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" Helvellyn with the Fell Top Assessor "

Date & start time: Friday 23rd March 2012, 10 am start.

Location of Start : Roadside near Swirls Car Park, Thirlmere, Cumbria, Uk ( NY 316 168 )

Places visited : Brown Cove Crags, Lower Man, Helvellyn, Birk Side (Comb Crags path), Wythburn and back through the forest to Swirls.

Walk details : 7 mls, 2890 ft of ascent, 4 hrs 55 mins including lunch and discussion times.

Highest point : Helvellyn Summit 3118 ft - 950 m.

Walked with : Jason (Fell Top Assessor), Pete (Nat Park Ranger), Stuart (Rab Clothing), Norman, John, Sean, Mark and myself (George Fishers staff) plus Col the dog.

Weather : Sunshine but hazy (forecast could include early mist and an odd shower) . . . full weather report when e get to the top !


" Helvellyn with the Fell Top Assessor " at EveryTrail

[ Alter the settings to zoom or change the Map, use Everytrail to download the Gps route ]


George Fisher (the famous Keswick Outdoor Retailer) have sponsored the National Park Weatherline's Fell Top Assessor.

Today I get an invite to join him on his climb to the summit of Helvellyn to collect the weather data for today's on-line report.

I'm not alone however, as five of us are joined by Stuart, the Rab Clothing Rep and Pete Barron from the National Park.

The windows all dressed up and ready for Spring.
Jason and Stuart.

Gear Talk : Jason is wearing a rather nice Rab Event, Mountain Drew jacket presented by Fishers

and suitably badged with National Park Fell Top Assessors and George Fisher official logos.

Waterproof, breathable . . . great for walking the fells, whatever the weather.

Jason is one of two assessors who work a week on ~ week off, climbing Helvellyn every day (over the winter)

to report on mountain weather conditions from the summit . . . his colleague John has a similar protective mountain jacket.

Today we have been invited to join him on the walk to the top.

The weather is warm and dry but very hazy as Mark and Sean collect their gear from the car.

We've parked near Swirls Car Park and will be climbing up there . . . into the haze.

No sign of the possible morning showers that have been forecasted and with any luck the haze may clear as we climb.

That's a big sheep . . . but don't be a-llama'd . . . it's the breed not something in the diet.

Not normally seen from the road when driving the A591, this is the aqueduct system that gathers the water from the north western Helvellyn slopes

and directs it down into Thirlmere reservoir. For many years this deprived Helvellyn Gill of any water but recently they have built a water outlet

and the stream down past Thirlspot and Legburthwaite is running once again.

No news on any increase in the fish spawning numbers yet.

Swirls was the meeting point for the full group today.

Myself, John, Stuart (Rab Clothing), Jason (Fell Top Assessor), Sean, Norman, Mark, Pete (Nat Park Ranger) plus Col the dog.

- - - Time for a walk - - -


We take the Helvellyn Path out of the back of the car park

Soon after the start we cross a new footbridge.

Peter, being Park Management Ranger, has been involved in much of the environmental work in the area. United Utilities will be planting more trees on the lower slopes of the fell and so they have upgraded the crossing to allow the farmer to bring the sheep down off the fell using the wider bridge.

Out onto the open fell close to the upper section of the Helvellyn Gill.

A steady climb brings us views of the reservoir below.

Across the way is the High Seat / High Tove ridge with Raven Crag in the trees off to the right.

The day is warming up and people shed those extra layers of clothing.

Along the way Rab clothing, and many aspects of it's manufacture and design, were amongst the topics that came up for discussion.

Stuart provided a real mine of information about all the various jackets, mid and base layers that are on offer in their range.

Along the way we also discussed the theory and practice of path repairs in the high fells with Peter.

The laying of just pitched path like this now cost in the region of £100 per metre.

To build a single cross drain costs some £250 due to the extra time and work involved.

A helicopter lift for stone . . . approx £600 an hour.

The haze is not really clearing even though we are much higher now.

Ahead is Helvellyn Lower Man . . . but the path takes a more direct route for the main summit.

We're above the snow line for the first time . . . but this is just a snow cornice, sheltering on the north facing slopes.

Below is Brown Cove and Kepple Cove with the shapely peak of Catstycam on the right.

In the heavier snow this winter it was this deep in Swirral Edge !

Jason filled us in on the work he does

when climbing the fell to get the weather report.


The fell-top service runs for the Winter months and Jason,

or his colleague John, climb the fell each day.


He usually climbs the fell from the other side but varies his route

to suit the weather or ground conditions.


