We climbed Helvellyn. This time last year, Jenny and Chrissie from the consumer team hiked up Helvellyn with Lake District Fell Top Assessor, Graham Uney. Faced with snow up to their knees and in freezing temperatures, how did they get on?
Why did you embark on the challenge?
As part of a sponsorship campaign we were working on for our client Bergans of Norway, we were invited to climb Helvellyn with Graham Uney, one of the two Fell Top Assessors of the Lake District National Park. Our primary reason for hiking up the mountain was to gain an understanding of what a Fell Top Assessor actually did – getting first-hand experience of how and why they climb mountains daily.
For five months of the year, both Fell Top Assessors hike 950-metres to the top of Helvellyn every day to record temperatures, snow depth, wind speed, underfoot conditions and assess risks, including potential avalanches, and all of this in weather conditions as low as -16C. Their job helps to protect and advise the 15 million visitors and locals visiting the Lake District every year, via the Lake District’s ‘Weatherline’ – so it was a privilege to get to see such an important service at work. As well as this, our MD (and outdoors fanatic) wanted us to get an introductory crash course in winter mountaineering and saw this as the ideal opportunity to test out our client’s, Bergans of Norway, kit in ‘proper’ conditions. So up for any challenge and always keen to try something new, we decided why not?
What was the hardest part of the climb?
Being relatively fit (or so we thought?!) we thought that we would be able to hike up the mountain no problem. Oh how very wrong we were! The incline was steep straight from the off, so we were soon out of breath and needing to take regular breaks. It became quickly apparent that climbing a mountain was very different from our normal runs in the park and this challenge wasn’t going to be easy! Graham on the other hand took the climb in his stride as he was clearly used to this type of total body exercise! Due to the amount of snow and ice on the paths, we also needed to use our crampons and an ice axes earlier than we thought. Using this equipment was a whole new experience for us and took quite a lot of getting used to! Visibility was also poor, so even with a guide, it was difficult to make out a clear path. We relied completely on Graham’s knowledge of the mountain and could understand how easy it would be for people to stray off course and into potential danger.
What advice would you give others?
Be realistic and take it slow if you haven’t climbed a mountain before. Also – always wear sensible clothing (especially warm socks and gloves in winter), pack the right equipment (including torches, ice axes and crampons) and always travel with someone (preferably a guide).
Would you do it again?
Definitely! Although we did come down from the mountain, wet, dirty and with numb faces, the thrill of the climb and the sense of achievement gave us a real taste for mountaineering. Both of us learnt several new skills and came away with a real admiration of what the Fell Top Assessors do every day. Both of us have promised to do it again this year so watch this space…