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Readings 2017-18

Historical readings and fell top reports:

Date of report Location Temp Windchill Max wind Ave wind Wind direction Report
7th Apr 2018 Helvellyn summit 2.8 -3.3 17.6 16.2 SW The Fell Top Assessors team have continued to update the winter fell top conditions reports beyond the traditional Easter end point as winter conditions still held sway on the high fells. Now with no more snow forecast and a reduced and stable snowpack we will sign off with a final warning about the remnants from an amazing winter Much of the Lake District fells are now snow free with all of last weeks new snow cover having melted. However there are still large areas of hard icy snow above 650m which are unavoidable on some routes. They are predominantly found in sheltered spots and hollows and on north and east facing aspects including the steep exits from both Striding and Swirral Edges.This snow was laid down earlier in the winter and has now gone through the freeze thaw process a number of times. It is now well consolidated and very resistant to a thaw. Today with summit temperatures well above freezing it was still frozen hard with a significant amount of ice and the expectation is that this will remain in place for a number of days or weeks. If you chose to cross patches of snow then you should be fully equipped with ice axe and crampons. Crampons are there to stop you slipping in the first place and an ice axe will prevent a slip becoming something far worse. The consequences of an uncontrolled slide are now very serious with many runouts into boulder fields or over cliffs. These can be very hazardous conditions for walkers requiring the correct equipment and experience to assess the risk and make good decisions. This advice includes the snow bank on the exit from Striding Edge onto the Helvellyn plateau, the 'easier' path on the northern side of the ridge and the whole of the final climb and exit on Swirral Edge. Swirls Steep on the paths from Thirlmere also has a significant snow patch to cross which has been the cause of a number of accidents this season. There are still large cornices on N through E to S facing slopes many of which are slumping and cracking. These will become progressively weaker and more unstable with the milder temperatures. Please give them a wide berth and advise other walkers with less experience likewise. Temperatures on the summits are still regularly below freezing and the weather can change dramatically. Waterproof and warm layers, hats, gloves, map & compass, a survival bag & torch and a fully charged mobile phone should all be carried throughout the year to give you a safe and enjoyable day on the Lake District fells. A big thank you to everyone we've climbed with on our winter skills courses this season, all the feedback and support we've recieved and to everyone we've bumped into on the hill for the chat. Jon, Graham and Zac signing off for the 2017-18 season :)
6th Apr 2018 Helvellyn summit 0.9 -8.9 35.9 26.4 SSE The Winter Fell Top Conditions Reports officially finished for this winter season on Easter Bank Holiday Monday; however owing to the amount of snow and ice remaining on the high fells, we are continuing to provide reports on the ground conditions on an ad hoc basis until we can say the winter is definitely over! Yesterday's thaw of the snowpack at all levels continued today, and there is now very little, if any, snow below 650m. There are large areas, even on the highest fells, that are free of snow, but the old patches of very hard snow do still exist. They are predominantly found in sheltered spots and hollows and on north and east facing aspects – such as, for example, the steep exits from both Striding and Swirral Edges. Despite the patchy distribution, the snow that does exist should not be taken lightly owing to the amount of hard snow present which will take time to thaw. The majority of walkers on Helvellyn today were without winter equipment. Ask yourselves “How do I stop myself falling down a steep snow slope without an ice axe?” Crampons are there to stop you slipping in the first place and an ice axe will prevent a slip becoming something far worse. Cracks are widening in the cornices that exist on N through E to S facing slopes. These have weakened with the milder temperatures and are extremely unstable, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Today these cornices were seen to be collapsing in a number of places, causing mini avalanches - something no walker or climber wants to get involved in. Despite the Spring-like valleys, summit temperatures remain around freezing (with windchill far below), so full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. Again, it was a fabulous day to be on the high fells, but only if you had the correct clothing and equipment!
5th Apr 2018 Scafell Pike Summit -2.2 -9.2 14.3 8.8 WSW The Winter Fell Top Conditions Reports officially finished for this winter season on Easter Bank Holiday Monday; however owing to the amount of snow and ice remaining on the fells, we are continuing to provide reports on the ground conditions on an ad hoc basis (as we all have other jobs!!) Snow fell late on Wednesday and settled above 250m; the covering was light, however, and rapidly thawing below 600m such that little, if any, will be left below this height on Friday. Ice on paths, rather than the fresh snow, was the main issue below 600m today – especially early in the morning. Later, there was a thaw at all levels; although it was minus 2 degrees on the summit at midday, the long hours of sunshine were having an effect on aspects facing the sun. Conversely, the thaw is having less of an impact on the significant patches of old, sometimes unavoidable, hard snow which have been on the fells for months, have undergone a thaw and freeze cycle and are located above 650m and especially above 850m. They are predominantly found in sheltered spots and hollows and on north and east facing aspects – such as, for example, the steep exits to both Striding and Swirral Edges. Aside from the snow patches, large areas of ground up to and including summit level are now free from snow. That said, the snow patches should not be taken lightly owing to the amount of hard snow present which will take time to thaw. Despite the fact that the majority of walkers on Scafell Pike today were without equipment, the advice remains for walkers tackling the high fells to take crampons and ice axe and, if not, only to cross/climb/descend a steep snow slope if you are absolutely certain that you can halt a slip or slide. Ask yourselves “How do I stop myself falling down a steep, snow slope without an ice axe?” Crampons are there to stop you slipping in the first place and an ice axe will prevent a slip becoming something far worse. Cracks have appeared in the cornices that exist on N through E to S facing slopes. These have weakened with the milder temperatures and are extremely unstable, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Despite the Spring-like valleys, summit temperatures remain below freezing (with windchill far below), so full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. The fells were absolutely magnificent today, so come properly equipped and enjoy them!
4th Apr 2018 Helvellyn summit 2.1 -3.2 11.8 9.3 SSW The Winter Fell Top Conditions Reports officially finished on Easter Bank Holiday Monday; however owing to the amount of snow and ice remaining on the fells, we are continuing to provide reports on the ground conditions on an ad hoc basis (as we all have other jobs!!) This report should be read with a Health Warning! At the time of writing, more snow is forecast above 600m, so walkers out on Thursday should expect to encounter different conditions to those described and experienced today. There is an extensive thaw at all levels (it was plus 2 degrees and drizzling on the summit at midday). The thaw is mainly affecting the recent soft snow that has settled over recent days but is, so far, having little effect on the older, harder snow that has been on the fells for months and which has undergone a thaw and severe freeze cycle. This old, hard snow is located above 650m and especially above 850m. Some of it is now covered by a layer of fresh, soft, wet snow creating an unstable layer of 2 to 5 cm – this was particularly noticeable on Swirral Edge today. Given the current forecast for more snow, this unstable layer could be deeper on Thursday. There is now little snow below 650m. Even above 650m, large areas of ground up to and including summit level are now free from snow. That said, significant patches, some unavoidable, of old, hard snow remains. The greatest accumulations are to be found in sheltered spots and hollows and on north and east facing aspects – such as, for example, the steep exits to both Striding and Swirral Edges. Cracks have appeared in the cornices that exist on N through E to S facing slopes. These have weakened with the milder temperatures and are extremely unstable, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Despite the appearance of Spring in the valleys, the summit windchill remains below freezing, so full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe are also essential – this is due to the amount of old, hard snow. Unfortunately, if recent experience is anything to go by, there will be folk out on steep snow without proper winter equipment. The question that they should ask themselves is “How do I stop myself falling down a steep, snow slope without an ice axe?” Crampons are there to stop you slipping in the first place and an ice axe will prevent a slip becoming something far worse. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially when snow is falling and/or in cloud as the deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding.
3rd Apr 2018 Helvellyn summit 3.9 -3.6 35.8 21.0 SE Although the Fell Top Assessor reports for Weatherline officially end on Easter Monday each year, we have extended the season until this coming weekend (initially) to be able to provide further ground conditions reports during the current snowy spell. A wet morning, with rain at all levels, and summit temperatures above zero. With this, the latest thaw, the snowpack on the fells is complex. The snowline today was about 400m, and thawing rapidly. Below 650m the snow was very wet and slushy. Above 650m the old snow, that has been on the fells for some weeks now (the old, dirty-looking stuff) was still hard and icy today. In places there were patches of slightly newer snow, that fell a couple of days ago, and that was thawing rapidly, right up to summit level. Also in patches, there are a few sheltered areas holding fresh snow that fell yesterday and throughout the night. This was still very fresh today, and soft. This layering in the snowpack is what often sets alarm bells ringing, as it can lead to avalanche dangers. However, today in the thaw, the main trigger of avalanche is actually likely to be the cornices on N through E to S facing slopes, that have been there for a long time, and started to slump some weeks ago. With the thaw these could easily collapse, so it is not a good time to be testing their stability. All walking routes on Helvellyn involve crossing large areas of snow. An ice axe and crampons are essential if you want to make a safe ascent and descent. Remember, coming down a mountain is usually a lot more difficult than going up, so if in doubt, turn around in plenty of time. The summit of any mountain is only the half-way point! Both Striding and Swirral Edges are still in full winter condition, as are the walking routes from Wythburn Chapel, Swirls, and via Whiteside to the north, and Grisedale Tarn to the south. There were climbers on Brown Cove Crags today, but only the easy gullies (Broad Gully, Left Parallel, and Right Parallel) are complete. The assessor descended Broad Gully and found the snow to still be bomber neve for the whole length of the gully. Other routes should be avoided so as not to damage the habitat, other than the summer scrambles on Brown Cove Crags (where an axe and crampons shouldn't be needed). Even though the weather improved markedly this afternoon, walkers should remember just how wet and miserable it was this morning. Full waterproofs, warmth layers, winter boots, an ice axe and crampons, and a map and compass are definitely still required for exploring the high fells.
2nd Apr 2018 Helvellyn summit -5.9 -17.5 55.1 42.0 E Please note. The Fell Top Assessor reports for Lake District Weatherline usually end on Easter Monday each year. However, due to the current snowy conditions on the fells, the service has been extended to take us through to next weekend, Sunday 8th April. We will endeavour to visit the summit of Helvellyn each day during this period, but if this is not possible we will write a daily report based on current forecasts. We will review our end date for the service next weekend. A wild and moist day in the Lake District. In some areas of the Park snow has fallen down to valley level, and continued to fall throughout the day. On Helvellyn the snow line was just above the car parks, and even at that height was 5cm in depth. The snow depth increased with height gained, and in drifts above Brown Cove Crags the depth of fresh snow was up to 50cm in places. This, coupled with the old hard snow beneath gave a total snow depth of up to 150cm, although this was the exception. The strong wind gave considerable buffeting at times, and with a cloud base set at around 400m-500m (and even lower in falling snow), visibility was much reduced. Blizzard conditions prevailed above 400m, and there were periods of whiteout lasting up to 15 minutes at a time. Cornices still exist on N through E to S facing headwalls, corrie rims, and gully tops, and these would have been building further with the fresh snow today, but the Fell Top Assessor stayed well clear in the poor visibility as it is oh so easy to fall through a cornice. Perhaps not surprisingly, the fells were quieter today, as most people decided that this was not a good day to go high in the mountains. Most of the people the assessor met were cheerful, as they were dressed appropriately and had the equipment to deal with hard, snowy ground. The only exception to this was a chap with very blue legs who seemed to have forgotten to put his trousers on today. Remember, full waterproofs are essential, including overtrousers. All walking routes on Helvellyn are currently snowbound and should be regarded as winter mountaineering. This includes the so-called 'easy' walks from Swirls and Wythburn on Thirlmere - the site of quite a few walker accidents this season, and sadly one fatality. This is not the time to attempt the high fells thinking you're just going for a stroll. You will need full waterproofs, lots of warmth layers, winter boots, an ice axe and crampons, and a map and compass. Learn how to use all of this equipment, and start your walk early enough in the day so that you have plenty of time to deal with the appalling conditions. Or enjoy a low level walk instead, and have fun!
1st Apr 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.9 -4.7 14.2 6.0 NNW A stunning day to be in the Lake District, with more fresh snow on the fells above 600m. The snowline has receded since yesterday, and is now around 500m, but this morning was just a very light dusting at that height. Above 750m the drifts are up to 30cm in depth. Where these drifts lie on top of the old, hard snow, the total snow depth is now greater than 100cm. Windslab is forming, and cornices are building even further on N through E to S facing headwalls, corrie rims, and gully tops. The Helvellyn summit area today was mixed ground, with some areas being icy and covered in rime, but there were a few large patches of bare ground. On Striding and Swirral Edges the conditions are difficult. There is much snow on all aspects, and small cornices have formed on the ridges themselves. Where the old snow lies there is great instability between the hard icy layer beneath and fresh snow on top. Where rocks are exposed they are starting to rime up with ice. The tops of both ridges, where you climb the final slopes onto the summit plateau, are extremely steep banks of hard snow, where a simple slip will easily become a very long, dangerous slide. With distant views being good today, it was possible to see from Helvellyn that the snowiest areas of the National Park at present are the fells within the Helvellyn range, and the peaks of Scafell, Scafell Pike, Great End, Esk Pike, and Bowfell. There is very little snow elsewhere, but you should be prepared to encounter, and deal with snowy ground, on fells and routes not mentioned here. Climbers on Helvellyn today found great conditions on most routes. Gullies, icelines, and mixed buttresses looked in good nick, and it was good to see teams on all the main routes on the Red Tarn face today. In addition to full waterproofs, warmth layers, winter mountain boots, an ice axe and crampons, a map and compass are also essential for anyone heading onto the high fells at present.
31st Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.3 -11.3 49.7 18.2 NE A full-on return to proper wintry weather on the fells today. On Helvellyn it was snowing lightly at Greenside mines, and settling just above that level. Paths were icy above 450m. Higher on the fell, above 500m there are small drifts of fresh snow in sheltered places, while above 750m the drifts are up to 30cm in depth. Where these drifts lie on top of the old, hard snow, the total snow depth is now greater than 100cm. Windslab is forming, and cornices are building even further on N through E to S facing headwalls, corrie rims, and gully tops. The Helvellyn summit area today was completely iced over. On Striding and Swirral Edges the conditions are difficult. There is much snow on all aspects, and small cornices are forming on the ridges themselves. Where the old snow lies there is great instability between the hard icy layer beneath and fresh snow on top. Where rocks are exposed they are starting to rime up with ice. The tops of both ridges, where you climb the final slopes onto the summit plateau, are extremely steep banks of hard snow, where a simple slip will easily become a possibly fatal plunge, hundreds of feet over rocky ground into the valleys below. While our Mountain Rescue teams are always there to help if you need it, nobody enjoys carrying down casualties on a stretcher. There were lots of people out on Helvellyn today. Sadly, the vast majority were having a thoroughly miserable time, due to not having the correct clothing and equipment (lots of people in trainers complaining about icy cold, wet feet; people in shorts with numb legs; people without maps not know where they were, were they should be heading, or even where they'd started from; and far too many people cragfast on snowy or icy ground without an ice axe and crampons. Even people complaining of thirst as they'd "drunk their cans of beer lower down"). If only these people had brought the correct clothing and equipment, or stayed in the valleys, they could have enjoyed a lovely Easter Saturday. In addition to full waterproofs (yes, I know your skin is waterproof, but waterproofs act as a very effective wind barrier too), warmth layers, winter mountain boots, an ice axe and crampons, map and compass, and food and drink, snow goggles were also essential today if you wanted to be able to see where all those big drops were. On April Fool's Day, if you have the above clothing and equipment, get up high in the mountains and have a fabulous time. If you haven't got this clothing and equipment, why not hit the streets of Ambleside, Windermere, Grasmere, or Keswick, or take a lovely low level walk, and you too could have a great Easter weekend in the Lake District.
30th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.2 -8.7 19.9 12.0 E With fresh snow on the fells above 500m the winter has definitely not finished with us yet. The old snow above 650m has refrozen, and this with the fresh snow lying on top is making walking on all routes quite hazardous today. Both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge are in full winter condition, and even after the warnings from the Fell Top Assessor team and Mountain Rescue over the last couple of days, there were still far too many people out today attempting these ridges without an ice axe and crampons. If you slip, or your fun little bum slide gets out of control, you will fall a long way onto rocky ground. Good crampon technique can stop this happening in the first place, and an ice axe can be used as a brake to halt a slide. Any exposed rocks above 600m today had verglas (black ice), and the old snow itself is also very hard. The slopes that lead from the ends of both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge onto Helvellyn itself are very steep and covered in hard snow. A fall from either place will not end well. Please remember that although our Mountain Rescue teams will of course come and carry you off the hill if you fall, they are all volunteers. The summit area is a mixture of sheet ice and large areas of hard icy snow. There are large cornices on N through E to S corrie rims and gully tops which have received some additional loading from the new snow and these should be given a wide berth. On the Red Tarn Face climbers found good conditions in the gullies and ice lines. Turf is semi frozen, but the buttress routes are not in good condition for climbing, as they are not holding very much snow. All walking routes on Helvellyn, including those from Wythburn and Swirls, currently involve crossing snow slopes with serious consequences for a simple slip. Many of the run outs are now into boulder fields. Walkers without the correct winter tools (boots, ice axe and crampons) will be at great risk on these approaches . Warm layers, full waterproofs, and a map and compass should also be carried for a fun and safe walk above the snowline (500m).
29th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -0.9 -4.2 7.0 3.4 SE A sunny and calm morning on the Lake District fells but with heavy snow and grauphal showers moving in this afternoon / evening. There is a thin layer of new snow lying above 800m and the old snowpack above 650m has refrozen and is now hard and icy. On Striding Edge the crest is largely free of snow, but the 'easy' path on the north side is banked out with old hard snow requiring an ice axe and crampons. The exit from Striding Edge onto the summit plateau is a steep bank of unavoidable ice now covered in a few inches of new soft snow for which an ice axe and crampons are essential for a safe ascent or descent. The fell top assessor observed one unequipped but very lucky gentleman take a uncontrolled slide which somehow stopped just before the long drop to Red Tarn. On Swirral Edge the snow is more extensive and much of the climb and the exit onto the plateau is in full winter condition also requiring ice axe and crampons in ascent and descent The summit area is a mixture of bare ground and large areas of hard icy snow. There are large cornices on N through E to S corrie rims and gully tops which have received some additional loading from the new snow and these should be given a wide berth. On the east face climbers reported thin but well frozen conditions on Gully 1, Gully 2 and V Corner. All walking routes on Helvellyn, including those from Wythburn and Swirls, currently involve crossing snow slopes with serious consequences for a simple slip. Many of the run outs are now into boulder fields. Walkers without the correct winter tools (boots, ice axe and crampons) will be at great risk on these approaches . Warm layers, full waterproofs, and a map and compass should also be carried for a fun and safe walk above the snowline (650m)
28th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.2 -10.2 21.7 17.3 WSW A little bit of everything today - rain, snow, blue sky, sunshine and blizzards. Fresh snow had fallen overnight down to 550m. However the heat of the sun has now taken this back up to 750m. The old snowpack above 650m has refrozen and is now hard and icy. On Striding Edge the crest is largely free of snow, but the 'easy' path on the north side is banked out with old hard snow requiring an ice axe and crampons. The exit from Striding Edge onto the summit plateau is a steep bank of unavoidable ice now covered in a few inches of new soft snow for which an ice axe and crampons are essential for a safe ascent or descent. On Swirral Edge the snow is more extensive and much of the climb and the exit onto the plateau is in full winter condition also requiring ice axe and crampons in ascent and descent The summit area is a mixture of bare ground, large areas of hard icy snow and some new soft drifts. There are large cornices on N through E to S corrie rims and gully tops which have received some additional loading from the new snow and these should be given a wide berth. Exposed turf was unfrozen but there was some rime on the summit rocks All walking routes on Helvellyn, including those from Wythburn and Swirls, currently involve crossing snow slopes with serious consequences for a simple slip. Many of the run outs are now into boulder fields. Walkers without the correct winter tools (boots, ice axe and crampons) will be at great risk on these approaches . Warm layers, full waterproofs, and a map and compass should also be carried for a fun and safe walk above the snowline (650m).
27th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit 0.2 -7.7 23.8 14.1 SW A wet day on the fells, with rain falling at most levels on and off throughout the day. On Helvellyn the old patches of snow above 650m are still present, and the forecast is for fresh snow showers over the next few days, so walkers heading for the heights tomorrow could expect different ground conditions to those that the assessor found today. On Striding Edge the crest is largely free of snow, but the 'easy' path on the north side is banked out with old hard snow requiring an ice axe and crampons. The exit from Striding Edge onto the summit plateau is a steep bank of unavoidable snow, also requiring axe and crampons for a safe ascent or descent. On Swirral Edge the snow is more extensive and the exit from Swirral Edge is an even bigger bank of snow than that on Striding Edge, and also requires an axe and crampons for a safe ascent or descent. There are large cornices on N through E to S corrie rims and gully tops. Today these were softening in the drizzle, and have huge drops below them, so should be avoided. All walking routes on Helvellyn currently involve crossing snow slopes. Even the routes from Wythburn and Swirls, which are deemed to be the 'safe' ways up and down by those who know no better are actually accident blackspots, and people without the correct winter tools (boots, ice axe and crampons) will be at great risk on these approaches when crossing snow slopes. Warmth layers, full waterproofs, and a map and compass should also be carried for a fun and safe walk above the snowline (650m) at present.
26th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit 3.4 -2.5 12.9 7.3 SW Another grand day on the high fells of Lakeland. Again the remaining snow on Helvellyn is confined above 650m and is very patchy in distribution. This morning it was icy and hard after a chilly night, but where exposed to the sun it was thawing and turning slushy. On Striding Edge the snow is confined mainly to the north side of the ridge. The crest is largely free of snow, but the 'easy' path on the north side is banked out with hard snow requiring an ice axe and crampons. The exit from Striding Edge onto the summit plateau is a steep bank of unavoidable snow, also requiring axe and crampons for a safe ascent or descent. On Swirral Edge the snow is more extensive, but is also giving a greater ground coverage on the north flank. The exit from Swirral Edge is an even bigger bank of snow than that on Striding Edge, and also requires an axe and crampons for a safe ascent or descent. There are large cornices on N through E to S corrie rims and gully tops. These are softening in the sunshine, and have huge drops below them, so should be avoided. The assessor witnessed a few mini avalanches today as cornices broke away, and as soft slushy surface snow slid on a harder surface below. This sluffing is inevitable at this time of year on sunny days, so be aware. All walking routes on Helvellyn current involve crossing snow slopes. Even the routes from Wythburn and Swirls, which are deemed to be the 'safe' ways up and down by those who know no better are actually accident blackspots, and people without the correct winter tools (boots, ice axe and crampons) will be at great risk on these approaches when crossing snow slopes. Warmth layers, full waterproofs, and a map and compass should also be carried for a fun and safe walk above the snowline (650m) at present.
25th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit 1.5 -4.1 15.7 11.0 W Another superb day on Helvellyn. What a great winter it's been! Today's summit temperatures were just above zero, and yet again the views were far reaching. The remaining snow continues to thaw. However, above 700m today it was still icy in places, and treacherous without crampons, and an ice axe to halt a slide. Anyone venturing above 650m should go fully equipped with ice axe and crampons to deal with the large patches of old snow they will encounter. The crest of Striding Edge is predominantly rock at present. However the easier path on it's northern flanks is still fully banked out with serious consequences for any slip. Critically the exit onto the plateau involves an unavoidable steep bank of hard snow on which crampons and an ice axe are essential. Swirral Edge is holding a lot more snow than Striding and the whole of the final climb is on snow and exposed rock. The 'paths' on either side of Swirral's crest are banked out with steep snow. The Helvellyn plateau is a mixture of snow and bare ground. There are still very large cornices above N through E to S facing slopes many of which are cracking and slumping. Please give these a wide berth as they are prone to failure in these conditions. Red Tarn remains just about frozen, but is clearly unsafe to walk upon. Climbers looking for winter routes will be struggling, but today the assessor found good snow and ice on the Red Tarn headwall in Gully 1 and Gully 2, and also on V Corner (taking the left hand finish, rather than the corner itself). Despite views to the contrary from the valley full winter clothing and equipment including ice axes and crampons are still required for a safe and enjoyable day in the Lake District fells.
