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Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, Helvellyn

Lake District National Park

Overwhelming popularity cannot diminish the spectacular class of England’s finest ridge walking horseshoe, a circuit of the chiseled crests cupping the Red Tarn cove.

Hiking Severe

17 km
876 m
1.4 km
4-5 hrs
Low Point
148 m
High Point
945 m
Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, Helvellyn Map

Though hands-on challenge is very limited the name Striding Edge seems apt as you lope along its airy spine; ridges might come harder but they don't get better. To beat the crowds avoid weekends and bank holidays at all costs; misanthropes might prefer a lonely dawn start. For best results mountaineers should save this round for winter; it's too easy to be considered a genuine scramble in summertime.


From the A592 in Patterdale follow the single track road up Grisedale, climbing a steep hill and passing a house and a wooded dell. Just beyond the trees turn right on a side track, crossing a bridge to reach a gate on the edge of a field. Take the path through the field. Beyond a stone wall this swings left to make a long rising traverse up Grisedale’s northern slope (a bit of a trudge if there’s soft snow). At about the 710m contour is the so called Hole-in-the-Wall, actually a stile; cross this.

The Red Tarn face of Helvellyn is now visible ahead. From the path junction take the route southwest along the broad crest. The ridge soon narrows into Striding Edge.

Continue north along the edge, passing a trig point to reach a marker cairn above the drop-off point (hopefully not literally) for Swirral (not 'squirrel') Edge. Though shorter, this is a worthy twin to Striding Edge. Initially the descent is fairly steep and needs caution if it’s icy or corniced. Sticking with the crest, scramble down a broken rock buttress to reach easier ground. The ridge remains sharply pronounced for a while, though an avoiding path soon appears on the southern flank if you prefer. Beyond a shallow rise is a small col, and the end of the good stuff. The outlying pyramid of Catstye Cam can be bagged from here in about 10 minutes (optional). Back at the col, a well trodden path drops quickly into the cove.

Cross the outflow from Red Tarn and continue beneath the northern slope of Striding Edge back to Hole-in-the-Wall. Return the way you came.

© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Nov 2011



Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.

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