Ice monitoring station installed on Great End

Rangers install ice monitor station Great End, Borrowdale, Lake District

Helping to conserve the last refuge of extremely rare alpine plants, the monitor broadcasts the state of the ice on the Lake District crag to ice-climbers across the country.

In 2016 National Trust Ranger Roy Henderson worked with the British Mountaineering Council to install an ice monitoring station on Great End in Borrowdale, one of the most reliable winter crags in the Lake District.

Climbers and plants love this harsh environment

The cold and wet conditions in the Lake District fells at this time of year make it a much sought after location for winter climbers, but it is also one of the last bastions for rare and endangered alpine plants. High up on the crags, beyond the reach of grazing animals, tiny populations of flowering mountain plants cling on - in the case of the alpine saxifrage only a handful of individuals remain.

Dwarf cornel - a rare beauty growing on only on Great End and Helvellyn
Dwarf cornel sub artic plant, Great End and Helvellyn, Lake District
Dwarf cornel - a rare beauty growing on only on Great End and Helvellyn

The condition of the ice is crucial

If ice-climbers come out when the ice is thin or patchy, these fragile plants can easily be damaged, but if the ice is good and thick, the plants are protected from the sharp teeth of crampons and ice-axes.

Informing better decision making

The ice monitoring station broadcasts accurate current and historical temperatures to the BMC website for anyone to access prior to deciding if it's appropriate to make a climb. Whilst not a definitive system, readings are taken at hourly intervals from probes located at approximately 750m altitude, buried in turf at 5cm, 15cm and 30cm, as well as one probe measuring air temperature, which allow for informed decisions to be made about the on-crag conditions.

Climber on Glyder Fach at Carneddau and Glyderau Gwynedd

British Mountaineering Council

To view the current readings from the Great End ice monitoring station, visit the BMC's website

Working in partnership to deliver conservation

Traditionally conservation measures may have included banning climbing activities on these crags to protect the habitats, but instead climbing and conservation communities are working together to follow a few simple guidelines.

This interplay is a clear example of how we are delivering our first Lake District conservation principle by caring for what is special about this the landscape and facilitating the activities of the people who love being in it.

The very rare alpine catchfly grows on only one Lake District site
The rare alpine catchfly growing on crag in the Lake District
The very rare alpine catchfly grows on only one Lake District site