24th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit 6.5 5.1 5.7 3.2 NNW A very warm, spring-like day in the Lake District. With summit temperatures on Helvellyn being well above freezing, and a noticeable thaw of the remaining snowpack, you could be forgiven for thinking that winter is over and you can pack away your ice axes and crampons. However, the remaining snow above 700m today was still very icy in places, and treacherous without crampons, and an ice axe to halt a slide. The majority of the snow is above 650m with many predominantly south facing slopes bare to summit level. Anyone venturing above 650m should go fully equipped with ice axe and crampons to deal with the large patches of old snow they will encounter. Having the ability and equipment (ice axe) to stop a simple slip becoming something far more serious is essential. This includes all routes to the summit of Helvellyn including the popular paths from Wythburn and Swirls which cross large banks of unavoidable snow. The crest of Striding Edge has some new snow but is predominantly rock. However the easier path on it's northern flanks is still fully banked out with serious consequences for any slip. Critically the exit onto the plateau involves an unavoidable steep bank of hard snow on which crampons and an ice axe are essential.Swirral Edge is holding a lot more snow than Striding and the whole of the final climb is on snow and exposed rock.The Helvellyn plateau was a mixture of snow and bare ground. There are still very large cornices above N through E to S facing slopes many of which are cracking and slumping. Please give these a wide berth as they are prone to failure in these conditions.Despite views to the contrary from the valley full winter clothing and equipment including ice axes and crampons are still required for a safe and enjoyable day in the Lake District fells.
23rd Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -0.2 -8.2 27.0 21.5 SW A day of heavy rain, gusty winds and a freezing level just below the summits. The remaining snowpack is thawing with the top few inches now saturated. However beneath this there is still a layer of hard refrozen snow or ice in many places The majority of the snow is above 650m with a few predominantly south facing slopes almost bare to summit level. Above 800m there is a thin layer of new snow increasing in depth with height. The hard old snow on the exits to Striding and Swirral Edges is now covered with a few inches of new snow and any old footsteps are hidden. Anyone venturing above 650m should go fully equipped with ice axe and crampons to deal with the large patches of old snow they will encounter. The forecast slight drop in temperatures over the weekend will refreeze this snow giving serious conditions underfoot. Having the ability and equipment (ice axe) to stop a simple slip becoming something far more serious is essential. This includes all routes to the summit of Helvellyn including the popular paths from Wythburn and Swirls. The crest of Striding Edge has some new snow but is predominantly rock. However the easier path on it's northern flanks is still fully banked out with serious consequences for any slip. Critically the exit onto the plateau involves a unavoidable steep bank of hard snow on which crampons and an ice axe are essential. Swirral Edge is holding a lot more snow than Striding and the whole of the final climb is on snow and exposed rock. The Helvellyn plateau was a mixture of snow and bare ground with some large areas of ice now developing. There are still very large cornices above N through E to S facing slopes many of which are cracking and slumping. Please give these a wide berth as they are prone to failure in these conditions. Despite views to the contrary from the valley full winter clothing and equipment including ice axes and crampons are still required for a safe and enjoyable day in the Lake District fells.
22nd Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.0 -11 45.2 35.4 SW Spring is in the air but the high fells are still in the grip of winter. The remaining snowpack is resisting the warmer temperatures well with only a slight softening of the surface and with plenty of hard snow and ice beneath. The majority of the snow is above 650m with a few predominantly south facing slopes almost bare to summit level. However anyone venturing above 650m should go fully equipped with ice axe and crampons to deal with the large patches of hard refrozen snow they will encounter. Having the ability and equipment to stop a simple slip becoming something far more serious is essential. This includes all routes to the summit of Helvellyn including the popular paths from Wythburn and Swirls. The crest of Striding Edge is now almost snow free but the easier path on it's northern flanks is still fully banked out with serious consequences for any slip. Critically the exit onto the plateau involves a unavoidable steep bank of hard snow on which crampons and an ice axe are essential. Swirral Edge is holding a lot more snow than Striding and the whole of the final climb is on hard and icy snow. The freezing level was just below the summit today and the plateau was a mixture of hard snow and bare ground with some large swaths of ice now developing. There are still very large cornices above N through E to S facing slopes many of which are cracking and slumping. Please give these a wide berth as they are most prone to failure in warmer temperatures. Down at 700m Red Tarn was also completly frozen although the ice was only a very thin layer. Despite views to the contrary from the valley full winter clothing and equipment including ice axes and crampons are still required for a safe and enjoyable day in the Lake District fells.
21st Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.1 -12.7 36.4 29.9 WNW There is now a marked contrast in the Lake District between the warming valleys with their increasing number of Spring flowers, and the winter conditions that remain on the high fells. For those who dislike the snow, stay below 650m and you will not encounter much, if any. Even above 650m large areas of fellside, especially predominantly S facing, are either free of snow, or only have a light skittering. This, though, can lull walkers into a totally false sense of security as above 650m there are also large, often unavoidable, patches of old, hard, sometimes – especially above 800m - icy, snow. These old patches have undergone a thaw/hard freeze cycle. Thus even if summit temperatures temporarily rise marginally above freezing (as currently forecast) it is unlikely to have much effect on this hard snow, so walkers out on Thursday, and planning to go above 650m, must expect, and be prepared to encounter, this hard snow. Above 800m many rocks were covered in rime ice. The summit plateau was covered in ice and hard snow along with patches of bare ground on aspects that had caught the sun. Cornices exist on N through E to S aspects and some on Helvellyn’s edges have noticeable cracks both below them and also several meters back from the edge. As temperatures rise, such cornices will become increasingly unstable, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. This is due to the amount of steep, hard, icy snow – in the case of the Edges especially near and on their exits. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out onto the fells; again despite the warming valleys, it was minus 2 degrees on the summit with a windchill in minus double figures. For those attempting, or just traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ice axe and crampons are also essential given the current amount of hard snow as boots alone provide no traction whatsoever. This is the case even on so called “easy” routes such as, for example, the path up Helvellyn from Swirrls car park where the recent accidents (one regretfully fatal) have occurred. Indeed most walkers today without ice axe and crampons were sensibly turning back when reaching steep slopes of hard snow – one lone Herdwick sheep even did the same on Striding Edge’s exit!! Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Conversely, the cloud was above the summit today giving outstanding views, so come properly equipped and enjoy them!
20th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.1 -10.4 17.7 9.3 NNE There is now a marked contrast in the Lake District between the Spring-like valleys, with daffodils making an appearance, and the winter conditions that remain on the high fells. There is little significant snow below 600m and even above 600m large areas of fellside are either free of snow, or only have a light skittering of last weekend’s soft snow. There is a danger that this can lull walkers into a totally false sense of security as above 600m there are also large patches of old, hard, sometimes icy, snow which are often unavoidable. Despite the milder valley temperatures a frost is, once again, forecast at altitude so it is highly likely that walkers out on Wednesday will also encounter this hard snow. Hence anyone intending to go above 600m, and especially above 700m, regardless of route, must carry an ice axe and crampons as boots alone provide no traction whatsoever on this hard snow. Conversely, below 600m many paths are not only free of snow, but also dry, although there were patches of ice – especially early in the morning. Above 800m many rocks were covered in rime ice. The summit plateau was covered in ice and hard snow with patches of bare ground on aspects that had caught the sun. Cornices exist on N through E to S aspects and some on Helvellyn’s edges have noticeable cracks both below them and also several meters back from the edge. As temperatures rise, such cornices will become increasingly unstable, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. This is due to the amount of steep, hard, icy snow – in the case of the Edges especially near and on their exits. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out onto the fells; again despite the warming valleys, it was minus 2 degrees on the summit. As previously stated, for those attempting, or just traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ice axe and crampons are also essential given the current amount of hard snow. This is the case even on the so called “easy” routes such as, for example, the path up Helvellyn from Swirrls car park where the recent accidents (one regretfully fatal) have occurred. Indeed most walkers today without ice axe and crampons were sensibly turning back when reaching the snowslope. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Conversely, visibility today was outstanding, so come properly equipped and enjoy our magnificent fells!
19th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.6 -14.9 39.5 21.0 N There is a thaw of the recent light covering of soft snow which is especially rapid below 500m and, despite a summit temperature of minus 3 degrees, this thaw on the weekend’s snow was also occurring as high as 850m on aspects catching the sun. The thaw, however, is having little, or no, effect on the old, hard, icy snow that remains above 600m in significant and often unavoidable large patches. There is now a marked contrast in the Lakes between the Spring-like valleys and the alpine conditions remaining on the high fells. Many paths below 600m are now not only free of snow, but also dry; however, there was also ice on paths at all levels, especially above 550m. Above 600m, large areas of fellside are either free from snow, or only have a light skittering of soft snow. There is a significant danger that this can lull walkers into a totally false sense of security as above 600m the old snow patches that they will also encounter are hard and very icy; given the current forecast for an overnight frost, it is highly likely that walkers out on Tuesday will also encounter this hard snow. Hence anyone intending to go above 600m, regardless of route, must carry an ice axe and crampons as boots alone provide no traction whatsoever on this hard snow. Above 800m many rocks were covered in rime ice. The summit plateau was also covered in rime ice and hard, icy snow. This fact, combined with yet another day of strong and gusty winds, meant that crampons were useful even on this flattish ground in order to maintain balance. Cornices exist on N through E to S aspects; although they have strengthened with the drop in temperature, it is not advisable to check this theory, especially given that some on Helvellyn’s edges have noticeable cracks both below them and also several meters back from the edge, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. This is due to the amount of steep, hard, icy snow – in the case of the Edges especially near and on their exits. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out onto the fells; even though the summit windchill today was a balmy minus 15 degrees compared to the weekend’s minus 23 degrees! As previously stated, for those attempting, or just traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ice axe and crampons are also absolutely essential given the current amount of hard, icy snow. This is the case even on so called “easy” routes such as, for example, the path up Helvellyn from Swirrls car park where the recent accidents (one regretfully fatal) have occurred. The strength of the wind makes it even more important to have a good grip on the hard snow which only crampons and ice axe can provide. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding.
18th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -7.8 -23.5 62.1 49.6 E - NE Despite both the overnight and daytime snow, the ground conditions today were surprisingly similar to Saturday as the fresh snow has only added marginally to existing accumulations. There is now a skittering of snow down to valley level, although there is a slow thaw below 250m. The fresh snow/hail was deposited on strong E winds with many windswept areas being devoid of snow with some paths below 600m even being dry. Conversely, there was also some ice on paths at all levels, occasionally hidden beneath the fresh snow creating treacherous conditions. Above 600m are large, significant and often unavoidable patches of old, hard, icy snow sometimes under the fresh, soft snow. Given the current forecast for an overnight frost, it is highly likely that walkers out on Monday will also encounter this hard snow. Above 600m and especially above 800m many rocks were intermittently covered with verglas (thin ice) or rime ice making the going slow and treacherous – especially on exposed routes. The summit plateau was also covered in verglas, rime ice and hard snow. This fact, combined with yet another day of strong and gusty winds, meant that crampons were useful even on this flattish ground in order to maintain balance. Cornices exist on N through E to S aspects; although they have strengthened with the drop in temperature, it is not advisable to check this theory, especially given that some on Helvellyn’s edges have noticeable cracks above and below them, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. This is due to the amount of hard, icy snow – in the case of the Edges especially near and on their exits. Climbers. Several climbers were making the most of the hard snow, although some encountered some patches of softer snow on Browncove crags, but were finding the strength of the wind “brutal”! Obviously, watch out for any cornices. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out onto the fells; the summit windchill at 1pm was minus 23 degrees – as it was on Saturday – really testing walkers’ windproofs and insulating layers! For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ice axe and crampons are also absolutely essential given the current amount of hard, icy snow. This is the case even on so called “easy” routes such as, for example, the path up Helvellyn from Swirrls car park where last week’s accident occurred. The strength of the wind makes it even more important to have a good grip on the hard snow which only crampons and ice axe can provide. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Goggles are also highly recommended as the recent soft snow/hail combined with the wind creates stinging spindrift.
17th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -8.4 -23.3 55.5 35.5 NE - E There has, and continues to be as I write this report from home, showers of fresh snow and/or hail creating a skittering at all levels. Although the additional depth has been marginal, it has adversely affected walkers by creating stinging spindrift on the strong E winds, simultaneously reducing visibility, and sometimes, especially above 500m, it has settled on old patches of hard snow and ice creating treacherous conditions. The majority of the old snow lies above 600m in large, significant and often unavoidable patches. Owing to the dramatic fall in temperature – it was below minus 8 on the summit – virtually all the old snow encountered today was hard and icy. Given the current forecast it is highly likely that walkers out on Sunday will encounter the same conditions. Above 600m and especially above 800m many rocks were intermittently covered with verglas (thin ice) or rime ice making the going slow and treacherous – especially on exposed routes. The summit plateau was also covered in verglas, rime ice and hard snow. This, combined with a strong and gusty wind, meant that crampons were useful even on this flattish ground in order to maintain balance. Cornices exist on N through E to S aspects; although they have strengthened with the drop in temperature, it is not advisable to check this theory, especially given that some on Helvellyn’s headwall had noticeable cracks in them, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, remain in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. This is due to the amount of steep hard, icy snow – especially near and on their exits. Fortunately folk without the proper equipment were sensibly turning back today. Climbers. Several climbers were making the most of the hard snow in the gullies – but, obviously, check for any cornices. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out onto the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ice axe and crampons are absolutely essential given the current amount of hard, icy snow. This is the case even on the so called “easy” routes such as, for example, the path up Helvellyn from Swirrls car park where Wednesday’s accident occurred. The strength of the wind makes it even more important to have a good grip on the hard snow which only crampons and ice axe can provide. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Goggles are also highly recommended owing to the stinging spindrift. Minus 23.3 degrees windchill recorded at 14:05 hours today from Helvellyn’s summit is this winter season’s lowest to date, so ensure that you have plenty of insulating and windproof layers, together with the correct equipment, and come and enjoy!
16th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.2 -12.0 45.4 35.0 E - NNE There is now little snow below 600m. Above 600m, large areas of fellside are free from snow. That said, a significant and substantial amount of snow remains and, given the frost at altitude, much of this snow was hard, which is also likely to be the case on Saturday. On popular routes, where the snow has been compacted, there was hard snow and ice on paths down to 500m. Above 800m many rocks were intermittently covered with verglas (thin ice) making the going slow and treacherous – especially on exposed routes. The summit plateau was also covered in verglas, rime ice and hard snow. This, combined with a strong and gusty wind, meant that crampons were useful even on this flattish ground in order to maintain balance. Owing to poor visibility, it was not possible to inspect the cornices that exist on N through E to S aspects; however on Thursday some had slumped and looked very fragile so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and especially Swirral Edge remain in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. This is due to the amount of steep hard snow – especially near and on their exits. Please see the picture on the website to see how steep the unavoidable snow on Striding Edge’s exit is. Climbers. Despite the amount of hard snow and ice encountered, there was also unfrozen turf almost up to summit level so please avoid routes not in condition in order to protect rare, fragile alpine plants. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out onto the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ice axe and crampons are also essential given the amount of hard snow. This is the case even on the “easy” routes such as, for example, the path up Helvellyn from Swirrls car park where Wednesday’s accident occurred. Given Saturday’s forecast for gale/storm force winds it will be even more important to have a good grip on the hard snow which only crampons and ice axe can provide. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Goggles are also highly recommended in strong winds.
15th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit 0.3 --4.3 31.4 7.1 SE A wild and woolly day on the hills with continuous rain and a strong SE wind. A general thaw to summit level has softened up the turf and remaining snowpack although there is still a well consolidated base make slippery going. Wet snow was falling down to 600m and the summit plateau had a good but thin covering. Above 600m there are large unavoidable patches of hard old snow which are now hidden by the new snow. Please go equipped with the skills and tools to prevent a simple slip becoming something more serious. Striding Edge and in particular Swirral Edge are still in winter condition. There is exposed rock with a thin covering of snow on the crest of the ridges but the lower paths are banked out and the exits to the plateau involve climbing banks of steep and exposed snow with serious consequences for any slips. Cornices on N through E to S aspects have slumped further and are looking very fragile. Please give them a wide berth Temperatures are forecast to drop over the next few days with the arrival of the 'mini beast from the east' This will refreeze the snow pack meaning crampons and ice axe will be essential for any safe movement above the snowline including on all routes to the summit of Helvellyn
14th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit 0.8 -3.2 24.9 11.0 SE A dry, old and blustery day on the hills. An overnight frost to valley level had firmed up the snow pack with a gentle thaw affecting it throughout the day. The remaining snow on the fellside is now above 450m and patchy everywhere with south facing slopes looking particularly bare. Above 600m there are large unavoidable patches of snow on all routes to the summit of Helvellyn. Please go equipped with the skills and tools to prevent a simple slip becoming something more serious. Striding Edge and in particular Swirral Edge are still in winter condition. There is dry exposed rock on the crest of the ridges but the lower paths are banked out and icy and the exits to the plateau involve climbing banks of steep, exposed and icy snow with serious consequences for any slips. Cornices on N through E to S aspects have slumped and are looking very fragile. Please give them a wide berth. The summit plateau is a mixture of unavoidable patches of hard snow, icy paths and frozen ground In the gullies the turf was well frozen but the snowpack is beginning to thaw Full winter clothing and equipment including ice axe & crampons should still be carried by anyone heading onto the higher fells, and as colder weather comes in again this weekend you'll need to be well kitted out for the lower fells too.
13th Mar 2018 Helvellyn Lower Man summit 1.4 -3.6 12.2 6.6 SW A beautiful day in Lakeland. The remaining snow on the fells is now above 450m and is patchy everywhere. Above 600m there are still very large areas of fellside covered by the snow. The assessor found snow up to 100cm deep in some of the gullies today, whereas on the more open hillsides any patches are generally around 40cm in depth. Paths on Helvellyn were icy in places, and some of these snowy areas are not avoidable on all walking routes. On Striding Edge and Swirral Edge there is still a fair amount of snow, although exposed rocks were dry today. The exits from both ridges are still steep banks of snow requiring the use of an ice axe and crampons to make a safe ascent or descent. There are large cracks appearing in cornices facing N through E to S, and evidence of further small avalanches where cornices have collapsed. Please stay well away from corniced edges. Red Tarn is still semi frozen, but is not safe to try to walk upon. Climbers should note that most winter routes are not in climbable condition, but some easy snow gullies still give good sport, where they are not beneath unstable cornices! On Brown Cove Crags only Broad Gully, Central Gully, and both Parallel Gullies were complete. The assessor found the snow in Right Parallel Gully today to be surprisingly hard and stable, whereas in Broad Gully it was softer and slushy. Climbers in Central Gully also reported soft snow conditions. Although we've had a lovely day in the fells, this is not the time to become complacent and expect lovely weather every day. Full winter clothing and equipment should still be carried by anyone heading onto the higher fells, and as colder weather comes in again this weekend you'll need to be well kitted out for the lower fells too.
12th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -0.4 -7.9 22.7 12.5 ENE A very wet day on Helvellyn with rain and drizzle at most levels throughout the day, and occasional sleet above 800m. There is still old snow lying in patches above 400m, and above 600m these are still large enough to be difficult to avoid on some routes. While snow on paths was icy today, due to compression from walkers feet, off the paths it was largely wet and slushy, with just some areas of harder snow above 800m. Striding Edge and Swirral Edge both still have some snow, but also a fair bit of exposed rock which felt very slippery today in the wet conditions. The exits from both ridges onto the summit plateau is still very snowy, and this can't be avoided. There are cornices on headwalls and ridges facing N through to SE and these are old and visibly slumping. In places the cornices have collapsed, and more will fall if the temperatures remain mild. Visibility was an issue today with the cloud base being as low as 400m at times. Above that height visibility was reduced to between 10m and 40m at best. Good waterproofs and warmth layers were needed today, as the temperature was hovering around zero above 850m. Given the wind chill, and the damp conditions, it felt quite cold today. Good map and compass skills were essential today in the poor visibility. An ice axe and crampons could be essential tomorrow if the temperatures remain below zero.
11th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit 3.1 -2.2 20.3 12.1 E Yesterday's thaw has striped much of the snow off the fells of Lakeland. There are still substantial patches above 500m, and in places these were hard and icy. The snow depth varies enormously, but on average it is around 40cm deep (although a lot deeper than this in some gullies, and isolated areas). Visibility was generally very good today, with the cloud base being well above the summits, and blue sky in many parts of the Park. On Helvellyn the old cornices that exist on N through E to S headwalls and ridges were seen to be collapsing in places today. Stay well back from these obviously weak areas of snow, as they have nothing but air and a long drop beneath them. Climbers today found that very few of the winter routes were still 'in', although some gullies still have substantial snow (but probably also have unstable cornices at the top). Full winter clothing should be carried, as well as a map and compass. While some walking routes were doable without an ice axe and crampons today, it is not always easy to avoid the large areas of snow above 500m, so an ice axe and crampons should be carried by anyone venturing above this height.
10th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit 5.8 -0.3 25.8 17.9 S A major thaw has set in overnight and throughout today, with summit temperatures well above freezing. The snow pack is still substantial, down to around 300m, although it is very patchy at that height. Above 600m there are bigger patches, but for the most part the snow is soft, and slushy. On paths, where the snow has been compacted, it is generally more icy. The Helvellyn Edges are still very much in winter condition, with a lot of snow present. Where rock is exposed it is free of ice and today was wet and slippery. The exits from the ridges onto the Helvellyn summit plateau are both steep banks of snow. Today they were soft enough to enable steps to be kicked into them with the aid of a stiff winter walking boot, but should temperatures drop just a few degrees all the snow that remains on the high fells will turn very hard, very quickly. Red Tarn was still frozen today, but visibly thawing. There are cornices on headwalls, gully tops, and ridges facing N through E to S, and these were visibly slumping in some places with cracks appearing today. These are clearly unstable, so stay well back from these places. The cloud base today was initially around 400m, but lifted marginally to around 550m, giving very poor visibility above that height. Good navigation skills were needed to safely negotiate the summit plateau and the descent routes. Full winter clothing and equipment were essential today. Good waterproofs were needed, and in the opinion of a damp assessor today it was definitely a 'double waterproof' day. A map and compass and navigation ability are obviously needed by anyone going walking in the hills.
