Fell Top Conditions on Wednesday 29 March
Readings from Helvellyn summit at 12:30
Temperature plus 4.2°C Maximum wind speed 34.2mph Wind chill minus 5.9°C Average wind speed 19.8mph Wind direction SW
A very wet day in Lakeland with rain falling at all levels on Helvellyn. There is hardly any snow below 650m, and the thawing conditions today didn't help this situation. Even above 650m, large areas of the fells up to and including summit level are now free from snow. That said, there are significant patches of snow remaining above 750m, and it varies enormously in terms of consolidation and depth. Where the snowpack has been undisturbed by the passage of boots, today it was soft, very wet and still relatively deep in sheltered hollows and where it has drifted. On Paths, where the snow has been compacted, however, there are patches of harder snow and ice making conditions more treacherous, especially where the ground is steep. Today on the Brown Cove Crags route, on the “easy” way up Helvellyn from Swirls, there was still an area of unavoidable hard snow on a convex slope that is difficult to cross safely without an ice axe.
Today Swirral and Striding Edges were almost free of snow on their exits, but on both ridges the snow that does remain was hard and icy in places. An ice axe is essential on both ridges for this reason.
The main challenge today was navigation in the very poor visibility. With a cloud base varying between 200m and 500m, and with very heavy rain at times, visibility was often reduced to around 20m. Good map and compass skills are essential for finding the way in such conditions.
Given the windchill was well below zero today, combined with the heavy rain, full waterproofs and lots of warmth layers were needed in order to remain cheerful. A hat and gloves are essential, and plenty of food and a hot drink should also be taken. An ice axe will be found useful by anyone crossing banks of steep, icy snow.
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