AN AVALANCHE warning has been issued for the Lake District.

National park ranger and fell top assessor Pete Barron said only experienced climbers and walkers should venture onto the fell tops.

Although visitors are promised spectacular Alpine views of snow-capped mountains and shimmering lakes, Mr Barron said conditions on the fells were ‘extremely challenging’.

“Only the most experienced should be venturing on to the summits this weekend,” he said. “There are avalanche risks and we’ve had recent winds of 55 miles an hour.”

Fell top assessors for the Weatherline service have this week battled with metre-deep snow drifts, strong winds and wind chill temperatures of minus 21°C torecord conditions on 950m Helvellyn.

Full winter clothing and equipment, including ice axes and crampons and the knowledge of how to use them, are essential for anyone on the hills.

Summit temperatures continue to be well below freezing with a significant wind chill.

Mr Barron added: “Excellent navigational skills are needed too. Visibility can be a real issue at all levels and with the snow cover masking features and footpaths, conditions can be challenging to say the least.”

Above 800m, unstable snow is a particular risk in some areas and Helvellyn’s Swirral and Striding Edges are covered with deep drifts and should only be attempted by those with experience of such conditions.

Although the fell top service on 0844 846 2444, was due to finish after Easter Monday, updates will continue until the extreme weather improves.