|Sunshine on Helvellyn|
Out of the blue, after a rather soggy summer in the Lake District, a beautiful Monday morning appeared with the autumnal colours still vibrant and higher up the fells, crisp white snow capped peaks. Just one day like this and all the rain of previous weeks was forgotten. With blue skies and snowy mountains, there is nowhere in the world I would rather be. And to make things perfect I had a day off and still had Tilly the lovely black Labrador with me.
We set off to climb Helvellyn from Wythburn as it seemed one of the snowier fells. We were not disappointed. The initial slopes from Wythburn are steep through the woods but as you emerge, there are ever growing views of Thirlmere and the fells heading towards the Langdales, Keswick and Coniston. My eyes were constantly distracted by the snow higher up however so we pressed on. Before long we got to our first snow. Tilly was in heaven. She ran around, eating it, rolling in it and chasing snowballs but then discovered a new game – sledging. She put her back legs out behind her and pulled herself with her front feet down the slope until she was in free fall. When I called her back (getting dangerously close to a crag) she ran right back up to the top of the slope and did it again.
|A perfect day|
The closer to the summit we got, the deeper the snow was. It made walking quite hard work as some of the steps took me up to my knees in snow but it was worth it. The sky was so blue, the sun so bright and the snow so white that it was picture perfect. The contrast between the cold blue and glistening white was spectacular and it felt good to be alive. Tilly was a bit confused about her paws sinking in the snow but spent most of her time continuing to run around and sledge.
The sight of Striding Edge (a rocky arête) was amazing. There were earthy stripes where the sun had begun to melt the snow on one side and from the other side it was still completely covered in snow like the icing on a Christmas cake. Despite the conditions, there were people walking along the top of the arête. Rather them than me!
|Red Tarn - like a spilt pot of ink|
The summit was deservedly quite busy with people soaking up the views. Layer after layer of mountains rolled out in all directions against the blue sky and Ullswater sparkled and snaked its way into the distance. I sat on the summit for ages, mesmerised with Red Tarn in front of me, nestled between Striding Edge and Swirral Edge and looking so dark that it was as though someone had spilt a pot of ink. I felt euphoric and tears pricked the back of my eyes as it was just so beautiful.
|Frozen snow ripples|
After lunch (shared with Tilly of course) I decided to continue onto Nethermost Pike, High Crag and Dollywagon Pike. Off we went – both running and jumping this time and I threw snowballs for Tilly who chased them time after time (although she ate them rather than retrieved them). The black and white contrast between the snow and Tilly was really striking. Also striking were the ripples in the snow where the wind had swept the snow into ridges like frozen ripples on a lake shore.
|Fairfield & Grisedale Tarn|
Having done most of the hard work, the summits of Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon Pike were just a joyful stroll. The vertical rock face of High Crag was in the shade and looked at its most imposing. Then as we headed off the summit of Dollywagon, the view of Fairfield and the appearance of Grisedale Tarn was simply wonderful. I have never seen Fairfield look so beautiful. If it had been earlier in the day I would have been tempted to climb it but the afternoon was ticking away and there was still a long walk back around Grisedale Tarn and down Raise Beck before darkness set in.
I waited to see if the sun would catch Grisedale Tarn as it was making its way around Seat Sandal but it was just a bit too low in the sky by then. The route down Raise Beck was beautiful. The waterfalls and cascades were still catching the sun and the lower we got, the less snow there was but the more the vibrant autumn colours came out, at their best as the sunset in front of us.
As I got back down to the foot of Dollywagon Pike, darkness was almost upon me and I headed along the level path through the fields back towards Wythburn. As I got to the woods, it was virtually pitch-black as any remaining light was blocked by the density of the trees. Tilly had to go back on her lead (she may stand out against white snow but not against dark woods!) and for the first time in my fell-walking history I had to use a torch (albeit only for a few minutes). Thank goodness I had not lingered any longer on Helvellyn.
An absolutely beautiful and magical day. Stunning.
See more photos of this walk here.