Catstye Cam from Glenridding

3rd March 2020

With the back of Storm Jorge out of the way it was about time I set myself up for a Winter climb and with so many walks to choose from Catstye Cam from Glenridding peaked above the rest.

Lakeland and indeed much of the country are still licking their wounds, some more than others after what has just been announced as the wettest February on record but while rain has been falling at low levels snow has settled across the highest peaks at a point when down in the valleys, it's almost starting to feel Spring like.

With Spring just around the corner I thought I'd take my chances getting up close and personal with Helvellyn and what better way to experience than to climb her parent peak Catstye Cam. I've chose possibly, the second classic ascent route of Helvellyn the first in my opinion would have to be from Patterdale via the Grisedale valley but surely second to this is ascent from Glenridding via Birkhouse Moor.

I've ascended Helvellyn many times from both villages and any given day, one ascent is just as good as the other but when snow is on the ground the intimidation factor creeps in and for me there's no more intimidating place in Lakeland than Red Tarn when the cloud is closing in and blue skies turn to blizzards within the blink of an eye.

Wainwright Guide Book One
The Eastern Fells

Castye Cam

Catstye Cam is a true peak, and its small shapely summit is the finest in the eastern fells, if it were rock and not mainly grass it would be the finest in the district.



Ascent: 2,496 Feet - 761 -Metres
Wainwrights: 2, Birkhouse Moor - Catstye Cam
Weather: A Bright Start Turning Overcast With Snow, Hail & Gust Across The Summits. Highs of 5°C Lows of 3°C Feels Like -12°C
Parking: Car Park, Glenridding
Area: Eastern
Miles: 6.5
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 4 Hours 20 Minutes
Route: Glenridding - Rattlebeck Bridge - Mires Beck - Birkhouse Moor - Red Tarn - Catstye Cam - Red Tarn Beck - Rattlebeck Bridge - Glenridding

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA11 0PD
Grid Reference: NY 385 716
Notes: A large Pay and Display can be found in the centre of Glenridding alongside Glenridding Beck. The car park host a Information Centre and Toilets with local shops, bars, hotels and not to forget some of Lakelands most popular fells close by. The car park is Pay and Display and charges apply.


Map and Photo Gallery


Birkhouse Moor North and North East ridge from Greenside Road, Glenridding 09:00am 5°C

I had planned a later start than normal if only to allow any lingering showers to clear which worked out well arriving at the car park in Glenridding under clearing blue skies. I was the first car to arrive soon followed by a post office van which dropped off mail at the Visitor Centre nearby. It's a bright but cool morning with little to no wind here at valley level but what breeze there was blew on the cool side which left me thinking I'd done the right thing by adding extra layers under my base layer. I'm carrying full Winter kit today which includes, hat, goggles and more gloves than you can shake a stick at but I guess what are taking up most of the weight are my crampons and ice axe which I'm hoping I'll get to use in anger during my ascent of Catstye Cam.

Having locked the car I joined Greenside Road and was instantly taken back by this view of Birkhouse Moor and its snow capped summit where I could confirm the snow line was at around 1,100ft / 340m ABSL.

That's about half the way up Mires Beck to me and you.

Passing the Travellers Rest, Greenside Road.
Taking note of the Daffs growing in the planters outside the barn together with the new born lambs I'd seen sleeping in a field earlier tells me Spring is almost here, well, in the valleys anyway.

Birkhouse Moor seen above Beck View Cottage.
With Mires Beck, my acsent route on Birkhouse Moor seen over on the left.

Heron Pike and Sheffield Pike from Rattlebeck Bridge.
It's good to see that Glenridding Beck has returned to normal after peaking dangerously high during recent storms.

Looking back on Glenridding Dodd and Rake Cottages from the start of Mires Beck ascent.
With Birk Fell on Place Fell seen over on the right.

Too glorious to ignore.
Here's Heron Pike and Glenridding Dodd again.

Looking down on Glenridding and the Southern end of Ullswater from Mires Beck.
The snow line was soon entered first encountering slush and hail at lower levels before the snow firmed underfoot at around 1,600ft - 488m. It was here I also encountered sporadic ice patches over rock which, with more height gained had a layer of new snow covering ice were care had to be taken once the path became steeper.

Snow capped far Eastern fells from the top of Mires Beck.
With the views changing rapidly, more so over the far east of the district where dashes of sunlight glazed the snow covered peaks. In the foreground we have Thornhow End on Birks, Arnison Crag, Angletarn Pikes and Brock Crags while in the distance, and under a coating of snow is Rest Dodd, The Knott, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike, High Street and Gray Crag.

