Striding Edge – How Dangerous is it?

striding edge helvellyn
Striding Edge is a popular ridge route to the summit of England's third highest mountain, Helvellyn.But how'd you get there? How safe is it? And who is it suitable for.We took a little wander out there to take on Striding Edge for ourselves and here's our take on it along with some photos and video from a sunny day on Helvellyn.


Striding Edge to Helvellyn Hike

So here’s the run down from my Striding Edge to Helvellyn hike.

Hike date22nd June 2022
Weather conditionsSunny and hot
Distance hiked15.4km
Walking time5 hours 38 minutes
Elevation gain total903m
TerrainMoorland, rocky ridge, gravel paths
Hiked withSolo

My Experience of Striding Edge (as a Ridge Beginner)

striding edge selfieI walked up to Helvellyn from Glenridding (route is shared later) on a sunny, hot day in June 2022. The conditions were decent. Great visibility, low winds and dry ground. That was a huge help.

I’m a relative ridge beginner. Prior to Striding Edge, the only notable ridge I’d traversed was the CMD Arête (also June 2022). I’d been hiking mountains regularly at that point for coming on 2 years, so I felt comfortable with mountain walking. But I would certainly regard myself a beginner when it comes to ridge crossing.

That said, I have a reasonably good head for heights, which I think has been a real help on my early entry level adventures.

I found Striding Edge very manageable. The views were wonderful and there is a path pretty much the whole way along one side and along part of the other side too. So you don’t necessarily have to walk along the top if you don’t want to.

The “Bad Step,” or the “Chimney,” (the part at the end requiring a climb down) was again manageable, I found. Again, I emphasise that I had great weather conditions. I found it easier to climb down facing outwards, personally (with my back to the rock). I did see other walkers managing to get around this part by going back on themselves though. All in all, I found this an easier traverse than CMD Arête. There are some sheer drops, make no mistake. So if you struggle with heights it might not be your favourite thing to do. But it’s passable with limited experience in my view and the scenery is stunning.

As with anything, only you know your limits. Once you get started, there’s no really easy escape off. So if you do start it, you’ll either need to get back or finish it. Make sure you scope it out before getting onto the ridge and don’t be afraid to walk away if you’re not totally sure or if conditions make it too precarious.

Striding Edge Video (GoPro Max 360 Chest Mounted)

I shot a few video snippets on my GoPro Max 360 while crossing Striding Edge, some on the summit and a couple of clips from the descent down Swirral Edge.

Striding Edge, Helvellyn and Swirral Edge Route

I took this route. There was a diversion from the route required (due to path erosion). That added around 1 km each way I would estimate. But otherwise this was a really accurate route.

My stats on this hike:

  •  Just over 15km
  • Walking time: 5 hours 38 minutes

This route takes you from the village of Glenridding up a steep climb onto the moor. The first hour and a half was a pretty gruelling climb, to be fair. But once this starts getting less steep, it’s a pleasant moorland walk with lots of views right to the beginning of the Striding Edge ridge.

After the ridge, there’s a scramble up to the summit of Helvellyn. I took a bit of time just strolling around the summit taking photos. Last time I was on Helvellyn it was snowy and the conditions were much different to the blue skies and clear views I enjoyed this time around. So I certainly made the most of it.

After crossing the summit, I descended (as per the AllTrails route) via Swirral Edge, which was steep and precarious in parts but much shorter than Striding Edge.

Parking for Striding Edge, Helvellyn

The AllTrails route above has you start from the Glenridding car park, which is a pay and display car park with a lot of spaces. That said, I arrived around 11am midweek (Wednesday) during the school term and it was already over half full. So I imagine you’d need to be there early on a weekend.

There are shops and toilet facilities here.

Is Striding Edge Suitable for Beginners?

I tackled this as a beginner myself. I’ve done a couple of years of mountain hiking mostly in the Lakes and the Scottish Highlands. But it’s only the last few months I’ve attempted scrambling ridges. I share the opinion of a lot of people whose write ups I’ve seen that this is a good challenge for those newer to ridge scrambling.

It’s precarious in parts, but a path runs most of the way along. You have to be as careful as you’d expect to be and it probably shouldn’t be attempted in particularly poor conditions.

As ever, you have to make the decision for yourself as to whether or not you think it’s within your ability.

A head for heights helps, I feel.

Is Striding Edge Dangerous?

All mountain hiking and ridge traversing has its dangers. Striding Edge is very exposed on both sides – the very thing that makes the views so unbeatable!

striding edge look back
Looking back over Striding Edge

A fall from height could result in very serious injury or death. A sudden change in conditions can, of course, make what was a relatively straightforward crossing somewhat more difficult than you expected.

It’s a grade 1 scramble. In other words, no technical scrambling knowledge needed but a head for heights will help keep you calm and focussed.

So only you can decide how dangerous you consider it.

It is passable with limited scrambling experience, with a lot of care, appropriate footwear and preparation, in my view. 

The ridge, in reality, isn’t as razor sharp as the wide angle lenses of the GoPro Max 360 make it look. In most areas you can stand with 2 feet. But use your hands, be prepared to move around on your bum where you need to and take it slow.

Striding Edge Mountain Rescue Call Outs

The Patterdale Mountain Rescue team shares its incidents here

As of 24th June 2022, there have already been 5 mountain rescue callouts specifically to Striding Edge.

There were 6 call outs in 2021 (including a fatality).

You can read back over Patterdale Mountain Rescue callouts as far as 2007 and you’ll get an idea as the typical callouts received on the ridge.

I’m not sharing this to scare. But it’s always good to remain aware of the reality of the prospective dangers whenever you wander in the mountains.

Helvellyn Summit

Oh that summit. I don’t often climb a mountain more than once (mostly because I’m admittedly a tad obsessed with bagging new ones). But I’ve made an exception for Helvellyn simply because those summit views are ludicrously amazing on all sides. 

helvellyn summit in summer

Soooo pretty 😍 


Descending Via Swirral Edge

All the talk of is Striding Edge, isn’t it? And there are a number of ways down from the Helvellyn summit that mean those who have summited via Striding Edge but would prefer a more-walking-less-scrambling route down can choose so.

But a popular next step for those summiting via Striding Edge is to descend via Swirral Edge which runs almost parallel to Striding Edge and ultimately takes you back down to Glenridding in a lovely circular.

Don’t underestimate Swirral Edge. It’s much shorter than Striding Edge and the data from the local mountain rescue gives us reason to consider is less dangerous.

However, there’s a very steep descent from Helvellyn down to Swirral Edge that requires as much care are walkers take across Striding Edge. 

Personally, I find scrambling down harder than scrambling up. And it’s for that reason that I would personally probably say that part was technically tougher for me than Striding Edge.

The image below is one I took from around two thirds of the way down the sharp descent onto Swirral Edge, looking back towards the summit. 

swirral edge descent from helvellyn

I’d do it again…

I already mentioned this… but I am a little bit obsessive about bagging new summits. So I don’t often repeat mountain hikes. I’ve done Helvellyn more than once though because that summit is one of my favourites. And while this was my first time on this route, I would definitely do it again. Yes, there’s a very sharp climb from Glenridding up to the moor which is frankly horrible for those of who find themselves breathing like they’re dying on hill walks. But it’s well worth it for Stridinge Edge, the Helvellyn summit and Swirral Edge.


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