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Current Walking Conditions?

Posted: 30 Mar 2013, 13:52
by phil
Hi Guys

I am taking a charity group as the ML next week (6th April). It will be about the 8th time I've done the walk so familiar with the route.

I would be really interested in people's comments on conditions underfoot on the paths, especially on the Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough ascents. I expect I'll need to be getting some cleats from somewhere! It will be a party of 9 novices with 2 ML's who have plenty of winter experience as well. They will be well equipped, but I am considering postponing rather than any particular heroics...
Also - I'll take a security rope, but would rather go not expecting to use it, rather than knowing it is needed from the outset. Can you comment if you would want it as a novice!

Many thanks in anticipation.
It looks beautiful at the moment though!


Re: Current Walking Conditions?

Posted: 30 Mar 2013, 19:05
by mac.hawk
Hi Phil

see the comment regarding the current conditions I've made in the '3 Peaks 31st March' from Sophie Hardcastle.

I got 3 pairs of cleats off Amazon for just over ten quid and they work a treat. Not a single wobble today, I've probably walked around 80 miles in them, usually on a 10-12 miles hike both last year and this year and for the price they have been a bargain. Used in conjuction with a pole I've felt totally confident walking in the compacted snow and over ice.

As for advice, it all depends on next weeks weather. Yes it's is very beautiful at the moment but if it stays this cold or snows again I'd think about rearranging. As you well know it's a long way and with 2 extra M/L's on board that sounds great but in my opinion taking a party of novices along the route in 'challenging' conditions should be avoided. If you do venture out (and it's 'challenging') I'd suggest you or one of your M/L's to be prepared lead anyone who's struggling to saftey at anyone of the 'jump out' points.

Of course it simply could all have melted by next Saturday and be totally fine, either way I'd avoid 'The Bog'.

Re: Current Walking Conditions?

Posted: 01 Apr 2013, 14:29
by H_Ian_M
I did the 3 Peaks yesterday with two mates. I think two of us had done it twice before, and one once before, although all previous trips had been in the summer. None of us have much experience of proper winter mountaineering. To summarise (Starting Horton, anticlockwise):

Pen-y-Ghent ascent: physically tougher than usual up the early sections, due to soft snow on the ground (not helped by taking a slight wrong turning due to the path being less obvious in the snow - ended up heading somewhat cross country until we hit the wall on the ridge, than hanging a left). The final steep section was largely snow free, but in places was a bit slippy. Overall, slightly trickier and maybe took 20min longer than normal.

Pen-y-Ghent descent: Initially soft snow, no real issues. Coming over the bank, grippers would definitely have been appreciated, as the path was very slippy with compacted snow and ice, and was 'off camber', threatening a long slide down the bank. The additional care required probably added 10min

Pen-y-Ghent to Ribblehead: Took the new path - some snow lying on the ground, but generally fine underfoot. If anything was easier than expected as the ground was less boggy.

Whernside ascent: Up to about 400m ground largely clear of snow, no issues. From this point (just at the turn back on yourself), there was a mile or so of compacted, slippy ice, but this gave way to softer snow with much more grip. The wind, however, really picked up, probably to 35-40 knots, all along the summit ridge. Made for quite hard work. In all, the ascent probably took 15min longer.

Whernside descent: Initially not too bad, as the soft snow provides a lot of grip if you are comfortable chopping foothold with each step. Again, however, there was a 1-2km period, just as the descent got steeper, where ice had formed and going was very slow. The always tricky rocky descent was not helped by patches of snow, ice and very slippy mud. Probably took 20+ extra minutes in total.

Ingleborough ascent: Initial section had some patchy snow, increasing with height, and the steps were a bit tricky in places, with some large ice patches. The steep section of the route, however, was very tricky. Snow was soft with a hard crust and about 1ft deep at least. The path was impossible to see, and everyone appeared to have gone straight up to the left of the fence. There was approx. 200-300m of steep climbing that was just possible without using hands, then a small ledge where it was possible to have a break. Above this ledge, the final segment was around 100m that required hands as well. There are well-cut hand/foot holds in the snow, but they were not all secure, and it felt very exposed without a rope - it would be very easy to slip, and there would be little chance to arrest a fall on the hard packed snow without an ice axe. The final climb to the summit plateau was a bit exposed with a strong wind this time trying to blow us off the path around the Northern side of the rocky outcrops. Again, 10-15min were probably added in total.

Ingleborough descent: Very hard packed snow made the initial section off the plateau tricky - we decided discretion was the better part of valour and bumslid a lot of the way, reasoning that it was better to sit down than fall down. Once below the snowline, the path was similar to normal for this time of year. Probably 5-10min added in total.

Overall: We managed fine without grippers/crampons/rope, but there were definitely sections where this would have been appreciated. I am not a M/L, so obviously no expert, but I would have appreciated a rope for the ingleborough ascent, but only if all had axes and crampons - otherwise there is no way those that had not fallen would have been able to hold on. We ended up taking 10 1/2 hours, when all of us managed the route in around 9 1/2 hours in summer conditions. Of note, I would have felt very uncomfortable descending Ingleborough by the route we ascended - I'm very glad we went anticlockwise.

