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Helvellyn Ascent

by Tyler

As the morning wore on, the clouds cleared a bit and it was starting to look like we might have a nice day ahead of us. Tara's cramps were subsiding so we decided the day would be much better spent hiking/climbing than sitting in out tent working and reading. I rummaged around camp grabbing supplies (rain jackets for 'just in case', sandwich rations, hob nobs, water etc) as we put on multiple layers for the hike.

Footpath Sign

Neither Tara nor I has ever done anything resembling mountain climbing so we weren't quite sure what to expect when we set out with our map to find the trail-head to Helvellyn. We hopped on our bikes (with helmets this time) and headed about five miles down the road to pick up the trail at a place called 'the Swirls'. When we arrived we locked up the bikes, stopped to go to the bathroom, had a snack, and headed up to the fences leading to the trail. As we approached the entrance to our route, a group of people came out who were on their way down from a shorter climb. We asked if we were headed in the right direction for Helvellyn and they laughed saying, yes it is "STRAIGHT UP" that way, "practically vertical!", "you're very brave!"

GPS & Map

Undaunted knowing that we could just turn around if we didn't feel comfortable, we headed on, excited to see what the climb would be like. We quickly found the path and it was certainly not vertical. It was relatively steep and it was a long way up but I feel sure anyone in decent health could make the ascent. As we continued climbing, the path did get steeper but it was never so steep you had to get on all fours or anything. It was basically like a 1.5 hour climb on a very steep staircase.

Ascent Forest View Look! Tara Climbing

Each hundred feet or so we would turn around and marvel at how far we could see and how much higher we were. I'm sure 3000 feet is a puppy of a mountain but we've never done anything like this so it was really a thrill. The views were fantastic the whole way up and when we finally arrived at a clearing around 850 meters we ran around taking photos, high-fiving and chasing sheep. The peak of Helvellyn is actually 950 meters but it was getting late, we were out of water, and both Tara and I were already so thrilled that it didn't matter.

Tara on the Phone Tyler Jumping Together Thirlmere Lake View Craggy View

After the initial excitement wore off we wandered around until we found a nice outcropping to sit on and admire the views. Tara called her parents and we marvelled at the beauty of the Lake District from close to 3000ft. After a bit of rest and snacking, we headed down, wanting to get back to camp before sunset. The walk down, though faster, was more tiring than the walk up (at least I think). We talked a lot about how excited and glad we were to have done this and are now considering looking for several more easy climbs on the trip. I feel sure France has an easy mountain somewhere with views we need to see! :)

Running Sheep Queen of Sheepa

As we approached the base of our climb we decided to take our chances with the stream that ran down the side of the path and filled up our water bottles at a tiny waterfall before heading to the bikes for the ride home. We were both very tired as we hopped on the bikes but surprisingly our pedalling muscles weren't too harmed from Helvellyn and we headed out at a pretty brisk pace.

About three miles from camp we were buzzing along a nice downhill at about 25-30mph when I checked my rear view mirror to make sure Tara wasn't too far behind. I didn't see her and I was going at a pretty good clip so I looked over my right shoulder worrying that she might have fallen, only to realize that she was practically right next to me! I bumped into her and immediately I knew we were in for some trouble. My bike gave a few shakes but I recovered. Tara didn't. She went down in a relatively graceful tumble at a speed of 20-25mph and I immediately hit the brakes feeling absolutely terrible.

I whipped her bike out of the road and gathered her up into my arms asking her if she was okay and wanting to check all of her important parts. She had landed mostly on her forearms and head. She was shaken up and teary but okay. Her jacket has a tiny scuff mark that definitely prevented some road rash and you can't even tell where her helmet hit anything. Her tank of a bicycle was 100% unharmed save for some mangled handlebar tape.

I already knew this but in the five seconds it took for her to fall off her bicycle I re-realized how incredibly important our safety is on this trip. I want us to go see the world and have wonderful experiences but at the end of the day the only thing I care about is being with Tara and both of us being safe.

After a few minutes of cooling down and lots of being incredibly thankful we were okay, Tara brushed herself off and hopped back on her bicycle like nothing happened, leading the way home almost as quickly as we had been going before the spill. Talk about getting back on the horse! I was seriously amazed. I have the best girlfriend in the world. As we pulled into camp we worked out some new riding rules so that the fall wasn't for naught and gave each other a lot of relieved hugs.

When we arrived at camp Tara lay down while I re-organized the tent, made her dinner, and took care of the laundry. Just before bed we made hot chocolate and looked at our bounty of amazing photos feeling incredibly accomplished.

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way awesome!!! I loved climbing mts. as a kid growing up in AK. "Lazy Mountain," was a popular one. About 3 hrs to climb & only a few places that you were on all fours for 40ft. or so (as I remember). When yous come home I can show you many pictures. The shot of Tyler jumping is awesome!!! I love "action" shots (mts. or no mts.). I'm glad no one was hurt in the "bump." I'm so glad that u take such good care of each other. peace.
--Maestro Kurt
Posted by Schtick on May 1st, 2009 at 10:17 PM
I've always thought of mountain climbing as being like rock climbing (ie: you need a ton of gear and have to be in insane shape to do it).

We had such a great time I think we'll do a few more while we're out here!

We both look forward to getting home and seeing pictures of you as a kid :)
Posted by Tyler on May 2nd, 2009 at 7:04 AM
DId you just leave most of your gear at the bikes? Sounds risky to me. That's one of the things that would get me really nervous if I was travelling the world by bike.
Posted by Jonas on May 15th, 2011 at 8:24 PM
We were staying at a campground when we did this, so all of our gear was stowed in the tent.

We worried a lot about theft before we left, but in reality, it was pretty much a non-issue. In big cities, we always kept our bikes in sight (or at the hotel/person we were staying with). Off the beaten path, we rarely had any concern for the safety of our kit.
Posted by Tyler on May 16th, 2011 at 4:33 AM