New Helvellyn Winter Conditions Monitoring System

The BMC has been working in collaboration with Natural England, John Muir Trust and the Lake District National Park Authority to launch a new winter conditions monitoring system on the Red Tarn Face of Helvellyn. The new system will assist climbers by providing hourly temperature data for air and turf to help give a picture of likely conditions.

Red Tarn Face Helvellyn  © Gav Parker
Red Tarn Face Helvellyn
© Gav Parker, Mar 2015

The face was a high priority for such a system, it being a habitat for many rare plant species which risk damage if climbed on when the turf isn't sufficiently frozen. The launch follows the success of a similar set-up established on Great End last winter.

Information from the system will be added to our UKC Winter Conditions page in the coming days.

The BMC have provided guidelines on how to use the data:

'The data provided by the systems in the Lakes and Snowdonia is very accurate for the precise location of the sensors, but bear in mind that the sensors haven't been placed on the particular route you want to climb and user discretion is essential. Given that different routes on the same crag can often have widely varying conditions, the conditions at the sensor location (at the same altitude and aspect as many routes), whilst likely to be similar may not be exactly the same as those on the crag or different parts of the crag.

These systems will never provide a straightforward yes/no answer as to whether conditions are good, but they do provide more accurate, current and location specific data which can be used in conjunction with weather forecasts, ground conditions reports, webcams, trip reports etc to help you piece together an idea of how conditions are shaping up.

Turf on ledges (similar to where the sensors have been placed) can be insulated by accumulating snow which often prevents freezing, whilst steeper faces which don't accumulate snow could have turf exposed to the wind which is solidly frozen. Don't forget however that turfy ledges on routes are a common feature and often where large colonies of arctic alpines grow. Arguably the air temperature sensor could be the most useful as it won't be affected by snow accumulation, but using the turf sensor data in combination with Lake District Weatherline, MWIS and Met Office weather forecasts should help to build a picture about whether snow insulation could be affecting readings. The most useful feature is likely the ability to view trends over a number of days, as a minimum of several days of cold weather is usually what is needed to freeze turf properly and bring routes into condition.'

Read more on the BMC article.

Access the system's data here.

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