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Each winter, usually from December to March, our Fell top assessors walk up Helvellyn to check conditions, take photos and supply a report to add to the Met Office weather forecast that appears 365 days a year. We have a team of three Fell top assessors - Jon Bennett, Zac Poulton and Wes Hunter. You can join our fell top assessors for a day on a winter skills course, to learn the basics of how to use an ice axe and crampons for winter walking. Our winter skills courses will be available by the end of September each year.

Fell top assessors' top 10 tips for winter safety

  1. Check out the Weatherline forecast. Where available, check a ground conditions' report. Take the advice on board
  2. Choose a route suitable for the conditions, your equipment and ability. If you are unsure, lower your sights
  3. Do not over estimate your ability, know when to turn back
  4. Carry enough kit to look after yourself if something goes wrong, or the weather changes
  5. Always carry a map and compass – know how to use them. Do not rely on a GPS alone
  6. Take a spare hat and gloves. They will get wet, and may blow away
  7. In winter conditions take ice axe and crampons - know how to use them
  8. Goggles are essential when snow and wind combine
  9. In winter in the snow, wear four-season stiffened boots which are compatible with your crampons
  10. If in doubt – turn back

Behind the scenes with Fell top assessors

Jon Bennett

John Bennett

How did you get into this job?

I was in the hotel trade for years and regularly used Weatherline for advising guests and for personal use. Five years ago I left hotel life and saw the Fell Top Assessor role advertisement. For the 20 years I have lived in the Lakes, the vast majority of my leisure time has been spent in the fells. I knew I had the skills and ability to do the job, but had no specific outdoor qualifications so almost did not apply. Fortunately I did and was delighted to be offered an interview. This was the best one ever since it involved climbing a hill! The morale of the story is ... always apply for jobs that you really want!

What do you get out of this job?

Obviously, there is the delight of being out in the best countryside that England has to offer everyday! Something that I find highly motivating are the number of hillwalkers who shake my hand and thank us for the information Weatherline provides. It is a fairly solitary job (especially when the wind's blowing a hoolie and it's raining/snowing/hailing!) so it is great to know that our work is really appreciated.

I was even thanked by a chap in the middle of Ambleside. His advancing years meant he no longer reaches the summits but he said that he loves our daily pictures. There are picture-perfect photos of the Lake District everywhere, but ours often show the fell in a less than flattering light. This old mountaineer said that it reminded him of similar days on the hill!

What has been your best day ever in the job?

Several days spring to mind! The common component, though, are light winds, blue skies, deep hard snow and that wonderful sound of crampons biting into ice with snow buntings overhead and wonderful wintry views.

Another memorable day happened in January 2012. I was walking in cloud for most of the way up to the summit. Then, suddenly, the cloud cleared on the summit plateau, although there was still mist over Red Tarn. The sun behind me cast my shadow onto this mist and I saw the most wonderful Brocken Spectre. It's an unusual and magical experience having a halo surround your shadow! Here's a link to the Brocken Spectre photo.

What's special about Helvellyn?

For snow and ice conditions, Helvellyn is special as it has a large east facing headwall. This keeps the wintery conditions from the warming effects of the sun. It is, therefore, not unsual for Helvellyn to keep snow for longer than the higher Scafell Pike.

What is the most magical time of day?

Something that I never tire of seeing are the shafts of sunlight that can come between the clouds. This is especially magical when they illuminate a specific mountain or snowy top. This is then highlighted against other fells in shadow.

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Competition T&Cs

Current competition - December 2023

Everyone who books a Winter Skills course between 1 December and 31 December will automatically be entered into a random draw to win this amazing prize from La Sportiva. The winner will be chosen after December and emailed or called directly. The prize will be posted to them or available to collect on the day of their course

  • The promoter is Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA), whose offices are at Murley Moss, Oxenholme Road, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 7RL.
  • The prize provider is Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA), whose offices are at Murley Moss, Oxenholme Road, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 7RL.
  • This competition is open to everyone except for employees of the Lake District National Park, their families or anyone else associated with this competition.
  • There is no entry fee necessary to enter this competition.
  • No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
  • The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice if something should happen outside of the promoter's control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
  • No cash alternative to the prize will be offered. The prize is not transferable. The prize is subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
  • The winner will be notified by email or DM within 28 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
  • Should the winner be unable to take the prize, the prize will be passed to the second drawn entrant.
  • The promoter's decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.
  • The prize winner agrees (as a condition of accepting the prize) to the use of his / her name, county of residence (if such prize winner is resident within the UK) or country of residence (if such prize winner is resident outside the UK) and one or more photograph of themselves in any publicity material and to co-operate with or participate in any other reasonable post-competition publicity.
  • Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant's prior consent.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other social network. You are providing your information to LDNPA and not to any other party.
  • Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of the competition terms and conditions.