This is our amazing four Wainwright hike up to the Helvellyn fells from Thirlmere. The hike includes Seat Sandal, Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike, and Helvellyn. We were lucky enough to almost have the Wainwrights to ourselves. Which made it all the more special. Perfect for those who want to avoid the ridges on the east side of Helvellyn. As well as seeing the two beautiful tarns of Grisedale Tarn and Red Tarn.
If you would like any extra information regarding these Wainwrights (the Helvellyn Fells), or in fact any Wainwrights, then please feel free to visit this page. And then follow the link to the relevant one that you need.
An early start for the Helvellyn fells
As with all of our summer walks. We would be up by around 3:30 am to really get the best out of the day. And not only this but to avoid the crowds of tourists by midday all clambering around with their lunch at the cairns to get a good look from the summits.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, after all, we are tourists too. But there is certainly something a little more magical about being on a Fellside alone. Or with your twin sister. With only the wind, bird songs, trees, and your own footsteps to keep you company along the way.
So after our usual quick breakfast of Crunchy Nut because Hazel is obsessed with the cereal. We loaded up the car and headed east from Cockermouth along the A66. After passing Keswick we turned off down the A591 south towards Thirlmere.
Just after the reservoir, you hit a dual carriageway. Then shortly after this, there is a lay-by on the left-hand side. This is where we parked up for our Helvellyn Fells walk. It was just turning into daylight as we got our map out and looked for the route to head off up towards our first fell of the day. This was going to be Seat Sandal and we were both ready for the hike ahead.
Finding the right path up Raise Beck
As we left the car we headed back towards the dual carriageway. We walked on the road as we knew it was still quiet in the morning. Almost at the start of the dual carriageway, there is a stile onto the edge of the Fell. This is where we crossed and started heading in the right direction.
Except when we came to the base of the Raise Beck running down the Fell of Seat Sandal we weren’t quite sure as to which side we should be on to follow the stream up. After seeing a path to cross over onto the other side we took it. But soon got lost in waist-high ferns.
So turning around and crossing back over the stream. We made our way to the foot of the stream and then the route came into focus which we were very happy for. The true start of our Helvellyn Fells walk was on its way to getting underfoot now.
Heading up Raise Beck to Seat Sandal
Putting our map away (OL5) now that we could see the route and there was only one way to go. Which was up. We got ourselves on the climb at the side of the Lakeland Fell and it was tough going for sure. The route was steep with some wet rocks to climb over against the stream. This made a lovely change to some of the more basic hikes in the Lake District. And is why it is worth hiking the same Fells via different routes.
It really gives you a real idea of the Fell in full then and the beauty that it holds from different angles. Our Helvellyn Fells walk was already making us beam from the inside out.
Heading to the summit of Seat Sandal on the Helvellyn Fells
After the steep climb against the stream up Raise Beck we could see the sun’s rays starting to come over the edge in front of us. This meant that we knew we were nearing the top of the beck. And better still could feel the gradient starting to ease off as we got closer to the top.
Looking back towards the fells behind us we could really see the views starting to open up. And as we got onto the top of the gill the views widened ever more for us. The sun came beaming down on us and we knew that we were over the first tough hurdle and ready to see what else this hike in the Lake District had in store for us.
As we continued to walk we came across an old fence post which meant it was time to take a right turning. Then head up the steep banks of Seat Sandal. Where there seemed to be not so much of a path but just a grass bank to hurl ourselves up. You can follow the side of a worn stone wall and this takes you right to the top of Seat Sandal.
Seat Sandal Summit in the Lake District
When we got to the top of Seat Sandal we could see the cairn in front of us and made our way there to give each other a high five. After taking in the views from all around we could see some of the other Fells which we’d be hiking up. And then took a well-needed break and had ourselves a good snack.
So far on our walk, we hadn’t seen another person in sight and it had felt super peaceful the whole time. There really is something great about feeling as though you are truly alone on the Helvellyn Fells. And having our bananas sat there with the slight breeze just coming over the tops of the mountains. We were smiling to ourselves and happy.
