The Lake District's mountains are in full winter conditions. Photo: Mike Blakey

The Lake District's mountains are in full winter conditions. Photo: Mike Blakey

Rescuers in the Lake District issued a warning to walkers that the area’s fells are in full winter condition and correct equipment is essential if you’re heading for the hills.

The warning came after a large group of teenagers was reported overdue earlier this week.

Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team was alerted at 7pm on Wednesday evening by police that 15 young people were overdue after going for a walk in the Hartsop area.

A team spokesperson said: “As the team prepared to initiate search plans a local team member met the informant in Cow Bridge car park. During these discussions the missing group turned up safe and well.

“In light of the intended route of the group, Patterdale MRT would kindly remind parties venturing in to the high fells, that they are now in full winter conditions and appropriate equipment should be carried at all times.”

The Lake District National Park Authority’s felltop assessors reported today that fresh snow had fallen on the summit of nearby Helvellyn.

Their report, compiled after daily trips to the top of the 950m (3,120ft) mountain, said: “Above 550m, the snow depth rises with height although the actual depth varies from little on windswept areas – such as parts of the summit plateau – to drifts of over 50cm on lee slopes above 900m with a very rough average of 8-10cm at 900m.

“The snowpack requires a thaw-freeze cycle to harden being mainly soft and weakly bonded on steep slopes.

“Walkers breaking trail in the soft snow, especially above 750m, should allow more time for the extra effort involved. Conversely on popular routes, where the snow has been compacted, conditions are slippery with walking poles useful to aid stability.

“There are weak, unstable cornices over N to SE slopes so please keep well back from such edges and advise those with less experience to do likewise.”

The assessors said conditions in the Lake District are now split in two with green, spring-like valleys and almost Alpine conditions above 750m. “Full winter clothing, footwear and equipment are essential for those going above the snowline,” they said. “If your route involves climbing, or traversing, steep slopes then an ice-axe and crampons are also essential together with the ability to assess the stability, or otherwise, of the snowpack.

“Once again, people were negotiating such routes today without this equipment. While possible, please consider how you would stop yourself if you slipped without an ice-axe.

“Exposed routes, such as Striding and Swirral Edges, are in winter condition with the soft snow having been compacted in many places. Therefore, such steep and exposed routes should only be attempted by those equipped for and experienced in winter mountaineering.

“With deep snow obscuring landmarks, visibility is dramatically reduced in cloud so excellent navigational skills are required; conversely hopefully sunglasses will be a necessity on Monday.”

The forecast for Monday is for felltop temperatures of only -6C, with initial winds gusting to 50mph but subsiding by the middle of the day. Full details, including felltop assessor reports, are on the Lake District Weatherline website.

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