9th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.4 -6.8 9.8 7.8 SSW A stunning day in Lakeland. On the high fells the snow level was around 400m, but this morning paths were icy from about 250m upwards. The snow on the fells is patchy below 600m, but everywhere it is now very hard after a good freeze/thaw cycle. Unfortunately there is a major thaw and heavy rain forecast for tomorrow, so much of the snow may vanish, which would be a shame. Today however, because of the hard snow, an ice axe and crampons were essential for anyone heading for the tops. Upland tarns are frozen, but are not safe to walk upon. There are cornices on slopes facing N through E to S, and these are composed of old snow with nothing much below them other than a very long drop into the valleys below - stay off the cornices to be safe. There is evidence of cornice slumping, and also of cornice collapse in some areas, with small cones of avalanche debris visible on many slopes facing NE through to SE. Climbing conditions were superb on Brown Cove Crags today, with some very fine ice in places, good neve throughout (admittedly with occasional small areas of windslab on top), and frozen turf. The cornices on Brown Cove Crags are small, whereas over the Red Tarn face they are huge, which explains why there have been few climbers venturing onto the Red Tarn climbs in the last few days. Again, bearing in mind the forecasted thaw tomorrow, climbers should be aware of further cornice collapse, and should make careful assessments of any climbs over the next few days, assuming there is still snow left to climb! Full winter clothing and equipment are essential for exploring the fells at present, including an ice axe and crampons. Tomorrow, if the forecast is correct, a good set of waterproofs and an excellent sense of humour will also be needed.
8th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.3 -8.0 18.0 11.1 SW Further accumulations of fresh snow have again fallen overnight on the fells, above about 300m. At that height it was just a very light dusting, whereas above 550m the snow is everywhere, from slightly scoured south-facing slopes where the depth is just a few centimetres, to over 80cm on leeward slopes and sheltered places. The bulk of the fresh snow on Helvellyn was on NE facing slopes today, forming cornices on the north side of both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. There is much snow on both ridges, and some of the usual rocky steps were banked out today. The exits from these ridges onto the summit plateau is a steep bank of hard snow, with patches of soft snow where it has gathered in runnels. The Swirral Edge exit is about 10m in height, and is slightly easier than the Striding Edge exit, which is about 20m in height. There are very large cornices on edges and headwalls facing N to S through E. Please stay well back from these waves of soft snow. Upland tarns are frozen, but are not safe to walk upon. Visibility today was generally excellent, except in occasional low cloud. The views extended to Cross Fell in the North Pennines, and over most of the high fells of the Lake District. Climbers were yet again noticeable by their absence on the Red Tarn face today. Brown Cove Crags was busier. Climbers should make careful assessments of the snowpack before heading into the gullies. Full winter clothing and equipment, including ice axe and crampons, map and compass, and snow goggles are needed for the fells at present.
7th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.8 -10.2 25.7 18.4 S Further accumulations of fresh snow have fallen overnight on the high fells, above about 550m. There are still patches of snow below that height, from 300m upwards. However, these are generally avoidable, whereas above 550m the snow is everywhere, from slightly scoured south-facing slopes where the depth is just a few centimetres, to over 60cm on leeward slopes and sheltered places. The bulk of the fresh snow on Helvellyn was on north facing slopes today, forming cornices on the north side of both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. There is much snow on both ridges, and some of the usual rocky steps were banked out today. The exits from these ridges onto the summit plateau is a steep bank of hard snow, with patches of soft snow where it has gathered in runnels. It was amazing today to watch people sliding down these banks of snow towards a 300m drop, completely oblivious to the fact that they were throwing themselves to a possible death. Only careful crampon technique and the ability to use an ice axe properly will get you up or down these ridges in safety. There are very large cornices on edges and headwalls facing north to south through east. Please stay well back from these waves of soft snow. In the near whiteout conditions on the summit plateau today, only careful navigation with a map and compass could keep you safely away from these cornices. Climbers were noticeable by their absence on the Red Tarn face today. Given the thawing conditions, this was sensible. If the colder air moves in tomorrow, as forecast, the snow will consolidate nicely, but climbers should make careful assessments of the snowpack before heading into the gullies. Full winter clothing and equipment, including ice axe and crampons, map and compass, and snow goggles are needed for the fells at present.
6th Mar 2018 Striding Edge c850m -0.1 -5.5 9.4 5.6 ESE - SSW Above around 300m (depending upon aspect) 5 or 6cm of fresh soft snow has settled, deposited on a light wind, adding to existing accumulations, although this, together with older snow, was thawing below 500m and especially below 300m where the overnight precipitation fell as rain. Apart from where it has been compacted or drifted, there is now little snow at valley level especially in the west and south of the Park. The snow depth rises with height although, as the snow over the last week was deposited and subsequently drifted on storm force ESE to ENE winds, actual coverage varies considerably from little more than the fresh overnight snow of 5 or 6cm to drifts of over 100cm on lee slopes and in sheltered spots and hollows – although such depth is the exception. The consistency of the snowpack is mainly soft making the going arduous. However there are patches of harder snow and sometimes – especially above 750m and on popular routes where the old snow had been compacted – the recent soft snow lies on top of hard snow and/or ice creating either an unstable layer, if on a slope, or treacherous conditions, if on a path. Cornices exist on S to E to N facing slopes. Owing to zero visibility today these could not be inspected but on Monday some appeared to have deep cracks in them which were several meters back from the edge, and these cracks may now be filled with the fresh snow making them even more difficult to see, as well as more unstable, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Again on Monday, one climber reported that part of a cornice had collapsed. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ice axe and crampons are also essential as is an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Indeed the assessor turned back today on Striding Edge owing to near zero visibility and it’s not a place to be when you can’t clearly see what you are putting your foot down onto! He would have continued had his life depended upon it, but fortunately it doesn’t and he’s more concerned with preserving it! Goggles are highly recommended if the wind increases.
5th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -0.5 -7.4 14.4 5.7 SSE A thaw has set in (it was only just below freezing on the summit) but this was only noticeable below 500m and especially rapid below 300m. There was also light rain as the assessor left the hill. Apart from where it has been compacted or drifted, there is now little snow at valley level especially in the west of the Park. Snow depth rises with height although, as the snow over the last week was deposited and subsequently drifted on storm force ESE to ENE winds, actual coverage varies considerably from little or nothing on windswept areas (right up to and including parts of the summit plateau) to drifts of over 100cm on lee slopes and in sheltered spots and hollows – although such depth is the exception. The consistency of the snowpack also varies from soft to neve (hard snow), although it was generally softer than on Sunday. On popular routes the snow has been compacted and there was also some ice on paths, even at lower levels, especially in the morning. Occasionally, recent soft snow lies on top of hard snow and/or ice creating either an unstable layer, if on a slope, or treacherous conditions, if on a path. Cornices exist on S to E to N facing slopes and some appeared to have deep cracks in them which were several meters back from the edge, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. One climber reported that part of a cornice had collapsed; once again owing to poor visibility the cornices could not clearly be seen. Climbers: In addition to cornices, climbers (and potential climbers who had abandoned their attempt) reported soft snow in the gullies of Helvellyn’s Headwall. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ice axe and crampons are also essential as is an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding – see the recent pictures on our website! Goggles are highly recommended if the wind increases.
4th Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.0 -8.6 11.3 8.3 E - NNE Some fresh snow fell today and settled on all levels and, given the light wind, on all aspects; however it was light and has only added marginally to existing accumulations. There is snow from valley level, although a noticeable thaw has set in below 300m. The snow depth rises with height although, as the recent snow has been deposited and subsequently drifted on storm force ESE to ENE winds, actual coverage varies considerably from little or nothing on windswept areas (right up to and including parts of the summit plateau) to drifts of over 100cm on lee slopes and in sheltered spots and hollows – although such depth is the exception. The consistency of the snowpack also varies from soft to neve (hard snow) and ice; necessitating the use of crampons even on easy ground. Sometimes fresh soft snow lies on top of hard snow and/or ice creating either an unstable layer, if on a slope, or treacherous conditions, if on a path. Striding Edge gave a good example of the mixed conditions with some hard snow on the steep exit (no place to slip) and on the approach path from hole in’t wall whereas the edge itself was covered in soft snow. Cornices exist on S to E to N facing slopes. Although the visibility was again very poor at altitude (less than 10m at times), some cornices have deep cracks in them which were several meters back from the edge, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment, including ice axe and crampons (and the ability to use them) are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells – even the lower ones owing to the amount of ice and hard snow on paths. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack is also crucial. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Goggles are highly recommended if the wind increases.
3rd Mar 2018 Helvellyn summit -6.3 -14.2 16.5 6.8 NNE Ground conditions are similar to Friday but fortunately the wind was not such a feature! The Lakeland fells are covered by snow and ice from valley level; although visitors may be surprised by how relatively little there is compared to other regions that have been more severely hit by the recent weather. Over the past 48 hours storm force ESE to ENE winds have drifted the fresh snow. Consequently snow depth varies considerably from little or nothing on windswept areas (right up to and including parts of the summit plateau) to drifts of over 100cm on lee slopes and in sheltered spots and hollows. The consistency of the snowpack also varies from soft – especially below 400m – to hard neve and ice – especially above 400m and particularly above 550m. Therefore crampons are required even on easy ground. There was a slow thaw below 350m so if this refreezes overnight, walkers on Sunday should expect to encounter more ice at lower levels. Also above 550m, in sheltered spots and on lee slopes soft fresh snow and spindrift may lie on top of old hard snow creating an unstable layer. Cornices exist on S to E to N facing slopes. Although the visibility was very poor at altitude, some cornices appeared to have deep cracks in them which were several meters back from the edge, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Climbers: Several very happy climbers were reporting excellent conditions on Browncove crags. Generally, though, please note the comments on potentially unstable snow and cornices; factors that should always be taken into consideration when assessing a route! Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment, including ice axe and crampons (and the ability to use them) are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells – even the lower ones owing to the amount of ice and hard snow on paths. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack is also crucial. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Goggles are highly recommended if the wind increases, which is currently forecast.
2nd Mar 2018 c770m on Browncove Crags -5.7 -20.7 68.4 54.3 ENE A character building day! The assessor abandoned his Helvellyn summit attempt on the “easy” route up from Swirrls (Thirlmere side) shortly after being blown backwards on the steep path up Browncove Crags and had to resort to being on all fours! The Lakeland fells are covered by snow and ice from valley level; however the ground conditions are very mixed owing to the storm force ESE to ENE winds re-depositing the soft fresh snow. On windswept areas there is little, if any, snow even at 800m. Conversely on lee slopes and in sheltered spots and hollows there are drifts of soft snow up to 100cm and yesterday Graham found ones deeper than that. Above 400m and especially above 550m the snowpack was hard neve necessitating crampons even on easy ground especially given the storm force winds. Also above 550m, in sheltered spots and on lee slopes the soft fresh snow may lie on top of old hard snow creating an unstable layer. So in conclusion, walkers on Saturday should expect to encounter a combination of arduous energy sapping deep soft snow, frozen ground devoid of snow and hard snow and ice!! Cornices exist on S to E to N facing slopes. Owing to lack of visibility (and not being high enough!) they could not be inspected today but they will still be there, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment, including ice axe and crampons (and the ability to use them) are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells – even the lower ones owing to the amount of ice and hard snow that can be encountered. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack is also crucial. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the current deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Owing to biting spindrift goggles are also essential (as is a sense of humour!). There’s also a possibility that sunglasses will occasionally be required on Saturday! For those interested in the weather stats, the wind, and therefore the windchill, was actually higher as (believe it or not) I took the measurements in a relatively sheltered spot where I could safely stand up!
1st Mar 2018 At 600m on East side of Loadpot Hill -9.8 -21.6 35.5 29.2 E Given current snow conditions, and the warnings being put out by Cumbria Police and Mountain Rescue teams in the Lakes, the assessor decided not to attempt driving to Glenridding today, so walked from his own front door in Bampton, at the foot of Haweswater onto the Far Eastern Fells.A lot of snow has fallen overnight at all levels, brought in on strong easterly winds. On exposed slopes the ground is scoured by the wind, but on leeward slopes, and other sheltered places there are large drifts of soft, dry powder. The assessor found a few that were deep enough to completely swallow a fell top assessor! Most of the drifts however are around 100cm in depth on westerly slopes, and on high ground these drifts may lie on top of old hard neve, giving very weakly bonded layers to a maximum depth of 170cm.With further snow forecast for the next couple of days for east Cumbria, walking and climbing conditions in the mountains could be very arduous. This fresh snow is not stable at all, and where it is accumulating you can expect not only extremely tiring walking, but there is potential for high avalanche risks too. With biting winds today giving very low windchill, and a lot of driving spindrift, any movement in the hills was difficult, while visibility was appalling for long periods of time. Whiteout conditions were frequent.Anyone thinking of heading into the hills will need the full range of winter clothing and equipment, and should be confident in assessing avalanche risks, as well as having excellent navigation skills with a map and compass. An ice axe and crampons are obviously essential, and snow goggles, lots of warmth layers, headtorch, and spare food are also needed.
28th Feb 2018 Birkhouse Moor summit -8.0 -20.00 31.3 19.8 ESE A fair amount of fresh snow has fallen at all levels overnight and through part of the morning. In the valleys the snow was up to 10cm deep, and drifting to 30cm in places, while above 300m there were much deeper drifts up to 150cm. Where this fresh snow, which is mainly dry powder, lies on top of the old, hard snow above 550m there is localised instability in the snowpack. Avalanche hasty pits dug on both north facing and south facing slopes above 650m both revealed a high avalanche risk. Walkers and climbers should take great care to assess the slopes they intend to climb, descend or traverse, and you should think about accumulations of snow further up the mountain that may also avalanche. The assessor today only found relatively small fresh accumulations, but that doesn't mean that bigger snow patches aren't out there. The main hazards encountered today were spindrift, making visibility very poor at times, and windchill. You will need lots of warmth layers (the assessor stayed warm today by wearing two base layers, two fleece mid layers, a down layer, and a waterproof/windproof shell, but only just). An ice axe and crampons are essential - there are still very large areas of the fells covered in rock hard snow right now. Dress warm, and bring the right equipment, and you could be enjoying some fine but challenging winter walking in the mountains.
27th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -8.2 -18.7 40.1 22.5 E A very pleasant day on Helvellyn, with a scattering of light snow showers, giving occasional blizzard conditions, but largely dry and bright, with good views over distant hills. No sign of the 'Beast from the East', only good old ordinary winter weather. The snow level was right down into the valleys first thing, but a slight thaw brought it up to around 300m by late morning. The fresh snow is very thin, being only a very light dusting. There has been some minimal drifting on lee slopes, but below 700m this was nowhere deeper than 10cm. However, with old snow in large patches above 550m, the total maximum depth in places at that height was 150cm. Paths were icy at all levels throughout the day. Above 700m the drifts are a little larger, and on north facing headwalls and ridge crests there is a fresh cornice forming. On Swirral Edge there was a noticeable cornice about a metre wide on the north side of the ridge. With fresh hail falling, and the forecasters telling us to expect more into tomorrow, the fells could look very different in the morning. Striding Edge has some snow and ice along the ridge, and rime is forming on rocks. The exit from Striding Edge onto the summit plateau is a serious place to be at present, with a large unavoidable bank of bullet hard snow. On Swirral Edge the same applies, but there is more fresh powder and some windslab also forming on Swirral. Both ridges demand respect at the moment, coupled with an ice axe and crampons and the knowledge of how to use them to enable a safe ascent or descent. There are large cornices on headwalls, gully rims, and ridges on aspects facing NW through N to SE. Upland tarns are frozen, and both of these hazards are unsafe to walk on. Climbers should note that the gullies looked in good condition still, and there is now quite a lot of ice forming. Rocks are starting to rime up, and the turf above 700m is frozen to a depth of at least 5cm. Full winter clothing and boots, an ice axe and crampons, snow goggles, torch, and a map and compass are obviously needed at this time of year, as is the knowledge and sense to use them.
26th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -7.3 -18.9 28.6 19.3 ENE A very slight change in the weather pattern today with the winds swinging to the east, bringing very light snow flurries for short periods. On Helvellyn there is still substantial very hard old snow above 550m, and although this is patchy, it is unavoidable on all walking routes. Striding Edge and Swirral Edge can only safely be ascended or descended with an ice axe and crampons. On Striding Edge, the crest of the ridge is bare rock, but the exit from the ridge onto Helvellyn is a steep bank of hard snow. On Swirral Edge there is more snow, and again the exit onto the plateau is a steep bank of hard, unavoidable snow. There are sizeable cornices on slopes facing N through to SE, and on gully rims and headwalls on most aspects on the higher fells. There is also a lot of obvious avalanche debris caused by cornice collapse, particularly in Brown Cove, Red Tarn Cove, and Nethermost Cove. Upland Tarns are frozen, but not safe to walk upon. Climbers today found great snow in the easy gullies, and ice continues to build, but the buttress routes are not climbable as winter climbs. Anyone heading out in the fells will need full waterproofs and warmth layers, as well as map and compass, an ice axe and crampons, and a headtorch.
25th Feb 2018 Top of Brown Cove Crags -1.5 -5.4 9.4 5.4 S And still the amazing weather continues with blue skies and sunshine all day yet again. On Helvellyn there is still substantial very hard snow above 500m, and although this is patchy, it is unavoidable on all walking routes. Striding Edge and Swirral Edge can only safely be ascended or descended with an ice axe and crampons. On Striding Edge, the crest of the ridge is bare rock, but the exit from the ridge onto Helvellyn is a steep bank of hard snow. On Swirral Edge there is more snow, and again the exit onto the plateau is a steep bank of hard, unavoidable snow. Upland tarns are frozen, and only the foolish would try walking on them. There are sizeable cornices on slopes facing N through to SE, and on gully rims and headwalls on most aspects on the higher fells. Climbers today found great snow in the easy gullies, and ice building elsewhere, but the buttress routes are not climbable as winter climbs, as there is no snow, ice, or rime on the rocks at present. Anyone heading out in the fells will need full waterproofs and warmth layers, as well as map and compass, an ice axe and crampons, and a headtorch.
24th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.3 -9.5 16.7 9.8 SE A glorious day in the Lake District, with blue skies and sunshine for all. On Helvellyn there is still substantial snow above 500m, and although this is patchy, it is unavoidable on all walking routes. The snow is very hard and icy, requiring an ice axe and crampons for any routes that involve crossing snow patches. Striding Edge and Swirral Edge can only safely be ascended or descended with an ice axe and crampons. On Striding Edge, the crest of the ridge is bare rock, but the exit from the ridge onto Helvellyn is a steep bank of hard snow. On Swirral Edge there is more snow, and again the exit onto the plateau is a steep bank of hard, unavoidable snow. A slip from here would result in a 300m fall, over rocks, into the valley below. Red Tarn is frozen, and only the foolish would try walking on its surface. Sadly, there were a few fools out there today. Think about how quickly you would loose heat from your body if you broke through into the icy water, and think about how long it would take mountain rescue to reach you if that happened. Chances of survival are very slim. Climbers today found great snow in the easy gullies, and some ice elsewhere, but the buttress routes are not climbable as winter climbs, as there is no snow, ice, or rime on the rocks at present. Anyone heading out in the fells will need full waterproofs and warmth layers, as well as map and compass, an ice axe and crampons, and a headtorch.
23rd Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.8 -8.8 22.3 6.8 SE - S Another sublime day on the high fells of the Lake District. There is patchy snow down to around 500m, and at that height paths were hard going in places with the snow being rock hard. Higher on Helvellyn there is still substantial snow cover, although areas that have been exposed to the sun over the last couple of days are more snow free than north-facing slopes. Striding Edge today was interesting in that the scramble along the crest of the ridge was very much in summer condition, with lovely dry rock for most of the way. However, for anyone wanting to avoid the crest, the 'path' that people tend to follow on the Red Tarn side of the Edge is currently in full winter condition, and is no place to be without an ice axe and crampons. In such bullet hard snow a slip from here would be very difficult to halt, even with the correct technique for an ice axe arrest. The exit from Striding Edge is a very steep bank of hard snow, and again an axe and crampons are essential here. On Swirral Edge the conditions throughout are more wintry than Striding, although there is some exposed rock in places. The exit from Swirral is also a steep bank of very hard snow. All other walking routes on Helvellyn involve crossing patches of very hard snow, and any walker heading for the heights will need an ice axe and crampons. There is a huge cornice on N through to SE-facing slopes, and there is a lot of evidence of avalanche debris where chunks of cornice have broken off in the last few days. Stay well away from cornices, even in the current hard snow conditions. Red Tarn is frozen but is obviously not safe to walk upon. The same goes for other upland tarns. Climbers today found good winter sport in gullies, and some ice routes are currently in. However, buttress routes are very much clear of snow at the moment. On The Red Tarn face today climbers were enjoying Gully 1, 2 & 3, and it looked like a team having a look at V Corner also, but it did look very thin. Full winter clothing and equipment are essential at the moment, including an ice axe and crampons and the knowledge of how to use them in very hard snow conditions.
22nd Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -4.3 -13.4 25.7 17.9 S A cold night on the fells has refrozen the snowpack giving great but serious conditions for travelling in the mountains. Conditions underfoot were similar to yesterday but the snow pack is significantly harder and icier due to less sunshine and a cold southerly wind. The snow level remains around 500m with good coverage on most slopes from 700m upwards especially east and north facing aspects. South facing slopes such as the Red Tarn approach to Catstye Cam are almost bare to summit level. There are harder patches of snow and ice on popular routes and paths where it has been compacted. The crest of Striding Edge is now mainly bare rock although the sides and the exit on to the plateau are still snow covered and crampons and an ice axe were essential for safe progression. Swirral Edge receives slightly less direct sunlight and is still in full winter condition. In descent it felt more serious than the spring like conditions found on Striding Edge. The summit plateau is a mixture of unavoidable hard snow and bare frozen ground with just the lightest of rime on the summit rocks. Cornices above S to E to N slopes are large and have slumped and in some cases collapsed during last weeks thaw. The cooler temperatures have now stabilised them somewhat but they remain weak and should be given a wide berth. Climbing conditions were improving on the east face of Helvellyn. Good neve and frozen turf gave secure placements and ice is beginning to form. However the rocks were bare with just a skim of rime above 900m. Full winter clothing and equipment including ice axe and crampons and the ability to use them are currently required to safely enjoy the Lakeland fells including all routes to the summit of Helvellyn.
21st Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit 3.0 3.0 2.8 1.4 N A stunning day out on the Lakeland Fells with wall to wall sunshine, zero wind and a birthday cake on the summit!Freezing temperatures overnight had refrozen the wet snowpack at all levels giving good conditions for walking and climbing. Throughout the day the surface of the snowpack on south facing slopes softened in the strong sunlight but generally it remained frozen and icy with serious consequences for any slip not quickly arrested. The snow level remains around 500m with good coverage on most slopes from 700m upwards especially east and north facing aspects. South facing slopes such as the Red Tarn approach to Catstye Cam are almost bare to summit level. There are harder patches of snow and ice on popular routes and paths where it has been compacted. The crest of Striding Edge is now mainly bare rock although the sides and the exit on to the plateau are still snow covered and crampons and an ice axe were essential for safe progression.Swirral Edge receives slightly less direct sunlight and is still in full winter condition. In descent it felt more serious than the spring like conditions found on Striding Edge.The summit plateau is a mixture of hard snow and bare ground with just the lightest of rime on the summit rocks. Cornices above S to E to N slopes are large and have slumped and in some cases collapsed during yesterdays thaw. The cooler temperatures have now stabilised them somewhat but they remain weak and should be given a wide berth. Avalanche debris was noted on the E face of Helvellyn and in Nethermost & Brown Coves.Full winter clothing and equipment including ice axe and crampons and the ability to use them are currently required to safely enjoy the Lakeland fells.
