At 950m, Helvellyn may only be the third highest fell in the Lake District, but it is by far the most popular – and challenging – to navigate. Though recommended for only the most experienced walkers, the dramatic knife-edge ridges attract over 250,000 hardy ramblers every year.
The favourite fell
Ask any experienced hill walker what their favourite fell in the Lakes is, and you can almost guarantee that Helvellyn will be their answer. With breath-taking panoramic summit views and its razor-sharp ridges, Swirral and Striding Edge, Helvellyn comes packed with plenty of unique hill walker challenges, which ensure it retains its place at the top of the polls.
At 978m, Scafell Pike takes the accolade of the tallest mountain in the Lakes, while Raise (883m) is another prominent fell, home to English skiing and the historic Lake District Ski Club.
What’s in a name?
The name Helvellyn originates from the old Cumbrian dialect, with ‘Hal’ meaning moorland or upland and ‘velin’ meaning pale yellow. Formed when a volcano collapsed 450 million years ago, the contours of Helvellyn have been shaped mainly by glacial movement.
A fell walker’s challenge
Each year 250,000 people hike up to Helvellyn’s summit. Ascent typically takes around 6 hours and is definitely one of the more demanding and technical hikes in the Lake District.
Helvellyn’s knife-edge ridges are notoriously challenging to navigate. Add winter conditions into the mix, and this formidable mountain can become treacherous: the fell is renowned for retaining snowy winter conditions.
Ascent in the winter is only recommended for the most experienced mountaineers, and technical equipment such as crampons and ice axes are a must. Though safer in summer, high winds can make the ridges hazardous throughout the year.
April to October is the best time to hike to the summit – though it is always advisable to check local weather conditions, have suitable sturdy footwear and waterproof clothing and take a full OS map of the area with a compass. If walking the ridges with a four-legged friend, remember to keep them under close control at all times.