Winter Conditions Reports for 2016/2017

Winter Conditions Reports for runners, climbers, skiers and mountaineers generally based around the Helvellyn Massif above Glenridding and Patterdale.

So, with Winter's arrival its time to start the Winter Conditions Reports again. 

Living at the foot of Helvellyn up the Glenridding Valley gives Mountain Run the unique chance to offer Winter Conditions Reports for this area on a regular basis. Mountain Run are not employed to do this, we do it because we want to share the winter season with you all and want you to do it as safely as possible. 

Please remember, I am not a qualified avalanche or snow specialists, but I have been skiing, running and climbing (summers and winter) in the mountains for pretty much my whole life. These 'Conditions' reports are based on my extensive knowledge and experience gained by exploring the mountains for personal, racing or guiding reasons and scenario's.  

Safety first: Please do not access the mountains solo in winter if you lack experience. Always buddy up with someone and don't push your limits too far. Its much better to have a great day and come back for more, than push too hard and become a statistic. There will always be warning signs, don't ignore these. If you feel uncomfortable for what ever reason, start questioning what you are doing and why you feel uncomfortable. Often our 6th sense kicks in quicker in winter than it ever woulds in summer. If you feel this 6th sense working overtime, change your day, change your plans and make sure you are able to come back round 2, remember there is always another day. 

Gain as much information about your intended day, route or ski descent. Look for as many blogs, Facebook posts etc you can find, before you head out of the door. This information gathering over the winter season is essential and should be on going. 

In the Lakes we are lucky in some ways to have such changeable conditions, as this stabilises the snow to a large extent, but remember, avalanches, cornice collapses and more do happen in the Lakes, so don't ignore the signs or idea an avalanche can and will happen. 

Each month and day will be catalogued below, with the oldest post being at the bottom of the page. 

Don't forget to check our FaceBook and Twitter pages for still images and other quick reports, or 'follow' out YouTube Channel to see at the video posts as they are loaded to the system. 

Winter Conditions Reports  - January 2017

I headed out around 10:00 this morning to a pretty benign Glenridding Valley, Helvellyn and the Edges. Grauple, or as its dubbed recently in the media, 'ThunderSnow', was lying at all levels above300m with ice starting to form on the paths above 650m. This is old snow, frozen and re-frozen, so not lethal, but to be aware of. 

Grauple is an interesting snow, its basically formed by snow flakes being sucked up into thunder heads, tossed around, broken into filaments and then re-forms into irratic little balls to the naked eye, but are actually  tiny filaments of snow weakly bonded together. This type of layer can present serious avalanche conditions should it fall on other snow layers and if the conditions stay frozen and in the minus figures, can leave weak layers in the snow pack meaning serious avalanche risks throughout the season. In the UK we are lucky in some ways that our climate doesn't allow for unconsolidated snow to hang around too long and we generally get a a thaw or freeze/thaw conditions that consolidate these dangerous layers. However, they are to be noted, remembered and certainly watched out for. 

The snow was a dusting, but lying in area's up to mid calf deep, where drifted. There was very little wind and the morning was very pleasant. 

As I am typing the weather is certainly quite a bit different now with snow (more like real snow than grauple) falling outside my window at 275m and sticking on the patio well. The conditions look white out on the mountains, a different kettle of fish from a few hours ago. 

There are no climbing conditions present yet and the turf has not frozen on the Red Tarn Face, in the area's I investigated. The wind has been blowing between West to North of the last few days so it might be possible things have frozen on Northerly faces like Brown Cove Crags, but realistically we needed to see a freeze prior to any snow fall. And now with new snow falling, this will just serve to insulate the ground more and prolong the freeze down of the turf and moss. 

If you do decided to take a look at conditions this weekend, be prepared to have just a mountaineering day and not climb. Red Tarn Face and the rest of the NE Coves of the Helvellyn Massif will certainly NOT be in condition anytime soon. 

Video report took over 5 hours to load up... internet speed up Glenridding!!

Winter Conditions Reports  - November 2016. 

Winter Conditions Report for Striding Edge, Helvellyn and Swirral Edge on the 18th November 2016: For runners, skiers, climbers and mountaineers.

Snow started falling yesterday (17th) in the morning and heavy and prolonged showers kept pulsing through during the morning, into the afternoon and early evening. Wesley Orvis posted a report that the edges of Helvellyn were getting 'plastered' with knee deep, and more, drifts evident on the edges in troughs and drifts. 

