29th December 2014

Helvellyn, White Side, Raise and Sticks Pass


Walk Overview
Time 9am to 1:05pm
Duration 4 hr 5 min
Distance 7.7 mile
Ascent 3170 ft
Walking with On my own
Swirls - Browncove Crags - Helvellyn - Helvellyn Lower Man - White Side - Raise - Sticks Pass - Stanah - 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


With snow still laying on the higher fells and a dry, calm(ish) day in prospect, Helvellyn seemed to be calling at me to come along and pay another visit. I left the car at 9 o'clock and looked across to Browncove Crags, and, even after ascending Helvellyn dozens of times by this route I still had a feeling of excitement at the thought of heading up there once again. Particularly as I know I'd soon be up among the snow for a taste of winter.

I turn around and couldn't help but notice the colour of the early morning light on Blencathra.

High Seat and Bleaberry Fell (ish) seen above Thirlmere.

I reach the snow now and although the steps weren't covered in proper water ice they were still quite slippery in places.

Time had moved on a bit by now yet the northern fells were still giving off a golden colour. I always feel it's a shame that this side of Helvellyn is in the shade during the morning at this time of year. That's where Skiddaw and Blencathra have an advantageI suppose. Although, more often than not, you do tend to get more snow over here.


Looking over part of Thirlmere to the fells beyond. From up here you realise there isn't an even distribution of snow across all the different areas.

As I walked around the side of Browncove Crags it was obvious that I'd soon be walking in cloud. This wasn't exactly the blue sky and sunshine I'd hoped for but if I'm honest walking in cloud like this can often turn a good walk into a great walk.


On the final section below the summit , visibility turned to almost nowt. Time to start putting some thought into where I actually am.


I hadn't expected to see many people up here at this time of day but there were three ghostly figures in the cloud standing next to the trig column as I got closer. Just as I was about to offer a "good morning" or a "hello" one of them turned around and with a tone of surprise said "David, , , fancy seeing you up here". It was fell walking friend Maggie Allan.

Of all the places to bump into someone you know, I wouldn't have expected it to be up here in these conditions.

After ten minutes chatting about routes and snow and stuff like that, the cloud cleared for a while, offered a fleeting glimpse of Catstye Cam and on that note we both went our separate ways. It was only when I was walking down Helvellyn Lower Man that I thought we should have continued walking together. Whether it be the route I did or in the opposite direction to Dollywaggon Pike as Maggie did. Whichever way we'd gone we could have still dropped the other person off at their car. By the time I'd thought of it it was too late.


Looking back to the trig point.

And here I am at Helvellyn Lower Man which was much windier than it was Helvellyn.

A brief parting of the clouds allowed a view down the ridge on Helvellyn Lower Man.

Looking back up Helvellyn Lower Man.

The cloud moved again and I almost, but not quite got a view of White Side and Raise. The cloud was coming and going all the way across to Sticks Pass and it was absolutely magical walking across here while it was like this.

White Side summit.

Looking across to Raise which had a thin covering of cloud making the fell look like it was out of focus.

No camera tricks or computer tricks here. This is the way it came out. I thought it looked good / different so I still used it.

A frozen Raise summit cairn. There was a bit more snow at this end of the ridge which was perfect for walking in. As for cycling up here today, well, I'll let you make you own minds up.

Below me is Sticks Pass running across the centre of the picture. Behind Sticks Pass is Stybarrow Dodd nicely lit up by the sunshine.

Sorry, but I just don't see the point in bringing a bike up here in the snow.


On my right hand side Ullswater comes into view along with Sheffield Pike, Hallin Fell and the Loadpot Hill fells.

Zooming in on the sun behind Raise.

Here at the top of Sticks Pass I leave the ridge and begin to head down to Stanah. Looks like the far eastern fells are less cloudy than these ones.

And this is the view looking in the opposite direction. This is the direction I'm about to start walking in.

Descending Sticks Pass. It's very easy walking along this section of the pass. Once you get past the sheepfold it gets much steeper.

Just above the big sheepfold the view really opens up over High Rigg to the northern fells and Lord's Seat / Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance.


Looking up to Stybarrow Dodd from the sheepfold.

Looking across here you hardly think it was the same day as it was up on the higher sections of today's walk.


Time for something to eat and time to decide which way to go back to the car.

Back down at valley level now and yes, I opted for the lazy (quicker) route back to the car

A close up of Blencathra showing there's much less snow up there. Unless it's all on the other side.

A few minutes walk from the car I pass by the Kings Head Hotel.

As I got ready to set off home, I realised that this would more than likely be the last high level walk of 2014 and if it was, I'd certainly finished with a good one. A proper winter walk as Maggie had said at the top of Helvellyn.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks