Helvellyn.   on that occassion we went up via Striding edge ut the weather conditions were much the same as feature in your blog.  I've never forgotten the day.

Thank you for sharing, I'm so envious of you I've gone a lovely shade of green.



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Date Fri, 01/10/2010 - 17:24

Nice one, Ian.  Another great blog.

Loved being up there last week and feel a little envious of you living in such a glorious area.  Oxfordshire is lovely with it's rolling hills but it is 'boring' in comparison.

Well done.

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Date Fri, 01/10/2010 - 17:47

 Your photographs capture the atmospheric and changeable weather splendidly and as always the narrative takes us with you everystep of the way.   A wonderful walk with you, as always, and another glimpse of one of Lakeland's most popular summits - without the crowds.

The Herdwick is a ewe by the way! Ray is correct about the use of dye to show when a ewe has been serviced, that might account for the blue  patch .   The red 'smit'  across her shoulder will be a unique mark to indicate  which flock she belongs to and although it won't identify a carcase it would enable the animal to be returned to its rightful owner at the annual gathering if she has wandered off her particluar mountain 'heaf '[ patch]  The clips in her ears probably have the date of birth etc and her registration number.  She's obviously benused by having a visitor quite so early in the day.

This has taken Philip back to his first ascent of Helvelyn  - ' just to see the inside of a cloud'.   We were more fortunate with our weather back in April but unwisely did the route in reverse direction to you and our knees suffered for it. !

Thanks for putting this together and sharing it.

Sue & Philip





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Date Fri, 01/10/2010 - 21:55

Another wonderful blog!  Thank you    Smile

Have not done Helvellyn from that side, so nice to see.  Wonderful shots again, love the low cloud shot, before you were 'engulfed'!   Looking forward to the next one

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Date Fri, 01/10/2010 - 22:26

Another great Lakeland walk Ian, brilliant photos, pleased that the weather held for the majority of the blog at least, the shots looking down on the clouds are quite spectacular,

Very well presented and again thanks for sharing with us,  ..Superb!!


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Date Sat, 02/10/2010 - 20:52

Great views and great ewes.

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Date Sun, 03/10/2010 - 11:38

You walks make mine feel like a sunday stroll Ian.BRILLIANT PICS AS USUAL.Look foreward to the Book.

Dave & Gloria

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Date Sun, 03/10/2010 - 15:54


A super blog Ian, there is something very satisfying about creating a photo blog, isn't there?

I especially like the waterfall, yep that is my favourite. Smile

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Date Mon, 04/10/2010 - 14:49

A superb blog as usual Ian, and one I enjoyed very much indeed as it brought back many happy memories.  Helvelyn and Striding Edge used to be one of my favourite walks but it's been many many years since I tackled it though I do go to Keswick prety much every year for a weekend with friends, (sadly not the walking type).

Thanks for the layby parking tip - I'll remember that for next time.  Smile

Best Regards


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Date Fri, 08/10/2010 - 17:22

Ian you certainly know how to keep your growing army of fans happy, because this is yet another brilliant BLOG, your shot are all per usuall brilliant as is the narrative that accompanies the brilliant shots , thank you my friend for taking us on your walks with you.

Kenny the Bolt alias the Grumpy Granda

ps thought up a name for your fans The Lakeland Armchair Walkers

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