As you head to High Hrothgar, you are given two options for reaching Ivarstead at the base of the 7000 Steps- the long and easy route, or the short and hard route.  The short route is generally superior, but it can be a pain to navigate and if you’re especially incautious, can lead to fatal falls.  On the other hand, being much shorter, it grants you far fewer potentially dangerous encounters, and takes considerably less time (though you won’t see nearly as much interesting stuff).

As you head Northeast on the road that rounds the Throat of the World, you’ll come across an obvious hill between you and the river that runs by lower- on which are a necromancer, her two corpses that she desires to animate, and the Standing Stone that grants the necromantic benefit of daily corpse animation.  The caster and her skeletons aren’t liable to do you much harm (as long as you try to kill her first), and besides this isn’t about them- it’s about the path.  If you turn and cross the road in the other direction and continue to the Northeast while constantly trying to climb the mountain, you’ll reach a path that heads over a good chunk of mountain.  If you find the Stormcloak camp instead, you’ve gone too far and should head back the other way.

This path starts with a number of switchbacks, which are slightly aggravating to navigate but also thankfully unoccupied.  You can also collect more than a few fistfuls of snowberries as you head along this path, which is nice.  You’ll have a few encounters once the path straightens out a little, but mostly what you’ll see is goats and an occasional wolf- there’s really nothing else to be afraid of here.

Heading downhill gets slightly more hazardous- it gets a lot easier to accidentally leap over an edge and plummet to your doom.  Still, snowberries and goats are most of what you face until you pass well below the snow line of the mountain.  If you’re unlucky, you’ll ‘find’ a frostweb spider leaping at you out of the bushes as you continue, but otherwise it should be smooth sailing until you see the river.  Once you’ve spotted the river, it’s time to stop and take a look: there’s a troll den just on the other side, and if you’re not fairly strong, that can be dangerous.  Fortunately, the troll spends a lot of time running in rather large circles around the den, so he’s fairly easy to avoid.  Also, enticingly, there’s a nirnroot, an unharvested elk, and a dead stormcloak each lying in a different part of the simple den, which you have plenty of time to harvest if the troll has just left when you cross the river.

You can lie in wait for the troll and ambush it (always fun, and you can get some troll fat out of it), or you can skip the troll entirely by heading past the den to the right (much faster, way less dangerous).  You’ll travel through the woods a short way, with another small chance of sudden giant spider, before coming to Ivarstead.  You’ll also -reach- Ivarstead on the side with the bridge that leads to the 7000 Steps, so that’s kind of convenient also if you don’t feel the need to stop in at the town.