20th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit 0.7 -8.1 31.0 20.6 N The thaw continues at all levels albeit at a slightly slower pace than yesterday since it was only just above freezing on the summit. There is now little snow below 500m. Between 500m and 700m there is more ground devoid of snow than covered by it. Above 700m the opposite is true as a substantial amount of snow remains especially in sheltered spots and hollows and on predominantly E and N facing aspects where, in exceptional cases, drifts of 100cm can be found. The snowpack is now mainly soft and wet. There are harder patches of snow and ice on popular routes where it has been compacted. Owing to the forecasted lower temperatures overnight, walkers out on Wednesday should be prepared for, and expect to encounter, far more ice and hard snow than described today. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, require extreme care and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. Striding Edge itself consisted of mostly bare, dry rock interspersed with patches of ice and hard and soft snow. Conversely there is a more comprehensive covering of snow along Swirral Edge. Both exits, though, are guarded by unavoidable steep banks of hard snow, hence the need for crampons and ice axes as this is no place to slip without the means to stop yourself. Cornices exist on S to E to N facing slopes. These have weakened and slumped over the past 48 hours and look very unstable, so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. It is also advisable to keep dogs on leads near such edges to avoid them running over the edge and getting stuck just below the cornices! See today’s picture on the website! They survived 2 nights and are now back with their owners. Upland tarns, such as Red Tarn, have frozen and are snow covered but are not safe to walk on. Climbers. Given the current forecast for lower temperatures, today’s conditions of soft snow will hopefully be irrelevant tomorrow! If not, please be aware of potential damage to rare alpine plants undertaking winter climbs that are not in condition. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe remain essential as there is likely to be plenty of hard snow on Wednesday. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially in cloud as the deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Conversely, hopefully sunglasses will also be essential on Wednesday!
19th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit 4.2 -0.3 10.1 4.0 NNW There is a thaw at all levels – it was plus 4 degrees on the summit today – and this is especially rapid below 700m. There is now little snow below 400m. Above 400m there are areas of ground devoid of snow up to, and including, summit level. However a substantial amount of snow remains especially above 700m where deep drifts can be found in sheltered spots and hollows and on lee slopes, in exceptional cases of over 100cm. Although such depth is the exception, drifts well above the ankles and occasionally up to the knees are fairly commonplace. Sinking this deep happens more frequently as the snowpack has become wetter and softer over the past 48 hours. Harder patches of snow do remain, however, mainly where the snow has been compacted on popular routes creating challenging conditions. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, require extreme care and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. Conditions along Striding Edge were mixed with bare rock interspersed with patches of ice and hard and soft snow. Conversely there is a more comprehensive covering of snow along Swirral Edge. Both exits, though, are guarded by unavoidable steep banks of hard snow and, given their altitude, these will not thaw during this brief period of milder weather. Hence the need for crampons and ice axes remain as it is no place to slip without the means to stop yourself. Cornices exist on S to E to N facing aspects. These have weakened over the past 24 hours and look very unstable. Owing to poor visibility today, it was not possible to ascertain whether any have actually collapsed but please don’t take the chance and keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Upland tarns, such as Red Tarn, have frozen and are snow covered but are not safe to walk on. Climbers. Snow in the gullies was far softer. In addition, please be aware of potential damage to rare alpine plants undertaking winter climbs that are not now in condition. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe remain essential as there is still plenty of hard snow and ice plus it would only take a slight drop in temperature for the soft snow to harden. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially when snow is falling and/or in cloud as the deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. For those interested in the weather stats, the wind was stronger lower down than on the summit!
18th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -0.5 -8.7 22.6 20.3 SW Some snow is thawing – it was only just below freezing on the summit. The thaw is only pronounced below 600m and rapid below 400m. There is now little snow below 300m and between 300m and 600m there are areas of ground devoid of snow although much remains. Above 600m, the Lakeland fells have a substantial covering of snow although the actual depth varies considerably from little on windswept areas to drifts of over 100cm in sheltered spots and hollows and on lee slopes. Although such depth is the exception, drifts of 30-50cm are fairly commonplace. The consistency of the snowpack was notably softer than on Saturday. However, there are harder patches of snow especially above 800m and where the snow has been compacted on popular routes. Conversely the going can be very arduous when breaking trail through soft, above-ankle deep snow. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, remain in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. The majority of Striding Edge consists of a light covering of soft and compacted snow and ice and this was giving walkers without crampons and ice axes a totally false sense of security. Both Striding and Swirral’s exits are guarded by unavoidable steep banks of hard snow. There are deep steps cut into them so it is possible to undertake such routes without proper equipment BUT it would not be possible to prevent a small slip becoming a major slide with only rocks to stop you. Cornices exist on S to E to N facing aspects. Owing to extremely poor visibility today, it was not possible to inspect them but, given forecasted milder temperatures, these are likely to weaken so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Upland tarns, such as Red Tarn, have frozen and are snow covered but are not safe to walk on – despite folk testing this theory today…. Climbers. Sorry, didn’t meet any climbers today and owing to the low cloud could not see any of the climbs! However, draw your own conclusions from a generally softer snowpack and milder temperatures! Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe are also essential. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially when snow is falling and/or in cloud as the deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding
17th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -0.5 -7.5 22.5 16.5 WSW Fresh snow / hail has fallen overnight, deposited on SW winds, adding to existing accumulations – about 5/6cm on lee slopes at 900m. There is little snow below 300m. Above 300m, the snow depth rises with height although, as ever, actual depth varies considerably with the deepest drifts being over 100cm in sheltered spots and hollows and on lee slopes. Although such depth is the exception, drifts of 30-50cm are fairly commonplace. The consistency of the snowpack varies from mostly soft, to hard to a hard crust over soft snow. Expect on paths where it has been compacted, the harder snow is generally to be found above 700m, often overlain with fresh snow. It was only just below freezing on the summit today, but the only noticeable thaw was below 500m. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. The majority of Striding Edge consists of mostly soft snow, often compacted, and once again this was giving walkers without crampons and ice axes a totally false sense of security. Both Striding and Swirral’s exits are guarded by unavoidable steep banks of hard snow. There are deep steps cut into them so it is possible to undertake such routes without proper equipment BUT it would not be possible to prevent a small slip becoming a major slide with only rocks to stop you. Cornices exist on S to E to N facing aspects and, given forecasted milder temperatures these are likely to weaken so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Upland tarns, such as Red Tarn, have frozen and are snow covered but not safe to walk on. Climbers. Totally mixed reports from the climbing fraternity today!! Everything from wonderful to colourful descriptions that I took to mean poor conditions! Basically some routes had fresh windslab so be aware of this and cornices on gully routes. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe are also essential. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially when snow is falling and/or in cloud as the snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding
16th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.2 -11.3 33.1 26.9 SW The Lakeland Fells are currently covered by a substantial amount of snow with the snow level generally being around 300m but it can be as low as 200m. Snow depth rises with height although, as it has drifted, actual depth varies considerably. For example at the Hole in’t Wall (c700m) snow had drifted to the height of the wall in places just meters from where grass was poking through the snow where it had been scoured by the wind. Similarly, the consistency of the snowpack varies from soft, to hard to just a hard crust over soft snow. The harder snow is generally above 700m – expect on paths where it has been compacted. Also above 700m, many rocks were covered in ice. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. There is only a thin layer of soft snow and ice along the majority of Striding Edge and today this was giving walkers without crampons and ice axes a totally false sense of security. Both Striding and Swirral’s exits are guarded by unavoidable steep banks of hard snow. There are steps cut into them so it is possible to undertake such routes without proper equipment BUT it would not be possible to prevent a small slip becoming a major slide with only rocks to stop you. The summit plateau was covered in ice, making crampons useful even on the relative flat! Substantial cornices exist on S to E to N facing aspects. Owing to poor visibility today, it was not possible to closely inspect them but there did appear to be cracks when the cloud very briefly lifted. So please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Upland tarns, such as Red Tarn, have frozen and are snow covered but not safe to walk on. Climbers. Climbers with very large smiles were reporting excellent ice and neve in the gullies. Please note the comment on cornices, though. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe are also essential. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially when snow is falling (as currently forecast for Saturday morning) and/or in cloud as the snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Given Saturday’s forecast both goggles and sunglasses are also recommended!
15th Feb 2018 Catstycam -2.3 -9.4 52.9 27.1 W - NW A good day to be on the hills. Yesterday's dump of snow during a partial thaw, followed by much colder conditions overnight and throughout today has aided consolidation on all aspects. By and large the snow pack today was mostly very well bonded, and even at low levels the snow was hard and icy. The snow level today was again at around 300m. The Helvellyn edges today were snow covered, and again, this snow was hard, requiring crampons and an ice axe. The exits from both Swirral Edge and Striding Edge are extremely challenging for walkers right now. They are very steep, hard snow, with just a few areas of soft powder, calling for sound mountaineering techniques - these are not good places for the complacent walker to be. Red Tarn today was frozen, but is not safe to walk upon. On the mountain there are now huge cornices, up to 7-8 metres wide. On Water Crag they looked even wider, while at the head of Brown Cove there has been a cornice slump on the Whiteside headwall. This is around 70 metres long and it has slumped down the slope about 50m. Anyone heading into the fells at present needs lots of warmth layers, good waterproofs, map and compass, snow goggles, winter boots, and an ice axe and crampons.
14th Feb 2018 Top of Keppel Cove at 825m -0.8 -5.0 42.1 17.7 SE - SW A blustery day bringing widespread blizzards on the fells above 300m, with heavy rain in the valleys. On the fells the snow line is currently around 250m, and with heavy snow above 300m it gave for challenging walking. The snow is drifting in many sheltered places, behind boulders, knolls and gully rims, not just on leeward aspects of the mountains, so the depth is constantly varying, from a general covering of about 40cm in depth, to bigger drifts up to 170cm deep. The wind is carving these drifts as the direction is changing and is very localised, and some drifts, even at low levels, have mini-cornices, and in places, ridges of snow up to 200cm in depth. Walking today involved every step being arduous, with one step landing on hard snow, the next landing the walker in a huge soft drift, and the next partially taking the walker's weight, then collapsing and depositing him in a deep drift just as he transferred his weight onto the surface. A good sense of humour was just as important as the right clothing and equipment today. There is much cross-loading of snow, and windslab was forming as low as 500m on NE through to S facing slopes. A hasty pit dug at 650m on an E facing slope revealed 6 distinct layers of windslab above a harder snow layer, and gentle hand pressure on an isolated block of snow gave a snow slide at about 40cm depth, giving a High category avalanche risk on those slopes. It is very likely that a similar High avalanche risk exists on all slopes facing NE through to S, and with the wind being in the south today, this will probably change to include NW through to N slopes overnight tonight. In periods of blizzard today visibility was generally around 50m, although short periods of whiteout where also frequent. Full winter clothing was essential today - double waterproofs were the only way of staying even remotely dry. The fell top assessor found that today was the first 'wet pants' day of the season, and his winter skills clients enjoyed that sensation too. As paths were icy, crampons were essential above 400m, and an ice axe should always be carried on snowy hills.
13th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -4.7 -12.5 29.1 20.6 WNW A day of two distinct halves. The morning brought snow to all levels, with blizzard conditions for long periods of time. The snow was very heavy right down to the valley, giving unpleasant driving conditions for those trying to get anywhere, and arduous walking for those who were already out in the fells. The snow at valley level was drifting to 20cm depth in places, and above 500m was up to 60cm of fresh snow overlying the older snow on leeward slopes to a total depth of 140cm in drifts, and a general covering of around 40cm. Visibility in the morning was appalling in driving snow - reduced to just two or three metres at times if heading directly into the wind. There was occasional whiteout, even at low levels. With the wind in the NW snow was being deposited mainly on NE through to S facing slopes, and those 6-7 metre cornices we've had over the last couple of days on these aspects were building even further. Stay well back from cornices, as they are a lot larger than you might think! By early afternoon the snow had stopped falling, and blue skies revealed the fells in all their winter glory. Views were exceptionally good. The snow, however, is deep, making for hard walking. There is instability on most slopes at present, and walkers, climbers and skiers should make sensible choices about route, avoiding convex slopes, corrie rims, gullies, and crag aprons that face NE through to S. Other aspects need a proper assessment by the individual walker to judge whether there is any chance of an avalanche until the snow settles and becomes better consolidated. With more snow forecast, and temperatures largely staying below zero on the fells for the next few days (but with some fluctuations) it is an interesting time to be enjoying the fells. However, the winter hills do demand respect. Come properly equipped with full waterproofs, lots of warmth layers, map and compass, snow goggles, and an ice axe and crampons, and you'll have a fabulous time exploring the high fells of the Lake District.
12th Feb 2018 St Sunday Crag summit -2.8 -11.0 22.5 17.9 W Yet another superb day to be on the high fells. Further fresh snow has fallen through the night down to all levels. This has drifted in sheltered places to a depth of 50cm, primarily on E - SE facing slopes. Slopes exposed to the wind, which have been predominantly W - NW for the last couple of days, are largely scoured by the wind, giving icy walking conditions. With a freezing level at around 400m in the morning, rising to around 600m later in the day, an ice axe and crampons were needed by anyone heading above 600m, and for valley walking microspikes were useful. Throughout the day today spindrift came in flurries, and fresh hail was falling intermittently, which combined gave reduced visibility. Snow goggles were essential if your route took you into the wind, as it was impossible to see without them. Walkers should note that the wind speeds recorded today were taken at the summit of St Sunday Crag, but there was a noticeable increase in speeds later in the afternoon during the descent. Although the assessor climbed St Sunday Crag today, it gave him very good views into Nethermost Cove, Cock Cove, and the Tarn Crag and Falcon Crag buttresses and gullies. Climbers should note that there are many very good looking lines in (at least when seen from a distance) but cornices and windslab will certainly be building up at the head of most climbs on NE to SE aspects, and careful assessment of snow in gullies and above buttresses should be made before attempting any climbs that face these directions. Full winter clothing and equipment was essential today.
11th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -4.8 -13.9 32.6 21.9 W An amazing day to be on the fells of the Lake District. Snow has fallen yet again down to valley level, and with a freezing level at around 400m paths were icy anywhere above that height. The snow at low levels is light, and nowhere deeper than about 5cm, but above 600m the snow is now around 120cm in depth. The snow that has blown in over the last three or four days has consolidated well, aided by the slight thaw we had yesterday and the much colder conditions today. This has left us with good ice on paths, and near perfect neve on all aspects that have not been scoured by the W - NW winds. The Helvellyn Edges today had a lot of icy ground, with occasional bare rock. Where the rock is not ice covered there is very little rime. The exit from Swirral Edge today was an extremely steep bank of very hard snow (almost vertical for the last two metres onto the summit plateau). Many walkers will find this intimidating, and it should not be taken lightly. A minor slip or trip here will result in a very long fall from the mountain. An ice axe and crampons are absolutely essential on this kind of ground. Climbers will note that there are some good routes in condition at present. Turf is pretty well frozen on most aspects, and the snow and ice lines are looking good. Buttresses are currently not as good, and need a good build up of rime ice to whiten them up nicely. With the very severe windchill today, full winter clothing and equipment were essential. Snow googles were important too, as the spindrift made visibility very poor at times.
10th Feb 2018 Catstycam summit 1.7 -4.2 35.2 21.6 WNW A partial thaw at all levels has helped to consolidate much of the remaining snowpack. The snow level today was 530m, but was patchy at all heights above that. Maximum depth of snow is still around 140cm in places, but this is the exception, and there is currently a mix of bare hillside and snow in patches up to an average of 70cm in depth. On Striding Edge there is some snow remaining, but the exit is largely free of snow, with just a few steep banks to think about. On Swirral Edge there is a very steep bank of snow that requires great care when ascending or descending. With a cloud base varying between 500m in the morning to 850m in the afternoon, visibility was reduced to around 50m at times, but was generally very good. Climbers today reported that some routes were OK. V Corner was apparently tough low down, giving soft, wet snow conditions, then very good ice in the corner itself. However, above the rock bands where the snow upper snow field lies, the snow was reported as dangerous windslab overlying old hard snow. All winter hillwalkers will need full winter clothing and waterproofs. Good winter mountain boots are essential - there were people out today in trainers which really are not that great for snow, so some very cold wet feet will have resulted. An ice axe and crampons were also needed today by anyone going above 700m.
9th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.5 -6.4 20.2 5.7 NW Fresh snow down to 300m today, brought an alpine feel to the high fells of Lakeland. Paths were icy in places from around 400m upwards. At 400m the snow was generally about 5cm in depth, but up to 20cm in drifts, while above 700m the snow depth was 15cm on average, and up to 140cm in drifts. Windslab has formed on lee slopes, and there is some crossloading within the snow pack. A small test pit dug into the head of Keppel Cove, immediately below the bridleway across the top of the cove, revealed wet, slushy snow with a little ice content at ground level to a depth of 30cm, and just over a metre of windslab on top of that to a total depth of 140cm. Within the windslab there were 6 noticeable layers, but pressure applied with hands behind the isolated block of snow easily caused a slide at the level where the windslab is in contact with the old snow beneath. This was on a SE-facing slope at 820m asl. There are very large cornices on NE through to S facing slopes - up to 7 metres from solid ground on the rim of the Red Tarn headwall. Stay well back from these edges. Swirral and Striding Edges are currently covered in fresh snow, and this has become icy in places through compression from walker's feet. The exits from both ridges are banks of icy, hard snow. Today all paths and routes on the high fells were in full winter condition, requiring an ice axe and crampons for safe walking. Red Tarn is ice covered, but is obviously not safe to try walking upon. Climbers should note the comments about windslab above. Reports from climbers in Gullies 1, 2 and 3 on Helvellyn today were that the conditions were poor lower down, but improving to good neve higher up the route. The buttresses today were black, and turf was only semi-frozen at 5cm. Full winter clothing and equipment are essential for winter mountain walking. Today, an ice axe and crampons were essential.
8th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit 1.0 -6.0 20.1 16.8 SW The forecast warm front passed through overnight bringing a general thaw to the mountains. 3-4" of new snow had fallen overnight above 700m but the whole snowpack is now saturated with the freezing level above the summits. Please note a small drop in temperature will quickly freeze the snowpack resulting in serious and committing conditions for walkers and climbers. The snow level is now around 600m and higher on south facing slopes. Paths above 500m were covered in a layer of ice and crampons were useful for safe and efficient travel. The areas of windslab that had developed yesterday have now consolidated in the warm temperatures and the snowpack is now uniform apart from a few areas of old hard snow. Striding and Swirral Edges gave good sport with a good covering of soft snow and drifts up to 80cm but the exits were hard neve covered in new snow and felt serious. Up on the plateau there is a mixture of frozen terrain, snow and ice. The large cornices on the east side of the Helvellyn range should be given a wide berth. In places they have built up to 6-7m of unsupported snow with a large drop below. A small area of avalanche activity triggered by a cornice collapse was noted in the area of Swirral Edge Full winter clothing and equipment including ice axe and crampons and the ability to use them are currently essential to enjoy the Lake District Fells.
7th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -6.8 -17.4 21.2 19.2 W Truly alpine conditions on the Lake District Fells today with copious amounts of new snow, light winds and blue skies being enjoyed by plenty of winter walkers, climbers, mountain bikers, skiers and snowboarders The sun had a significant effect on south facing slopes throughout the day with the snow level rising to 600m. On more shaded northerly slopes there is still snow down to the valley floor. The freezing level also remained low and the compacted snow on low lying paths is now icy. Above Red Tarn the westerly winds were moving a significant amount of the new snow onto lee slopes where it was lying as soft calf deep wind slab. Striding and Swirral Edges had a good covering of soft snow with drifts up to 80cm but the exits were hard neve and felt serious. Rime had formed on the summit rocks above 800m and while the east face was plastered, any useful snow and neve is well buried in the new snow. The cornices around the summit area are 6-7m with a poorly defined boundary between solid ground and soft snow so should be given a wide berth, especially in poor visibility. The summit plateau was a mixture of ice and wind scoured snow with very little exposed rock. Full winter clothing and equipment including ice axe and crampons and the ability to use them are currently essential to enjoy the Lake District Fells.
6th Feb 2018 Wansfell Pike (482m) -1.4 -9.3 18.0 9.7 NW The assessor could not get his car out this morning (he should have waited!) so the report is from Wansfell Pike (482m). Snow has fallen on NW winds down to valley level, although this was thawing during the afternoon below 200m. Given the harsh frost forecasted tonight, this will mean walkers out on Wednesday should expect to encounter ice on paths at low levels. The fresh snow has added 5 to 6cm to existing accumulations at 500m; however on Monday there was little at this altitude. Above 500m, snow depth rises with height although actual coverage varies considerably depending upon aspect. The greatest coverage is above 850m on predominantly E facing slopes where on Monday there were depths of up to 100cm of old snow which will now be under fresh snow. Such depth, though, is the exception although drifts between 20cm and 30cm were fairly commonplace in sheltered spots and hollows. On Monday, the undisturbed snowpack was mainly soft although above 850m it was sometimes covered with a hard crust and there were some patches of neve (hard snow). The fresh snow will not have bonded to this. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering; this includes an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack. On Monday, both Striding and Swirral’s exits were guarded by unavoidable steep banks of hard snow. As the fresh snow has been deposited on NW winds, both exits will now consist of hard snow overlain by fresh soft snow with the two layers not having bonded – indeed on Monday there was already windslab to either side of the route created up the hard snow. Consequently, the exits will now consist of unstable snow and require extreme caution – or avoiding altogether. Cornices exist along predominantly E facing slopes. Please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. On Monday there were footprints on the cornices which meant that people have been standing on frozen water with no solid ground beneath – well only after a long drop! Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe are also essential. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially when snow is falling and/or in cloud as the snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Given Wednesday’s forecast both goggles and sunglasses are also recommended! Hopefully Wednesday's Ground Conditions report will be from Helvellyn again!
5th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -4.8 -9.3 6.6 2.6 Light & variable! NNE to SSW !! At the time of writing, snow is forecast on Monday night/Tuesday morning, so walkers out on Tuesday should expect to encounter different underfoot conditions to those experienced and described today. The ground conditions have remained relatively static for the past 48 hours with two exceptions. Firstly, there is a slow consolidation of the snowpack – especially above 800m. Secondly, there is an increasing amount of ice on popular routes where the snow has been compacted. There is little snow below 450m. Above 450m, snow depth rises with height although actual coverage varies considerably depending upon aspect. The greatest coverage is above 850m on predominantly E facing slopes where depths of up to 100cm can be found. Such depth, though, is the exception although drifts between 20cm and 30cm are fairly commonplace in sheltered spots and hollows. The undisturbed snowpack is mainly soft although above 850m it is sometimes covered with a hard crust and there are some patches of neve (hard snow). Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering – including an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack. The ridges themselves are a mixture of soft and compacted snow; however both their exits are guarded by unavoidable steep banks of hard snow. Although steps have been cut into this snow, this is not a place to slip without the means (ie an ice axe) to prevent a long fall. Either side of these steps, the hard snow is covered by windslab. Cornices exist along predominantly E facing slopes. Please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise as there are footprints on the cornices which means folk have been standing on frozen water with no solid ground beneath – well only after a long drop! Those climbing the gullies today were reporting more consolidation together with some ice on the buttresses. The turf, though, is not frozen so please avoid routes which could damage fragile alpine plants. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe are also essential. Excellent navigational skills are also required especially when snow is falling and/or in cloud as the snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding.
