BB0713 Helvellyn- the range: North to South

Thursday 27th April 2007

Sartorial elegance is not something about which the Bootboys normally concern themselves, unless it is to brag about how cheap they managed to buy their Lowe Alpine samples, no matter how ill fitting.

So it came as a bit of a surprise to learn that Stan had been banned from wearing his orange top on the grounds that it was not the sort of thing that a respectable sexagenarian ought to be wearing on the fells.

Tony on the other hand was wearing a fetching pink T shirt, under which he had his red T shirt which he informed us was there because he was keeping it clean for the evening.

As for my part, blue tights under grey shorts with black lycra figure hugging top and cheeky black-peaked cap seemed appropriate for this major walk to mark the end of my 60th birthday celebrations.

A well dressed Bootboy!

The planning logistics had had some minor challenges.  Bryan’s map disagreed with mine as to the existence of car parks and whilst Margaret had enough room in her Yaris for Robert, Philip and me, there was only enough room left for one set of luggage so John had to sweep round to take on board up two sets of bootbags, rucksacs and change bags before heading off to collect Tony, Stan and Bryan.

It was an absolutely glorious day as we drove up the Great Divide.  Windermere, Rydal, Grasmere and Thirlmere all mirror calm and Rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom.  We needn’t have worried about parking, the two cars arrived within a minute of each other and there was ample room at the start point where the Old Coach Road meets St John’s in the Vale.

Those who are familiar with Bootboys traditions will know that it has been the rule that no artificial aids, such as tripods or passing strangers may be used for team photos.  Hence cameras have been balanced precariously on piles of rocks or hung from trees in search of our art.  Now that I am entitled to a bus pass, however, I also qualify to use a tripod and as Robert gave me a very nice lightweight one for my birthday, out it came for the team photo before we set off.

Team photo at start

A rather handsome bullock

The plan was to do the Helvellyn ridge from north to south.  Bryan was still trying to sell the Fairfield option as we set off but not finding any takers.  I was more concerned about which way we were going up Clough Head, having read Wainwright the night before and formed the opinion that the way Bryan was likely to have chosen would be the most direct and most hairy.  A rather handsome bullock seemed to want to add his opinion!

Actually going up through the quarry was not without its challenges with a steep drop on the left and overhanging tree branches fighting with the poles on my rucksac to try and send me flying.  

I need not have worried.  The route we took was the zig zag route which did not have too much exposure as it traversed the scree- a wrong footing was more likely to cause a bad scraping than certain death.

The Northern Fells

Clough Head was gained impressively quickly and with that out of the way we could relax and enjoy the undulations of the ridge.  Calf How Pike, Great Dodd, Watson’s Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd successively succumbed.  This is one of my favourite places as you can find a spot from which you can see each of Derwent Water, Bassenthwaite, Ullswater and Thirlmere and a fabulous skyline.  

From Helvellyn o Skiddaw with Thirlemere, Derwente Water and Bassenthwaite inbetween  

By now it was past Tony’s lunch time. He had to be tricked into keeping going with devices like “But the sun has gone in, look it’s shining at Stick’s Pass” followed by “The wind’s got up and there is no shelter here, it would be better under those crags” and finally “But Tony, you don’t want to finish your lunch and then be faced with this steep climb up to the top of Raise”.  In this manner we jollied him along until Stan found an excellent picnic spot in the sun and out of the wind just off the top of Raise where we could relax in the knowledge that the path for miles to come was no great challenge.

The route from Raise

After lunch we quickly progressed to Whiteside, Helvellyn Lower Man and Helvellyn itself and a five lake view.

Winderrmere (sliver), Esthwaite,  and Coniston

Thirlmere and Bassenthwaite

(click for enlargments)


This is reputed to be the most climbed mountain in England and on today’s showing, I believe it.  As I am now allowed to use a tripod, I am also allowed to let a passing stranger take a team photo and as there were plenty of such folk around, it was not difficult to get one to do the job for us.

Helvellyn Summit

Striding Edge

In the crush of people on top, we temporarily lost Bryan and Tony.  We were waiting for them at the shelter but they snuck round the other side and went off to the top of Striding Edge and waited for us there.  So a bit of time was lost at this point each waiting for the other.

Looking back to Helvellyn and Striding Edge

The easy undulating stroll continued to Nethermost Pike.  I did try to wind Stan up into catching a very fully equipped man who had power poled his way past us but Stan promptly clunked his foot on a rock and twinged his knee so we had let the guy off.  

Nethermost Pike from Dollywagon

On to Dollywagon Pike and the descent where, overlooking Grisedale Tarn, we had a decision to make so we stopped for final refreshments.  Should we take the route made for heroes (Fairfield, looking brutal to wearying legs), the route for game old men (Seat Sandal, looking fairly mean) or the wimps route down the valley?  We decided on Seat Sandal so I ate my meat pie to fuel up for the forthcoming climb.  Mistake.  Or was it?  At least it gave me something to blame for my lack of spring in the legs.

Left for heroes, straight on for wimps, right for game old men

Bryan decided on the direct descent to the base of Seat Sandal rather than the meandering path and it was then that I first started to feel the efforts of the day in my knees.  And the ascent, by the wall was purgatory.  Robert just seemed to be bounding up.  How can a man who professes to do very little exercise come out with us once a year on our longest walks and show no sign of fatigue?  We expect that of Bryan but he gets out every other day and is built like a whippet.  It must be all the vitamin tablets Robert takes!

At the summit I was glad we had made the effort.  Once again, superb views and was that Blackpool tower we could just see on the horizon?  Probably!  

Seat Sandal accomplished

The end in sight

The descent to the pub was agony.  Philip seems to solve the problem by walking twice as far as anyone else in a serpentine motion as taught to him by alpine guides.  The only thing that made sure I got down in reasonable time was that I was determined that first Robert and then Stan were not going to get away from me so through tightly gritted teeth I forced gravity and momentum to make my legs bend.

On reaching the road, we had a minor panic.  I was convinced the path came out by the pub.  But it didn’t and we couldn’t see it.  But then, relief, I spotted the Travellers Rest hiding just round the corner.  We arrived just eight hours after starting out and sat in the beer garden supping pints and wondering what had happened to John, who had our change of clothing in the back of his car.  Halfway through the second pint I had an attack of cramp in my inner thigh, very painful and could I find anyone to massage it?  No.

Reward time

Meanwhile, John was sat in the car park, having arrived five minutes after us but, not having seen us in the bar, convinced himself that we were still on the fells.  Eventually he was spotted, we got out of our smelly gear, our other support driver, Diane, arrived with Margaret and we all went down the bar to round off an epic day with a jolly supper.

Don, 27th April 2007


Distance: 13.0 miles (GPS); 12.7 miles (Harveys)

Height climbed: 5,056 feet

Wainwrights:  Clough Head, Great Dodd, Watson's Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd, Raise, Whiteside, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywagon Pike, Seat Sandal



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Click on the photos for an enlargement or related large picture.

This page describes a 2007 adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as often as possible!

As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an item of footwear but is in memory of Big Josie, the erstwhile landlady of the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale, who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day 1973 and other odd evenings many years ago!

If you want to contact us, click on BOOTboys