Re: Current Walking Conditions?

Posted: 02 Apr 2013, 09:59
by phil
Really appreciate that update - so useful. The pressure charts indicate nothing is going to change soon - so I know what you describe is the worst!

Thanks again - Phil

Re: Current Walking Conditions?

Posted: 02 Apr 2013, 13:22
by H_Ian_M
An important thing to realise is that the most dangerous conditions are not on the tops but are around 500m where the freeze/thaw cycle has led to lots of sheet ice.

Re: Current Walking Conditions?

Posted: 04 Apr 2013, 19:45
by iz15
I'm doing the walk this Saturday with a group of friends. I don't think any of us are overly experienced, but have all done one or more of the peaks in good weather. I was wondering what the current conditions are and any recommendations you may have for us.

Re: Current Walking Conditions?

Posted: 05 Apr 2013, 19:36
by mac.hawk
It's a very good forecast for this Saturday but there does seem to be residual ice/compacted snow in places. If you have them pack cleats (ice grippers) for your footware and take a walking pole too if you have one - if you don't have them just be a bit extra wary and don't mind the clock. The ascent up Ingleborough (from Chapel le Dale) doesn't get any direct sun until a later in the year so I'd expect that section of the route to give you the most problems.

Re: Current Walking Conditions?

Posted: 07 Apr 2013, 17:28
by phil
Well we had a great days walk yesterday - the principle problem was sunburn!

Given my novice group, I decided to give the Ingleborough ascent a miss. Instead I climbed Ingleborough from Ingleton on the West which worked very well - just a few small snowfields. I was greeted by the spectacle of 8 ladies descending on their bottoms from Ingleborough and that section did not present any problems, as long as that position was adopted.
Pen-y-Ghent ascent had no snow to speak of; the descent had a snow-field that just needed a little confidence to pass, but it was easy to give a helping arm if needed.
Whernside was fine on the way up with a couple of exposed steps onto the ridge on a snow field which they all managed with some encouragement.
Finally a sunset descent off the West side of Whernside to the Kingsdale road where they learned how to glissade down a few snowfields amid much hilarity.

All in all, a great day and it was a privilege to take some walkers to see views and experiences that they will probably never have again - which is what it's all about (and about £3k raised for charity!). 15 hours in all. I totally ignored the clock!

If the sun stays that intense, then I would guess the snow will rapidly disappear, apart from those North-facing gullys. I did not see the path from the Hill Inn to Ingleborough so I can't comment.
Thanks for all the guidance - I'll be back!


Re: Current Walking Conditions?

Posted: 07 Apr 2013, 19:18
by mac.hawk
Weren't you simply blessed with the weather!!

Looks like you all had a great day and raised a nice amount of money too.


Re: Current Walking Conditions?

Posted: 08 Apr 2013, 10:44
by townfan200
I joined this forum last week to find out more about what the conditions would be like during the weekend of 6 and 7 April. I thought to return the favour I would comment on our experience of the last couple of days. Please note that I am not an experienced walker at all and have only done this walk a few times; so I only know a little about the precise geography of the area!

On the Saturday we firstly climbed Whernside. The sun was shining and we were soon removing layers of clothes which we had earlier put on in a panic about how cold it might be! The paths were very clear in the early stages, it was only once the ascent became steeper that there were patches of hard snow, but our group of ten passed these easily even without any cleats or grippers.

On the top, the walk to the trig point was again covered with hard snow, what I couldn't believe was the weather at the trig point. The views were fantastic, no wind at all and it was pretty warm; I have never experienced that on top of Whernside. The descent was again pretty clear, I recall one patch of snow early on which one of our group had a wobble on but nothing serious to be concerned about.

We then walked to the Old Hill Inn before walking to Ingleborough. The walk to the base of Ingleborough was fine, just about all the snow has now cleared. However, the trickiest part of the walk was the steep ascent. Ordinarily, you would criss-cross up the mountain, but it was completely covered in snow. The only route was straight up a path which had been well walked in by previous brave souls. My tactic, once we had got going, was to simply not look sideways or down, as this really was a dangerous ascent. Once at the top, it was well worth the risk given the wonderful views we enjoyed again.

We decided to walk across the ridge and drop back down to Ribblehead when we came down Ingleborough. To do this, we had to go back the way we came for a short distance, but some of our party did struggle to remain standing. On a couple of occasions we had to take the additional slide. The walk along the ridge was again covered in snow which just made it a little tougher. Again, though, no problems with staying on our feet as there was no ice around.

On the Sunday, we set off from Horton to climb Pen-y-Ghent. There was no snow at all on the ascent and again conditions were fairly pleasant, if a little more overcast than the previous day. Right at the end of the climb, the path had become very boggy and, as a result, walkers had veered to each side. I expect that this might become worse as more walkers use these routes.

From the top, we walked back to Horton, coming out near the Crown pub. On the descent, there was a lot of snow which did cause us to slow down and become more cautious where the gradient was particularly steep. There was one very narrow path where snow had built up that was quite slippy, but being sensible and adding a little more time onto this section saw us all through safely. The final walk back was then clear.

I hope this assists anyone who might be walking in the near future.