Striding Edge is one of the most iconic walks in England. It may barely be a true scramble, but it still offers a gorgeous ridge and exceptional views on a clear day. Yes, it’s popular and you’ll rarely have the place to yourself but, if you plan accordingly and avoid weekends and peak periods, you’ll still enjoy one of the best hikes in the Lake District.
Beginning at the public car park in Patterdale (opposite the Patterdale Hotel), you’ll set off on a long but pleasant walk-in. Largely flat and wooded, you’ll enter the trail behind the hotel itself. Once through the sporadic woodland, the section opens up for some picture-postcard views of the English countryside with green valleys rolling into the distance. On our last visit, we were surprised by rather a large collection of cattle lying lazily on the trail itself. Being as inconspicuous as we could, we managed to get through pretty easily. However, it’s a good reminder for anyone wishing to take a dog with them to have them on a lead and under control. The path is well marked for the duration of these early miles so navigation is very straightforward.
Arriving and turning right at a short stretch of road, you’ll find yourself passing through a gatebefore heading left, up to the opposite valley. It’s from here that you’ll see Striding Edge for the first time. Dominating the horizon ahead of you to the left,you begin to be able to pick out and follow its profile. Completing the short walk up the lane you’ll then pass through an open field, reaching a stile at the top. Turning left at the stile, you’re now on the main trail up to Striding Edge and Helvellyn. This will also signify the end of your flat terrain!
Although not terribly steep, the ascent up to Striding Edge is pretty long so take your time and find a nice, even pace and rhythm. On our last visit, huge boulders were being used to repair and strengthen the path. This is a long, arduous process but one that is very much needed given that long sections of this very popular path have eroded down to mud. The views continue to build as you travel further and further up towards your exciting climax. With parallel valleys to your left and a large lake to your right, make sure you have your camera with you!
Crossing the large stone wall will bring you in sight of Striding Edge. Many people choose to have a bit of a breather here as it’s a large section of flat, open ground. Plus, given the views, there are definitely worse places to stop for a quick refuel. Again, the path from here is blindingly obvious and you’ll now be able to see your fellow hikers traversing their way across Striding Edge itself. There is one tiny section where you may need to get hands on rock in order to reach the ridge but it is fleeting at best.
Once you arrive at Striding Edge you have a pretty simple decision to make: to take the ridge route or not to take the ridge route. The ridge itself is obviously the more exciting option, and it’s wide enough and straightforward enough technically to cause relatively few problems for experienced hikers. Obviously, however, care needs to be taken. Bad weather can change things drastically and there have been several deaths recently on the ridge. Some of these have involved experienced and well-equipped individuals, so it’s not a ridge to take lightly. In winter, this is even more pressing as it becomes a Grade 1 winter climb. Consequently, it should not be tackled by anyone without winter skills, experience and equipment.
Traversing the ridge itself offers some great views. There are odd moments when hands are needed to get up or down a particular section but for the vast majority of the time all you’ll need is your feet and a head for heights. Don’t get me wrong, the exposure on Striding Edge doesn’t compare to the severity of the exposure on, say, Crib Goch, but it is still there, particularly if you’re new to ridge walks. The chimney section near the end will, again, see you get hands on rock where care needs to be taken to avoid very large falls. Despite the ridge being quiet on our last visit, there was a bit of a bottleneck here. However, it’s important that you give people the space they need to concentrate and complete this section.
If you’re not confident or experienced enough to tackle the ridge, there is another option. Approximately 30-40 feet below the ridge, and running parallel to it, is a path that all but nullifies any sense of exposure. Given its position below the ridge, it will also protect walkers from dangerous crosswinds. It will also give you a far easier alternative to the chimney near the end of the traverse.
Once you reach the end of Striding Edge, you’ll begin the short, steep, rocky climb up to the summit of Helvellyn. Before you grab the obligatory summit selfies, make sure that you check out the memorial to the artist Charles Gough who died on Helvellyn but whose dog was found alive, much later, still by his side. From here you’ll head south along the well trodden path to bag the summits of Nethermost Pike and Grisedale Tarn.
At Grisedale Tarn you’ll turn in an easterly direction (left) and follow the trail as it descends down into the valley. On a clear day there are some great views to be had here. As you travel down through the valley keep an eye out for the climbing bothy that has housed many an adventurer in the winter months. As with the walk in, this last section of the walk back to Patterdale is pretty lengthy but, again, the views and environment more than make up for that.
Want to check out another Lake District mountain? Read about our hike up Skiddaw and Ullock Pike.