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Fell Top Conditions on Wednesday 17 January

Readings from Helvellyn summit at 12:00

Temperature minus 3.4°C Maximum wind speed 47.1mph Wind chill minus 14.2°C Average wind speed 22.6mph Wind direction W

A day of squally snow and hail showers, with fresh snow right down to valley level in many parts of Cumbria. On Helvellyn the snow has gathered on lee slopes, and the depth varies enormously. At 300m there were drifts behind boulders and spurs to a depth of 100cm, and up to 180cm at 800m. These depths were the exception however, with much scouring on any slopes exposed to the winds.

In sheltered places there is a dramatic build up of snow that is very poorly bonded to the layers beneath. At between 720m and 800m in Broad Gully on Brown Cove Crags the layering consisted of a very hard bottom layer of old snow, covered with up to 40cm of graupel (hail), covered with up to 10cm of windblown slab. This windslab was breaking into very large chunks, the size of table tops, with very little weight from the assessor's foot, and sliding down on the graupel which acts as ball-bearings on the hard surface below. This is exactly the kind of dangerous snow build-up that the assessor mentioned starting to see yesterday. There is a very similar snow profile on major slopes facing NW through E to SE, but also more localised on smaller slopes that are sheltered from the wind. On these aspects there is a High risk of avalanche. This includes headwalls, the tops, flanks, and aprons of gullies, tops of ridges (including Striding Edge and Swirral Edge) and buttresses, and open slopes.

Another weather feature today was the variable visibility. This was at times good, but extremely poor in falling snow. Good navigational ability is essential in these conditions.

Climbers will note the information on avalanche-prone slopes above, and if thinking of a climb will pick a suitable route accordingly. Buttresses looked very thin today, and turf is only frozen in patches above 800m.

Anyone heading into the hills at present will need the full range of winter mountain walking gear, experience, and technical knowledge. An ice axe and crampons are essential, as is a map and compass.

Lake District Forecast for Friday

Not much change through the day with the run of wintry showers persisting. Outbreaks occasional across western peaks, but relatively isolated across eastern peaks such as Saddleback.


Good or very good, falling poor or very poor in showers.

Hill cloud

70% with clouds lowering around 500m as showers pass through.


West to southwest mean 30-40mph with gusts reaching 55mph over more exposed ridges and summits.


  • Valley: Between Zero and plus 4C
  • At 800m: Around minus 3C
  • Freezing level: 300m

Outlook for next few days

Saturday 20 January

Perhaps a few isolated wintry showers at first, but for the most part it will be dry with plenty of weak sunshine and relatively light summit winds. However still cold with the freezing level around 300m.

Sunday 21 January

A broad band of snow soon crossing from the west Sunday morning, turning to rain for all but highest peaks, before clearing from the north late afternoon and through the evening. Winds fresh to strong across the summits.

Monday 22 January

Relatively mild with occasional rain and summit snow, but perhaps some drier and brighter interludes mixed in.

An overview to the weather in the Lake District


The summer season in the Lake District actually runs from March to October. The driest period runs between March and June.

The weather is renowned for changing rapidly and rainfall is a predominant feature. The wettest area in the Lake District is known as Sprinkling Tarn which receives approximately 5000mm of rainfall every year!


The wettest months run from October to January.

Snowfall typically falls from November to March. The valleys of the Lake District receive around 20 days of snow and 200 days of rain per year.

Winter is actually a beautiful time of year to enjoy the spectacular views.

It’s important to stay safe during the Winter period, especially if you are considering exploring the fells. If you’re a fan of the Lake District in Winter, why not register on one of our Winter Skills Courses? Learn more