Breakfast on Helvellyn

Its a warm May morning and its only 7 am and I am on the summit of Helvellyn having breakfast. Once more I have the whole place to myself.

It’s going to be a very hot day and I’m in the Lake District with the family who will not want to toil up a mountain and so I have a cunning plan.
With a temperature forecast to sore up to around 28 centigrade it is worth bringing your plans forward by a few hours. The weather forecast is set fair for the day and so the plan is the set out walking by about dawn and to be back by mid-day which gives a free afternoon in which to visit Levens Hall on the southern edge of the Lake District and its fine topiary gardens.

I am up by 4am and with dawn breaking I decide to head off to climb Helvellyn before the day gets hot. After a light snack I am on the road by 4.50am and drive north on empty roads to Wythburn Car Park north of Grasmere. The only downside is the cost to park there but there is really no alternative. It is £4.50 for just four hours to park in this empty car park. Setting off by 5.40am I make my way up through the dark cool woodlands at a steady pace. Above this, the good stepped path runs up the mountainside. The first rays of sunshine are lighting up the hills opposite and mist hangs silently over Thirlmere. Good and steady progress is made as I gain height but even this early in the day it is quite warm. The early morning sunshine is lighting up more hillsides and the mist is gradually dispersing as I gain height under a cloudless sky. I’m still in shade as I toil up the western shoulder of Nethermost Pike catching the first rays of sunshine as I near the col to the north of this hill. The ‘wow’ factor soon comes into play as I stair across to the black outline of Striding Edge. Now a short ascent lies ahead to reach the summit of Helvellyn which I gain in the next ten minutes.

Nearing the summit of Helvellyn and its not yet even 7 am on this perfect morning.

The morning sun reflects off a mirror like Red Tarn. It’s worth getting up early for.

The view north from Helvellyn on a perfect May morning.

Speechless I stand alone on the summit under deep blue skies with a view to Criffell in Scotland to the north and the Pennines to the east appearing above a misty Vale of Eden. Below, the sun is reflecting off the mirror like Red Tarn. I sit awhile on the summit having a snack. There is not a sound or a breath of air on this perfect morning. The climb has taken exactly an hour and a half. I am reluctant to leave this fantastic viewpoint on such a lovely morning. I have to be back to the car by 09.40am which gives me time to walk along over Nethermost Pike, and High Crag to Dollywaggon Pike and again this turns out an excellent ridge walk under perfect conditions. On Dollywaggon Pike I again rest awhile, timing it carefully to give me time for my descent.

My route south towards Dollywagon Pike. I’ve still not seen another walker today.

Setting off, I return to the col between Dollywagon Pike and High Crag then contour across to reach the path I took up to Helvellyn. I then follow my outward route down to the car park taking exactly an hour from leaving Dollywagon Pike. The descent now is in sunshine and I meet one woman walking uphill with two dogs and already feeling the heat of the morning. We chat briefly and she says she had got up early to undertake this walk. I am soon back at the car ready for the short drive back to Crosthwaite near Kendal just as most people were heading out for the day.

Descending towards Thirlmere and the day is already warm. I shall be back down to the car by 9.30 am.

I certainly recommend getting out really early to do a’ daybreak’ walk. It is a way of seeing the countryside in a completely different light so next time when you can guarantee a fine sunny day. Get an early night then get up very early the following day and aim to get out walking just before sunrise and you won’t regret it.