4th Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.5 -14.1 29.0 27.5 NNE Ground conditions are fairly similar to Saturday, albeit with a limited consolidation of the snowpack. There is little snow below 450m. Above 450m the snow depth rises with height although actual coverage varies considerably depending upon aspect. The deepest drifts, of 100cm, are to be found above 850m on predominantly E facing slopes. Such depth, though, is the exception although drifts between 20cm and 30cm are fairly commonplace in sheltered spots and hollows. The snowpack is mainly soft with a couple of exceptions. Firstly, there are patches of neve (hard snow) mainly above 850m. Secondly on popular routes where the snow has been compacted creating demanding conditions. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering – including an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack. The ridges themselves are a mixture of soft and compacted snow; however both their exits are guarded by unavoidable steep banks of hard snow overlain with windslab (unstable snow). Although steps have been cut into this snow, this is not a place to slip without the means (ie an ice axe) to prevent a long fall. Cornices exist along predominantly E facing slopes. Once again, there were footprints on them – ie far, far too close to the edge. Please keep well away from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise – they will thank you for it! Those climbing the gullies today were reporting soft snow lower down with some neve higher up. So for those climbing, please be aware of windslab, cornices and also of unfrozen turf where climbing could damage fragile alpine plants. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe are also essential. When the cloud drops, excellent navigational skills are also required as the snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. It was a glorious day today, so come properly equipped and make the most of these wonderful conditions!
3rd Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.0 -9.9 19.9 12.9 NNE Fresh snow has settled above 400m. It has fallen in fairly light winds and so has added around 2-3cm to existing accumulations relatively (key word) equally on all aspects. As on Friday, there is a slow daytime thaw of snow below 700m and this is especially rapid below 500m. The snow depth rises with altitude to reach over 100cm above 850m on predominantly E facing slopes. Such depth, though, is the exception although drifts between 20cm and 30cm are fairly commonplace in sheltered spots and hollows. The snow is mainly soft although there are patches of neve (hard snow) mainly above 900m. Above 500m on paths the fresh snow sometimes lies above patches of old hard snow and ice. Walkers out on Sunday should expect to encounter more ice on popular routes as the snow is compacted. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering – including an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise of the snowpack. The ridges themselves are covered in soft snow; however both their exits are guarded by unavoidable steep banks of hard snow overlain with windslab (unstable snow) and fresh snow. Cornices exist along predominantly E facing slopes. Unfortunately owing to the poor visibility today it was not possible to closely inspect them. However, some were not stable on Friday and Saturday’s snow will have weakened them further so please keep well away from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Climbers: the gullies are full of soft snow, with some neve higher up. As already mentioned, be aware of windslab, cornices and also of unfrozen turf where climbing could damage fragile alpine plants. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe are also essential. Excellent navigational skills are also required, especially for anyone venturing into cloud as the snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Hopefully sunglasses will also be required on Sunday!
2nd Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.6 -9.7 13.6 5.2 N There is a slow daytime thaw of snow below 700m; this has been rapid below 450m where little snow now remains. Above 450m snow depth rises with altitude to reach over 100cm above 850m on predominantly E facing slopes. Such depth, though, is the exception with windblown aspects having a mere 2cm or so. The snow is mainly soft, sometimes with a hard crust, although there are patches of neve (hard snow) mainly above 900m. Above the snowline, paths were often covered in ice – either where the snow had been compacted, or where it had thawed and refrozen. Walkers out on Saturday should watch out for this especially if such ice is covered by forecasted fresh snow. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering – including an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise of the snowpack. Although both Striding and Swirral's ridges are covered in mainly soft snow, both their exits are guarded by unavoidable steep banks of hard snow overlain with windslab (unstable snow) and, given the forecast, the depth and instability of this, is likely to increase on Saturday. Cornices exist along predominantly E facing slopes and climbers were wisely avoiding Nethermost Cove for this reason. On the summit, there were footprints far too close to the edge. Please advise those with less experience to stand well clear from such edges – and the reason for it! Climbers: those attempting the gullies today reported mixed conditions with, generally speaking, some neve higher up and soft snow lower down. As mentioned, be aware of windslab, cornices and also unfrozen turf damaging fragile alpine plants. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe are also essential. Excellent navigational skills are also required, especially for anyone venturing into cloud as the snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Given Saturday’s forecast, goggles are also strongly recommended!
1st Feb 2018 Helvellyn summit -4.2 -18.1 50.2 32.5 W A glorious but very cold day on the felltops. Snow has fallen down to around 300m, but is thawing throughout the morning, and was at around 400m during the Fell Top Assessor's descent. This fresh snow is around 2cm in depth generally, but where it has gathered on lee slopes and behind boulders, it is up to 60cm in depth, even at valley level. Higher up the mountain the snow is being redeposited onto lee slopes, and windslab is building on N through to SE facing slopes. On Striding and Swirral Edges the snow is deep in sheltered places, and the exits from both ridges are composed of 100cm deep, unstable windslab overlying hard, old snow. This will become dangerously avalanche prone if more fresh snow falls, and/or consolidation takes a while to occur. Please cross these final banks of steep snow with care, and don't be afraid to turn back if it appears that the slopes are too unstable for a safe ascent or descent. Visibility generally today was very good, except in brief snow showers or in flying spindrift. There are cornices on NE through to SE corrie rims - the one at the top of the Red Tarn headwall is about 3 metres wide where the old snow still lies, and this is growing with further accumulations of fresh snow. Take great care near these edges, especially in poor visibility. Climbers will note that gullies are just starting to build, and some ice is now present, even as low as 500m. The turf is only semi-frozen however, and the buttresses were still very black today. During the morning a noticeable thaw set in, and the ice was dripping. Not good conditions for winter climbing, especially if you wish to avoid damaging a fragile floral habitat! Waterproofs will help to keep out the wind, and good warmth layers were essential today to maintain body heat in the sever windchill. Good winter mountain boots, with crampons and an ice axe were essential today. A map and compass should always be carried.
31st Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.4 -13.6 50.2 32.8 W An interesting day weatherwise on Helvellyn. Rain, snow, hail, and sleet fell at all levels at some time or other during the day, and as this was interspersed with sunny spells, I think we had it all. Snow on the fells has settled above 300m in places, but is largely just a dusting. There are, however, some sizeable patches of snow in drifts, especially on NE through to SE facing slopes above 600m. This is especially true for headwalls, corrie rims, and tops of gullies, although any leeward slope may have a snow drift behind it. Some of these drifts are up to a depth of 40cm of new snow, so where this lies on top of any areas of old hard snow above 700m the total depth is now around 110cm. This is the exception however. Where this new snow overlies the old, there is considerable instability, and it will take some redistribution and consolidation before things become stable. In the meantime, more snow is forecast, so tomorrow could be just as interesting as today. Small cornices are starting to develop on NE through to SE corrie rims, so care is needed when walking around the tops of these. The Helvellyn edges required care in the fresh snow and verglas today, and the exits from both ridges were soft windslab on top of old hard neve - a recipe for a slide if the snow depth here continues to build. The freezing level today was at around 650m, although some paths felt icy below that height. Rocks were coated in verglas in places above that height. For climbers, gullies are starting to look a little whiter than they have, but it's very early days for this particular phase of the winter season. Buttresses were largely black, and the turf is nowhere near frozen, but the Great End temperature gauge is at least heading in the right direction again. Today full waterproofs and warmth layers were essential, as were winter mountain boots, snow goggles, and an ice axe and crampons. It goes without saying that a map and compass should always be carried.
30th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.0 -11.4 39.8 25.2 SW Intermittent, and occasionally lengthy showers at all levels today. On Helvellyn there is a smattering of fresh snow above 750m, with more snow, hail, sleet and rain falling off and on at summit level throughout the day. Currently this fresh snow is no more than a very light dusting. The freezing level today was around 800m, and rocks had some verglas in places and small areas of rime ice just starting to form. With the turbo thaw we've had over the last three days, followed by colder weather, any remaining old snow, which is confined above the 750m mark, is now very hard, and requires an ice axe and crampons. Most walking routes are free of the old snow however. That said, the exits from Striding Edge and Swirral Edge involve crossing unavoidable patches of this old, hard snow, and a slip or trip here will result in a very long plummet over icy, rocky ground which will only be halted 800 feet further down the mountain where the angle eases. An ice axe is the only thing that will stop such a slip becoming a full-length slide. Visibility today varied enormously, from less than 5m in snow and hail showers, to over a kilometre in between bouts of precipitation. Good navigation skills, and navigation aids that don't need batteries, were essential today. There is still a very large cornice (around 3m horizontally) on the Red Tarn headwall, and while this is not now overhanging it is still potentially unstable, and you should not try walking on it. Full winter clothing and equipment should be carried in the hills at present.
29th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -0.9 -9.1 30.3 19.5 WNW A slight drop in temperature has firmed up the remaining snow on Helvellyn, giving good conditions on the scant remaining patches. The only snow of any consequence is above 700m. On Helvellyn most walking routes are snow free, with the exception of the exits from Striding Edge and Swirral Edge which are very much snow-covered and steep. These snow banks are unavoidable, and require an ice axe and crampons to walk over safely. The Helvellyn summit plateau was bare of snow and ice during the assessor's visit today. The rocks were dry and walking the tops was easy and a real delight in the good conditions. There is still a very large cornice (around 3m horizontally) on the Red Tarn headwall, and while this is not now overhanging it is still potentially very unstable, and you should not try walking on it. Visibility today was generally very good, with views extending to Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales, and to Cross Fell in the North Pennines. However, fresh snow and hail fell on the summit of Helvellyn for brief periods, and during such showers visibility was reduced to around 20m. Should snow continue to fall overnight the high fells will look very different tomorrow. Climbers should note that the turf is far from frozen, and the gully lines are not complete. The buttresses were very black today. Full winter clothing and equipment should be carried in the hills at present.
28th Jan 2018 Catstycam summit 6.5 0.2 47.5 29.1 W Further thawing of the already diminished snowpack today. There is now very little snow anywhere on the mountains, with the only substantial patches remaining above 700m on east facing bowls, headwalls, and corrie rims. On Helvellyn, there are tiny fragments of snow above 550m, but the snowline is very definitely fixed at 700m today, and receding. The assessor today only ventured as far as Catstycam summit as the gusty wind was again making safe walking difficult at all levels, and impossible above 800m. The visibility above 600m was 20m at best, making an assessment of the full extent of the snowpack impossible. However, the patches of snow that he did find were very soft, wet, and continuing to thaw. Rain fell at all levels today, and that combined with the thawing snow has swelled many of the becks. Care is needed on any bridgeless river crossings. Full winter clothing including waterproofs and warmth layers, winter boots, map and compass and a headtorch were essential today. A good sense of humour was also handy today, given the appalling conditions. For anyone venturing onto ground where snow may still lie, including the exits from Striding and Swirral Edges, an ice axe and crampons are very much essential.
27th Jan 2018 Raise 5.4 -2.4 49.7 28.9 W A wild day to be on the fells. With a forecast estimating wind speeds up to 70mph the assessor today decided to take his winter skills clients to Raise, a lower hill with an easier way off in foul conditions. The snow has all but gone below 700m, and is patchy even above that height. Today the old drifts were wet, but still up to a depth of around 90cm in places. There was some ice on paths above 700m, but this was largely avoidable. On higher peaks, including nearby Helvellyn, it looked like the snow above 800m was more substantial. The wind today made walking difficult above 500m, and at times it was impossible to move. Visibility was reduced in cloud to around 50m, but out of cloud views were reasonable. Anyone heading for the fells at present will need full walking gear, including full waterproofs, warmth layers, winter boots, an ice axe and crampons, map and compass, and a headtorch.
26th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit 1.2 -1.5 5.8 4.6 SSE A glorious day to be on the high fells of Lakeland. There is a light dusting of fresh snow down to around 550m, and paths at all levels, even down in the valleys, were coated with verglas (black ice) today, making walking awkward at times. The old patches of snow have consolidated into really good, hard snow, requiring an ice axe and crampons to ascend, descend or traverse safely. The fresh snow that has fallen in the last 24 hours is currently soft, and generally no deeper than 5cm-10cm, but where this lies on top of the older snow the overall snow depth is up to 100cm. There is some evidence of windslab forming on leeward slopes, and cornices are further developing on N through to SE facing headwalls. On Striding Edge and Swirral Edge today there is a reasonable amount of fresh snow overlying old snow and ice, and this requires great care. There was not much in the way of rime ice on rocks however. The exits from both ridges are steep banks of old hard snow with windslab on top, and this could potentially pose a problem for anyone not used to making good mountaineering judgements in the winter months, or for anyone not carrying an ice axe and crampons. Visibility was superb today, with distant views of the North Pennines, across the Solway into Scotland, and southwards to Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales. Red Tarn was semi-frozen today, but is clearly not safe to walk upon. Climbers today found good hard snow in some of the gullies, but others were reporting unstable windslab in places, so make sure you assess the snowpack before embarking on your chosen climb. Turf was not frozen today, nor was ice forming on the buttresses, but snowy routes were being climbed through the Red Tarn Cove area. Walkers heading for the heights will need to have full winter clothing and equipment, including proper winter boots, and an ice axe and crampons if they want to make it both up and down the high mountains in safety.
25th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -0.6 -11.0 38.4 26.7 SSW Fresh snow throughout the day has returned the Lake District fells to full winter condition. There is very little snow left below 600m. Above this the remaining snowpack has refrozen and is now covered in 2-3 inches of new snow. Fresh SW winds have been moving this snow and depositing soft windslab on lee slopes (north through east and southerly aspects) and in sheltered hollows. There was also significant amounts of grauphal being moved around the mountain. Exposed turf was starting to freeze but all other areas were unfrozen and there was plenty of water still running beneath the snow pack. Cornices have refrozen and are starting to grow but there is currently no rime build up even on the summit rocks. The Helvellyn summit plateau now consists of areas of sheet ice, new snow and frozen ground. Striding and Swirral Edges were a mixture of snow covered rock, old refrozen snow buried under the new snow and occasional ice with the summit slopes giving banks of steep hard snow on which crampons and ice axes were essential. Full winter clothing and equipment including ice axe, crampons, maps, compasses and torches and the ability to use them are presently required to enjoy any routes on the high Lakeland Fells.
24th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit 0.2 -8.8 56.8 38.1 WSW A night of high winds, rain and warm temperatures has continued to thaw the existing snowpack. Water courses were all in spate and the assessor was unable to cross the Red Tarn outflow this morning. There is very little snow left below 700m and even above this height, there are large areas of ground up to, and including, summit level now devoid of snow. However a significant amount of deep snow remains in sheltered spots and on N to E to S facing slopes. The generally knee deep snowpack is saturated and very soft with water running beneath it. The east face of Helvellyn had some evidence of avalanche activity, possibly from a cornice collapse. The remaining cornices on slopes with a N to E to S aspect were unstable with significant cracking and slumping noted. The Helvellyn summit plateau has now been almost totally stripped of snow apart from a few large areas of ice. Striding and Swirral Edges were a mixture of bare rock, soft snow and occasional ice with the summit slopes consisting of banks of steep snow on which crampons and ice axes were essential. A small drop in temperature will freeze the snow pack giving far more serious conditions. Full winter clothing and equipment including ice axe, crampons, maps, compasses and torches are presently required to enjoy the high Lakeland Fells
23rd Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit 4.2 -4.2 42.4 32.3 SW The substantial thaw continues at all levels – it was just above plus 4 degrees, raining (and thoroughly miserable!) on the summit. The thaw is especially rapid below 700m with little snow remaining below 400m. Even above 700m, there are large areas of ground up to, and including, summit level now devoid of snow. That said, a significant amount of snow remains with the deepest depths to be found in sheltered spots and hollows and on predominantly E facing slopes above 800m where drifts of over 100cm can still be found, although such depth is the exception. The remaining snow is now soft and very wet. There are two exceptions to this: Firstly, where the snow has been compacted on popular routes. Although this is usually obvious there are sometimes isolated patches of ice “hidden” amongst sections of slush. Secondly above 900m there are some isolated patches of neve (hard snow). Cracks have appeared in some of the cornices which are above N to E to S facing slopes. With milder temperatures, these will be even more unstable so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Climbers: with the milder temperatures, the gullies are now full of very wet, thawing, soft snow some with, as mentioned above, unstable cornices above. Despite the milder temperatures in the valleys, the summit windchill remains well below zero so full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are still essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep slopes above the snowline crampons and ice axe must also be carried in case ice is encountered. Striding Edge, for example, was a mixture of bare wet rock, soft snow and ice. The exits to both Swirral and especially Striding Edges are guarded by banks of steep snow which should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering including the ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the predominantly wet and heavy snowpack – as is the case for all such exposed routes. Excellent navigational skills are also essential, especially for anyone venturing into cloud as the snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Goggles are also strongly recommended. For those interested in the summit stats, temp and windchill both being 4.2 (one positive and one negative) is correct - it's not a typo!!
22nd Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit 0.5 -10.3 46.8 39.9 W There is a substantial thaw at virtually all levels – it was around zero degrees on the summit – with little snow remaining below 200m. However, a significant amount of snow remains with the average depth rising with altitude. The deepest drifts, of over 100cm, are to be found above 700m on N to E to S facing slopes. Even at 600m, there are drifts above knee height in sheltered spots and hollows. The vast majority of the snowpack is now soft and very wet. There are two exceptions to this: Firstly, where the snow has been compacted on popular routes with isolated patches of ice sometimes “hidden” amongst sections of slush. Secondly above 900m there was some neve (hard snow) – eg on the final exit to Swirral Edge. There are cornices above N to E to S facing slopes. Owing to limited visibility, it was difficult to assess their stability, but those that could be seen appeared highly unstable so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Climbers: with the milder temperatures, the gullies are now full of very wet, soft snow with, as mentioned above, unstable cornices above. The only place where the assessor found a substantial amount of ice was on the summit plateau which was covered in it making conditions extremely dangerous for anyone without crampons – especially given the strength of the W wind blowing you towards the edge! Despite the milder temperatures in the valleys, full winter clothing, footwear and equipment remain essential for anyone venturing out into the fells. For those visiting the high fells, crampons and ice axe must also be carried in case ice is encountered; this advice is not just for those not attempting steep routes owing to, as mentioned above, the ice on the summit plateau. Anyone attempting, or traversing, steep routes above the snowline also need the ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the predominantly wet and heavy snowpack. Excellent navigational skills are also essential, especially for anyone venturing into cloud as the deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Goggles are also strongly recommended.
21st Jan 2018 Wansfell Pike (482m) -1.4 -12.0 41.3 30.0 SE The following ground conditions report comes with a health warning in that snow was falling when the assessor left the fell and this is forecast to continue until the evening. Temperatures are also forecast to rise with rain falling at lower levels – which is now (2pm) happening in Ambleside. Owing to road conditions, the assessor did not climb a high fell today, but found plenty of winter on Wansfell Pike instead! Fresh snow has fallen at all levels adding to the substantial accumulations on the fells. The snow depth rises with height with the deepest drifts of over 100cm to be found above 700m on N to E to S facing slopes. Even at 450m, there were drifts above knee height in sheltered spots and hollows. The snowpack is very soft and this, combined with the depth, makes walking much more of an effort – route planning should take this into consideration. Conversely, on popular routes the snow has been compacted and this hard snow/ice now lies beneath a layer of fresh snow making for slippery conditions that are difficult to see. Although on Saturday there had been a slight consolidation of the snowpack those slopes loaded with the most snow (facing N to E to S above 700m) remained soft and unstable owing to their layers not having bonded and on Monday they will contain even more snow. Anyone climbing, skiing, traversing or simply walking beneath such slopes should only be there if they have the knowledge to assess their stability otherwise please stay well clear as there have been recent avalanches on such slopes. A thaw/freeze cycle will obviously help their consolidation. There are also cornices above such potentially unstable slopes so please keep well back from their edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise. Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment – including ice axe and crampons – are required for anyone venturing out into the medium to high fells; this includes those not attempting steep routes. For example, crampons were useful on the summit plateau on Saturday which was covered in verglas (thin ice) where the snow had been scoured by the wind. For those out on Monday excellent navigational skills are also essential, especially for anyone venturing into cloud as the deep snow obscures all landmarks creating challenging route finding. Goggles are also strongly recommended. When you can see them (!), the Lakeland fells look absolutely stunning in their winter coats so come properly equipped and make the most of the conditions!
20th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.6 -7.2 7.2 3.9 variable - mainly N The Lakeland fells are currently covered by a substantial amount of snow which begins from around 150m. The snow depth rises with height with the deepest drifts of over 100cm to be found above 700m on N to E to S facing slopes. Although such depth is the exception a very rough average is between 20 and 30cm. The undisturbed snowpack is very soft and this, combined with the depth, makes for tiring walking – extra time and Mars Bars (other calorific snacks are available) should be allowed for this. Conversely, on popular routes the snow has been compacted making for slippery conditions and below 350m, walkers out early on Sunday should expect to encounter ice on paths where any of Saturday’s thawed snow has refrozen overnight. Although there has been a slight consolidation of the snowpack those slopes loaded with the most snow (facing N to E to S) remain soft and unstable owing to their layers not having bonded – eg, graupel (small balls of ice) and hail being found in them. Anyone climbing, skiing, traversing or simply walking beneath such slopes should only be there if they have the knowledge to assess their stability otherwise please stay well clear. A thaw/freeze cycle will obviously help their consolidation. There are also cornices above such potentially unstable slopes and today, although the vast majority of folk were keeping a sensible distance from the edge, there were footprints on, basically, frozen snow over a big drop. Please advise such people to keep their distance – and the reason for it! Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment – including ice axe and crampons – are required for anyone venturing out into the medium to high fells; this includes those not attempting steep routes. For example, crampons were useful on the summit plateau which was covered in verglas (thin ice) where the snow has been scoured by the wind. For those out on Sunday goggles and excellent navigational skills are also essential as the deep snow obscures all landmarks creating difficulty when combined with low cloud. Conversely, conditions today were fantastic with a magnificent cloud inversion to the S and W, so come properly equipped and enjoy our wonderful fells!
19th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.6 -15 36.5 32.3 SW With the majority of the valley snow having thawed, the main snowline is now around 200m. Today the assessor ascended the western side of Helvellyn – ie the windward side. Especially on and near the summit plateau there were areas of ground covered in verglas (thin ice) which had been scoured by the wind. However, in sheltered hollows, even on the windward side, there were drifts up to knee depth. Conversely on lee slopes above 700m there were drifts up to 150cm. Although such depth is the exception a rough average is between 20 and 30cm. The snowpack is very soft and this, combined with the depth, makes walking far more exhausting than normal and this must be considered when planning a route. Owing to lack of visibility, the assessor was unable to check for cornices and the stability of the snowpack on lee slopes. However, on Thursday it was reported that slopes especially those facing N to E to S were highly unstable above 700m with small avalanches being reported. Today further hail and spindrift will have added to existing accumulations making them potentially even more unstable especially when the soft snow/hail sits above hard snow. Anyone climbing, skiing, traversing or simply beneath such slopes should only be there if they have the knowledge to assess their stability otherwise please stay well clear. The showers, together with low cloud, made for extremely challenging navigation with excellent navigational skills being essential. Literally one minute the route was clearly visible and the next visibility was reduced to virtually zero with blinding, stinging hail/spindrift together with the snow obscuring all landmarks. As such the assessor stopped just short of the summit trig point as the edge could not be seen! Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment – including ice axe and crampons – are required for anyone venturing out into the medium to high fells. Owing to the stinging hail/spindrift goggles are also essential as is a good sense of humour!!
