3rd March 2007

A much quieter route to an almost deserted Helvellyn


Walk Overview
Time 09.00 to 14.15
Duration 5 hr 15 min
Distance 7 mile
Ascent 3500 ft
Walking with Andrew Leaney
Wythburn - Whelpside Gill - Brownrigg Well - Helvellyn - Nethermost Pike - Dollywaggon Pike - Grisedale Tarn - Seat Sandal - Dunmail Raise - Wythburn
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Car park, behind Wythburn church, Thirlmere

Undoubtedly most people park here to begin an ascent of the ever popular Helvellyn fells. Speaking personally, the path from here on to the Helvellyn ridge via Birk side is my favourite route up to the Helvellyn ridge.

There is a charge for this car park and it does tend to ful up prety quickly at all times of year.


Route Map

Looking down to Thirlmere from the side of Whelpside Gill. Just when I'd began to think I'd ascended Helvellyn by every possible route I found something different to try. This off path route via Whelpside Gill and Brownrigg Well offers a much less crowded (deserted actually) alternative to the multitude of busier routes to Helvellyn.

And again from a little further up the side of the gill. As it turned out Helvellyn itself only had a couple of other people there, so most of the routes may have been quiet today anyway. During the busy summer months however, this would be a good option for avoiding the crowds or at least on the ascent, I'm sure the summit would still be as popular as ever.

Further up Whelpside Gill and getting narrower.

Almost at the point where we crossed the gill and branched off to the left, following a shallower tributary as far as Brownrigg Well.

Water flowing from Brownrigg Well, which literally is water coming out of a hole in the ground. A short walk with only 250 or so feet of ascent brings you to Helvellyn summit.

A rather bleak looking Helvellyn.

Snow drifts in the cross shelter, found less than a couple of minutes walk from the summit. Slightly less busy than it was on two months ago on Christmas Day when I was last here. Seating was at a premium on that occasion, as soon as anyone stood up there was someone else ready to pounce and claim the seat for themselves.

Leaving Helvellyn and heading towards Nethermost Pike. Although it was very cold along this section of the walk, conditions underfoot weren't too bad. The snow hadn't frozen at all, so it wasn't as slippery as we'd expected it to be.

And then the cloud lifted to give us a view down towards Swallow Scarth, (the col between Helvellyn and Nethermost Pike).

On the walk across the ridge we got this view down to the upper section of Whelpside Gill, (our off path ascent route). The groove in the fellside running from the gill to the right hand side of the picture is the route we followed to Brownrigg Well. From this point the weather continued to improve, giving us a nice sunny end to the walk.

Striding Edge.

The view down to Grisedale with Ullswater in the distance.

Sunshine on the Central fells.

Dark clouds were still looming over Helvellyn on this view back along our route.

The view from Dollywaggon Pike down the top section of The Tongue.

There are several options for a connecting route between Dollywaggon Pike and Seat Sandal, the most popular being the zig-zag path down to Grisedale Tarn's outflow and then the obvious route to the summit via Grisedale Hause. Today however, we decided to take the straight line route; descending from "the post" and following a very steep path (next to the wall) down to the boggy area at the top of Raise Beck. This picture of Grisedale Tarn and Grisedale Hause doesn't really show how steep it was, although I'm sure the poor guy, with the "what on earth am I doing here" look on his face, who was walking in the opposite direction could more than vouch for the incline.

Puffing and panting our way to Seat Sandal summit. If you must keep stopping to catch your breath then it helps if there's something striking to look at. This lovely view of St Sunday Crag above Grisedale Tarn fits the bill nicely. You can just make out the Dollywaggon Pike zig-zags on the side of the fell above the tarn (left).

Not quite as steep now as we were approaching the summit; a simple case of following the wall, which passes within a couple of yards from the summit cairn. The route (wall) we followed from Dollywaggon Pike can be seen running up the middle of the picture, towards the highest point on the skyline.

Seat Sandal's west cairn found a short walk from the true summit.

Thirlmere and Wythburn seen from the off path route we followed after leaving the west cairn. The road on the left of the photo is the Thirlmere side of Dunmail Raise.

Shortly after taking the previous picture we picked up a narrow twisting path which eventually developed into a more substantial route down to Dunmail Raise and the bottom of the Raise Beck path.

The view up towards Raise Beck from Dunmail Raise, with the bottom section of our descent from Seat Sandal visible on the right of the picture.

Heading back to Wythburn with Thirlmere ahead of us in the valley. The path runs parallel to the Dunmail Raise road, enters the woods along a broad forest track and eventually rejoins the path we were on at the beginning of the walk.

A final view down Thirlmere.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks