At 950 meters, about 3,118 feet, and one and a half hours west of Kiplin Hall, Helvellyn is the third highest mountains in the Lake District and in England. The mountain’s terrain is contrasting depending on which side of the mountain a climber takes. The west is gentler while the east is rockier and a more physically demanding to climb. The mountain was once an active volcano and the summit and Striding Edge were formed from volcanic eruptions. The crescent shape of the mountain was formed by the movement of a glacier and the pool of water in the middle was from the melted ice.
The Lake District is in northwest England and contains the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike. The Lake District is also home to the longest and deepest lakes in England. The many valleys between the high mountains were formed from repeated glaciations over two million years. The area inspired many 19th century poets such as William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, and Samuel Coleridge, collectively named the “Lake Poets.”
The summit of the mountain is a plateau with access from Striding Edge, a narrow ledge at the top of the mountain, and Swirral Edge, another easier ridge from the other end of the mountain. The mountain forms “arms” which reach around a freshwater pool called Red Tarn. Striding Edge begins at the “Hole-in-the-Wall” and leads to the plateau. This ridge is very dangerous to scramble across due to the many loose rocks. There have been many injuries and deaths connected to Striding Edge. One of the most famous of these fatalities was of an artist named Charles Gough who fell to his death from Striding Edge. His dog stayed by his deceased owner’s side for three months until both were discovered. A plaque commemorating Gough’s death can be seen near the peak. This story inspired William Wordsworth to write a poem titled, “Fidelity” which dictated the dog’s loyalty.
Wordsworth often hiked Helvellyn. The mountain appeared often in Wordsworth’s work in both characteristics and by name. He was even painted by Benjamin Haydon in a portrait titled “Wordsworth on Helvellyn.” In 1926, the plateau, about 500 meters long, was the site of the first successful landing of an airplane on a mountain in England. A plaque can be seen commemorating this event. The west side of the mountain was used to mine for lead between 1836 and 1880.
Helvellyn is known for its strenuous climb. The Washington College students who ascended the mountain one overcast, June morning proved this fact true. After completing the hike, the group headed to a pub and discussed the extreme difficulty they faced on the mountain. The hike tested not only their physical limitations with the many long, steep, uphill treks, but it also tested their mental capabilities. Each time they looked up to visualize their destination they would see a peak and push themselves to reach that peak, hoping for the summit to be near. But each time they mounted a peak, a whole new, formerly hidden, much higher peak would appear before them. This happened many times before they finally reached the 3200 foot summit, snapped spectacular panoramic photos, and began their descent. Their knees and shins ached by the time they reached the bottom from the constant downward impact of the many steps. Overall, the students agreed that although the hike was incredibly difficult, the experience was worth all the pain. They had conquered the third highest mountain in England and had pushed themselves further then any other hike had asked of them.
All of this sounds amazing but I did not experience any of it. Instead, I learned a great deal about my own limitations after the red van that was transporting eight students and one teacher to Helvellyn, broke down. We were pulling out of the rest stop when I smelled burning clutch. Sure enough, the nearly new clutch had blown and our van was stranded on the side of the road with nothing but a farmyard to sit in. Over the next eight hours our group discovered a lot about ourselves and bonded a great deal. Four students trekked down to the rest stop to find a phone. The rest of us spent our time learning to hula, making flower crowns, and exploring sheep enclosures. Myself and two other girls even managed to push the van mostly out of the road. On a personal level, I learned that I am incredibly allergic to tall grasses. We eventually were driven to a nearby town to await a new van. We enjoyed a nice meal together and in tune with Mrs. Gillin’s never ending sugar love, she bought us all a chocolate. A new van eventually arrived and we all literally jumped for joy. The whole van was full of laughter and cheers as we made our way to the town at the base of Helvellyn and finally made contact with the rest of the group over the walkie-talkie. At dinner, while the hiking group told of their struggles up the mountain, I felt a pang of jealousy that I had not had the chance to conquer my mountain, the mountain I had researched and presented to the group the night before. This jealousy stayed with me for a few days until I realized that the experience I had gained from sitting on that roadside was invaluable. Sometimes all a situation calls for is some patience and a good attitude. The members of the red van had certainly proven that on our Helvellyn adventure.