This morning we awoke to 6ish cm of snow outside Bell Cottage at 275m. Snow continued to fall in pulses and showers until Little Dave arrived for us to take a look. 

The valley snow was very wet and soggy, only starting to firm up around 500m, but with wet conditions still present from the past weeks weather, the ground has remained very wet under the snow, meaning melting from underneath and very slippy conditions. Above 500m, whilst the ground is still very wet, the conditions underfoot seemed to be firming up as we ran/walked up to Red Tarn. 

Red Tarn was clear of snow and ice, but the little tarn to the NE was thick with snow. There is a general covering here of around 20cm, but with large drifts and flat light, all of us (Pepa, Little Dave and myself) disappeared thigh deep and more at points. The ascent to Striding Edge was even deeper, with mid calf deep snow pretty much all the way to the edge footpath. 

Striding Edge itself was plastered with 20cm+  of snow overlying wet/verglass rock in places, making it grippy on the flat, but quite slippy on the slopping rocks. Micro Spikes were helpful, but they did ball up from time to time, however, they were much easier than full crampons or Kahtoola KTS Steels. 

Snow depth certainly increased with height, with an overall depth of around 30cm's on the summit, overlying frozen summit terrain. The shelter is half buried and there was a cornice evident over looking Red Tarn Face

The entrance to descend Swirral Edge was stable, as was the exit from Striding Edge. 

Snow seems to be accumulating more on the SE to SW slopes, with the NE to NW slopes having less cover, but these slopes are still covered. 

Turf is not frozen, meaning NO CLIMBING conditions are available or will be available in the foreseeable future, unless we have a mega freeze or some freeze/thaw cycles and a stripping of the snow, but with more snow due this doesn't seem likely yet. Unfortunately the snow is now insulating the turf underneath it. 

Skiing might be possible in some gullies, but with the white out we were in today, we couldn't really see. Touring on the tops will be a possibility, but ideal we need a little freeze thaw to start the process of settling a base, having said that Raise Ski Tow will be open tomorrow. 

With the Kendal Film Festival now in full flow, it is likely I won't get out again until Sunday afternoon or Monday. 

If your interested in Mountain Running, then head down to the Yurts at the Brewery on Sunday at 12;00 for discussion about this amazing sport, between myself, Liam Lonsdale (the mental compere) and who ever else is in the room... see you there. I will also be on the Salewa stand in the Base Camp throughout the weekend. 

Winter Conditions Report for Glenridding Valley 18th November 2016: Report coming later today for Helvellyn and the Edges

Winter Conditions Report for Helvellyn, Striding and Swirral Edge's 9th November 2016: 

Snow is lying from 500m with about 6cm cover, as 700m is reached the general cover is 10cm. With height, the snow depth increases by a few cm of general cover as the summit is reached with 10 to 15cm being the general depth. 

Swirral Edge is well plastered with knee deep drifts on the ascent to the summit, with the last 100m being completely frozen and Rime Ice stuck to the rocks. The exit to the summit plateau is choked with snow, but was climbable without the aid of an ice axe. The snow was generally wet and sticky, becoming dry in the last few hundred meters of ascent in height gained. Striding Edge has large deposits at the top of the entrance/exit slope with deeper deposits on the final ascent to the summit plateau. Striding Edge itself has a healthy covering, sugar coated. This was sticky and great to run on yesterday afternoon, but with a freeze overnight and now wet snow below 750m it will likely have changed from yesterday.  

The wind has been blowing from a North Westerly direction in general, this is depositing accumulations on the the Northerly and North Easterly  aspects. Southerly aspects seem to have less cover on. 

The snow cover has fallen on ground that is semi frozen above 750m, with the firmness of the ground increasing with height, lower snow is overlying soft turf. This has created interesting conditions for walking, especially under 750m, where the ground became slippy whilst walking, running was not so easy, as height was dropped, the stability of foot placement became increasingly difficult, with many slips to the ground due to wet snow. 

Drifts thigh deep were experienced running from Striding Edge to the Hole in the Wall. It was reported that someone was skiing on the Raise ski slope yesterday afternoon and that the tow will be open today, but with high winds its possible it won't run. 

