Helvellyn in snow from Wythburn

Name of walk Helvellyn in snow from Wythburn
Date of walk 2014-01-30
Distance walked (miles) 6
Duration of walk 5 hours 30 minutes
Weather Some blue sky, but cloud on the summit
Peaks on walk Helvellyn
Walked with Ged and blind Kas
Parking Wythburn car park

We have been waiting for weeks for a weather window to allow us to get up a mountain in the snow, but gale force winds and rain have been the norm of late. Today the wind was only forecast to be 30mph, with no rain, and there was a possibility of some blue skies and a view. So we packed our Microspikes and headed for Wythburn to climb Helvellyn. It has been a few years since I have climbed up by this route, being put-off from parking here by the exorbitant parking fees. It is £4 for four hours which is fine. In non-winter months I can get up and down in four hours. But in snow I need longer and the next time slot is 12 hours for £7. Where is 6 hours for £5? We usually park in the lay-by at Swirls and do a circuit. But unfortunately the permissive path from Swirls to Wythburn is closed for timber work, and going up and down via Brown Cove Crags would be a bit dull. So I had to free the moths from my change-bag and say a sad farewell to seven quid!


We walk up through the forest and get a view across Thirlmere to the Wythburn Valley and the ridge up to Ullscarf.


We then exit the tree line and head up the path towards the snowline.


Looking back to Thirlmere, bits of blue sky around.



As we got higher, ice on the paths increased and I put on my Microspikes even before we reached the snowline. The view down Thirlmere.


The view ahead.


Ged stops to put his gaiters on. A good view to Steel Fell.


More blue sky ahead, but only temporary.


Kas wants to follow the three guys that passed us.


Now on the zig-zag path.


A bit of a trudge!


Quite a lot of people out today, making the most of the weather window. We chatted with quite a few on our way up.


This is the awkward bit. The edge of the path can be made out, but the snow has filled-in the path so it just follows the slope of the hill. Microspikes are essential here, as one slip and you would be off down the mountain at speed. Especially as the wind was quite strong at this point.


The slope is more noticeable here. We approach the view point for Striding Edge.


Striding Edge. I keep well back from the cornice.


View towards Nethermost Pike and out to St. Sunday Crag.


As we head up towards the summit we disappear into the clouds. Wonderful conditions for skiers! It was a very long, seemingly never ending trudge from the view point to the summit. This was not helped by the poor visibility. I used my Garmin GPS in order to stumble across the summit shelter.


The summit shelter, full of snow. We don't plan to stop. It is far too cold. The Fell Assessor's summit conditions for lunchtime were -5C, but with windchill it was -13.1C.


Summit cairn. Kas is on the lead now to keep him away from the cornice. There were actually footprints going all the way from the summit cairn to the cornice edge! We couldn't work out if there were any coming back!


A bit of a view down to Red Tarn.


A few people (black dots) on the Swirral Edge route. We chat to a few people and then head back down.


The Hinkler Monument. Proof that the snow actually was quite deep. I was once up here in a total whiteout navigating my way from Dollywaggon Pike with a map and compass, and only knew exactly where I was when I came across this monument. It says: "The first aeroplane to land on a mountain in Great Britain did so on this spot on December 22nd 1926. John Leeming and Bert Hinkler in an Avro 585 Gosport landed here and after a short stay flew back to Woodford."


We head on down and off to the right.


View back towards the summit.


Me and Kas with Striding Edge behind.


Close up of a guy on Striding Edge.


We head down.


Thirlmere back in view.


We deposit the dog and the rucksacks back in my car and walk to Wythburn Church.

The 6.2 mile walk took us 5 hours and 30 minutes. A lot longer than usual. The long bad-weather lay off has meant I have lost my usual mountain walking fitness. I actually found the snow walking rather exhausting today. Come the evening I was sure that I had someone else’s legs! (Unfortunately, a little old woman’s, not Alan Hinkes’!)