During our recent adventure weekend in the Lake District we decided to take a little bit of a different path up towards the mountain of Helvellyn. Instead of taking trails for the most part we followed the path of the river “Glenridding Beck” until it diverted off course and we met with the steeper part of the mountain trail. We waded, climbed and even swam parts of the river in what is know as “Ghyll scrambling” for an alternative, refreshing and challenging beginning to our accent of one of the most famous British Mountains.
What is Ghyll scrambing:
Well it’s not to different to Canyoning or Canyoneering (as the Americans call it) to be honest. But this time instead of jumping into rock pools we are using the river as path to traverse the landscape upwards. Sometimes called “Gorge Walking” too it involves climbing across boulders, traversing around rock pools, scrambling up waterfalls and wading through waist high mountain water!
Oh and the word Ghyll, that is an old viking word to describe a river with steep edges cut into the mountainside!
Many people also choose to decent down these rivers and gorges and take advantage of the flow of the river which creates slides and chutes! Our objective however was to climb the gorge and meet up with the mountain track.
We took the usual Helvellyn route and twisted it for a bit more fun. Starting in the town of Glenridding we headed straight into the river, water straight up to our knees! After expecting an ice bath the water was actually a lot warmer than predicted due to the 30c+ weather from the week before.
The rocks were covered in a slippy black algae and to be honest we should have been wearing helmets because a slip could have been costly. Traversing around large rocks and boulders we made good use of our climbing skills on these well worn edges.
Ghyll scrambling was a lot more involved than we had initially thought, more than just walking down a stream we had to do some proper climbing in some seriously off putting conditions! Perilous chimneying above a whirling surf and using anything and everything, including tree branches, to make our way up the river.
There were also numerous pools to navigate around, this time they weren’t quite deep enough for the jumps we had done whilst canyoning in the River Esk. Instead this time we took another type of plunge and did some wild swimming in the refreshingly clean and clear mountain waters.
After another hour or so of climbing, scrambling, swimming and wading along the slippy, challenging and fun river path we exited to join up with the mountain track. With wet boots and dripping clothing we continued onto the next part of our adventure…to tackle the infamous needle arete of Striding Edge. Now the sun was shining and we were ready for the challenge in beautiful conditions.
Helvellyn/ Striding edge post coming soon. Check out our video of our whole day below:
How to go Ghyll Scrambling
As experienced mountaineers as well as taking along a friend who had done numerous ghyll scrambles and canyoning treks we headed out on our own. Usually you would want to take a wetsuit, buoyancy aid and helmet, ideally at the very least the helmet.
If you would like to give it a go the Lake District is the idea place, it has many scrambles from easy to challenging and a wealth of local guides and tours in order to make sure you stay safe and make the most of it. Tours in this area can be done for as cheap as £30 per person.
There are many website and groups out there but this one is a good place to start:
Have you ever been ghyll scrambling or canyoning?
Check out our adrenaline filled canyoning day in the River Esk a few months back:
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