Helvellyn : The Lake District

by | Jan 31, 2020 | Go Outside, The Lake District, Walking

Route Information

An out-and-return circular walk

Route Difficulty: Hard

Distance: 8.07 km (5.04 miles)

Route Elevation: 925 m

Route Ascent: 772 m

Route Time: 2-4 hrs

Start and Finish: Swirls Car Park, A591, CA12 4TA or the lay-by further down near the Kings Head Inn.

Depending on the featured walk and especially in mountainous areas, you may need to Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in to your own pace.


There are toilets on Swirls Car Park

The Kings Head Inn is well known for serving great pub meals and ales. For more information have a look at their website 


Browncove Crags can be tricky in winter conditions and especially with snow. There have been serious accidents and deaths in recent years. Helvellyn Summit in winter conditions can have cornices of snow, so stay away from the edges. 

The Urban Ranger Website cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent, and to be able to read a map and use a compass. Plan your route properly with the latest advice from the AdventureSmart website

Public Transport

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Weather Forecast

MWIS Lake District Weather


Not ready to tackle Striding Edge, then summit Helvellyn from Swirls Car Park.

Day two of my week in the Lake District saw me take on the infamous Helvellyn, voted the best walk in Britain recently. There are many routes up Helvellyn with the most popular being via Striding Edge. Striding Edge is a grade one scramble, and is featured on the website in its own right.

The route from Swirls Car Park is possibly the shortest route to the summit, but it does come with its own demands and trickery, especially in full winter conditions. The steps which lead up to Brown Cove Crags can be demanding and meander up the fell. There is no respite until you reach Lower Man at 925 meters.

When I did this route there was a snowfield underneath Browncove Crags which required the use of crampons to navigate safely. There were a few people who turned back given the conditions and not being prepared. Sadly a few days after I covered this route, there were two incidents with one leading to death. Trips, slips and falls can sadly have serious consequences.

The route from the car park follows the right-hand side of Helvellyn Gill where the steps will then lead you up to and around to the right-hand side of Browncove Crags (NNW side). Snow accumulates here during the winter months and is a blackspot for accidents, so take care.

The view of Thirlmere Water to the right is pleasing to the eye, whilst the climb up the steps is pretty bland in all honesty. Once you reach the top of the steps, you are faced with a diagonal ascent of Brown Cove Crags.

Ascending Brown Cove Crag was tricky and you need to fully know the route to the summit so you can navigate your way around the cove and head in the right direction. once you have navigated this part of the walk you will reach Helvellyn plateau and the walk to the summit is straight forwards for around 1K.

In winter keep away from the edges as snow accumulates and gives a false perception otherwise known as a cornice.

The views from the top of Helvellyn are dramatic in winter, and as long as the weather is clear you will be able to see for miles including the West Coast, Snowdonia and even South West Scotland. The walk takes you back exactly the same route, just be very careful when navigating Brown Cove Crags, as this is when most people slip and slide down the steep face, on the decent. Climbing up is always easier than descending in snow.

Helvellyn is the third highest Mountain in England and also the Lake District, and it is possible its name means Pale Yellow Moorland. The Helvellyn range is a north-south line of mountains to the north of Ambleside, between the lakes of Thirlmere and Ullswater. The volcanic rocks of which the mountain is made were formed in the caldera of an ancient volcano, many of them in violently explosive eruptions, about 450 million years ago during the Ordovician period. during the last ice age these rocks were carved by glaciers to create the land forms seen today.

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