Ski Touring, Helvellyn area 19-03-13

Today I went for a ski tour over Helvellyn via Swirral Edge, after a few descents I ended up at Red Tarn and went over Catseye Cam to finish with a descent back to Greenside.

There was a fair bit of snow about and above Red Tarn the slopes were well loaded up, in particular the north facing slopes, the north sides of Striding and Swirral Edges were holding a lot of snow.  There’s a lot going on up there, some areas scoured to the old snow (top of Swirral is hard old snow for a few metres), some areas of wind-slab, some areas of deep fresh snow that hasn’t yet been wind blown, soft cornices etc.  I doubt that much of the fresh snow that’s there will blow around too much as its heavy and slightly damp snow generally.  It felt much warmer than forecast on the summits and I’d say it was only just freezing on top.  There was also next to no wind blowing, so no fresh slab forming today.  That said it has been windy at some point and there are drifts and definite areas of older slab, some of this easily slipping away on the old layer of hard snow below.

The skis today were the way to travel and it would have been hard going without them.  I had fresh tracks shortly after leaving Greenside for the whole day and saw no one all day bar a few at Greenside.  Its not often to be the only person up to and out of the Red Tarn area all day, and with everything snowed out and no track anywhere to see it had a nice wildness about it today, great to have the hills to your self occasionally in the Lakes….

 Route to Red Tarn
 Helvellyn Trig point

Helvellyn X bench 

In terms of climbing, the old snow/ice will still be good but very buried.  The easy mixed is also buried and I’d not be totally sure about the turf?!  The steep rock was black on Viking Buttress as far as I could tell.  With careful route choice a moderate mixed route might be an option, steep enough not to be buried but not so steep as to have shed all its snow etc, hard to say…  The approach and exit slopes from routes will also be worth treating with care.  Ski touring will be great, despite the snow being a little heavy there’s a good covering, better viz tomorrow will help for the big turns!

 The bottom of the crags above Red Tarn.
Viking Buttress base, the steeper wall of the crag just visible above.

All in all there is scope for a great winter day out but with fairly careful route choice and flexible planning required… and probably some trail breaking!

Last Friday…
Last Friday we had a great day out with 2 Intro to Snow and Ice climbing courses running and a Navigation course also.  Steve and I went up to Great End for the climbing which gave a full winter experience once above the freeze line!  Kate, Sophie, Donal and Mark all took the full winter experience in their stride!  Steve went up Central Gully Left III, and I climbed SE Gully III.  Both were in good condition but will be loaded up now I’d guess…  Alex also had a good day out with Ellen navigating.

Here’s a photo Mark sent through of the crag on Friday, the weather cleared for the walk out.  Theres been lots more snow since this was taken!

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