This winter has been a mild one compared to the last two years

but there has still been several weeks of deep snow on the Edges.


How deep has it been on Swirral Edge this year Jason ?

[ Hold your cursor over the picture to get his reply ]

We reach the summit, or at least the trig point . . . the summit is over there behind us !

The last remnants of the winter snows remain on the east face.

Norman and Mark do their own fell-top assessment.

Jason takes the official readings.


This was yesterday's report.

- - - o o o - - -

Today's will be basically the same

but the average wind speed is a little higher at 10.5 mph,

and the 9 Degree temperature felt more like 4 Degrees in the breeze.


Thanks lads !

Someone suggests a photo call of everyone doing a fell assessment.

" Great . . . but it would be nice if you all turned round for the picture though !"

[ Hold your cursor over the picture to make my wish come true ]

The slight breeze suggested we may prefer a sheltered position for lunch.

The protected summit seats in the famous crossed walled shelter were already taken so we moved a little further on.

Our lunch spot gave us a view of Red Tarn far below . . . so far it never made the photo !

What did make the photo was our lunchtime companions

This is a rare Snow Bunting

" They are a scarce breeding species in Scotland, making them an Amber List species . . . RSPB "

In fact Helvellyn is host to a small flock of these winter migrants at present . . . there are five in this photo.

An expert flier of the upland winds, seen over the Eastern slopes . . . the Raven

Peter talked about the re-seeding efforts.
What I took as lichen was in fact re-seeding mixture.

Cleverly the mix of grass seed includes Rye grass, fertiliser and native upland grass seeds.

The native is very slow growing so the Rye sprouts first, living off the nutrient of the fertiliser. Together this forms this matting and base mulch which protects the native grasses as they sprout. Once the non-native Rye has used the high level nutrients it dies off and so does not survive the second year, but the hardy native grasses have taken and hopefully go on to re-conolonise the barren area of soil and so build back the vegetation.
The 'native' mix is not cheap however . . . a 25kg bag of special upland grass seed cost upward of £50.

Another technique, subtle yet effective, is to scatter stones on the areas adjacent to the paths

so as to discourage folk from walking on the grass in the first place . . . that seems to work quite well too !

No visit would be complete without a view down to . . .
. . . the iconic Striding Edge.

Our route down however, will be via Wythburn on the western side so we walk south towards Nethermost Pike.

Along the way, we can look back at distant High Spying How and the near-level, middle section of Striding Edge.

The wilderness of Nethermost Cove spreads out as a panorama below us.

Considering the numbers that visit the adjacent summit, this area of the fells is hardly visited.

Heading off into . . . who knows where in this haze !

John strides out . . . as we head for the Birk Side / Wythburn track below.

More pitched paths to cope with the large number of visitors.

Just think . . . 3 people a day multiplied by 365 days is over a thousand people a year.

How many thousand do you think use this path each year . . . answers on the back of a non-refundable £20 note please.

Comb Crags above as we leave the open fell and reach the forest edge.

The fell gate above Wythburn Church . . .
. . . but we turn right and take the forest track.

This is part forest road, part permissive path and avoids the need to get anywhere near the busy main road.

Along the way . . . an old gunpowder hut close by the old Brownrigg Beck.

We stop to investigate.

Inside it has been set up as a small mountain bothy.

The lack of a door and a rather damp entrance floor may not make it as practical as the Dubbs one Ann and I saw yesterday

but it was homely nevertheless.

On the window, a guest book and some light reading matter alongside an emergency stove.

We cross the beck and look up at the old mine site,

but apart from a few waste tips we saw little as it was time to be moving on.

The permissive path gives an interesting walk back through the forest.

Jason and Peter lead for a change.
This large 'pebble' has fallen from Long Crags very recently.

Passing the Straining Well, the take off point and start of the Manchester Aqueduct

that feeds Thirlmere water on its 95 mile, 1-2 day journey south to the conurbations of the Midlands.

- - - o o o - - -

It was a short walk from here back to the cars . . . where we said goodbye and thanks to Jason, Stuart and Peter

who provided us with a great day out, during which we gained a greater understanding of the weather service, the clothing and the fells.

- - - o o o - - -


Technical note: Pictures taken with either my Canon G10 or Canon 1100D cameras.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . up to date information on which to base sensible decisions . . . about the weather, the clothing or the fells.

Go to Top . . . © RmH . . . Email me here

Previous walk - 22nd March 2012 Haystacks and Innominate Tarn

A previous time up here - 25th December 2006 Candles, Tinsel, Inversions and Altitude (Christmas 2006 on the summit)

Next walk - 25th March 2012 Loweswater Sky at Night