Over the wall, St Sunday Crag, Gavel Pike, Cofa Pike and Fairfield.
With Mires Beck now behind me I had more steep ground ahead where fresh snow had fallen on compacted old snow which would hold, or often give way under my weight, it's at times like these I wished I weighed just a few pounds lighter.

Leaving the wall to my left the path now stretches across the fell side.
Or it would if it wasn't buried below a foot of snow. With more height gained the snow started to hold my weight and I was able to cross this section of the path with a trusty 'dig of the heel' over compacted snow where I blazed a trail for the three walkers I passed earlier.

Magnificent St Sunday Crag.

White Side, Raise and Stybarrow Dodd from Birkhouse Moor.
I momentarily lost the path but regained it soon afterwards, not before blazing through soft snow which picked at my energy levels. Once back on the path I was met by a cool windchill which I coped with up until reaching Hole-in-the-Wall later, what I couldn't cope with was the direct sunlight which caused my eyes to water which froze instantly, with no happy medium I downed pack and added my Sinner sunglasses before continuing towards Birkhouse Moor summit.

Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam from Birkhouse Moor.

Any exposed skin right now was taking a hammering from the windchill and that included a small section of my lower right ear which my beanie kept leaving exposed but I'll take the discomfort with views like this any day of the week.

It was from here I spotted a pitched tent just below Hole-in-the-Wall.

A fabulous view of Birks, St Sunday Crag, Caudale Moor, Gray Crag and High Street in the distance.
But it's not just the view that's catching my eye just look at the snowdrift which has almost reached the top of the wall.

Helvellyn, Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam.
The area on Catstye Cam currently lit up in sunlight is Catstye Cam east ridge which I'll be descending by later.

Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam from Birkhouse Moor.

View into the Grisedale valley towards Dollywagon Pike, Ruthwaite Cove, Nethermost Pike and Nethermost Cove.
All the while I keep track on the weather focusing on the dark mass of cloud approaching from the west.

Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam from Birkhouse Moor.
I'm approaching the tent which can be seen as a red dot on the left side of the wall but before I reach the tent, and indeed Hole-in-the-Wall I think this would be a good time to add the crampons.

Snow drift, Birkhouse Moor.

The far Eastern fells from Birkhouse Moor.
Here I was able to the top of the wall without breaking through!

Helvellyn, Swirral Edge, Catstye Cam and White Side.

The wooden stile below Hole-in-the-Wall is almost buried below snow drift.

Adding my crampons made negotiating the drift easier and pace was regained. As I passed the tent I managed a few words with the owner who informed me about his night on the fell "it was about 02:30am and the wind was aggressive and loud, I had to get out first by digging myself out of drift which had formed around my tent before securing the tent lines using two ice axes, I honestly thought it was going to blow away with me in it" "then as if by magic, the wind just dropped just like it is now"

I've got to admire anyone who can rough camp at this height in these conditions.

Looking back on Birkhouse Moor from Hole-in-the-Wall.

St Sunday Crag, Cofa Pike and Fairfield from Hole-in-the-Wall.

Sunlit Birks and St Sunday Crag from Hole-in-the-Wall.

Place Fell, Birks and the Grisedale valley from Hole-in-the-Wall.
The view easterwards is defintely looking much clearer than the route I have towards Helvellyn.

...within minutes
I start to lose visibility as the cloud drops above Helvellyn bringing with it, stronger winds and heavy snow showers.

But all is well over Birkhouse Moor.

Two climbers descend The Chimney, Striding Edge.
I down pack once more swapping my sunglasses for my snow goggles which protected my eyes from the snow and windchill, adding to this the sense of security the goggles give knowing the advantage of not being snow blind when visibility is reduced or spindrift is being whipped up. Having taken a fall while passing over a snow covered drain I sheepishly got myself up cursing myself that I should have known to look out for the tell tale signs of these drains because usually you can pick them out but nevertheless I told myself off for not having x-ray vision. Meanwhile along Striding Edge two climbers take on the ridge in their stride where despite the bare outcrops of rock, the ridge itself looks glacial from down here.

Meanwhile two more are about to descend Swirral Edge.

Ascending towards Swirral Edge.

With Red Tarn falling to my left I started the ascent towards Swirral Edge where before reaching the base of the ridge I'd cut of right from where I'd start the last push on Catstye Cam.

Despite not attempting Striding Edge or Swirral Edge today didn't mean I was no less exposed to the Winter conditions which by now were taking control of my ascent on Catstye Cam, below me four walkers approach Red Tarn from Red Tarn Beck then attempt to follow me before returning back to Red Tarn either to rest, or in my humble opnion probably weren't equipped for the path which, without crampons would have been impossible to ascend with new snow lying on top of ice and compacted old snow.

