A HIKE up Catstye Cam offers a better alternative to its busy neighbour Helvellyn, writes JOHN EDMONDSON. Its distinctive pyramid shape makes Catstye Cam a much more satisfying destination: the views are fantastic; it’s not crowded and at 2,920 feet only marginally lower than Helvellyn’s flat top. The grandeur of Helvellyn can be fully appreciated, particularly in early morning sun, from Red Tarn, which is one of the highest tarns in England.

Start from Ullswater Information Centre at Glenridding, grid reference NY 386 169, postcode CA11 0PD.


Distance: eight miles with 2,600 feet of ascent

Time: five hours

Terrain: mountain paths

Map: OS Explorer OL5


1 From the parking area walk to the A592, turn right to cross Glenridding Beck, then right again onto the minor road beside the beck past the village hall. Keep right and pass the campsite towards Rattlebeck Bridge. Turn left (signed Helvellyn via Mires Beck) and walk up the road and track. Go through a gate, turn left and follow the stone pitched path by Mires Beck and later alongside a wall on the left. Where the wall-side path starts to rise more steeply, bear right to ascend the 2,356-feet summit of Birkhouse Moor. Enjoy the views over Ullswater then return to the main track by the wall until you reach a ladder stile near Hole-in-the-Wall. Striding Edge and Helvellyn can be seen ahead. Do not cross the wall (that is a popular way up Helvellyn) but bear right and follow the level track to Red Tarn. It was here in July 1805 that Charles Gough’s dog Foxie was heard, leading to the discovery of the skeletal remains of his master who disappeared three months earlier. Wordsworth recorded the event in his poem Fidelity. At 2,356 feet, Red Tarn is the highest tarn of substantial size in England; only the tiny Broadcrag Tarn on Scafell and Three Tarns near Bow Fell are higher.

2 Cross Red Tarn Beck and ascend in a northwesterly direction to join the broad track going up to the eastern end of Swirral Edge. On reaching the ridge, turn right and follow the clear track going up to the top of Catstye Cam, at 2,920 feet, the tenth highest Wainwright. Its name, meaning 'the ridge by the cat’s steep path,' may refer to wild cats - or perhaps that it needs a cat’s agility to reach the summit.

3 From the summit cairn return along the route of ascent for about five yards and follow a clear path to the left down the east shoulder of the fell to meet the main path from Red Tarn. Turn left down the track and descend along the side of Red Tarn Beck. Keppel Cove dam can be seen to the left. This was was built to replace one that burst in 1927 causing catastrophic flooding of Glenridding, but it too failed in 1931 when its foundations were undermined. Continue down towards Greenside mine, which was the most successful lead mine in the Lake District. Do not cross the beck, but follow the path on the south side of the beck. A short way along this path, take the path on left down towards the wall and follow this to the gate at Mires Beck that was passed on the way up. Go through the gate and retrace the outward route beside the campsite back to Glenridding.

Next week: Blawith Beacon and Coniston Water

NB: restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.