Memories of Helvellyn

Published: 6th August 2019

Celebrated mountaineer, Alan Hinkes, reflects on a mountain that still captures his imagination

Alan Hinkes on Helvellyn

The wind was lashing rain onto my face as well as billowing up my plastic cycle cape, almost dragging me off the ridge. This was my first experience of Helvellyn, scrambling along Striding Edge as a 15-year-old schoolboy in classic windy, rainy, summer weather conditions. I did not have any modern equipment or waterproof jacket – just my trusty cycle cape that I would normally use on my paper round or bike ride to school if it was raining.

The inclement weather and slippery rock did not put me off. I relished every minute of my first challenging Helvellyn experience and it felt like a real mountain. Physical geography and geology are two of my favourite subjects and I revelled in the stark, glacial features of rocky arêtes and the tarn-filled corrie. 

Striding Edge and Swirral Edge embrace Red Tarn as a classic post-glacial topographic feature, just like an open-air geography textbook. I was stimulated and wanted more: Helvellyn had opened my senses to the mountain world.

Even today, Helvellyn continues to stimulate and challenge me. I climb it many times each year, in all weather. Most years, I manage to ascend it in a heatwave and enjoy a shirtless summer day on the summit. Sometimes, I descend to the icy cold spring just below the summit to literally chill out. 

Some of my best experiences, however, have been in winter – climbing snow and ice routes on the north face above Red Tarn. It truly is a versatile and satisfying mountain.

Common Ground cover image July 2019

  • This article features in Common Ground (July 2019), which covers the latest on what's happening on the land we manage in the Lake District.
  • Read more about our work at Glenridding Common