Swirral Edge.

Looking back along the ice layered path.

Striding Edge above a partially frozen Red Tarn.

Helvellyn and Swirral Edge.
In a howling gale I gained the col linking Swirral Edge with Catstye Cam. I'd be lying if I said that conditions, and indeed the view of Helvellyn up so close in full Winter conditions wasn't slightly intimidating but I say that with butterflies flying around my stomach, intimidating, maybe, exhilarating, definitely.

Catstye Cam.

All that is left is the short, but steepish haul to gain Catstye Cam summit where moments after taking this photo I was caught by spindrift from Browncove below where I experienced a momentary white out before the snow settled.

Onwards and upwards as they say.

A close up of the two climbers ascending the ramp towards Helvellyn summit.

Swirral Edge, Helvellyn, Browncove and Helvellyn Lower Man.
This photo actually looks like it was taken in mono where only the grass poking through the snow adds a little colour to an otherwise black and white image..

A hint of light penetrates through the cloud over Dollywagon Pike summit.
Seen here beyond Striding Edge and Nethermost Pike.

Swirral Edge, Helvellyn, Browncove and Helvellyn Lower Man.

St Sunday Crag over Low Spying How/Striding Edge.

Birks and St Sunday Crag over Low Spying How/Striding Edge.

From Catstye Cam summit I took this photo looking towards Sheffield Pike, Harts Side, Brownhills and Birkhouse Moor North Ridge.
While in the distance is Ullswater, Birk Fell on Place Fell, Gowbarrow Fell and Bonscale Pike. From the summit I follow the course of Red Tarn Beck seen lower right which eventually flows into Glenridding Beck in the centre of the photo.

Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Swirral Edge, Browncove and Helvellyn Lower Man from Catstye Cam summit.

Summit time was kept brief with strong summits winds which added towards a severe wind chill but at least the cloud had cleared from Helvellyn summit where I spotted the two climbers heading towards the cross shelter.

Its probably best I start my descent but I couldn't help take a few photos first.

Striding Edge.
The three walkers I had passed during my ascent of Mires Beck had stopped at Hole-in-the-Wall and are now making their traverse on Striding Edge, if you look closely you can make out two of them in the centre of the photo.

White Side seen over Browncove.
With High Tove and High Seat about to succumb to cloud and possibly another snow shower.

Peering down on Glenridding Beck from the top of Catstye Cam East ridge,
Large cornice had formed along the upper cove between Catstye Cam north, and east ridge which I gave a wide berth, a slip here just isn't worth thinking about.

Looking back along the East ridge towards Catstye Cam summit.

Green Side, Hart Side and Sheffield Pike from the descent of the East ridge.

I was still wearing my crampons during the descent of the east ridge but I was still able to keep up a reasonable pace via the steep, zigzagged path. Below two walkers can be seen ascending alongside Red Tarn Beck while the walkers who had attempted to ascend Swirral Edge earlier are now making their way back down the path.

Within the shadow of the summit I am totally unaware that I'm about to get caught within another snow shower, only this time it was more prolonged.

I say shower...
...what I meant was blizzard! Joking aside this snow shower had some backing to it and lasted the whole descent until I reached the footbridge over Glenridding Beck somewhere in the murk below.

Eventually the snow shower passes leaving Catstye Cam summit topped in cloud.

Sheffield Pike from Glenridding Beck/Greenside Mine.

Greenside Mine.
Instead of crossing the footbridge over Glenridding Beck I continued to follow the path which skirts below Blea Cove on Birkhouse Moor which is a path I've often looked up at but until today had never got around to using, I must admit the view over what once was Greenside Mine was worth it alone.

Glenrididng Dodd enjoying mid afternoon sunshine.

I see these two are eagerly awaiting for Spring to arrive.
Not long to go now.

Back at Glenridding.

I'd removed my crampons after passing over the footbridge back at Red Tarn Beck and there was still snow flakes in the air as I passed below Birkhouse Moor before arriving at the bottom of Mires Beck where this mornings steep ascent had begun. By now its turning into a relatively mild afternoon back at valley level and I was pleased to see the car park had filled up with mostly visitors and dog walkers.

With a few minutes spare I twist the lid of my flask and pour myself several cups of hot Vimto while stood at the back of my car, the same cups I'd imagined drinking while being battered by high winds, snow and severe windchill at Catstye Cam summit just over an hour ago.


Back to top