26th July 2014

Helvellyn to Stybarrow Dodd


Walk Overview
Time 6:30am to 1:10pm
Duration 6 hr 40 min
Distance 10.2 mile
Ascent 3700 ft
Walking with John Carruthers
Swirls - Helvellyn Gill - Browncove Crags - Helvellyn - Helvellyn Lower Man - White Side - Raise - Ski Tow - top of Sticks Pass - Stybarrow Dodd - Sticks Pass - Stanah - Thirlmere shore path - Dalehead Hall - Swirls
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Car park, Swirls, Thirlmere

Swirls and Helvellyn fit perfectly into the same sentence. The chances are that 9 out of every 10 people who walk from here are heading up Browncove Crags onto Helvellyn summit.

The car park is in effect split into two by the A591. One has splendid views over Thirlmere and pays host to an ice cream van, whilst on the opposite side of the road you have the toilet block and the beginning of the path to Helvellyn.

Unfortunately the water company who own the land have installed a 'pay and display' machine in the car park above Thirlmere, so, the only free option here is to park in the long lay-by a little further down the road. Late comers will find it full !!


Weather Readings

The Gadget
All readings were taken using a Kestrel 2000 Weather Meter
Live temperature recorded at the time I press the hold key
Maximum Wind Speed Maximum wind speed since the weather meter was turned on at each location Average Wind Speed
Average wind speed since the weather meter was turned on at each location
Wind Chill
Combination of wind speed and temperature. The gadget does the calculations not me.

Route Map


An early start was called for today and as I left the car at the 'free of charge' layby at half past six, the early morning sun was just beginning to catch the northern side of Browncove Crags. I reckoned I'd reach the sunshine in about an hours time, and when I took this picture I had expected to be on up there on my own. Then, after walking only a couple of hundred yards I was spotted by my Brother in Law who was also heading up Helvellyn. Talk about coincidence!

A very dry Helvellyn Gill was crossed before taking this photo looking back through the valley. The rocky bit sticking out of the trees on the left is Raven Crag. Looking at it from here you wouldn't think it was as easy as it is to get to the top.

Just short of my one hour estimate we reached the sunshine. Looking behind, Thirlmere stretches out in front of the central ridge, the north western fells stick their heads out above that and on the right of the picture Skiddaw & Co can be seen.


The stairway to Browncove Crags.


Blimey, the water level in Thirlmere isn't half low.
Well, if you've ever had an uncontrollable desire to walk around Hawes How Island, now's your chance.

The long distance views were very hazy today and while we were on the upper section of the route the high level cloud made everything seem colourless and grey. Both of these at the same time did nothing at all to help produce decent photos. Never mind, a good walk is the main thing. Managing to get a few good photos on a walk is just a bonus.

Catstye Cam casts a shadow into Brown Cove; almost reaching the tarn and the ruined dam. If you look carefully at the far end of the shadow, you can see the dam in Kepple Cove. It's also a ruin but I'll show you that later.

Catstye Cam and a section of Swirral Edge.

Helvellyn summit cairn.

Helvellyn is a very popular fell indeed; arguably it gets more visitors than any other. To be up here when there are no other people about gives it that extra little bit of satisfaction because you're experiencing the place in a state of peacefulness that most visitors never enjoy or I suspect even imagine.

It you look along the path running from the left hand side of the picture you can make out two figures. They had passed us just above Browncove Crags where they told us they were doing a 24 hour walk over 'lots' of different fells and areas. "what time did you start" I asked, half expecting them to say they were almost finished or even half way through. "7 o'clock", , , that was about an hour ago. Given the good weather we've had recently and the bad forecast for tonight, we couldn't help think they'd chosen the wrong 24 hours.

Helvellyn trig column. I bet it was busier than this later on today.


We head down from Helvellyn Lower Man on the well worn path to White Side and Raise.

Looking across to Browncove Crags.

A close up of Kepple Cove Dam. Notice the hole in the left hand side of the dam.

Looking back to Helvellyn and Helvellyn Lower Man.

White Side summit.

A view back to White Side, Helvellyn Lower Man and Helvellyn.

Raise summit. From here we took an off route path down to the ski tow.


Not what you'd expect to see in the Lake District is it.


I'm not sure what the green barrel is for. Perhaps it's part of some sort of elaborate counterbalance system controlling the ski tow or it could be that they just don't want it to roll down the hill.


We join up with Sticks Pass just below the highest point. Here we look down to Sheffield Pike. It's the only one you can really see through the haze.

Hands up if you can remember when this was very boggy area where it was just about impossible to walk up there with dry boots.

Stybarrow Dodd summit.

After a quick out and back to Stybarrow Dodd, we get back to the top of Sticks Pass. This time we're heading down to Stanah.

Now for the mile and a half walk down Sticks Pass.


This should be a familiar landmark & view for anyone who's been here in the past.

Here's a view down the steepest section on this side of Sticks Pass. We commented that even up here you can hear the sound of the traffic.

I think I'd end up like this if I walked up here wearing a woolly jacket in this weather.

We're almost down to valley level now, yet the sound of the traffic seems no louder than it did when we were half way up Sticks Pass.

Water redirection. The duct (I think that's the right word) is used to hijack water running down the becks on this fellside. It's then taken to Swirls, under the road and then it has no other option than to run into Thirlmere.

By the time we got down to Stanah it was a sunny and very hot afternoon. So, instead of taking the shorter route back to the cars we headed across to Thirlmere and followed the slightly longer path near the lake itself.
The dark looking fell in the far distance is Blencathra.


The route we took didn't add a great deal of distance to the walk but it did add a little extra ascent, some nice views and it got us away from the traffic.

A look back towards Great How.

Raven Crag seen on the opposite side of Thirlmere.

We walk around the back of Dalehead Hall and comment on the building on the right which would make a good big house for someone with money, time and a head full of ideas.

Raspberries were growing all over the place so not wanting to see good food go to waste, I thought it best to eat as many as i could. I believe the saying tells us there's "no such thing as a free lunch", well, , , , all you need to do is know where to look.

Right, we'd inadvertently put the swirls car park pay and display policy to the test today. I knew the machine was there so I avoided parking here, John didn't know you were supposed to pay (so he didn't). The first thing we did was check for a parking ticket and surprisingly there wasn't one. Now for the theories:-
a) the car park bloke was on sick and there was no one to cover
b) the car park bloke is rubbish at his job
c) the company that installed the ticket machine rely on people assuming someone checks the cars when actually the don't
d) someone stole the parking ticket (highly unlikely)
Take your pick or add your own but I think I'll continue to edge on the side of caution and park a couple of hundred yards down the road.

It's only a short distance for me to walk alongside the road now.

And that was another thoroughly enjoyable walk over Helvellyn and it's neighbours. I don't have long-term plans so I'm not sure where my wanderings will take me, but, if history is anything to go by the chances are I'll be up here again at some point this year.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks