A great hike up Helm Crag with my daughters

November 23, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Hi Folks,
This trip report is largely the same as my last one, but in far better weather conditions.

Sundays trip was also an especially nice one for me as I got to go out on the fells with both my daughters which is very rare as with my eldest being 22 she has her own busy life which rarely coincides nicely with mine so I was very excited to have both Ella and Steph with me for a day on the fells.

After my first trip up Helm Crag in rubbish wind and rain with Mandy and 2 friends last week, I knew the route had more to give in better conditions so I chose that one for us and hoped that there might be a little snow on top as the icing on the cake so to speak. Plans finalised, the single summit of the day was to be: Helm Crag. (1330ft)

The route we took, recorded by Viewranger looks like this:

And converted to KML and viewed in Google earth, it looks like this:

We left Blackpool at about 8:30am and after a stop for breakfast got parked up at Red Bank car park in Grasmere for about 11am. I paid the £6 fee and we got underway. No... wait, of course we didnt. Ella needed the loo so we went into the nearest cafe and spent a few more quid on a couple of pots of tea so Ella could use the toilet. Im not one of these that will nip in and use peoples facilities without spending money there so i had to put a brave face on it. Ah.. the joys of hiking with kids!

Once that was all sorted, we hit the trail. Here is an image of Ella (Age 7) with her big sister Steph (Age 22) heading up Langdale Road.

Steph took this image of me with my unfeasibly large rucksack full of spare coats, first aid kits, torches, emergency shelters, 3 flasks, Ellas poles, lunches and all the other stuff we have to take when we hike. I am keen not to overload the kids with excess weight and spoil their hike. I would rather carry what I can myself to give them a better day. (Sorry Steph, I know your not a kid anymore)

Ella and Steph stopped to look at the bridge over Easdale beck and Ella borrowed Stephs camera to take images. Her camera is flat apparently... arent they always?

This is the point we get our first clear view of the task ahead. Ella and Steph stood in front of Helm Crag

And to their left, Tarn Cragg and Sergeant man with snow on top.

A view of a definate new property candidate should I ever win the lottery. What a place for a home!

After about a mile, we turn right onto the fells. Ella was told earlier to be on the lookout for a sign about cars as a landmark for our turning. She was pleased to find it.

The path is well made and maintained here. Its obviously a popular route and there are quite a few people out on the route today. 

As we gain heght, Grasmere comes into view with Loughrigg Fell behind it.

The path onwards is still nice and easy to follow so I can let the girls make their own way in their own time.

Looking down on a farmhouse with a dramatic background.

Steph has surprised me so far, she is in the lead all the way and obviously capable of a far better pace than we are currently keeping. Ella, oddly, is not quite her usual self and seems a bit lathergic. She has however got a bit of a cold so thats probably the reason, along with reports from her about her school giving her far to much work and not enough play so she is very tired. Ha ha.

Looking over to Sour Milk Ghyll.

Steph and Ella about half way up.

Onwards after a hot brew which I was very happy to dispense from the collection of flasks in my heaving rucksack.

Ella specifically asked if she could climb this hill and have me take a picture of her... so here it is.

Looking across to Birks and Calf Crag.

Ella was excited to find her first ice and snow patches. She is sporting her chosen "Winter Midlayer". The Polar Bear on the front apparently dictates its thermal properties in Ella's mind. LOL

The ice dotted about here and there saw us stopping regularly to explore more ice formations, as well as for dad to receive a few sneaky snowballs to his back!

Looking across to Fairfield and Great Rigg.

Grasmere again, as we get higher.

As we got up onto the side of High Raven Crag, Ella wanted to have a snack (A jam tart) and build a little snowman in case we didnt see any more snow. I was happy to get the rucksack off for a while anyway so its a great place to enjoy the view. I wonder how many kids have built a snowman at 1000ft? I wish I had done stuff like this as a kid. She doesnt know how lucky she is I am sure.

The view from here across Grasmere and Loughrigg Fell are wonderful. So much better than our last visit in the rain.

The view over to Stone Arthur and Heron Pike.

Onwards now. I remind Ella that the suns getting low and it gets dark at 4pm. That however is apparently great news as ever since she used my head torch in Milican Daltons cave below Castle Crag a few weeks ago she has wanted to do the fells in the dark. However, I am not so keen. One day I will certainly let her and I hope she will find the same joy in dark hiking that I do, but not today with the temperatures already at 2 degrees C in the sunshine with -2c expected on the top.

Ella is always excited to get to the scrambly parts, and this one was no exception. I guess its so much more "Scrambly" when you have such short legs. Ha Ha. Steph as you will see is still out in front, seemingly unstoppable!

I had pre warned the girls that as we breach the top we are going to feel very cold. I had noted the wind direction and knew that either we had no wind today or Helm Crag herself had provided us shelter the whole way up. There was wind... Ella had her mid and top layers back on in a flash as soon as we breached the top of this ridge, along with her woolly hat.

Summit ahead. I guess the top of the "Howitzer" is the true summit, but I wont be asking the girls to climb up that in any conditions other than a warm summers day with dry rock. For us, the summit is the foot of it, much to Ellas annoyance as she wanted to try and climb it. When I told her I couldnt climb that when its wet she accepted it without question which was nice.

We are all very hungry now and the wind up here was biting cold. I dug out my "4 man" emergency shelter and we all got in it but alas its more of a "1 woman, 1 child" than 4 man so I left the girls to it and donned my down jacket and gloves to eat my sandwhiches outside and take a few images in peace. Ella loves taking breaks in this shelter which is why I always bring it. If you havent tried it, you should. Windproof, dry and your bodies heat it up very quickly indeed. A bargain for the few quid they cost.

The howitzer, with a couple of happy hikers enjoying the views.

An image showing our lunch shelter but also the horseshoe of Gibson Knott, Calf Crag and then far right, Steel fell. I have great memories of that ridge in a full on blizzard. (Trip report here)

As I was snapping away and enjoying my cheese and ham sandwhich, I heard cries of "Dad, Dad!" So I popped back over to the shelter to see what the emergency was... "Take a picture of me looking through the window". Ah... nothing serious then, so here we are... Spot the Ella.

What a view of Steel Fell. The snowline seems to be at around 2000ft. A point I have noted for my next planned hike with Steve this coming Saturday. My new crampons need to see some action!

Looking back, it seems the girls have finished lunch and are packing the shelter away.

I am getting conscious of the time now. I show Ella a shadow line on Great Rigg and have her stare at it for 30 seconds so she can understand how it turns to darkness. The sun is getting low now and the shadow is moving upwards a noticeable amount. This helps her to understand that while its lovely up here on the summit, its getting dark down at ground level because the mountains block the sunlight. Its time to go... but before we head off the summit we all grab some images of ourselves. Here is Ella all wrapped up with Easdale Tarn just visible behind her.

And a selfie of the three of us.

Just me and Ella, taken by Steph.

And just me and Steph, taken by Ella.

Incidentally, Steph had bought some new gear for todays hike and not knowing how it would cope she brought along extra jumpers and coats as a sensible precaution given the sub zero temperature expectations. Her coat is really good quality, waterproof, warm and very heavy. She carried it on her back all day and didnt need it, her new Craghopper AQ2 waterproof pants and Craghopper fleece did a great job when allied to her new Merino baselayers, a testimony to good quality clothing as the temps have been no better than 4c all day, and its about -2c up here. Better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it of course, but a real pain to carry it all day. She has a baseline for next time now though so worth it in that respect.

Time to head down. I have chosen a circular route so we are heading over the summit and down the other side, where we turn right just before the ascent up to Gibson Knott starts. Ella having now eaten and rested for 45mins is raring to go and demands she take the lead in full on "Commander Ella" mode.

The wind on the summit and over to here was very cold indeed and pretty strong so we are all still in coats and gloves etc. Up on the summit Ella upgraded to her even warmer gloves. We have two pairs each, polartec which are awesome for milder conditions and a much thicker and stronger pair for cold blasting winds and / or rain which she is now wearing.

The path down is slippery and very muddy. We made it over halfway down without incident before Steph started to slide in mud and skidded a few feet down the hill on her ass. Apparently it was my fault for offering her my arm in assistence on the slippery bit. Just bad timing I think... I knew one of us was going, but I thought it might be Ella as she now had renewed enthusiasm and was moving at speed. Still, it gave Ella a laugh. LOL

Eventually, we get to the bridge that crosses Green Burn falls. Ella wasnt too impressed at me insisting I overtake her, until I told her it was so I could take a picture of her on the bridge. She likes to pose.

My two gorgeous girls. So proud of them both, I have had an amazing day with them and wish I could do it all again tomorrow. Sadly, school and work always spoil plans and dreams like that.

Looking back up to Helm Crag from Ghyll Foot.

From here its easy walking, no dramas at all, just 2 miles to go back to the car. Ellas pants seem to have taken a battering. Her mum will be pleased to see them when she gets home. Dirty clothes are the final proof of a great day on the fells!

The road back around Low Mill Bridge.

Darkness is falling and Ella got more excited to use the head torch, constantly asking if we could use it yet. I eventually gave it to her for the last mile of the walk after instructing her in no uncertain terms she must never look at a car driver with it, but instead shine it down when cars are coming.

And that was it, back to the car and a nice easy 1.5hr drive home with the girls. Certainly one of the most enjoyable hikes of the year for me as I got to spend it with Steph away from work (She works for me) We dont spend enough time together outside of work and the fells are a great place to do it. Im going to plan plenty more for us as soon as possible.

Our day ended with a full on Sunday roast prepared by my ever suffering wife Mandy. What an awesome end to an awesome day!


Here is a short video of the route made with my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak.


Here is some data aquired from my Suunto Ambit Peak.


Here are the Ups and Downs.

Thats all folks, its getting cold on the fells now so wrap up, enjoy the fells but stay safe.


**Completed - Nov 23rd 2015**



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