Catstye Cam

Catstye Cam is a fell in the English Lake District and as such is an outlier of Helvellyn in the Eastern Fells.

Other names such as Catstycam and Catchedicam are also used although the Ordnance Survey alwas uses Catstye Cam.

The Helvellyn range runs broadly north to south for around 7 miles, remaining above 2,000 ft (600 m) along its length. Helvellyn itself sits near the centre of the ridge and shows the characteristic form of many of these fells, namely smooth grassy slopes to the west and shattered rock to the east.

Helvellyn sends out two eastwardly bound arĂȘtes, razor thin ridges between deep mountain corries. The southerly spur is Striding Edge, without doubt the most famous ridge in the district, and its northern partner is Swirral Edge. From the summit plateau of Helvellyn a rough slope falls to the start of Swirral Edge, and this narrow ridge curves gracefully down and then back up over half a mile, ending at Catstye Cam.

Displaying the classic mountain shape of a pyramid, Catstye Cam draws the eye in any view where the overtopping bulk of Helvellyn is hidden behind. Even with the link to Helvellyn, Catstye Cam maintains a prominence of over 200 ft due to the pronounced bow of Swirral Edge. High Spying How on Striding Edge, by comparison, is little but a rock turret, an independent peak in almost no-one’s estimation.

East of the summit the ridge drops quickly to Red Tarn Beck, whilst there is a third ridge to the north west, giving Catstye Cam a triangular plan. In the north, between the two descending ridges, is an area of crag. The other two faces are sheer but smooth.

South of Catstye Cam, between the encircling arms of Helvellyn’s two edges, lies Red Tarn. This pool is named for the colour of the surrounding screes and not for its water, and contains brown trout and schelly, a fresh-water herring.

The depth of Red Tarn is now approximately 80 ft, although in the mid 1800s is was dammed with boulders to increase its capacity. This was carried out to provide extra water to the Greenside lead mine in Glenridding, the water race still visible as it crosses the slope of Birkhouse Moor.

A second tarn used to exist in Brown Cove to the north at Catstye Cam, but this is now reduced to a couple of small pools widening the stream. Brown Cove Tarn was another creation as a result of the Greenside mine, a stone faced dam being built in about 1860.

The dam is still there but water now leaks through the base, the extended tarn-bed a smooth patch of luxuriant turf. A water leat passing under the north face of Catstye Cam to Red Tarn Beck can still be found although it is now in ruins. Water from Brown Cove and Red Tarn joins at the base of the east ridge to form Glenridding Beck, flowing on through the village to Ullswater.
The main rock type is the dacitic lapilli-tuff of the Helvellyn Formation.

The summit of Catstye Cam is small, neat and tidy, bearing only a tiny cairn. The view is panoramic and even the looming Helvellyn only adds to the drama by showing its eastern face in close detail. Striding Edge is also seen in profile across Red Tarn, with lines of pilgrims very often queueing at the bottlenecks. By contrast Catstye Cam is frequently almost completely deserted.
Catstye Cam is normally ascended from Glenridding, either by its east or north west ridges.

Both are steep, but present no technical difficulties. A fair route also climbs via Red Tarn to the mid point of Swirral Edge, from where a brief detour back to the summit can be made. The best option by far is a circular tour via Striding and Swirral Edges. This takes in Birkhouse Moor, Helvellyn and Catstye Cam, one of the most spectacular walks in the country.

Reference: Wikipedia – under the GNU Free Doc Licence