Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Thursday, 25 December 2008

Climb delays festive celebrations

Craig Palmer
Craig Palmer has to make the ascent of Helvellyn whatever the weather

As people look forward to Christmas dinner, Craig Palmer has to delay festive celebrations until he has scaled one of England's highest peaks.

The former Marine commando is one of two fell top assessors who on alternate weeks make a daily ascent of Helvellyn.

The pair gather information for the Lake District National Park's Weatherline, checking conditions including wind, snow and ice.

His colleague will make the 3,114ft (950m) climb on New Year's Day.

Mr Palmer, an outdoor guide and instructor, has Ministry of Defence qualifications in Artic survival and ski instruction and civilian awards in winter and mountain leadership.

'Special atmosphere'

He said: "From becoming a cub at the age of seven, mountains have been my home. I live and breathe them.

"From a very early age, it was my ambition to get paid for being in the hills.

"As a fell top assessor, I can put something back."

He shares the job with former hotel manager Jon Bennett, from Ambleside.

Conditions on the fells can change rapidly, and the fell assessors compile information for the Weatherline phone and online reports, which are used by 500,000 people a year.

Mr Palmer added: "The safety parts of the job are paramount, but I also want to help people on the mountain, sharing its history, its fauna and very special atmosphere."

Once he has completed his Christmas Day shift, he will return to his home near Carlisle for festive celebrations with his doctor wife, Rachel, and young son, Archie.

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