Last June I camped at the Gillside Farm Ullswater in Glenridding. I had no intention of hiking to the summit of Helvellyn. That was way out of my comfort zone. At the Hole in the Wall, I peeled off to Red Tarn, while everyone else on the path carried on towards Striding Edge.
Sitting on the edge of the tarn, I watched dots of hikers scramble along Striding Edge. The perfect place to just chill out in the sunshine. Time for early lunch before heading back down.
Except the view got the better of me. I might just get a better view for inspiration for a print further up the path. The path towards Swirral Edge drew me in. Before long I reached the foot of the scramble up Swirral Edge to the summit of Helvellyn. “There’s no way on this planet that I’m climbing up that”, I thought. But as I watched regular people going up and down it, I was frustrated by my fear. I’m not into summit bagging but it wasn’t far to the top.
I decided to ask people coming down how it was. I’ll be honest, I mainly asked the people that didn’t look like mountain goats. It started to settle my mind. “If they can do it, why can’t I.”
The last pair of walkers I asked, gave me the final push. I saw something in her, that I did in myself and decided that I’d give it a go. I could go so far and come back down if I got scared. Off I set, knees shaking. I looked back to see her sitting watching and willing me on. If you ever read this, thank you! I was doing it.
I can’t begin to explain the elation I felt when I reached the top. I was shaking like a leaf and happy tears rolled down my cheeks as I squealed “Am I really at the top” to the first people I saw. It’s nothing to do with reaching the summit. That doesn’t do it for me. It was all about the sense of achievement of doing something I didn’t think I was capable of. And on my own!
'Striding Edge, Helvellyn', Lake District
Original Linocut Print
Inspired by my trip I've created this linocut print.
A 4-colour multi-block print which is hand-printed using oil-based inks. The layering of colours creates additional tones. Available in my online shop, with or without hand-painted hikers.
Striding Edge - Facing my fears
If you search for images of Striding Edge, everyone’s smiling and saying how much fun or easy it is. Well that’s not so for everyone.
Gaining confidence is about practice. Last month, Jonathan at Where 2 Walk was guiding two walks in the Lake District, so it was the perfect opportunity to gain more confidence in the mountains and do walks I wouldn’t try on my own.
One of them, Striding Edge, was certainly going to push me beyond my comfort zone and in all honesty I didn’t think I’d even try it. My get out plan was to wait for the others at Red Tarn.
I had complete trust in Jonathan and to my amazement didn’t have a sleepless night about it, even though my tent was being buffeted in high winds. The nerves kicked in at 8.30am.
From my campsite, I walked down to meet the others. We walked up the Grisedale Beck route in bright sunshine for lunch at the Hole in the Wall.
However the rain that was due in later, was coming in early and the cloud started to build. On the plus side the wind dropped! On approaching the Striding Edge ridge walk visibility closed in completely. I had a rough idea of the typography from seeing it from Red Tarn last year but not being able to see ahead was very unnerving.
I made it over the first ridge or mound. Is there a technical term?! I think the photo says it all! I was scared.
The 2nd I walked the low easy path. On the 3rd I had a go again, my heart racing and my mind playing games. What was I thinking! But I managed not to panic and freeze.
Then came the most difficult bit, climbing down a near vertical drop of 7 meters, called The Chimney. Jonathan expertly guided us down one by one and wow I did it!
Then just one last climb to reach the summit. Shame about the lack of views! Being wet, we didn’t hang around and descended via Swirral Edge. I was quite happy on this, even on wet rock as it feels less exposed and I’d scrambled up and down it on my own last summer. We walked back via Glenridding Beck.
I admit to feeling rather flat that evening. I felt like I’d let myself down. I wanted to put my fear of scrambling on mountains behind me. On reflection though, I gave it a go and in poor visibility and on wet rock. And I loved Jonathan’s email afterwards. “I thought you were very brave and determined.”
On the downside I wasn’t able to take the photos for inspiration that I’d wanted. If you have any other photos of Striding Edge that you think would make a good lino print, ideally that would suit a square design, please get in touch. I don’t think I want to go back and do it all over again!
About the artist
Michelle Hughes is a North Yorkshire landscape artist. Much of her work depicts the Yorkshire landscape and Yorkshire coast, including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.
Michelle loves exploring the British countryside by bike or on foot, camera in hand, capturing ideas for her next prints. Back in her garden studio, Michelle creates simple but stylised silhouettes based on her photographs, and hand carves these shapes into lino. She hand prints with an etching press, using oil-based inks to create tonal blocks of colour. Michelle’s original linocut prints are limited editions.