Every day during the winter months Fell Top Assessors Jon or Jason climb 3,000 foot up Helvellyn in order to gauge the weather conditions, snow conditions and general safety of walking in the higher lands of the Lake District. Many would envy their role (although bear in mind how grim the weather has been in the last few weeks!) but they perform a critical service for the many walkers who take to the fells when they are in their winter snow clothes. From a competent walkers perspective the information that they provide will tell someone if it is really worthwhile taking to the high fells and if the snow conditions are good enough for an enjoyable day. Loose, wet and claggy snow is unpleasant and on somewhere like Striding Edge potentially very dangerous but when the snow conditions are as excellent as they were for much of last winter then there is no finer time to be on the fells.
For the less experienced walker the information from the Fell Top Assessors forms part of the National Park Authority’s ‘Weatherline‘. This popular service (700,000 hits a year, peaking in the winter months) provides information gathered from the Fell Top Assessors and the Met Office and puts it together in to an advisory capacity for anyone thinking of travelling up to the Lake District, say for a weekend break or just a day’s walk.
The Weatherline website has been maintained by the Lake District National Park Authority for many years but earlier this year there was a decision made that it would have to become self funding. With the large cut backs experienced by the National Park, funding the service became too much of a ‘nice to have’ and not an essential tool for the workings of the Park. The costs included funding for the Assessors themselves, their equipment and maintenance of the website and amounted to a tidy little sum. Funding needed to be secured and I was delighted to help them find outside businesses who wished to promote their product on the Weatherline website. A look on the website will show those companies who have taken up the promotion and helped support a very worthwhile service for the area – information such as this can only help attract people to the area. I personally felt strong enough about the benefits and advice given on Weatherline to offer my time to the Park on a voluntary basis.
The BBC have just picked up on the story so have a look at Jon in action on this link. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16174350
One thing he says that I cannot but endorse whole heartily is the need for people climbing the fells in winter conditions to be a) not put off because it is winter BUT b) to be well equipped and competent on the hill. As I have repeatedly said on this site….learn how to use a compass and learn how to read a map without relying on modern gadgets!
If you would like to become involved with the Weatherline service and take up one of the promotional positions still available simply contact my permanent colleague in the park Neil Solender, the details are on the Weatherline website.
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