At 736m we knew this was a good climb for first thing in the morning and although Helvellyn was still on the list. We knew we’d done a large part of the uphill Fell walking. And now we were on tops as we called them, we would rest off slightly and enjoy the rest of the day walking the mountains of the Lake District.
And looking across to Helvellyn we could clearly see the route that we would be taking along the tops of Dollywaggon Pike and Nethermost Pike to get there.
Grisedale Tarn in all its beauty
We headed back down from Seat Sandal the same way we went up the Fell, then headed right. This took us to the stunning Grisedale Tarn and where we saw a tent pitched up with a couple sat outside taking in the views.
The first people to see on that morning and we’d been walking for over an hour already. The sun was starting to warm up and we knew we were in for another hot summer day. The sunlight was reflecting off of Grisedale Tarn and there was barely a ripple in the water itself. You could see the fells reflecting off of the still water and it felt as though time had stopped around us.
As we walked along the side of the tarn we saw a small path leading up the fellside towards Dollywaggon Pike. This was our clear route to the next fell on the Helvellyn Fells walk and we were ready to take it on.
The steep climb to Dollywaggon Pike on the Helvellyn Fells
We took the route heading left from Grisedale Tarn and followed the zig-zagging path that leads up at some gradient further up the Wainwright. Although we thought that we had done the tough part of the morning. It seemed that Dollywaggon Pike had other ideas for us. We stopped once or twice to catch our breaths. And to take in the views from behind us which were lighting up with the sun shining down on the fells of the Lake District around us.
After a quick sip of water, we continued on the path. And slowly but surely the gradient started to ease once more. We knew we were nearing the top as a gentle breeze just started to come over the brow of the fell. At 858m high Dollywaggon Pike is a hefty climb but as we reached the summit, it was entirely worth the struggle.
The first real glimpse of Helvellyn
From the summit of Dollywaggon Pike, we could just about make out the start of Striding Edge off of Helvellyn. This excited us as we knew we were getting closer to seeing one of the best views in the Lake District. Ahead of us, we could see Nethermost Pike as well which seemed like a straightforward walk to reach the top. And beyond that Catstye Cam was in view with its pyramid looking structure.
Looking around us we could see the likes of Fairfield behind us towering over the close southern fells. Then to the east St Sunday Crag was standing as bold as ever and Birkhouse Moor just to the northeast too. There were some truly lovely views and we just wanted to keep moving and get to the next peak. And the next view as quickly as we could.
We felt by now that we were on a roll and nothing was going to stop us. So leaving Dollywaggon Pike, we made our way swiftly to Nethermost Pike in what seemed like no time at all, 20 minutes to be in fact. We really were enjoying our walk on the Helvellyn Fells and knew the best was still to come.
Nethermost Pike at 891m on our Helvellyn walk
The views from Nethermost Pike were just getting better and better. We could see the small figures of a few hikers making their way up Striding Edge. And we knew that we wouldn’t be alone on the fells for too much longer.
Looking down the valley towards Patterdale was truly beautiful. We could just see Ullswater glimmering in the distance and with the sun shining down on Place Fell too. It holds a special memory for us Place Fell does, and so seeing it always makes us smile.
Once we took a few minutes to admire the views and get a few photos. We had a quick snack and were ready to head to Helvellyn. Once you’re on the ridge of the Helvellyn Fells, the walk is really straightforward. The tops are rather flat considering the height of the Fells. And there is one path that follows the entire stretch of the Fells too.
Helvellyn in all it’s glory, the third highest Wainwright
So a rather quick walk with not too much gradient change on the way to Helvellyn made us want to walk faster and see what views it had to offer. We had heard that the views were some of the best in the Lake District but up until reaching it ourselves, we wanted to reserve judgment.
We made our way up the gentle slopes of the third-highest Wainwright in the Lakelands. And when we reached the summit we were greeted by the few hikers that we had seen on Striding Edge only about fifteen or twenty minutes ago. We greeted each other with a friendly hello and they passed by us to admire the views over the western slopes.
For us, however, we wanted to get a real look over the ridges of Striding Edge and Swirral Edge to see them in all their glory too. And with Red Tarn sat in between the two it really was a picture-perfect view. With the gentle breeze and sun shining bright in the sky, it almost brought us to a standstill.
Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, the stars of the Helvellyn Fells
These two ridges form the typical route up and down Helvellyn from the starting point of Patterdale in the valley below. Most people tend to hike up Striding edge and then back down Swirral edge on the route back to the start. And looking down on them from the summit of Helvellyn, we could very much understand why.
They really are something that you just don’t see anywhere else in the Lake District. And the challenge of conquering both ridges on the way to Helvellyn is something that so many people want to achieve. Both ridges were quiet when we looked down and this made it all the more special.
Taking in the whole of the Lake District from the top of Helvellyn
As we made our way back across to the other side of the flat top of Helvellyn. We came into the views of the west of the Lakelands too. And I’d like to say without a doubt that the 360-degree views from the third-highest Wainwright in the central Fells are one of the absolute best in the Lake District. Take a look at our video of the views below.
If seeing the east fells wasn’t enough, then looking out not only to the west but the north and south too was unbelievable. Seeing the Skiddaw range, Scafell Pike, Scafell, Coniston Old man and so, so much more.
For us personally who had spent the time hiking the Wainwrights. It was even more of a memory looking back and remembering the sheer pride inside ourselves. To look in all directions and not only know that we had hiked the majority of the Fells that we could see. But that we could name them. Recognise them by their paths, formations, and position amongst the other fells.
It felt as though we had accomplished so much, and made so many memories while walking that we just became speechless. We sat down and just stayed there for quite some time. We listened to the birds tweeting around us and the sheep baaing in the distance. The other walkers had left and we had the whole top of Helvellyn to ourselves only for a brief moment.
The walk off of Helvellyn back to the car
After we had eaten our early lunch (at around 10:00 am), we were ready to say goodbye to the views and head back down. We took one last 360-degree spin and then set off.
Heading back towards Nethermost Pike we then took the path leading down the fell just before you hit the peak, to the right. This took us pretty steeply down the slopes and the day was really starting to heat up. Within half an hour we could see dozens making their way up the same route that we were heading down. And we were grateful for the time of the morning which we had set off. This takes you down Birk Side past Comb Crags.
The path leads further down and then hits a wider stone path which you then follow almost to the roadside, taking the left turn. After crossing a few fenced grass slopes we were back to the same stile which we had started at earlier on in the morning. The whole route itself took us between five or six hours. And we made it back to the car by everyone else’s real lunchtime. Which in itself is amazing. We then had time to enjoy the afternoon in the park, reading up on some more Wainwrights.
To sum up the Helvellyn fells walk
A truly special walk on the Helvellyn Fells and one that we would highly recommend to anyone. The paths are steep in some places, and the beginning beck climbing had some little difficulty. But besides that, the whole hike was spot on and once you hit the top ridge, it really is pretty gentle walking along the top to Helvellyn itself. Going all the way from Seat Sandal to Dollywaggon Pike, to Nethermost Pike and then to Helvellyn too. Not to mention the two tarns you get to see as well, Grisedale Tarn and Red Tarn. Both pure gems worth visiting.
A great morning hike was had by us and if you ever doubt if you can climb the likes of Helvellyn then I’ll give you a quote from Alfred Wainwright himself. In his Eastern pictorial guide to the Lakeland Fells he wrote.
“At first the hills were frightening, moody giants, and I a timid Gulliver. But very gradually through the years, we became acquaintances and much later firm friends.”Alfred Wainwright
So there is nothing stopping you from walking in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright himself. For us, we couldn’t agree more. And the more time you spend in the Lakes and on the Fells, the more it doesn’t want to release its grip on you.
Check out his guide to the Lakes below in his pictorial guide book one on the Eastern Fells. We’ve read them all and been through some of the walks via his directions. And it feels great being out on the Fells reading the guide in which Wainwright dedicated his life’s work to write for us all.
True Freedom SeekersHazel and Zoe
We hope you find our walks and adventures in the Lake District helpful. And we wish you much fun and success on bagging the Wainwrights yourself. If you want to share any stories with us then please feel free to. Have a super day.