Fell Top Conditions on Thursday 23 March

Readings from Helvellyn summit at 13:50

Temperature minus 1.9°C Maximum wind speed 31.4mph Wind chill minus 11.5°C Average wind speed 23.6mph Wind direction NE

A classic example of how reading the weather forecast can enhance your day on the high fells. The Assessor today waited until morning rain and snow showers had passed, and the cloud base had lifted, to make his ascent of Helvellyn.

There is still snow down to around 200m, although only in small patches here and there at that level. Above 500m the snow gets deeper and is more evenly spread, although it has slumped and consolidated somewhat since yesterday. This has left a depth of snow at around 3cm above 500m, and up to 40cm above that height, although there are a few drifts that will be deeper than this. With the consolidation the snow has become safer, although there are still banks of unstable snow on all aspects, but chiefly on those facing NW through to E. The exits from Striding and Swirral Edges are steep banks of snow requiring care, skill, and an ice axe and crampons. With a freezing level at around 800m today paths were icy down to about 650m where the snow has become compressed, but not until you got to 800m did the ground generally turn to ice, even off the paths.

On the Brown Cove Crags route there is a steep bank of snow at around 800m that can't be avoided. In ascent it is pretty obvious, but as it is a convex slope it is hard to judge from above when descending, and an ice axe and crampons are needed here. The assessor didn't traverse the Wythburn path around Nethermost Pike today, but suspects that the slopes there will be very similar.

Full winter clothing and equipment, including an ice axe and crampons, are essential for going high in the mountains right now, and if you come properly equipped it looks like you could be in for a magnificent weekend.