Helvellyn Winter Skills Competition Winner - Darryl Ramage

Helvellyn summit with people on top

I was delighted to have been selected as the winner of the Lake District National Park’s Winter Skills competition. I’d seen the competition on Facebook and entered, but didn’t think I’d have a chance. I was chosen from well over 1,000 entries, so I feel very lucky indeed.

The day I discovered I’d won was memorable for all the wrong reasons up until that point. It was during Storm Ali and I was making final preparations to fly out to Bilbao to trek up the Cares Gorge so it was touch and go whether the flight would still be on. It was. I packed up my car and set off towards the airport and disaster struck. A huge tree limb crashed down on my car roof! Thankfully I was safe but the car was completely written off. I then hastily managed to get a lift to the airport just in the nick of time… only to discover that there was a three hour delay.

So to say I wasn’t having the best day is an understatement and I wasn’t in the best mood at all. But then my fortunes changed when I read the email to say I’d won the Winter Skills Competition. I had to check it wasn’t a wind up!

The prize was completely amazing. Not only was it a private Lake District Helvellyn Winter Skills Course for two, but we also both got a fantastic Columbia jacket and a Petzl ice axe.

I didn’t have to think twice about who I’d take with me and immediately asked my good friend Lynne to come. We were recently reading that Hellvellyn was voted this year’s best walk in the UK so it was on our, to do list and although we’ve trekked throughout Scotland and Europe but never been lucky enough to climb in the Lakes.

As the course date grew closer I started looking at The Lake District National Park, Weatherline website which is such a fantastic service, updated daily by the Fell Top Assessors, throughout the winter season. It gives an on the ground condition report which we were to learn is absolutely invaluable for walker and climbers.

I checked the service daily - Was there going to be snow, frost, ice, rain, gales? I couldn’t care less what Mother Nature was going to throw at us, this was going to be a fantastic day, preparing us with more knowledge and skills to enjoy our winter treks.

On the day of our winter skills course I was like a child on Christmas morning. It was great to meet with all three fell top assessors, Graham, Zac and Jon, these guys really do have the best job in the world. The wealth of experience they bring is second to none and I asked them lots of questions which they answered fully.

We also met the staff from sponsors Petzl and Columbia and were delighted to be presented with our Columbia, Outdry Ex Gold Down jackets, which throughout the day proved to perform amazingly in every condition that was thrown at us. We were very impressed with them.

Next we were presented with our Petzl Summit Evo trekking axe, which, is truly a piece of art, an amazing design, grip, and, weight, which should be carried and used by everyone on their winter treks. I couldn’t believe how light and strong the Petzl Summit Evo is – it’s amazing!

As we set out from Glenridding, the conditions were turning wintry. We made our way to the first Dam at the bottom of Catstye Cam, where we took shelter and Graham took us through some map work, wind speeds, weather conditions, and, how to properly carry and use our new Petzl Summit Evo axes. Onto our first ascent of the day, Catstye Cam. Graham leading the zigzag and keeping us informed the full way.

From Catstye Cam, we descended to the foot of Swirral Edge, a fantastic looking scramble lay ahead. Again Graham talked us through the preparation for the ascent, which, Lynne chose right up the centre over the rocks. Once we reached the summit of Helvellyn, Graham took readings for the Weatherline report, and, talked us through the readings and conditions. We decided to descend Striding Edge, again, going up and over the tops, with Graham talking us through routes, route choices, and, then allowing Lynne to lead on routes.

We both had an absolutely fantastic experience on the Lake District National Park's Helvellyn Winter Skills course with great learning points from a really brilliant instructor.

If anyone is looking for a Helvellyn Winter Skills course, this is highly recommended. A huge thanks goes to the staff at The Lake District National Park, Graham, Jon and Zac, the Fell Top Assessors and Columbia Sportswear, and, Petzl for all making this a day to remember.

Date: 10 Dec 2018