18th Jan 2018 Col between Catstycam and Swirral Edge -2.9 -10.4 30.4 15.2 W - NW A huge amount of snow has fallen overnight at all levels. At valley level the depth was around 5-10cm, but at 300m there were small drifts up to 50cm deep, although the general covering was around 15-20cm. Above 700m some of the drifts were up to 150cm in depth, requiring very tiring wading to make any headway on foot. To day the assessor abandoned his attempt on the edges due to the large amounts of unstable snow on most aspects. The exit from Swirral Edge towards the summit plateau was dangerously soft snow overlying the old hard snow, and the assessor deemed it unsafe to continue. He took his readings further down the ridge on the col below Catstycam. A good lesson in knowing when to turn back. Apart from the obvious avalanche risks (which today was on most aspects above 600m) the other main concern today was navigation, as visibility was reduced to less than 10m for long periods of time, and there were also short periods of whiteout conditions. Small avalanches have been reported on various slopes by members of the public during the day, and it is hoped that walkers, climbers and skiers will only head up into the higher fells if they have the experience and judgement to make proper decisions about the stability of the snowpack. Today the assessor found a High avalanche risk on slopes facing N through E to S above 700m, and a Considerable avalanche risk on most other aspects above 600m. There was a noticeable thaw during the afternoon which should help the snow consolidate, so hopefully by the weekend things will have settled down quite a bit. Check the assessor's report tomorrow afternoon for a further update though! Climbers should note that most climbs will be loaded with unstable snow at present. Patience, and picking the right route for the conditions is the key when it comes to winter climbing! Walkers should make sure they have all the right mountain clothing and equipment for the hills at present. A map and compass and good navigation skills are essential, and today snow goggles were an absolute must. An ice axe and crampons should always be carried in the winter hills.
17th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.4 -14.2 47.1 22.6 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.
16th Jan 2018 Great End summit -3.9 -15.9 53.1 37.7 WNW As the assessor was involved in a Mountain Rescue search on the Scafell Pike range today the readings and ground conditions report are from Great End. Snow at all levels made for tricky walking today, with ice on paths above 450m. This was patchy at that level, and varied enormously, from vergals on rocks to thick, old compressed snow-ice. Above 550m the snow covering was more even, and with lots of fresh snowy squalls coming through during the late morning and early afternoon this was drifting on N through E to S aspects. The deepest drifts encountered were above 750m, to a depth of 120cm, but deeper drifts almost certainly do exist at present, and will be topped up further as more snowy showers move through. Windslab is developing on slopes facing N through E to S, and some cross-loading was observed as the wind direction was locally very variable. Graupel also fell in heavy showers during periods, and this could lead to avalanche complications if it fails to consolidate. Visibility also varied from good views of distant peaks to just a few metres in snow showers. This made for challenging navigation at times. Climbers will note that some of the Great End gully lines are starting to fill, although none looked complete from bottom to top today. Central Gully will not take much more time to be climbable, and the Left Branch had good ice developing. Window Gully also has good ice developing, while Cust's Gully isn't quite there yet, with more snow needed, but Branch Gully was good with just a small ice pitch at the bottom. South-East Gully isn't climbable yet, and should be avoided at present so as not to damage the only Cumbrian habitat for Dwarf Cornel. Buttress routes are not frozen yet either, and today were black, showing a lack of rime ice. Anyone heading into the fells will need to be well-equipped with waterproofs and warmth layers, an ice axe and crampons, map and compass, and a torch. Come properly equipped and you'll have a great time in the Lakeland fells.
15th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.1 -12.4 40.6 31.0 WNW Summit temperatures rose last night to around +2C on Helvellyn, and stayed there throughout the morning, bringing a mix of rain and snow showers. This has created small amounts of windslab snow overlying the old, hard neve, on NE through to S facing slopes. This is potentially unstable, but with the winds continuing during the day today the snow was still being moved around in places, and rain will have an effect on the consolidation process too, so as temperatures drop again this evening and throughout the next couple of days it will be an interesting time on our high fells. The 3m cornices that are on NE through to SE facing slopes have developed further cracks, and there is a likelihood that today's thaw could bring cornice collapse on any aspect where the danger is present. The Edges on Helvellyn today were icy throughout, but the rocks are currently black where yesterday's rime ice has thawed. As temperatures drop this will turn to verglas, then back to rime ice. The snow level today was around 600m, but only thinly covered at that height. The summit of Helvellyn is still a sheet of ice, and this will firm up over the next 12 hours or so. All walking routes on Helvellyn are currently in full winter condition, requiring full waterproofs, warmth layers, hats and gloves, and an ice axe and crampons. A map and compass and head torch should also be carried. Visibility was reduced to just 5m at times today, so the ability to navigate accurately in whiteout conditions is essential - this is no place or time to start playing with a gps or mobile phone. For climbers, the gullies were still very doable today above Red Tarn, but the buttress routes were black with little ice on the rocks. Turf remains not quite frozen. Plummeting temperatures will of course help to bring everything back into superb condition, so check back tomorrow!
14th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.5 -13.5 33.8 28.9 SW A cold, windy, yet superb day on Helvellyn today. There is still not a massive build up of snow, but the snow that is there, above 700m, was today in really good condition. Rocks are coated with rime ice, and paths are hard and icy throughout above that height. On the Edges the rocks are covered with rime and verglas in places, and the exits onto the summit plateau are very steep, hard banks of snow. The Swirral Edge exit today had a layer of dry, sugary snow overlying the hard neve beneath. Both edges require careful movement and good crampon technique. An ice axe is also essential for the exits. There is a large cornice on NE through to SE facing slopes. This could potentially be unstable - there were large cracks in the cornice edge two days ago - so please refrain from walking on this bank of bottomless snow. The Helvellyn summit plateau is a sheet of ice, and all walking routes on the mountain currently require an axe and crampons for safe ascents and descents. Climbers will find superb conditions in the gullies at present. Gully 1 today had great bomber neve all the way, except at the narrows where it is more icy at present, possibly making this climb a bit harder than the guidebook grade II. Turf is not fully frozen, but routes that don't rely on turf are very climbable and great fun at present.
13th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.2 -8.4 21.9 13.9 SSE Another good day to be on Helvellyn. There is still snow above 650m, and ice on paths above that height too. The snow at this level is patchy, but above 750m there is a more even covering. The deepest drifts are around 100cm in depth, but generally the depth is between 20cm and 30cm. There are large cornices on NE through to SE facing slopes, and on Helvellyn above the Red Tarn headwall a large crack has appeared where the cornice abuts the mountain, and this has revealed the extent of the cornice, which is around 3m. Swirral and Striding Edges are in full winter condition, with hard, icy snow and rime ice starting to form on rocks. The exits from both ridges are steep banks of snow, and today the Striding Edge exit was very hard snow requiring good crampon technique. Most people seen on the mountain today had the proper winter kit and clothing, but the assessor and his winter skills group were pleased to be able to help one couple who were becoming crag-fast on Swirral Edge, and to escort them down to safety. The freezing level today was around 700m, and the cloud base on Helvellyn was around 750m. Above that height visibility was very poor, to around 20m at times. This made for tricky navigation. The summit plateau is frozen solid at present, and crampons are needed even on the easier routes Climbs relying on frozen turf or pure ice are not currently in condition, but the easier gullies and ridges are superb at present, with teams reporting perfect neve in most of the Red Tarn gullies today. Full winter kit and clothing are required at present for the hills, including an ice axe and crampons.
12th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.1 -8.8 26.7 14.9 SSE A dry but overcast day on the high fells today. The freezing level was at 850m and slowly falling giving good winter conditions above 650m. Snow below that height is reduced to just a few patches, and ice on paths from above 550m. The snow above 650m is generally good neve, with a few softer areas, and is to a maximum depth of 100cm. This is the exception however, with most banks of snow being to an average of around 40cm depth. On Swirral Edge today the snow was hard and icy, especially on the exit from the ridge onto the summit plateau, and through an ice axe and crampons were essential. Fortunately today, people seemed to be very well equipped and enjoying the edges in safety. The assessor didn't go to Striding Edge today, but it seems likely that conditions on there would be very similar to those found on Swirral Edge - good, stable, but hard snow. Climbers today found that buttress routes were stripped of snow and ice, and not in conditions at all, while the gully lines have a good depth of hard neve in them. The turf at 5cm is not yet fully frozen, but the snow in the gullies is at such a depth now that these climbs were very much 'in' and the few climbers out today were having a great time. The assessor spoke to people who had climbed Gully 1, Gully 2, V Corner, and Nethermost Gully, and everyone was reporting excellent conditions. There are cornices above the Red Tarn, Water Crag, and Nethermost Cove, and these show evidence of slumping and cracking. Anyone heading into the hills at present will find full waterproofs, warmth layers, winter mountain boots, an ice axe and crampons, map and compass, and a head torch absolutely essential.
11th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -0.1 -6.6 20.3 17.8 N A dry but very foggy day on the hill tempted upwards by glimpses of blue sky and the unfulfilled promise of a cloud inversion. The freezing level was above the summit today with a slow thaw affecting winter conditions at all levels. Conditions underfoot were similar to yesterday with ice on the paths from valley level where it has been compressed by walkers. The snow level was still around 650m but with a slightly reduced coverage and the crust had thawed. Above 750m the snowpack improved with a mixture of neve and a soft crust. In general the snow pack was softer and wetter today but has continued to consolidate and Striding and Swirral Edge were climbed in crampons on bare rock and neve (refrozen snow) The exits from both ridges onto the Helvellyn plateau were banked out with hard but well stepped snow and the summit plateau is covered in a firm layer of slippery crusty snow. In these conditions crampons and an ice axe are essential to safely enjoy the high Lake District fells along with full winter clothing, map, compass, headtorch and the ability to use them. For climbers the recent warmer temperatures have stripped all the rime from the buttresses and the turf is unfrozen but there is reasonable coverage of well consolidated snow. The cornices above the east face are around three meters with recent evidence of slumping / cracking observed.
10th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit 0.5 -5.0 11.1 9.4 WSW A real mixed day with plenty of sunshine but with cloud banks rolling over the summits at times dramatically reducing the visibility. The snow level was around 650m although paths below this height were still covered in significant amounts of ice making tricky going. In places the snow had developed a crust but in general it is consolidating and firming up. Over the last few days the sun has stripped much of the snow from exposed south facing terrain including the rocky sides of Striding and Swirral Edges. However in the shade, on other aspects and on the crest of the ridges the remaining snow pack has gone through a couple of freeze thaw cycles with the resultant neve requiring crampons for good traction. The exits from both ridges onto the Helvellyn plateau are banked out with hard snow. In these conditions crampons and an ice axe are essential to enjoy the high Lake District fells safely along with full winter clothing, map, compass and headtorch and the ability to use them. The Helvellyn plateau itself is covered in a firm layer of snow and the east face cornices are around three meters with some evidence of slumping / cracking noted Climbers in the gullies reported firm snow with a few softer patches and ice beginning to develop with the repeated temperature variations. The sun has stripped all the rime from the buttresses.
9th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit 2.8 -4.1 27.5 16.7 S As forecast, there was an absolutely stunning cloud and temperature inversion today and this has affected ground conditions. At lower levels, where it was colder and damper, there was more ice on paths and a thick frost on many rocks. Above the cloud (it was plus 3 degrees on the summit) there was a noticeable thaw albeit mainly on south facing aspects catching the sun. There is a skittering of snow around 500m with the main snow level starting about 100m above that. The snow depth rises with height to reach over 100cm above 900m on SE to NE facing aspects. Although such depth is the exception, drifts around 30cm are fairly commonplace. The snowpack remains mostly soft although above 850m there are patches of harder snow and some places where a hard crust has formed over the softer snow. On popular routes the snow has been compacted making conditions treacherous. Exposed routes above the snowline – such as Striding and Swirral Edges – are now in winter condition, especially on and nearing their exits. Therefore they should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering including an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack. There was, for example, evidence of snow having sluffed down the hill on aspects catching the sun. Conditions on Striding Edge were mixed with some bare dry rock, soft snow and hard compacted snow. Conversely, the exit is banked out with steep, hard snow. Upland tarns, such as Red Tarn, have frozen but are (hopefully obviously!) unsafe to walk on. Full winter clothing and equipment including torch, map, compass and the ability to navigate competently in snowy conditions, which obscures landmarks, are presently required to enjoy the Lakeland Fells. For those venturing above the snowline and attempting, or traversing, steep slopes an ice axe and crampons are also essential; indeed several folk had crampons on simply to make walking on the summit plateau far more pleasant as it was covered in hard snow. With the cloud inversion, it was another absolutely stunning day to be out in the high fells today so come properly equipped and enjoy our wonderful fells!
8th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.0 -11.4 19.3 12.8 ENE The best day to be out so far this year! Owing to a lack of precipitation, the ground conditions have remained fairly similar for the past couple of days. The noticeable changes being a consolidation of the snowpack above 850m with more patches of harder snow and more ice on paths right down to valley level as water freezes with the hard overnight frost. Similarly, above the snowline there is more compacted snow and ice on popular paths making conditions treacherous. The snowline begins at 500m with a skittering of snow with the main level starting around 100m above that. The snow depth rises with height to reach over 100cm above 900m on SE to NE facing aspects. Although such depth is the exception, drifts of 30cm are fairly commonplace. Despite the hard overnight frost, below 850m undisturbed snowpack remains mostly soft whilst above 850m there are patches of harder snow and some places where a harder crust has formed over the softer snow. Exposed routes above the snowline – such as Striding and Swirral Edges – are now in winter condition, especially on and nearing their exits. Therefore they should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering including an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack. There was, for example, evidence of snow having sluffed down the hill on aspects catching the sun. Conversely climbers were enjoying those routes predominantly in the shade! Upland tarns, such as Red Tarn, have frozen but are (hopefully obviously!) unsafe to walk on. Full winter clothing and equipment including torch, map, compass and the ability to navigate competently in snowy conditions, which obscures landmarks, are presently required to enjoy the Lakeland Fells. For those venturing above the snowline and attempting, or traversing, steep slopes an ice axe and crampons are also essential; indeed several folk had them on today simply to make walking on the summit plateau far more enjoyable as it was covered in hard snow and rime ice. It was an absolutely stunning day to be out in the fells today with breath-taking views and simply a joy to be alive! Also making the most of conditions on Helvellyn today were old winter skills course clients and a previous fell top assessor – so come properly equipped and join them in this fabulous environment!
7th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.5 -10.1 14.7 9.6 NE The ground conditions were similar to Saturday, albeit with a slight consolidation of the snowpack above 850m. The snow level commences at 500m with just a skittering with the main level starting 50m to 100m above that depending upon aspect. The snow depth rises with height to reach over 100cm above 900m on SE to NE facing aspects. Although such depth is the exception, drifts of 30cm are fairly commonplace. Despite the hard overnight frost, the snowpack remains mostly soft with some exceptions. Firstly where it has been compacted on popular routes, making conditions treacherous, and secondly above 800m and especially above 900m, where there are patches of harder snow and some places where a harder crust has formed over the softer snow. Exposed routes above the snowline – such as Striding and Swirral Edges – are now in winter condition; again the snow was mostly soft apart from where it had been compacted. There was noticeably less snow along Striding Edge today compared with yesterday owing to the passage of hundreds of boots and crampons knocking it off! Such exposed routes should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. This includes an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack. There was, for example, evidence of snow sluffing down the hill on aspects catching the sun. The edges were very busy today and it was good to see the majority of walkers properly equipped; however, once again there were people without crampons and ice axes. Although in its current state it is possible to negotiate the edges without an ice axe it would not be possible to prevent a trip/slide becoming a serious fall without such equipment especially on the exits which are banked out with steep snow, so please do not risk it! Full winter clothing and equipment including torch, map, compass and the ability to navigate competently in snowy conditions, which obscures landmarks, are presently required to enjoy the Lakeland Fells. For those venturing above the snowline and attempting, or traversing, steep slopes an ice axe and crampons are also essential as will be, hopefully, sunglasses again if the current forecast is correct! It was an absolutely stunning day to be out in the fells today and wonderful to see so many walkers/climbers enjoying themselves, so do come properly equipped and also make the most of these wonderful conditions. Climbers. There has been some consolidation in the gullies, albeit still with softer snow lower down. Do carefully assess the stability of routes that are in the sun as there are unstable cornices.
6th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -3.6 -15.2 46.6 29.1 NNE There is a skittering of snow/hail from 550m with the main snow level starting 50m to 100m above that depending upon aspect. However, as the assessor left the hill light hail was settling down to 300m. Snow depth rises with altitude to reach over 100cm above 900m on SE to NE facing aspects. Although such depth is the exception, drifts of 30cm are fairly commonplace. The snowpack is mostly soft with some exceptions. Firstly where it has been compacted on popular routes and secondly above 800m where there are isolated patches of harder snow and some places where a harder crust has formed over the softer snow. Exposed routes above the snowline – such as Striding and Swirral Edges – are now in winter condition (albeit currently with mostly soft snow apart from where it has been compacted) and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. This includes an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack. Although the majority of folk enjoying the edges today were properly equipped, there were people without crampons and ice axes. Although in its current state it is possible to negotiate the edges without an ice axe it would not be possible to prevent a trip/slide becoming a serious fall without such equipment especially on the exits which are banked out with steep snow, so please do not risk it! When the cloud lowered, this combined with the depth of the snow obscuring landmarks, made for challenging navigation – especially on the summit plateau where it was not easy to see the edge. Full winter clothing and equipment including map, compass and torch are presently required to enjoy the Lakeland Fells. For those venturing above the snowline and attempting, or traversing, steep slopes an ice axe and crampons are also essential as will be, hopefully, sunglasses on Sunday if the current forecast is correct! Certainly, the fells today looked magnificent in their winter raiment, so come properly equipped and enjoy them! Climbers. Once again, several people were exploring the gullies with many turning back as the snow is currently far too soft for enjoyable climbing and there is also a danger of damage being done to rare alpine flora should they be attempted – please see the BMC website for further details and pretty pictures!
5th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.4 -8.7 16.3 12.2 SSW Snow fell overnight on Thursday, adding to existing accumulations. From 550m there is a skittering of snow with the main snow level commencing 50m to 100m above that. Below 750m the snow was slowly thawing; however as temperatures are forecast to lower, walkers out on Saturday should expect to encounter ice on paths as this thawed snow could refreeze. Conversely, today the snowpack was mainly soft and wet with just the occasional crust of harder snow/ice – mainly above 800m. The snow depth rises with height to reach over 100cm above 900m on SE to NE facing aspects. Although such depth is the exception, drifts of 30cm are common place. Exposed routes above the snowline – such as Striding and Swirral Edges – are now in winter condition (albeit currently with soft snow) and should only be attempted by those experienced in, and equipped for, winter mountaineering. This includes an ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack. There were small cornices today on the exit to Striding Edge above a bank of steep, soft snow. This snow could harden overnight making the top of Striding Edge not a place to be without crampons and an ice axe. The depth of the snow obscuring landmarks combined with low cloud made for challenging navigation – especially on the summit plateau where it was not easy to see the edge. Full winter clothing and equipment including map, compass and torch are presently required to enjoy the Lakeland Fells. For those venturing above the snowline and attempting, or traversing, steep slopes an ice axe and crampons are essential in case the snow, as forecast, hardens overnight. Climbers. Several people were exploring the gullies with the majority turning back as the snow is currently far too soft for enjoyable climbing and there is also a danger of damage being done to rare alpine flora should they be attempted.
4th Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -1.9 -9.2 25.2 19.4 WNW A wet but calmer day on the fells today. Rain fell from valley level upwards for much of the day, but above 600m this was falling as sleet, and above 750m as wet snow. With a freezing level at around 900m for most of the morning, Striding Edge and Swirral Edge both had fresh snow, but where rocks were still exposed they were wet and slippery, but with no sign of rime ice or verglas. However, as the forecast is for temperatures to fall from this evening through until the weeked, we can expect the wet snow to further consolidate, and for exposed rocks to become ice covered. Snow remains on the exits from Striding and Swirral Edges onto the summit plateau, and today there was a noticeable layering effect where the old snow has become very stable and consolidated, and the new, fresh snow is laying on top. There is some instability here, and on other headwalls facing NE through to SE, but generally the snow is bonding well. The snow depth on these leeward flanks was at a maximum of 100cm, but this was the exception. In most places the snow is at an average depth of 20cm - 30cm, but there are also large areas above 700m where the ground is free of snow at present. With a cloud base generally at around 550m, but lowering in heavy rain, visibility was poor for much of the day. Above 550m it was often reduced to no more than 10m, making it difficult for the assessor to report on the overall general coverage of snow. No winter climbs were in worthwhile condition today, and anyone attempting any route that relies on frozen turf would have been a) very disappointed, and b) causing damage to a rare wildlife habitat. It is worth noting that the BMC have installed additional temperature sensors on Helvellyn at a height of 830m, so that we can see if turf if frozen. Please use this great resource when planning your winter climbing adventures. The website link is: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/great-end-winter-conditions Anyone heading for the heights at present will need a good sense of humour in addition to excellent waterproofs and warmth layers, including spare hats and gloves. A map and compass are essential, and for anyone heading above 600m height an ice axe and crampons should also be carried, especially as those colder temperatures arrive from tomorrow.
3rd Jan 2018 Brown Cove at 700m 2.6 -3.3 47.7 21.0 SW-W Today was a lesson in knowing when to turn back for our winter skills clients. In Brown Cove the wind was gusting to such a degree that even at the relatively low height of 500m we were struggling to stand. By 700m walking was impossible. The assessor took weather readings at 700m, but there were definite moments when the windspeed exceeded that recorded - with gusts probably in the region of 60-70mph. The snow that fell on the high fells yesterday has all but thawed in last night's mild but stormy weather. The hillsides are now stripped of snow below 750m, with the only areas with any amount of covering being on north through to southeast facing headwalls above that height. Paths were snow covered above 650m, but only where the snow has become compressed by walkers feet. Today the cloud base was between 700m and 850m, giving generally good visibility below that height. For the most part the day was dry, with just a few showers of hail and sleet. Walkers heading for the heights will need full winter clothing and boots. An ice axe and crampons should be carried, along with a map and compass, and a torch. Let's hope tomorrow brings a better day so that a full report from the summits can be published here.
2nd Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -2.3 -11.8 48.0 20.7 NW A stormy morning bringing fresh snow above 650m, and a freezing level at around the same height, followed by a marked rise in temperature during the early afternoon. The snow is being deposited largely on N through to SE facing slopes, and at the exits to both Swirral and Striding Edges, and the head of Brown Cove today there are drifts up to 120cm in depth. Elsewhere above 650m the snow depth varies according to the aspect of slope, but is generally around 20cm - 30cm except for on exposed west facing slopes where much of the Helvellyn plateau is devoid of snow, but the ground is frozen hard. The rise in temperature followed by further freezing will help to consolidate the snowpack, but at present there is some noticeable layering within the pack, and on N through to E facing slopes above 800m this was found to show a moderate avalanche hazard this morning. The cloud base today was as low as 300m in falling rain and sleet, lifting to around 650m in lulls from precipitation. Climbs on Brown Cove Crags and the Red Tarn face are starting to look in better condition than they have recently, although the only frozen turf is that were it is exposed. Turf buried beneath snow was not quite there yet. Gullies full of snow or ice were climbable today, but routes that rely on frozen turf should be avoided so as not to damage this rare flora habitat. Anyone heading onto the fells should be equipped with full winter clothing and boots, ice axe and crampons, torch, map and compass, and plenty of food. Come prepared and you'll have an exciting time as winter takes a proper hold of our mountains.
