Helvellyn in Freezing Fog

Name of walk Helvellyn in Freezing Fog
Date of walk 2015-02-11
Distance walked (miles) 6
Duration of walk 4 hours 50 minutes
Weather Freezing fog
Peaks on walk Helvellyn
Walked with Ged and blind Kas
Parking Wythburn

Yesterday we decided to have a walk up Helvellyn from Wythburn. The Weatherline forecast and the BBC Radio Cumbria Fell Forecast had predicted a cloud inversion, where the high peaks are above the clouds in blue skies and sunshine. This had happened on the previous day too, and the temperature on Helvellyn summit had been a balmy 7C, a temperature that is often not achieved even in summer! But we have been in this situation before and know never to rely on the forecast. If there was to be an inversion we had planned to continue on to Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike and and return via Grisedale Tarn and Raise Beck, and the permissive footpath. When we arrived at Wythburn we discovered that the whole footpath from Dunmail Raise to Swirls was closed due to tree-felling, so it would just have to be an up and down walk, as we had no wish to walk on the pathless A591. The one good piece of news was that the parking ticket machine was out of use, so no having to spend £7. 🙂


Many of the trees had been cleared around the lower path from Wythburn.


Can't miss the 'keep out' signs on the permissive footpath either side of the route up. No circular route today!


Trees now gone from the upper path too.


Looking back to Thirlmere from what used to be the upper tree line. The tree rings on some of the larger stumps show that the trees were about 80 years old.


We soon had to put our spikes on as the snow on the paths had consolidated and turned into ice.


Once we head into the clouds there was nothing to see except the ground. I took no more photos until we reached the section where the path disappears under snow topped with ice, making a steep slope. Spikes are essential here as one slip and you would be off down the mountain at speed.


We pass the Hinkler Monument (Commemorating the 1926 landing of a plane on the summit plateau), a good indication of exactly where we are.


Ged and Kas at the summit shelter, full of ice, so no room to take shelter! The walk up had taken about two and a half hours.


We pass the summit and head for the trig point. No views, no cloud inversion and no light from above indicating that the cloud would drop. We are totally alone up here. There are usually others on the summit having come up by other routes, but not today. It is eerily quiet.


I take a selfie.


Kas is on a lead to keep him well away from the edges. We walk along the summit plateau to the top of Swirral Edge. It is bitterly cold and there is nothing to see. We head back to the shelter which does provide some wind protection.


Kas looking like Frosty The Snowman! The freezing fog deposits ice everywhere. We aim to hang around for about 20 minutes in the hope that there will be some sign of the cloud descending. Then out of the mist comes a young guy with two ice axes and crampons, he had just ice climbed the top part of the east face, after descending from Swirral Edge. He had started from Thirlspot and had passed a film crew on his way up Brown Cove Crags, no doubt they were hoping for an inversion too, but more about them later. We chatted for ten minutes or so then the young guy headed off in search of more ice to climb, we decided to call it a day and head down too.


The wind was in our faces on the way down, even with thermal gloves my hands were burning from the cold, so we descended as quickly as possible. These next two photos were taken about a third of the way down and show the ice crystal accumulation on our clothes. A frosty me with thermal hat, balaclava, thermal gloves, thermal trousers, spikes, ice axe, cuddly toy, fondue set! Okay, maybe not the last two, but you get the idea! I came equipped for the worst conditions...and we got them!


Even Ged's eyebrows had frozen!


Descending back to the tree-line.


Thirlmere is even mistier than this morning.


We return to the car after 4 hours and 50 minutes. The walk was 5.84 miles. Wythburn Church. A church is recorded as being on the site in 1554. It was rebuilt in 1640, and again in 1740. A chancel with an apse was added in 1872.


No electric lights inside.


This photo is the Fell Assessor's. He took the film crew from ITV's 'Countrywise' programme and presenter, Ben Fogle, up to the summit via Brown Cove Crags, they made it up after 2pm, and they had no view either! So we made the correct decision not to hang around on the summit.

A disappointing day with regard to good views and thermal inversions, but it was five hours of healthy aerobic exercise!