After the excesses of Christmas a quick blast along the St Sunday Ridge was in order. Plenty of folk out on Pinnacle Ridge and along Grisedale but we made our own tracks along the ridge from Birks. With the change in wind direction and temperatures the snow was very variable from a hard crust to deep windslab to drifted new snow. Plenty of evidence of some small slides around on northerly aspects but when I dug a pit all seemed well bonded and consolodated with just one slightly softer layer about 6 inches down (N aspect, 800m). There was plenty of rime on the rocks and all the turf was well frozen.
After a heavy snow shower on the way down Grisedale the clouds lifted and we chased a full moon down Ullswater.
A late start saw me heading up to Brown Cove Crags to the north of Helvellyn. A big thank you to everyone who'd put the path in this morning through knee deep snow! With things well compacted I made good time. There were plenty of folk around today - climbing, walking, ski mountaineering and even snowboarding with kites.
The crag was looking very wintry with plenty of riming from about half height and not too much in the way of cornices. There were a few teams on other routes but I opted for a solo of Right Buttress Crack (Grade III) which was untouched. The snow was very deep and unconsolidated but once I'd swum into the chimney things improved. The first chockstone was fairly tricky but a great little route which offers plenty of harder variations.
Once on the ridge I just had time to get to the summit of Helvellyn for a spectacular sunset.
There's a fair bit of avalanche risk around the Lakes at the moment. The east face of Helvellyn has some huge cornices and a number of crown walls where avalanches have released. I did hear of one party who made an attempt on the bowl but they sensibly beat a hasty retreat!
Over on Brown Cove Crags things were slightly more stable. I dug a pit in one of the gully's and the snow pack was nearly two meters thick. Although the snow was fairly uniform there were some distinct layers that slid very easily. The surface layer was approximately 2" of soft wind slab. Below this there were a number of layers of loosely bonded snow between 2" - 6" thick. Separating these were a number of layers of graupel which act like ball bearings. There is a definite possibility that things could slide with very little additional loading. What we need now are a couple of cycles of freeze thaw to consolidate the snow pack and then conditions should be pretty special.
With the roads still covered in snow I took a walk up in to the Northern Fells. I had a quick solo of Troughs Gully (III) on Carrock Fell. It was a little thin but the ice was good and probably an easy grade III. The direct start wasn't fully formed. A not so quick wade to the summit gave some amazing views over to High Street and the Pennines. I had the fells to myself again today, not a soul to be seen.
The strong south westerly was still moving plenty of snow around and it was tough going on the lee slopes with drifts up to a meter deep. The snow still hasn't consolidated at all and was useless to climb on but the turf was well frozen and the ice, where thick enough, was taking first time placements. After a day of blue skies the snow was beginning to fall again as I got back down early afternoon.
A wild and woolly day in the Lakes to get my winter season up and running. Headed up onto the Eastern Fells to stretch the legs and give the winter navigation a shake down. Full white out on the tops with a strong South Westerly blowing but managed to tick four more Wainwrights and didn't see a soul all day.
The freezing level was around 500m as forecasted but there was full snow cover from the road. Despite the strong winds up top there was surprisingly little wind slab about although a few sloughs of loose snow had come down some steeper North East facing slopes. The unconsolidated snow was around 10cm deep but extensive drifting behind walls and in hollows made it slow going at times (<60cm). The turf was well frozen but there was very little ice about. We had some good views this morning with plenty of blue sky around but it didn't last.