1st Jan 2018 Helvellyn summit -0.1 -7.9 21.2 13.8 W Today the assessor took a winter skills group up Swirral Edge in great conditions. The paths were snowy and icy above 650m. On Swirral Edge there is currently a good amount of snow, with rime and verglas on rocks, making crampons a very sensible option. The exit from Swirral onto the Helvellyn plateau is currently a steep bank of windslab snow, which felt reasonably stable today. It was alarming to watch people sliding down this steep bank on their bums, with a very long drop over craggy ground beneath them. This has been the scene of a number of accidents in the past, with people doing exactly this, and an unchecked slide can become a 300m (1000ft) plummet down the mountain. Not a good way to start the New Year. An ice axe here will help stop a slide, and crampons give perfect traction to avoid a slide in the first place. Why would you risk doing Striding Edge or Swirral Edge in winter without them? On East facing headwalls and in other sheltered places the snow depth is around 100cm. The freezing level today was at around 900m, with ground frozen above that height. Crampons on the summit plateau were a great help. With the cloud base ranging between 800m and 1000m visibility was poor at times as the cloud base dropped. No climbs are in condition at present, although snow was falling during the afternoon above 600m, so gullies could start to fill with snow now. Cornices and unstable windslab on NE to SE facing slopes will become further loaded, giving considerable avalanche dangers over the coming days. Anyone heading onto the fells should have all the usual winter clothing, boots, ice axe and crampons, and a map and compass. Knowledge of how to use this is important, so why not book on one of our winter skills courses today. Stay safe! The Fell Top Assessor, Graham, Jon and Zac would like to wish a Happy New Year to all our followers and users of the Lake District Weatherline website and service.
31st Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 0.9 -13.6 81.7 46.2 WSW A day of gale to storm force winds, and thawing conditions. The snowline has receded overnight, to a height this morning of around 700m. Even above this height it was quite patchy in places, although there are still some sizeable snow drifts on the plateau, and especially on N-SE facing slopes. Headwalls are getting very banked out, and cornices are present on these aspects. Windslab is noticeable on these aspects too, with around 5cm of windslab covering some wet snow in places to a depth of 70cm, but in other areas the snow below the windslab was dry graupel, resembling polystyrene balls. Although the snowpack is diminishing, this instability should be noted by anyone heading into the hills. Snow and ice on paths was wet and slushy by and large today, but was firmer in places, although for the most part this could be avoided. With a cloud base ranging between 800m and just above the summits today, views were good at times. The main weather feature today was indeed the storm force winds, which on occasion threw the assessor off his feet and reduced him to crawling for short periods of time. The wind speed did abate slightly during the descent, but walking was still difficult. No winter climbs are in condition at the moment - please wait until the temperatures drop when any remaining snow will become firm and climbable. Today an ice axe and crampons were not used, although of course the assessor had them with him anyway. Should the temperatures drop slightly, the paths will become very icy and the summit plateau will freeze, making these tools of the winter walker absolutely essential. You'll obviously need full waterproofs and warmth layers, as well as the usual map and compass and torch for walking in the hills at this time of year.
30th Dec 2017 Catstycam 1.2 -8.0 58.0 25.6 NW A return to thaw conditions on the fells today. This morning the snow level was at 300m, but by the end of the day this had risen to around 400m. There is currently snow and ice on paths above 400m, and this is slippery in places requiring care, and perhaps crampons. Above 650m the snow on paths is quite firm, caused mainly due to compression rather than consolidation. This snow is deep in places, up to 70cm on NE to S facing slopes, although generally the snow depth is around 10cm. Exits from Striding Edge and Swirral Edge are snow bound, and this is very steep ground requiring the use of an ice axe for safely gaining or descending from the summit on these ridges. Today there were far too many people sliding down the Swirral Edge exit on their bums, completely out of control. Below this bank of snow is a 300m (1000ft) drop over craggy, snowy ground. An ice axe will stop a little slip becoming a full scale slide down the mountain if used properly. There are currently cornices on N through to SE facing slopes. These are currently small, but still pose a danger to the unwary. Today no climbs were really in condition. The turf is not frozen, and the ice that does exist was thawing. Please avoid climbing in areas were rare flora can be damaged if the turf isn't frozen, such as the headwall cliffs of the Red Tarn Cove, Brown Cove Crags, Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike, and Great End. For further details of areas to avoid in unfrozen conditions refer to the excellent 'White Guide' published by the BMC. Walkers heading for the heights will need all the usual waterproof and warmth layers, as well as an ice axe and crampons, headtorch, and food for the day. A map and compass should be seen as absolutely essential, rather than nice to have.
29th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -4.2 -11.9 33.5 18.4 SE then SW Snow fell at all levels throughout the night and into Friday morning, causing havoc for motorists trying to get to the hills. Once there, you'll have found deep snow in drifts on leeward slopes and in sheltered places. The assessor found that these drifts were chiefly on NW through to NE facing slopes (as the wind through the night was largely SE to S), but there was a good covering on most aspects as the winds generally were quite light. Above 500m the snow and slush on paths had become icy, and at 550m the Assessor today put on crampons whilst heading for Striding Edge. Higher on the hill - above 750m on Striding Edge, the snow had gathered in drifts up to 70cm deep, so the crampons came off again. The top of both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge today were banks of deep, soft, unconsolidated snow which felt quite unstable. An ice axe here certainly made for a safer ascent or descent, and as the day wore on and temperatures rose there was some melting which will aid snow consolidation the next time it freezes. Cornices were forming on slopes facing NW through to NE, and the Helvellyn summit plateau today was partially snow-covered, and partially scoured by the wind. Where the ground was exposed it was frozen, and this patchy ice covering made deciding whether or not to wear crampons a problem. Today with deep snow and rising temperatures it seemed unlikely that any winter climbs would have been in condition. Certainly turf is not frozen at present. With unstable snow on exits from many climbs, you would need the ability to assess for avalanche hazards before attempting any climb. All winter climbers should first think about the weather and snow conditions, and if turf is frozen, and then pick a suitable route for those conditions. Anyone heading for the hills, whether walking or climbing, should have full waterproofs and warmth layers, including spare hats and gloves. Winter boots and properly adjusted crampons are essential, as is an ice axe and the knowledge of how to use these. A map and compass and good navigation skills are essential - today with a cloud base at around 650m, visibility above that height was often reduced to just 20m or so. You'll also need a head torch, and plenty of food and a hot drink. Come properly prepared, and you'll enjoy your time exploring the high fells.
28th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -3.5 -13 22 14.6 WSW At the time of writing, more snow is forecast overnight, so walkers out on Friday should expect, and be prepared to encounter, more snow than experienced and described today. Also bear in mind that some fresh snow could fall on patches of ice on paths. The snow starts around 350m with just a skittering at this level. The snow depth rises with height, although, as ever, the actual depth varies considerably from only 1-2cm on windswept areas to drifts over 70cm on S and E facing slopes at 900m, although such depth is the exception. The snow pack is generally very soft. Exceptions are where it has been compacted on popular routes and in places where a light crust has formed. Raised footprints on windswept areas and some windslab on lee slopes (predominantly S and E facing) illustrated that the fresh snow has been re-deposited. Especially below 400m, there was ice on paths where it had frozen overnight. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, require care, a knowledge of winter mountaineering and an ice axe to negotiate safely. Although the snowpack is currently soft, it could harden – so crampons should also be carried – indeed several people had them on today. Conversely, many people were on the edges without an ice axe; although it was possible without such equipment, an ice axe will help prevent a slip becoming a fall or worse. Full winter clothing and equipment including map, compass and torches are presently required to enjoy the high Lakeland Fells. The conditions today were absolutely glorious, so come properly equipped and make the most of our magnificent fells – as many folk did today! Sunglasses were required today, although goggles will probably be more useful tomorrow! Climbers. The snow in still far too soft for climbing and damage will be done to rare alpine flora should the gullies be attempted.
28th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -3.5 -13 22 14.6 WNW At the time of writing, more snow is forecast early on Friday morning, so walkers out on Friday should expect, and be prepared to encounter, more snow than experienced and described today. Also bear in mind that some fresh snow could fall on existing patches of ice on paths. The snow starts around 350m with just a skittering at this level. The snow depth rises with height, although, as ever, the actual depth varies considerably from only 1-2cm on windswept areas to drifts over 70cm on S and E facing slopes at 900m, although such depth is the exception. The snow pack is generally very soft. Exceptions are where it has been compacted on popular routes and in places where a light crust has formed. Raised footprints on windswept areas and some windslab on lee slopes (predominantly S and E facing) illustrated that the fresh snow has been re-deposited. Especially below 400m, there was ice on paths where it had frozen overnight. Exposed routes above the snowline, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, require care, a knowledge of winter mountaineering and an ice axe to negotiate safely. Although the snowpack is currently soft, it could harden – so crampons should also be carried – indeed several people had them on today. Conversely, many people were on the edges without an ice axe; although it was possible without such equipment, an ice axe will help prevent a slip becoming a fall or worse. Full winter clothing and equipment including map, compass and torches are presently required to enjoy the high Lakeland Fells. The conditions today were absolutely glorious, so come properly equipped and make the most of our magnificent fells – as many folk did today! Sunglasses were required today, although goggles will probably be more useful tomorrow! Climbers. The snow in still far too soft for climbing and damage will be done to rare alpine flora should the gullies be attempted. This report was resubmitted to correct the summit wind direction
27th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -5.6 -12.7 23.9 14.8 N Blue skies and sunshine gave a spectacular day in the mountains and there were plenty of well equipped folk out and about enjoying the conditions. Approaching Helvellyn from the Thirlmere side gave a mixture of scoured terrain, deep snow, rime and sastrugi with the snow level down to 350m. Generally the snow on lee slopes was ankle deep with drifts up to knee deep. In places there was a crust but overall the snow pack was still soft giving good foot penetration. The fresh northerly wind continued to distribute the new snow around the mountains with the Edges and the Red Tarn corrie particularly scoured and the cornices being eroded. The remaining snowpack is starting to consolidate and there are pockets of soft windslab on lee slopes and in sheltered hollows. Crampons and ice axes were useful on steeper terrain, including Swirral and Striding Edges and will become essential as conditions develop over the next few days. Both ridges saw plenty of traffic today and the snow banks on the exits were well stepped and passable with care. Full winter clothing and equipment including map, compass and torches are presently required to enjoy the high Lakeland Fells Climbing conditions The northerly wind has removed a lot of the insulating snow from the Helvellyn climbing areas and the exposed turf is starting to freeze. However the reduced snow cover meant that none of the gully lines were complete. Rime is forming on rocks above 700m.
26th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -2.7 -10.8 19.6 16.2 NW Well we got our white Christmas - just. Snow fell overnight and we woke to a good covering on the fells down to 350m. Heavy snow was continuing to fall as I left the carpark in poor visibility but there were a few glimmers of blue sky overhead as I gained height. Conditions improved rapidly this afternoon with sunshine and good visibility between the clouds Above 350m there was a good covering of ankle deep soft snow which increased slowly with height. Swirral Edge had collected more snow than Striding Edge with drifting up to calf deep and there were a few easily avoidable areas of soft slab developing. There was very little evidence of the old snow and ice having survived the thaw of the past few days apart from small areas on the exits to both ridges, now well buried. The ridges themselves were in good condition with helpful soft snow making for a pleasant traverse The Helvellyn plateau was wind scoured with rime building on the summit rocks and above 800m. North westerly winds were light but there has been some movement of snow and the cornices over the east face were starting to build again. Crampons and ice axe weren't used today however a small drop in temperature will transform the new snow into a far more serious proposition requiring full winter equipment and skills. As reported yesterday the ground was saturated and the new snow is now falling on an unfrozen surface. This means that gully climbs and those that rely on turf placements are not in condition and shouldn't be attempted due to the risk of damage to rare alpine plants.
25th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 4.0 -5.2 54.4 38.6 SSW The following report comes with a Ground Conditions Health Warning! At the time of writing, the present rain is forecast to turn to snow this evening above 600m (and possibly lower overnight), so walkers out on Boxing Day should expect and be prepared for more wintery conditions to those experienced, and described, on Christmas Day – as well as, hopefully, far more pleasant! There are usually walkers out on Christmas Day; conversely today the assessor only met two people from leaving Glenridding to returning to the village! Not that surprising as it was a windy, wet and wild day to be out in the fells. The rain and mild (plus 4 degrees on the summit) temperatures have thawed much of the remaining snow, resulting in the majority of the Lakeland Fells up to and including summit level now being free from snow. The snow that remains is wet and mostly above 900m in sheltered spots and hollows and on E to S facing slopes; there are only isolated, easily avoidable patches below 900m. The ground is very wet with the persistent rain making small, unbridged streams challenging to cross. Owing to slippery, wet rock special care is required on exposed routes, such as Striding and Swirral Edges; however, the exits to both edges are now virtually snow free. Despite the milder temperatures, the summit windchill remains below freezing, so full winter clothing and footwear (including extra layers and waterproofs that can double as windproofs) are essential for anyone venturing out onto the high fells as are the usual torch, map & compass and the ability to use them – especially in cloud / fog. May the fell top assessing team of Graham, Zac and Jon wish all our followers a very Happy Christmas and a safe trip out for those of you spending Boxing Day on our wonderful fells!
24th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 4.7 -3.1 38 25.1 WSW The thaw continues apace - it was above freezing and raining on the summit. The majority of the Lakeland Fells up to and including summit level are now free from snow. The remaining snow lies above 650m in sheltered spots and hollows and especially above 900m on E to S facing slopes where drifts deep enough to swallow a 55cm ice axe still remain; however such depth is the exception. Although the remaining snow was soft, wet and thawing, there were isolated patches of ice above 900m where the snow had thawed and frozen overnight – again this was the exception, it was mostly slush. Low cloud and wet weather created challenging navigation and also slippery rock underfoot. Care is therefore required on exposed routes, such as Striding and Swirral Edges. The exit to Swirral Edge is now almost snow free but there remains a small bank of steep, wet snow on Striding’s exit which requires caution in crossing. An ice axe would be useful here should the snow harden – albeit unlikely given the temperature and rain on the summit today. Despite the milder temperatures, the summit windchill remains below freezing, so full winter clothing and footwear (including extra layers and waterproofs that can double as windproofs) are essential for anyone venturing out onto the high fells as are the usual torch, map & compass and the ability to use them – especially in cloud / fog. May the fell top assessing team of Graham, Zac and Jon wish all our followers a very Happy Christmas and a safe trip out for those of you spending Christmas Day on our wonderful fells!
23rd Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 3.9 -3.7 33.3 23 SW The thaw continues - once again it was above freezing on the summit. Below 650m, there is no snow and even above 650m large areas of the Lakeland Fells up to and including summit level are now free from snow. The remaining snow lies in sheltered spots and hollows and especially above 850m on E to S facing slopes where drifts deep enough to swallow a 55cm ice axe remain, although such depth is the exception. Although the remaining snow was soft and wet, there were patches of ice above 900m where the snow had thawed and frozen overnight – again this was the exception, it was mostly slush. Low cloud created challenging navigation and also wet, slippery rock underfoot. Care is therefore required on exposed routes, such as Striding and Swirral Edges. The exits to both edges, but especially Striding’s, are guarded by banks of steep, wet snow. An ice axe is useful here, and for similar locations, and would be strongly recommended/essential if the, albeit short section, of snow refreezes. Although this is not currently forecast, it would only take a slight drop in temperature for this to happen, so it is best to be prepared. Despite the milder temperatures, the summit windchill remains below freezing, so full winter clothing and footwear (including extra layers and waterproofs that can double as windproofs) are essential for anyone venturing out onto the high fells as are the usual torch, map & compass and the ability to use them – especially in cloud / fog. Once again , the fells were delightfully quiet today, so come properly equipped and enjoy them!
22nd Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 5 -1.1 23.3 18.6 W The thaw continues - it was plus 5 degrees on the summit at midday. Large areas of the Lakeland Fells up to and including summit level are now free from snow. That said, significant patches of snow remain above 650m in sheltered spots and hollows and especially above 850m on E to S facing slopes where drifts deep enough to swallow a 55cm ice axe remain, although such depth is the exception. Underfoot conditions were varied. Above the cloud and in the sun, there was some dry rock along Striding Edge, whereas Swirral consisted of wet, slippery rock with very isolated patches of ice where snow had been compacted. Both exits, especially Striding’s, are blocked by banks of steep, wet snow. An ice axe is useful here, and for similar locations, and would be strongly recommended/essential if the, albeit short section, of snow refroze. Although this is not currently forecast, neither was the summit forecast to be clear of cloud today (which it was!) Despite the milder temperatures this week, the summit windchill remains below freezing, so full winter clothing and footwear (including extra layers and waterproofs that can double as windproofs) are essential for anyone venturing out onto the high fells as are the usual torch, map & compass and the ability to use them. With the cloud height fluctuating widely today, visibility varied from miles to meters! Walkers’ navigation skills should be up to these challenges enabling you to climb up through the valley fog and, like the assessor today, spend much of the day in the sun! It was glorious, so come properly equipped and enjoy!
21st Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 4.7 0.2 10.2 8.9 WNW As the thaw continues on the high fells, the remaining snow is dwindling further. Most of the snow that remains on Helvellyn is now on east to south-facing slopes, and only in long strips down the fells above 650m. This snow is up to 70cm in depth in places, and today was largely wet, soft, but stable. Snow still blocks the exits from Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, but only on the last 10m or so. An ice axe here will be found useful. The summit plateau is largely devoid of snow. The cloud base today was around 650m, and visibility above that height was reduced to around 30m at times. So all-in-all, today was almost a repeat of yesterday's conditions on the fells. Mild, foggy, and with a wet snowpack. Anyone heading onto the fells will find a full set of waterproofs, warmth layers, and a map and compass essential. An ice axe is useful for crossing, descending or climbing steep snow banks, but today crampons were not needed. Don't forget that head torch too - even the assessor, running a winter skills course, got down in the dark today!
20th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 5.4 0.5 18.7 15.3 NW The thaw continues, leaving very little snow on the fells now. Today, given low cloud and reduced visibility yet again, the assessor was only able to determine the extent of the snow within his immediate environs, but it is likely that this will be a fair assessment for the whole district. There is now very little snow below 650m, and even above that height it is patchy. The bulk of the snow on Helvellyn lies on east through to south-facing slopes - this is the snow that was laid down during those westerly, then northerly winds that we had a few days ago. On these aspects the snow lies in wet drifts up to 70cm in depth. On Striding Edge and Swirral Edge the rocks are now largely free of snow, but exits onto the summit plateau are currently banks of steep, semi-frozen snow requiring care to cross safely. An ice axe here was found useful. With a cloud base today at 550m, visibility was reduced to around 30m at times, making navigation tricky. A map and compass are essential for safe travel in the hills at present. Although the temperatures are hovering just above zero today, warmth layers under good waterproofs were essential. A headtorch is also essential - don't forget it gets dark early at this time of year! Today an ice axe was only needed for crossing occasional banks of snow, but crampons were not used. However, should temperatures drop very slightly the remaining snow will become bullet-hard, and crampons will then be essential too.
19th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 3.7 -3.7 29.4 13.1 SW A grey day to be on the high fells. With a cloud base lowering throughout the morning to around 400m at times during the afternoon, visibility above that height was restricted to less than 50m for long periods. The day was largely dry, but occasional drizzle and a good wetting from being inside a cloud all day made for a damp walk. The snowpack is reducing in size, but where snow still lies, largely above 550m now, there are still some sizeable areas of ground covered with patches up to 70cm deep. Paths still have ice on them, despite the thawing conditions, and above 650m this varied from slushy, wet ice to harder areas that required crampons. Striding and Swirral Edges still both have snow in places, and the exits from both ridges are steep banks of snow which is well bonded and hard, with just a soft, wet surface. This requires care to negotiate, and an ice axe will make you feel safer and in full control of your destiny here! Apart from the very variable snow and ice conditions on the high fells, another challenge today was navigation. A map and compass and solid navigation skills are needed if you want to have an enjoyable and safe walk. This is not the time to rely on electronic devices that: a) can't think; b) can't see what the snow and ice conditions are like underfoot; and c) rely on batteries that don't like cold weather. Other equipment that will help you have an enjoyable, safe mountain walk at this time of year includes full waterproofs, winter mountain boots, lots of warmth layers, woolly hats and waterproof gloves, a nice packed lunch with a hot drink, and a headtorch. Come with the correct clothing and equipment, and you'll have a great time on the high fells.
18th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit cairn 1.1 -7.0 29.2 15.9 WSW A superb day on the high fells. Yesterday's partial thaw coupled with a sharp drop in temperature overnight has helped to consolidate the remaining snowpack, giving good conditions for walking. The paths were icy above 400m, where old snow and ice has become more compacted, and on all paths above this height crampons were essential. On steeper ground, such as on the exits from Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, an ice axe was also needed to aid safety. The rocks at all levels are now almost bare of ice, and there was no rime ice or hoar frost visible at any level. However, there was some snow and ice in gullies above Red Tarn, and here it was good, solid stuff, giving pleasant climbing conditions. Climbs relying on frozen turf are not currently in condition. Red Tarn is partially frozen, but is clearly not safe to walk on, and the same can be said for all upland tarns. There are cornices on headwalls facing north through to south-east, and while these currently are not very large, care is required when approaching them from either above or below. Today visibility was generally very good, with the cloud-base hovering around the highest summits, but the forecast for the next couple of days is for hillfog so you'll need to be able to navigate accurately to stay away from cornices. Full winter clothing and equipment is needed for walking in the fells at the moment. In addition to the usual waterproofs and warmth layers, you will also need an ice axe and crampons, as well as a map and compass, and a headtorch for safe walking.
17th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 3.7 -3.5 36.5 26.0 NW A wet day on the high fells as a turbo-thaw came in during the night. Today there was still a lot of snow and ice on the fells, even as patches as low as 300m. The thawing snow made for difficult walking conditions, as every step was different, from wading through deep, soggy drifts to balancing carefully on still-frozen patches. This made for hard walking, and this coupled with reduced visibility gave a challenging day for anyone venturing onto the fells. The snow at its deepest was up to 80cm today, but further thawing overnight may reduce this. There are cornices on aspects from north through to south-east, and some of these have slumped and are ready to fall. Stay well back from these bottomless waves of snow. Where snow and ice has fallen from crags there have been a number of small sluffs, and any continuing thaw will result in cornice collapse which could be enough to trigger small to medium-sized avalanches. Anyone heading into the fells at the moment should have a full set of good waterproofs if they want to remain cheerful. Warmth layers, including spare woolly hats and waterproof gloves are essential, as is a map and compass, and a headtorch. Should the temperatures drop at all overnight the paths tomorrow will quickly turn extremely icy, and the snow will also harden up, so an ice axe and crampons may well be needed tomorrow.
