These Mountains Are Our Northern Pyramids: A Solo Climb of Helvellyn, The Road to Hel

I currently tramp afoot in the Cumbria region ov old England, also known as the Lake District. The first thing that struck me about the land were the place names of the region. There is a mountain called Skiddaw derived from Old Norse skyti or skut + haugr meaning either “archer’s hill” or “jutting crag hill”, several elements of Norwegian and Danish (english fell/fjall meaning mountain of here being Sca Fell, tjorn/tarn meaning small lake found here at Red Tarn, þveit/thwaite meaning clearing of which a logging town here bears the name, dalr/dale, holmr/holme, gil/ghyll, the Danish ‘by’ meaning home, in a town bearing both this eponym and a runic name Thursby, and þorp or thorpe meaning settlement and belonging to another township called Milnthorpe. It was obvious just be looking at the road signs that the Vikings were here, and the Saga accounts back it up. It is believed they entered these mountains and valleys in the 9th century. Coming from their settlements in Ireland, Iceland and Isle of Man, they set up camp here and left behind their mark in other place names; Ulverston, Ravenglass, Keswick, Sca Fell. There is also one peak located near a lake called Ullswater, referring to the Norse God of bow hunting and skiing. The mountain itself is called Helvellyn, old Norse for the Road to Hel. I decided it was of an imminent nature that I ascended this summit before long, and it was only a matter of time when the prospects of doing so. Knowing full well the mythology of Hel, and the birthing place of it’s myrk entities and demigods Loke, Gullveig, Jormungand and the Fenris Wolf, I carried myself out to the base on a rather ironic pleasant sunny day and did what I always do, magic…


From a pensively still lake called Thirlmere, I cut through a plantation and drank deep draughts of icy liquid from a clean stream thanking the land for the clean water we still have. Traipsing up an extremely well built rocky promenade over the moors, rubber clattering on boulder like goats on the crags. Overdressed, I stripped off my leather jacket and icelandic wool to a sleeveless shirt and took the steps two at a time. Ascending this green and bronze pyramid of the north. The views behind quickly gained in the refute for being epic, and the England I know and love came to be apparent. Passing other climbers with expensive trekking jackets, rucksacks, walking poles and high end boots, they seemed astonished as I walked past them in full stride, and in their typical ‘are you alright’ that I am asked every time in conversation, this time I was definitely all right. On the way up I thought about why I do these walks, and I couldn’t revel upon just one answer. Partly to prove to myself I can with no equipment, for the raw experience of being and doing, the photo relics that come afterwards, the journey itself, and the euphoria of standing aloft man’s mountain and coming down to talk about the vision, in a Zarathustrian sort of way.IMG_3526

The land began to take on a harsher edge, resembling places of Iceland I observed during a country ride there this winter. Snow covered the ground and hung deceptively along the edges awaiting a thaw to tumble down the valley. Praying inside no animals would be traversing the side slopes when this fate occurred. A few hills loomed in the background, Glaramara, and St. Sunday crag to supplement the stranger names of the cumbria surrounds. Heavy breath like those exhaled around the planet I intook. If I had smoked everyday I would never be able to climb these areas, and then it made sense why I had already stepped by 13+ people. Taking pride in the british legion style training I did for 6 days a week for a year, back in 2013. Rising, rising, rising to meet the sun, and worship with the birds I crested a lesser peak and had a time to meditate and lay supine to the sky. The azure of the aether and clarity of the air was pure oxygenated medical treatment. After a lapse I crossed ways with an couple of older folks maybe in their sixties and engaged in a sort of mountain esoteric discourse with them. The man said he was a hill walker and takes pictures of the plaques on the cairns of these ranges, and he had now climbed over 800 of them with his walking stick and gps. What a character, and what stories he must have and had as we continued our mutual lecture at high altitude. His wife was a follower and had done several peaks herself, going at a good trot. A few hundred paces to the cairn, a clamber of snow buntings were flitting about, maybe prying into the new blooms that grew this high up, perhaps some heather or frigg’s grass. At the summit where an arrangement of different ridges came to be in the centre, were bastions of people chatting and elated from the climb. I felt I was there with them too, and stay long enough to let the mist disperse to see Red Tarn, a small pond shaped lake at 3,000 feet. Bleakness and stark primeval nature dominated as far as thee human instrument eye could ponder, always the same yet always different, being a forever shifting range of rock.

The descent was fairly quick as I called to the eternal goat, and scampered as to hoof and bone over stone, down, down, down, getting warmer, finding the road. I met an english chap in the parking lot that resembled an adventurous Ted Simon, a man who spent four years on a motorcycle travelling 63,000 miles. This fellow had only gone 6 mind you, but with his flying jacket, and eye to the sky attitude, he reminded me of myself, in a weird temporally backwards way. Staring back at the white topped giant sleeping with little ants crawling over it, I was one of them. I didn’t meet with the Volva, or fall through a portal to Hel, or even get too cold, but I still held ample respect and awe for these ancient bones of the world. Boulders sheathing colorful crystals under slate skin. Refuge for hardy fauna, and the grails of heroic men and women for thousands. These Were our Northern Pyramids…

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