The winter conditions reports are kindly supported by Jöttnar
With the promise of sunshine and cold temperatures a quick hit was planned to the Lakes. Originally plans were made to head west to Gable but local feedback (thanks Ian!) let us know there was little hope in that direction. The BMC’s soil temperature probes backed this up with lower recording on Helvellyn than Great End but still showing the turf as a degree or so above freezing – this was born out over the two days.
7th January 2018 Rampsgill Head
An early drive up on Sunday and a rendezvous with Bruce (the master of climbing tottering kitty litter down in the South West) at Kirkstone Pass saw a change of plans with Red screes looking a bit bare and common sense telling us that Helvellyn would be rammed on a sunny Sunday. We opted for Rampsgill Head. Most of terrain was frozen on the approach and the crag appeared reasonably plastered in snow and rime so our hopes were up.
However on arrival at the base of the routes the lower turf was pretty variable – the more sodden stuff was still too soft whereas drier turf and moss (especially on the steeper sections of rock on the gully walls) was well frozen, but really it needs a more prolonged cold spell to bring it into good nick. We ended up climbing Central Gully with the North Pinnacle Exit having struggled to make the guidebook description for North Gully fit the terrain.
8th January 2018 Helvellyn – Red Tarn Cove
With the weekend rush over we headed to Helvellyn on Monday with intentions to do Viking Buttress or V Corner. Despite a good plastering of snow and generally well frozen conditions it was clear that the turf was still variable and soft in many places so we opted to avoid Viking Buttress and its sensitive flora and head up V Corner. There was some soft turf (easily bypassed by hooking rock on the left) but also some flows of ice as you entered the groves and as you would expect the condition of the snow improved the higher you climbed.
Plenty of people out on the sunny Monday too climbing Gully 1 and chilling out at the sunny summit shelter. The wind started to get up around midday so we headed off down Swirral to tick Catsycam off of Dave’s red book list and an early finish.
Overall the conditions were tantalisingly close to coming good but the turf isn’t frozen well enough yet – especially for anything where you would need to pull hard with you tools rather than ‘balance’ up.
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