16th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -1.9 -8.2 16.4 11.0 N A slight thaw yesterday coupled with a drop in temperature overnight has helped the snowpack to consolidate somewhat on the Lake District fells. The snowline today was at around 350m, and with ice on paths from that height upwards, care was needed by all. Today the assessor wore crampons from about 450m on the way up to Red Tarn, right down to just above Greenside at the end of his walk, and today considered them essential for safe walking in the mountains. The snow has continued to drift onto south-facing slopes, and is currently at a maximum depth of 70cm, although this is the exception, with most drifts being between 30cm - 50cm. Today there was very little wind, so the snow was not moving about as much as yesterday. Visibility was still very poor above the cloud base (about 650m), being reduced in places to just 10m, however, as there wasn't much wind, the spindrift that made things so difficult yesterday wasn't present today, so at least the snow goggles could stay in the rucksack. On Striding and Swirral Edges the path is consolidated by hundreds of passing feet, and rocks above 750m were covered in rime ice. The exits from both ridges onto the summit plateau were very steep banks of snow, which is a little more stable than it was yesterday. An ice axe and crampons are essential here, as a slip in either location will result into a long, dangerous slide of up to 1000ft over rocks. Descending either ridge on your bum is a sure way to quickly get out of control - if you haven't got the correct equipment (ice axe and crampons) and skills to use them, a much safer descent towards Glenridding is to head north over Lower Man and Whiteside, then walk down the Keppel Cove zigzags. Many of the climbs above Red Tarn and on Brown Cove Crags came into climbable condition for the first time this winter today. Due to poor visibility, the assessor couldn't see which lines where being climbed, but could hear lots of teams enjoying the good ice and snow. Please note that the forecast for tomorrow is for a thaw and rain at all levels, so these climbs may well become unpleasant to climb tomorrow. There is of course, a good chance that you'll damage this rare habitat if you climb there in less than perfect conditions, so have a look by all means, but please back off if the climbs aren't in tomorrow. Full winter clothing and equipment are essential for safe walking in the hills at present. Today it was great to see so many people taking and following compass bearings to find the correct ways off the summit plateau. The message about map and compass, and navigation skills, being essential seems to be getting across. Come well equipped and you'll have a fun, hassle-free trip into the high fells.
15th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -2.8 -12.9 43.6 23.4 N A challenging morning to be on Helvellyn, though improving somewhat during the afternoon. The snow level is around 350m, although it is a light covering at that height, but does get deeper above 500m. As the wind direction has swung from the south-westerlies of the last few days to a northerly today, there is a lot of snow movement, with windslab now building on south-facing slopes, and crossloading anywhere where the snow is increasing in depth. On a south-facing slope (overlook Red Tarn on the flanks of Swirral Edge) at 800m today the snowpack was made up of semi-frozen turf covered by 25-30cm of soft, dry snow. On top of this was a harder 10cm layer of icy, granular snow, with a further 20cm of hard-packed windslab on top of that, giving a total snow depth of around 60cm. This windslab has a hard crust, strong enough to support bodyweight in places, but largely collapsing with each step. These layers are not bonded well together, and currently present a considerable avalanche hazard on this aspect. On east-facing slopes there is some windslab, but much of this has been shifted by the wind. However, there is still some instablity on these faces. Small cornices are present on NE through to S facing slopes. On other aspects, and anywhere that is, or recently has been, exposed to the wind, the ground is scoured in places, and the snow depth is minimal. Striding Edge and Swirral Edge were in good condition today, but the exits from both ridges consist of steep banks of unstable snow. At the exits to both there are also cornices close-by, so extreme care was needed today to navigate accurately if trying to descend either of these ridges. Visibility during the morning was zero above 850m, and with stinging spindrift being hurled across the summit plateau, goggles were essential in these whiteout conditions. All of this gave difficult navigation challenges, and the accurate use of a map and compass was essential - this is not a good place to try navigating with an electronic device. Fortunately, many people were turning back from Red Tarn today - a good mountaineering decision given the circumstances. Climbing conditions are improving, with some of the gullies now starting to build with snow and ice, but they are still very thin. Turf above 750m was frozen at 5cm depth in places, but was soggy in others, so careful route choice, and the sense to not want to damage a rare alpine floral habitat were called for. Upland tarns, including Red Tarn, and partially frozen, but obviously not safe to walk upon. It goes without saying that full winter clothing and equipment are essential in the conditions described above. On days like these no walk above the snowline can be described as fellwalking - in full winter conditions this is winter mountaineering, even if you choose to take one of the regular summer walking routes. Come properly equipped and you'll not only have a great time, but you'll stand a good chance of not becoming a mountain rescue statistic. Have fun, but take care out there folks!
14th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -1.3 -11.8 39.8 33.8 SW A full repertoire of winter skills required to summit safely today. Continuous precipitation throughout the day was falling as snow above 400m. This combined with the strong SW winds gave white out conditions on the higher fells. The majority of the low lying ice on the paths from the past few days has now thawed or is buried under the new snow. Upland tarns, such as Red Tarn, were partially frozen. Above 500m conditions on the paths were very varied with wind scoured areas of refrozen snow alternating with drifts of soft snow up to knee deep giving heavy going. The strong south westerlies were continuing to move the new snow rapidly onto north through east facing slopes where cornices were building. Considerable amounts of soft slab have been deposited on lee slopes. Strding and Swirral Edges were buried under a considerable amount of soft snow. The exits from both ridges were waist deep, steep banks of unconsolidated snow overlying a harder layer. The easier paths on the southern side of Swirral Edge were completely banked out meaning progress was easier on the crest of the ridge. Windward slopes and the Helvellyn plateau had collected a covering of snow but were generally scoured giving awkward walking conditions due to areas of ice, rime and refrozen snow. If you are venturing onto the higher fells or onto steeper terrain above the snowline, including Striding and Swirral Edges, then an ice axe and crampons are essential. Full winter clothing and footwear including hats, gloves and spare layers are essential as well as the usual torch, map and compass and the ability to use them. Goggles were also very useful today. Climbing Conditions: Exposed turf is now well frozen with rime forming on the rocks above 800m. However the ground covered by the new snowpack has been insulated from the wind and is still unfrozen. Please avoid climbing in gullies and on routes which rely on turf placements while the ground is unfrozen due to the risk of damage to fragile alpine plants.
13th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -2 -13 55 43 W Heavy rain in Glenridding this morning gave way to wet snow above 500m with significant accumulations of new snow on lee slopes and along the ridges. The afternoon was drier with isolated snow showers blowing through on strong westerlies. There was still a surprising amount of ice on low level paths where it has been compacted by walkers although this was easily avoided. The snow pack above 500m was saturated from last nights thaw making heavy but secure going. Snow depths were usually boot to calf deep although the exit slopes from the ridges had drifted in to knee deep. Only a small drop in temperature will quickly freeze the snowpack giving more serious conditions for which ice axe and crampons will be essential. The strong westerlies were moving the snow pack rapidly onto easterly facing slopes where cornices were building and there were some signs of soft slab developing. Windward slopes and the Helvellyn plateau were scoured of the new snow giving tricky walking conditions due to areas of ice, rime and refrozen snow. Upland tarns, such as Red Tarn, were partially frozen but are unsafe to walk on. Full winter clothing and footwear (including extra layers and waterproofs that can double as windproofs) are essential for anyone venturing out onto the high fells as are the usual torch, map & compass and the ability to use them. Goggles were also essential today on the higher fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep routes above the snowline such as Striding and Swirral Edges an ice axe and crampons are also essential in case ice is encountered, eg, although the snowpack is mostly wet and soft, there are a number of patches of older hard snow on the final exit to Striding Edge. A slight drop in temperature will freeze the snowpack giving a much more serious feel to any undertakings Climbing Conditions: Exposed turf is starting to refreeze after last nights thaw. However the ground covered by the new wet snow has been insulated from the wind and is still unfrozen. Please avoid climbing in gullies and on routes which rely on turf placements while the ground is unfrozen due to the risk of damage to fragile alpine plants.
12th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -2.4 -10.2 18.3 14.2 WNW Showers of snow were settling on ground above 400m whilst the assessor was on the hill and later virtually down to valley level, so walkers out on Wednesday should be prepared and expect to encounter more snow than the following describes. Once again, the main feature below 400m was the amount of ice on paths both where snow has been compacted and also where water & thawed snow have frozen hard overnight. Such ice is even more treacherous when obscured by fresh snow. Below 300m, there is little significant snow. Above 300m, the average snow depth rises with height although actual coverage varies considerably from little on windswept areas, such as large parts of the summit plateau, to drifts of 60cm above 900m on sheltered SE to E facing aspects. Such depth, though, is definitely the exception with drifts in sheltered spots and hollows of anything between 5cm and 15cm being more commonplace. The snowpack is very soft, apart from where it has been compacted on popular routes making conditions challenging. Especially above 850m rocks are covered in rime ice, as was the summit plateau. Upland tarns, such as Red Tarn, have frozen but are unsafe to walk on. Full winter clothing and footwear (including extra layers and waterproofs that can double as windproofs) are essential for anyone venturing out onto the high fells as are the usual torch, map & compass and the ability to use them. For those attempting, or traversing, steep routes above the snowline such as Striding and Swirral Edges an ice axe and crampons are also essential in case ice is encountered. Eg, although the snowpack is mostly soft, there are an increasing number of, albeit isolated, patches of harder snow on the final exit to Striding Edge. Climbers, owing to the extremely soft nature of the snowpack, the gullies are not in condition and potential damage to fragile alpine plants could be done if you undertake them.
11th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -4.8 -13.6 21.0 12.5 NNE Ground conditions have remained fairly similar since Friday; the exception being the amount of ice below 300m as snow thaws during the day and freezes hard overnight. On popular routes, as walkers divert to avoid this ice a wider band of ice is often created making conditions treacherous – especially in descent. Walking poles to aid stability can help. Aside from the ice, there is little significant snow below 300m. Above 300m, the average snow depth rises with height although actual coverage varies considerably from virtually nothing on windswept areas, such as large parts of the summit plateau, to drifts of 60cm above 900m on sheltered SE to E facing aspects. Such depth, though, is definitely the exception with drifts in sheltered spots and hollows of anything between 5cm and 15cm being more commonplace. The snowpack is very soft, apart from where it has been compacted on popular routes making conditions challenging. Full winter clothing and footwear (including extra layers and waterproofs that can double as windproofs) are essential for anyone venturing out onto the high fells as are the usual torch, map & compass and the ability to use them. For those attempting, or traversing, steep routes above the snowline, an ice axe and crampons are strongly recommended in case ice is encountered. Although the snowpack is mostly soft, there were isolated patches of harder snow on the exit to Striding Edge today as well as some older patches of hard snow under younger, softer layers with the 2 layers not having bonded. Climbers, owing to the extremely soft nature of the snowpack, the gullies are not in condition and potential damage to fragile alpine plants could be done if you undertake them.
10th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -7.2 -18.4 23.9 20.3 NNE A light dusting of hail and snow fell overnight and settled at all levels adding marginally to existing accumulations. Aside from this, the ground conditions have remained fairly similar for the past 2 days. There is little significant snow below 300m; far more hazardous is ice either where snow has been compacted, but mainly where snow has thawed during the day and refrozen overnight and today some of these icy patches were obscured under the fresh snow making conditions treacherous. Above 300m, the average snow depth rises with height although actual coverage varies considerably from virtually nothing on windswept areas, such as large parts of the summit plateau, to drifts of 60cm above 900m on sheltered SE to E facing aspects. Such depth, though, is definitely the exception with drifts in sheltered spots and hollows of anything between 5cm and 15cm being more commonplace. The snowpack is very soft, apart from where it has been compacted on popular routes making conditions challenging. Walking poles to aid stability are useful here. Especially above 700m, there was rime ice on rocks. Full winter clothing and footwear (including extra layers and waterproofs that can double as windproofs) are essential for anyone venturing out onto the high fells as are the usual torch, map & compass and the ability to use them. For those attempting, or traversing, steep routes above the snowline, an ice axe and crampons are strongly recommended in case ice is encountered. Although the snow is mostly soft there are patches of old harder snow beneath – such as on the exit to Striding Edge - and these 2 layers have not bonded. Climbers, owing to the extremely soft nature of the snowpack, the gullies are not in condition. There were climbers on Brown Cove Crags today digging up turf. The vast majority of climbers, though, were looking at the routes and sensibly avoiding them thereby also avoiding damage to the fragile eco system.
9th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -5.0 -14. 20.2 15.4 WNW Saturday’s ground conditions were similar to Friday albeit with more drifting of the soft snow and more ice – especially at lower levels. Below 300m, there is just a skittering of snow; more hazardous is ice where snow has thawed during the day and then frozen hard overnight. Above 300m, the average snow depth rises with height although actual coverage varies considerably from virtually nothing on windswept areas, such as parts of the summit plateau, to 60cm drifts above 900m on sheltered SE to E facing aspects. Where this occurs, such as on the exit to Striding Edge, there was evidence of windslab. 60cm drifts, though, are definitely the exception with drifts in sheltered spots and hollows of between 5cm and 15cm being more commonplace. The snowpack is very soft, apart from where it has been compacted on popular routes making conditions treacherous. Walking poles to aid stability are useful here. Especially above 700m, there was rime ice on rocks. Full winter clothing and footwear (including extra layers and waterproofs that can double as windproofs) are essential for anyone venturing out onto the high fells as are the usual torch, map & compass and the ability to use them. For those attempting, or traversing, steep routes above the snowline, an ice axe and crampons are strongly recommended in case ice is encountered. In addition, although the snow is mostly soft there are patches of old harder snow beneath – again an example being on the exit to Striding Edge.
8th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -6.0 -18.5 43.7 14.9 WSW to NNW mainly NW Snow has fallen at virtually all levels. Below 300m, this was just a skittering and thawing if in the sun. Above 300m, the snow depth rises with height although coverage varies considerably from virtually nothing on areas subject to the strong NW winds that deposited it to drifts deep enough to swallow a 55cm ice axe above 900m on sheltered SE to E facing aspects; such depth, though, is the exception with drifts of 5cm to 15cm in sheltered spots and hollows being more commonplace. The snow is very soft, creating stinging spindrift in the gusty winds so goggles are highly recommended. There was ice at all levels today and walkers out on Saturday should expect to encounter more as the snow is compacted on popular routes and ice reforms overnight on ground that has thawed during the day. Especially above 700m, there was rime ice and verglas (thin ice) on rocks. Full winter clothing and footwear (including extra layers and waterproofs that can double as windproofs) are essential for anyone venturing out onto the high fells. For those attempting, or traversing, steep routes above the snowline crampons and ice axe are strongly recommended in case ice is encountered. For example, the exit to Striding Edge is guarded by a bank of snow. Although this was soft today, there are patches of old harder snow beneath. The views today were magnificent, so come properly equipped and enjoy them; hopefully sunglasses will also be essential equipment on Saturday! For those interested in the weather stats, once again the wind was stronger on the ascent and descent compared with that experienced on the summit.
7th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -0.3 -12.7 58.1 40.5 NW A similar morning to yesterday, windy, dry and with the cloud base just above the summits. However, there was a noticeable change during the late morning as the temperature dropped markedly, and the wind changed direction to north-westerly, bringing hail and snow showers off and on. This has settled on high ground above 800m, and although it is just a light skittering at present, more snow is expected to fall throughout this evening and into tomorrow. On exposed rocks above 750m today, though not covered in snow, there was a hint of verglas in places, making for slippery walking requiring extreme care. During the time the assessor was on the Helvellyn summit plateau today the snow had not started to pile up on the exits from Striding Edge or Swirral Edge (other than the small patches that remain from the old snow that fell last week), but this will almost certainly be a different story tomorrow. The wind was also a notable feature today, with cross-winds on the col between Lower Man and Whiteside far exceeding in speed those on the summit plateau. On the col the windspeeds were around 50mph, gusting to 65mph, and making for very difficult walking. Anyone heading out walking tomorrow should take full winter clothing, including waterproofs and lots of warmth layers, winter mountain boots, an ice axe and crampons, hats and gloves, a headtorch, and a map and compass. Come well prepared, and you'll enjoy exploring the high fells in their winter coat.
6th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 3.7 -6.1 55.9 43.6 W A dry but overcast morning turned to heavy rain with a little sleet at height in the afternoon. This, coupled with strong winds and poor visibility made for a challenging ascent of Helvellyn today. The cloud base was around 700m, and at Red Tarn the wind was gusting 45mph and changing direction constantly. The assessor was knocked off his feet a few times here. Once on the Edges, in the lee of Helvellyn, the going was easier, with just wet rock underfoot to contend with, until the plateau was reached. On Striding Edge there is no snow until the last 20m where the ridge abuts onto the plateau. This today was soft and wet. On Swirral Edge there are only a few small patches of icy snow, again in the last 20m-30m, but on Swirral this can be avoided easily now. This will, of course, change should the forecasted snow come over the next few days. With visibility reduced to just 10m at times good navigation skills were required on the summit plateau, as was a robust sense of humour. In addition to map and compass, full waterproofs, warmth layers, and winter boots are essential for anyone heading into the high fells. Looking at forecasts for tomorrow and into the weekend, an ice axe and crampons, and more warmth layers will become essential too for safe walking in the hills.
5th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 0.6 -9.8 35.8 18.5 W A windy day of low cloud on Helvellyn, although still mild overall. There is currently only snow of any significance on Helvellyn on the highest reaches of the eastern side of the mountain. For walkers, that means the exits from both Swirral Edge and Striding Edge are both still snowbound, albeit with just a short bank of steep soft snow on Striding, and slushy ice on Swirral. These places require care, and as the temperatures drop over the next couple of days, both of these places are likely to become treacherous for anyone not using an ice axe and crampons, especially if we get the forecasted snow from Thursday onwards. Elsewhere, the snow on the fells is restricted to just a few patches of easily avoidable wet stuff. On Helvellyn today a map and compass were essential, as visibility was reduced at times to just 10 metres or so. With a cloud base varying from 550m to 700m, anywhere above that height gave navigational issues, and the assessor today met quite a few people who were not sure of how to find their paths back down off the mountain. Obviously, if you see an assessor and need help, feel free to ask, but being prepared in the first place is key, as you might not find an assessor where or when you need one! Full waterproofs and warmth layers, as well as a headtorch are also important if you want to enjoy your time walking the high fells, and to #summitsafely
4th Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 2.4 -4.6 30.7 15.9 W Another damp and mild day on Helvellyn. The snow has all but gone from much of the mountain, with just a few patches lingering above Red Tarn. Both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge are largely free of snow on the horizontal parts of the ridges, but both have snow on the final slopes leading onto the summit plateau. On Striding Edge this is soft, wet and deep (generally around 20cm, but up to 45cm in one or two places), and on Swirral Edge it is a narrow river of slushy ice. Take care crossing both of these exits. Obviously none of the winter climbs are in condition for climbing. Despite the drizzle and poor visibility today, it is still good to see people out enjoying the high fells. The Fell Top Assessor ran a mountain skills course today, which was a great success, focusing on mountain navigation, emergency procedures, and a little bit of ice axe instruction for the exits from Striding and Swirral Edges. Anyone heading onto the fells at present will need good waterproofs, warmth layers, winter boots, map and compass, and a headtorch. Come well equipped and you'll have a great time exploring the fells.
3rd Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 0.9 -3.6 15.6 8.6 NW The thaw continues, with little snow on any route on Helvellyn. There are a few small patches on all the main walking routes, but with the exception of Striding Edge and Swirral Edge these patches can be avoided. On Swirral Edge there are areas where ice still lies between rocks, and the exit from the top of the ridge onto the summit plateau is a narrow runnel of dangerously slippery wet ice. Striding Edge has less ice on the ridge itself, but the exit onto the summit plateau here is a bank of steep, unstable snow to a depth of around 25cm in places. This snow is soft, and moves alarmingly when you walk on it. On the exits from both ridges you will need to take care, and don't be afraid to turn around if you get to the headwall and think it is unjustifiable. Interestingly, the windspeed on the summit plateau today was much less than on the col between Lower Man and Whiteside. Here on the col, the windspeed was gusting 37mph, giving a windchill of -13.2C! There are no winter climbs in condition in the Lake District at present. Please refrain from trying to find bits of ice or frozen turf to climb - all you will do is damage rare alpine flora, and may well cause damage to yourself or others, as all those spikes and boulders we use for belays when they are frozen in are currently loose and not suitable as anchors. With colder conditions set to return from mid-week, winter clothing and equipment should be carried by all going into the fells at present. Right now the high fells are great to explore, so pack your rucksack and head for the heights!
2nd Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit 2.4 1.2 7.4 2.5 N A very different day on the high fells today. There is still some ice on paths where it has become compacted, but for the most part last night's thaw, which continued throughout today, has depleted much of the snow and ice that has been present over the last couple of days. On the paths, above 550m, where snow and ice remains, it is still hard and treacherous, making for very difficult walking conditions. This includes the paths on both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. On Striding Edge today the rock was largely wet and slippery, with patches of slushy ice. The headwall leading onto the summit plateau was soft, slowly thawing snow to a depth of around 20cm, which in places had an ominous hollow sound to it as you kicked in your boot. This could potentially lead to a slide onto rocky and dangerous ground, so great care is needed here. On Swirral Edge the remaining snow and ice was firmer, but also very slippery. The bank of snow at the top of the ridge was very icy in places, also requiring great care. These conditions for walkers are extremely hazardous. Everything feels insecure underfoot, and with more rock showing than ice, crampons are often felt to not be needed in such terrain. There is no easy answer, other than to take your time, and take care, or to turn back if you find it is more hazardous than you hoped. With today's thaw it was surprising to see climbers in the gullies and on the buttresses above Red Tarn. These climbs couldn't have possibly have been in good condition, and given the well-forecasted thaw, it was a shame to see so many people ignoring the advice given in the BMC's White Guide for climbers, which asks climbers not to climb in these areas when the turf isn't fully frozen as this damages a delicate habitat for rare alpine plants. If you missed the small window of frozen conditions over the last couple of days, there will be others this winter. Please wait until the frozen ground returns. Even with warmer conditions full winter clothing and equipment should be carried in the high fells. This includes an ice axe and crampons, as a slight drop in temperature will soon turn everything to solid ice again.
1st Dec 2017 Helvellyn summit -3.4 -12.0 18.1 10.4 N - NE Welcome back to the Fell Top Conditions report from Helvellyn. Our reports will go live daily from today through until the end of Easter. Today there was some ice on paths at all levels, but this could largely be avoided up to around 650m. Above that height spikes were useful on easy, flat paths, but for any gradients crampons were needed. There is not a huge amount of snow on the fells of the Lake District at present, but that which is laying is on sheltered slopes, such as at the top of both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. On the exits from these ridges the snow has banked out to give a thin layer (about 2cm) of windslab (wind-driven, hard snow on the surface), with graupel (hail) and dry powder beneath to a maximum depth of around 25cm. This is unstable, but currently not sufficient to pose any serious problems. On Helvellyn summit plateau the western-facing slopes are scoured of snow, but the ground surface is hard and icy. On the east-facing slopes you will find banks of snow, as above. There is a small cornice above Red Tarn, and there are crack lines appearing where this has already slumped slightly. Heading round towards Nethermost Pike the cornice above Lad Crag (which holds Nethermost Gully) is larger, and also slumping slightly. Today was a good day for winter climbers. Although the gullies haven't yet filled with snow, in some of the higher gullies (Catstycam Gully was climbed by the assessor today) there is currently thin but solid runnels of water-ice lower down, with good neve higher up. The turf in Catstycam Gully was frozen today, and it was good to see climbing teams in Number 1 and Number 2 Gullies as well as on some of the buttress routes above Red Tarn. However, the forecast is for milder conditions over the next few days, with temperatures at summit level hovering around zero to +2C. This could well mean that we will lose some of the ice, and that the turf will thaw. Please don't climb in the these sensitive areas if the turf isn't fully frozen. Walkers heading above the snowline will need full winter clothing, map and compass, a headtorch, and an ice axe and crampons. The assessor needed axe and crampons to make the traverse of Swirral and Striding Edges today. Let's hope that tomorrow is another great day in the fells, and that the slight thaw won't be too detrimental to the ice and frozen turf for the climbers. Some more snow, so the skiers can have some fun, would be nice too!
30th Nov 2017 Red Tarn The fell top assessor team went out on a media day today, ready for the start of the new season on Friday 1st December. No readings were taken today, but there is snow above 600m, and ice on paths.
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