Two tone Helvellyn

This is kind of an impromptu blog post from a wander up Helvellyn last week. It was just meant to be a nice afternoon walk to take advantage of the fresh snow, but ended up being such a nice day I came back with loads of photos. This is the best way to give you a flavour of the day and share some of the images that would normally just go straight to stock websites and not see the light of day on my own.

So some of you will be pleased to know it’s light on words and heavy on pretty shiny new photos 🙂

It’s fairly difficult to write these posts without mentioning the weather and the forecast; us landscapers are at the mercy of both and neither are trustworthy, particularly when it comes to the mountains. Today was to be cloudy in the morning and clearing in the afternoon (hence the later start time and not another dawn shoot), which was pretty much spot on, except it cleared out a bit more spectacularly than I was expecting.

The walk sets off from Wythburn Church at the southern end of Thirlmere, scales Helvellyn and then drops back down to Swirls car park at the northern end of Thirlmere. It’s pretty straightforward as far as mountain walks go, and has the added bonus that Thirlmere is already about 200m above sea level so you have a head start on the ascent 🙂

I knew from the daily photos on Weatherline that there had been some of fresh snow the day before, joyous news for us wintry types as the fells had been fairly bare for a few weeks (January and February have been the best months for snow in the Lake District the last couple of years, not so this).

It was really mild when I set off in the grey hanging cloud, and as I couldn’t see the tops was starting to worry a bit that all the goodly white stuff had scarpered overnight. Happily the murk soon began to shift a little and I caught a heartwarming glimpse of shiny white upon high.

I should point out that I suspect I really do grin like a loon at these points. Happily there was no one else around, but if you ever do bump into me in the snow, I’m not a slack jawed idiot, honest 🙂

Anyway, I digress….

Despite my earlier glimpse of white through the cloud, as I reached the top of the steeper section of footpath above Comb Crags, visibility was worse than ever for a while, though not too much of an issue as the path had been freshly trampled in the snow, with untouched pristine white either side.

It didn’t last for very long at all and soon the sun began to punch through, giving interesting conditions, but lots of grab shots as it was impossible to predict the light. The first glimpse of sunlight I saw, looking back down into the grey:

First light on the trail

And looking ahead, towards Helvellyn Lower Man, some lovely dappled sunlight:

winter spotlights

And looking forward along the path, some real clear deep blue patches now. The blue and the white equally worthy of diving right into.

deep blue

I was now in lovely ankle to shin deep soft powder, great for walking in, and the skies above were really clearing. Best of all there was very little wind meaning temperatures were particularly pleasant. Any breeze at all up at these heights in winter soon begins to gnaw at exposed flesh, but I was happy in just my Rab Shadow hoodie (not sponsored, I love it) and a thin base layer.

Clear skies and the summit in sight

And with clear blue skies and a winter sun, hard not to resist some starburst fun -atmosphere helped by lingering hanging cloud – it really was a stunning winter mountain day now.

Back along the path just travelled

And my favourite shot of the day:

towards Nethermost Pike

Clear blue skies are almost as uninspirational as blank grey so the remaining cloud was wonderful to work with, particularly with a few figures in the landscape to play with:


Moving towards the summit I took the slight detour and followed the very edge of the ridge just for the views. Not too close though, these cornices build up pretty quickly and it’s all to easy to find yourself walking on nothing but snow, fresh air and a 1500ft drop, as one unfortunate soul has already discovered this winter.

Close to the edge, and that other well known Edge

Clearing cloud back towards Nethermost Pike

As usual I could spot a couple of ants picking their way along Striding Edge, but it was overall a pretty quiet day, hence using myself for scale in a few of these shots, rather than picking upon unsuspecting bystanders.

As you know I can’t resist a bit of stitching, and given the views I cobbled together a quick 13 shot stitch from above Striding Edge….

The view also takes in Swirral Edge and Red Tarn as well as St Sunday Crag and round to Fairfield:

Striding Edge panorama

And a single shot, white feathers floating down from the deep blue.

Striding Edge

I hung around on the summit for a while, just enjoying the sunshine and the snow and the fact I was still comfortably warm. I took another few shots in both directions, the view back towards Nethermost Pike slightly cloudier and more dramatic than the clear blue skies looking north.

Summit shelter and view to Nethermost Pike

View north and the summit cairn

Wisely untouched cornices and the summit cairn

At this point I was dithering over whether or not to stay around and see what happened as the sun went down, conditions could have made for something pretty dramatic. However gathering higher level cloud to the east looked like it would be obscuring the sun as it dipped.

I jogged back down to Swirls (I can’t resist running down mountains when there’s deep powder, so much fun!)

The snowline, with Thirlmere and distant Skiddaw and Blencathra

Barely half an hour later the Lake District was once again looking dismal and grey, as it does again now as I write this.

Hopefully this won’t be the last winter stunner for the season, but if it is… well at least I was there to enjoy it.

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8 Responses to Two tone Helvellyn

  1. Ammonyte says:

    Lovely photos as always, but there is something not quite “right” about seeing a walker (you) in shot without a rucksack.

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  3. Robin says:

    Those photos were so beautiful they made me want to cry – in a good way.

  4. annie says:

    superb. snow and hills shown to perfection. Lovely post stewy.

  5. Johnny says:

    Awesome pics, well done.
    Looked like a great day to be out on’t fells.

  6. Fantastic photos and amazingly beautiful landscapes!

  7. Barry_the_Cat says:

    Great pics Stewart – really enjoyed looking at them. We were up about a fortnight ago – couldn’t see a thing! Ah well……..!

  8. Stewart says:

    Thanks all for lovely comments. It was a great day!

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