Catstye Cam, Helvellyn and Dollywagon Pike

Outline of Route
Glenridding - Catstye Cam (via North West Ridge) - Helvellyn - Nethermost Pike - Dollywagon Pike - Grisedale Tarn - Lanty's Tarn - Glenridding (Grid ref. NY 386170)
Total Distance 9.7 miles, Total Ascent 3300 feet, Equivalent Distance 16.3 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. From Helvellyn summit it is quicker to head for Helvellyn Lower Man and White Side before descending the zig-zag path down the slopes of Raise and back by Glenridding Beck.

Details of Route
Starting from Glenridding Car Park - the charge for a car is currently £6.00 for 24 hours - take the exit from the back of the car park, by the Health Centre, and walk up and out of the village along Greenside Road. Avoid the left fork to Gillside Farm. Follow the road right then left and pass in front of Rake Cottages (photo). Continue past the buildings at Greenside (photo). After passing through the gate continue towards a gate maked private. Turn right before this gate, then left further up. At the next opportunity turn right again, avoiding the path to Red Tarn, then turn left again higher up. Now go straight ahead towards Catsye Cam, avoiding the right turn up to Sticks Pass. The elegant peak of Catstye Cam is now in sight (photo) and your route up the northwest ridge is plain to see. Looking back down the valley you can see Place Fell (photo).

Pass the breached dam on your left and Keppel Cove on your right then cross the beck to the foot of the ridge. From here it's easy to see how Keppel Cove was flooded when the dam was intact. It is a steep and unremitting climb up the ridge (photo), taking you directly to the top, but the scenery is more breathtaking than the climb, and there's true elation to be found when the airy summit is reached. The views to the north, east and south are wonderful from this lofty perch, and the sight of the eastern crags of Helvellyn makes up for its obliteration of any panorama to the south west. Here are photos from the summit looking northeast and northwest and here a complete panorama

The path along Swirral Edge is well defined (photo) and a rocky scramble (zoom image) gives access to the flattish top of Helvellyn. Whilst it lacks the notoriety of the nearby Striding Edge, Swirral is not without its dangers and is best avoided in high winds or when covered in snow and/or ice. It can be safely negotiated in hill fog from this direction but think twice about doing it in reverse when the start is awkward to find (photo of Swirral Edge from Helvellyn). The views from the top of Helvellyn (photo) are superb in all directions (panorama) though it does lack the splendid isolation of Catstye Cam. Ullswater and Red Tarn (photo) are seen to the west. Those wanting an early return to Glenridding can descend via Striding Edge though it seems less fun going down it than coming up.

The path along to Nethermost is well trodden and it is better to follow the edge of the ridge for views of the rock scenery of the ridge's eastern flanks, particularly Striding Edge photo from the path to Nethermost. The view south towards Dollywagon and Fairfield (photo) is also fine.

From Nethermost again it's worth taking the route along the edge to Dollywagon Pike. From this summit there's another fine view of Striding Edge photo. Another possible descent is from Dollywagon via The Tongue (photo). This also becomes very steep. The track down from Dollywagon to Grisedale Tarn was badly eroded - but has now been improved and is a good option. An alternative descent, described here is down the grassy slope by the county boundary as if heading for Seat Sandal. There is an iron fence post by the main path to Helvellyn which marks the start of the descent towards Seat Sandal, and the odd fence post on the way down, before a wall is reached with the route alongside it. Skirt the fellside to the left until a path is found leading towards the mouth of Grisedale Tarn. The ground is invariably wet in this area, lots of springs and streams, but it's a small price to pay for avoiding the main path.

The path back though Grisedale is long but enjoyable (photo) with the ruggedness of the crags to left and right - those of St. Sunday in particular - contrasting with the pastoral quality of the valley floor. Keep to the left hand side of the beck and just before reaching Grassthwaite Howe take the path up to the left to Lanty's Tarn (photo). Just past the tarn and through a gate there is a path on the right leading up to Keldas, a fine viewpoint for Ullswater (photo), which is well worth the detour. From the Tarn continue over the hill and down into Glenridding.

Rev. 02 September 2014

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