Skiing however might be possible on Northerly slopes, but to be honest, it needs to settle down and create a base, Raise is slightly different in its slope angle, aspect and with snow fences to collect the snow often lies deeper here than elsewhere. 

Climbing conditions are certainly not available yet, so please don't be encouraged by the winter look of the mountains. Exposed turf is frozen, but don't let this fool you into thinking all turf is frozen, as generally snow covered turf is only slightly frozen, or in lower area's will be not frozen at all. We would need some freeze thaw action to bring climbing into condition and this will take time to develop. 

Certainly its a runners and mountaineers time right now. 

This morning the temps are 3.6 degrees C (at 06:40:00) with rain falling outside. The height here, at Bell Cottage, is 275m. The weather reports suggest 30+mph wind speeds today from the NW, with snow falling above 750m. This will add to the already knee deep snow and deeper in some drifts, plastering the upper area's of the Helvellyn Range. 

The weekend report brings rain on Friday night and possibly heavy rain Saturday morning, depending on how much will depend on how much snow remains on Saturday afternoon and into next week. The weather at present show's warm summit temps from Saturday morning, but a return to the colder conditions has been forecast there after, suggesting another press next weekend. 

Hopefully this is the start of a good winter to come! 

Winter Conditions Report for Helvellyn, Striding and Swirral Edge's 6th November 2016: 

A good source of information for the weather patterns we are experiencing right now from the Mountain Weather Information Service 

Clothing and Equipment: 

Winter running is extreme fun, with bell on! But... you need to have the correct equipment to make sure you don't get caught short. 

When I run in summer, I go as minimal as the conditions will allow. On the best days its shorts, socks and trainers, on the worst its shorts, base-layer tank, wind top, waterproof top and bottoms, buff and gloves, some food and liquid, a emergency bivi and a pack to keep it all in. 

I winter its certainly different. I use a multitude of clothing and equipment and pick and choose depending on the day, but below is a list that should ALWAYS be with you on a winter run in the Lakes. 

Clothes to wear: 

  • Tights or Shorts (depends on the day)
  • Long Sleeve Base Layer Top
  • Wind Top
  • Buff (or 2, great to use on head and neck)
  • Wrist Warmers (True Mountain do some great lightweight ones)
  • Lightweight Gloves (can be used instead of wrist warmers)
  • Socks
  • Good fell shoes (maximum tread important for grip in the snow) - Inov8 'O' Rocks work well. 

In your pack:

  • Head Torch (should always carry, just in case)
  • Extra hat and gloves (2 spare gloves always a bonus, so easy to wet gloves/mitts out)
  • Food
  • Liquid (no harm in taking a hot flask in cold weather for a warm drink, its all training with weight at the end of the day)
  • Emergency Bivi (I recommend the Blizzard Bivi's for winter running - they are rated up to 8 tog) 
  • Emergency Bothy (Rab make super light versions)
  • Extra Layers; you should always carry an extra top, make this Primaloft - many brands produce these, but on top of this, depending on the day/night, you might like to take some Primaloft Pants, great for long days out when the conditions are less than optimum. 
  • Kahtoola MicroSpikes - these are amazing for hardback snow and ice conditions. I take them always during a winter run when snow is likely to be on the ground. 
  • Lightweight Ice Axe - a definite if any type of mountaineering terrain is likely to be encountered. You might not need it, but you'll be in trouble of you do and you left it at home. 

You might also consider: 

  • Kahtoola KTS Steels - the best winter running crampons we have come across, great for deep and fresh snow. You need to have a good snow depth for these to be worthwhile, as if you hit rock all the time, then MicroSpikes are much easier to run in. 
  • Trail Poles - useful in all snow conditions, depends on your running skills and what you like to use. Poles are a real help for ascending and in snow can be a great help descending, keeping your balance optimum. 
  • Lightweight Sleeping Bag - you can really never have too much kit on some days!
  • Lightweight Climbing Rack and Harness - if you and a mate are considering some light running mountaineering, it doesn't hurt to have a few bits and pieces, plus 10 to 15m of rope with you, I recommend a light Salewa Harness, a couple of screw gates, a few selected nuts (large sizes best in winter), a lightweight belay plate, 1 to 2 light axes (depending on what your trying to achieve), a couple of skinny tapes and possibly some ice screws and pegs. 


Winter Mountain Skills for Runners - January and February 2018 Winter Mountain Skills for Runners - January and February 2018

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