Helvellyn – A Dramatic Sunrise Over The Lake District

Sunrise from Helvellyn

It was time to head up my favourite UK mountain once more. Helvellyn in the lake District of Cumbria, This time for a mountain top sunrise. The third highest peak in England and for me one of the first when it comes to a British mountain experience.

However, this climb was on a whim, I saw the weather forecast the day before and saw it was going to be a clear cool morning. Well why not? Get climbing up there overnight and be ready for sunrise. The alarm was set for 2 am, rucksack packed, headtorch at the ready, let’s go!

sun appearing over helvellyn

The Walk Up

I normally ascend the gorgeous Patterdale route and via Striding Edge. However with time and the potential danger here in darkness I drove round to Thirlmere to go up the steep, direct way from the back. I wanted to get up safely and quickly this time.

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The sky was clear, the air was calm and nippy… perfect. Up and up, head torch leading the way with help from the moonlight. Wasn’t too bad a walk actually, I was there well in time for the orange glow of pre dawn to start. The flask of warm coffee and some mint cake ‘rocket fuel’ kept me warm and happy as I waited in total peace and tranquility. Miles away from anyone, high above the land.

lake District pre dawn
Mist below over Ullswater

And then it came. The ball of fire created another sunrise that I will never forget. Over to the East, over the M6 and peaking out over the Pennines the sun started to show itself. I was taking pics but also remembering to enjoy the moment, getting used to that now. To my left was Swirral Edge, Striding Edge stretching out to my right. Down directly below Red Tarn started collecting reflections of the sun and clouds. The dogleg of the gorgeous body of water that is Ullswater was covered in mist. So many good things at once to savour.

the sun rises
sunrise from the mountain
sunrise striding edge

As the sun rose I looked back. Many of you that have been on this summit on a clear day will know ‘that view’! The whole of the Lake District lies before you, Coniston range left, Scafell Pike and Co centre heading out to Skiddaw North and right. I watched as the sun touch the peaks and warmed the land slowly. I watched for a long while.

a new morning on Helvellyn
the summit at dawn
a lake district mountain panorama

Alas it was time to head back down. I had another climb in the afternoon. But at least I got to savour the route back down in dawn daylight as I had come up in the dark night. The mountains getting brighter and greener as time went on. Thirlmere in the valley bottom showing wonderful reflections.

the path down
looking back at Striding edge
looking down on Thirlmere

Now that was a great night hike and a beautiful morning, I am sure I will be back here many many times again!

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19 Comments

  1. This is amazing! I never climbed this peak while I was in the area, but looking at your pictures, I think I really should have.

  2. Mike Stewart says:

    Having lived abroad for well over 10 years now you have made me feel happily homesick, wonderful shots and man, do I miss walking those hills…

    1. Paul Steele says:

      ahhh sorry Mike.. you must come back to trod the hills 🙂

  3. Beautiful photos Paul, thanks for posting… 🙂

  4. Sue Sharpe (@suesharpe1) says:

    Absolutely adore Helvellyn – walked it many time in my younger years – thanks for the memory 🙂

  5. Hi if you go to Crummock or Loweswater any time walking low level would I be able to join you as I like to write poetry and this area is my roots. You may have a different perspection on the area to me too.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Absolutely. yes that would be great

  6. Stunning set of pictures Paul. Marked contrast to my jaunts up there. It’s usually the winter sunsets after finishing a climb – late for tea again! 😉

  7. A great set of photos. Like I keep telling my friends, you need to get out there!

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Thanks Robert.. Yes they must 🙂

  8. ChieftainJenn says:

    Breathtaking photos, really hope I get up there someday. I love what you said about remembering to enjoy the moment. I have to do that too! I get so caught up in taking photos I have to make a conscious effort to stop & enjoy!

    1. Paul Steele says:

      yes… agree.. I have learnt now to enjoy as much as possible even when taking pics 🙂

  9. Great pictures, went up there with the wife and our four year old German Shepherd “Blue” in September this year.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      cool.. and well done Blue too 😀

  10. Great pics! I don’t know why, but I’ve never made it out to the Lake District, and I grew up in North Yorkshire! Will have to make a beeline for it when I’m back in the UK in 2013. The photos here are wonderful, although I must say the thing that this post has inspired the most in me is a craving for mint cake!

    1. Paul Steele says:

      you should get out here 🙂

  11. tinasomberg says:

    Amazing pictures! You are a genius! Would love to be there in stead of at home in The Netherlands, but alas!

  12. Ans Minor says:

    Absolutley fabuleus. Love your pictures. Gr Ans

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