Saturday, May 19, 2012

Good cover on all aspects above 800m.

The plateau and Etchachan
Great ski touring conditions above 800m, at present the snow is still cold high up.  Temperatures are expected to rise this week as high pressure builds. 

A Corniced edge along the top of Sneachda

Still wintry conditions on ridges


Friday, May 18, 2012

It's still snowing

The weather station on Cairngorm summit still looking a little snowed under
We had light snowfall for most of the day with poor visibility leading to white out conditions on the hill.   A few parties were out ski touring and hill walking and we all agreed that GPS was useful.   Generally cover is good above 800 metres with snow on all aspects.  Above 1000 metres the snow is still quite cool and light, but more heavy below this altitude.  Weather outlook is to become more settled with sunshine.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Clear and Sunny - Deep soft Snow

The Fiacaills of the Northern Corries - note avalanche in foreground

A ski party Heading toward Hells Lum and Macdui

Looking toward The Cairnwell

Climber on the summit of Fiacaill a Coire an t Sneachda
Clear in the morning with a deep blanket of snow on all aspects. Heavy going later with a bit of leg breaking snow about! A rare day, clear and sunny which will contrast with the extreme bad weather day forecasted for tomorrow.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Blanket Snow Cover !

Evening light on the Lairg Ghru - from Aviemore
Very good snow cover for this time of year in the Northern Cairngorms - deep and hard going in places though - The clearing of the bad weather will allow some good views and provide some great ski touring, especially on saturday. Good viz will allow for good terrain and route selection helping to avoid the suspect steep and convex terrain.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Winter forecast to return....again!

Another wintery forecast for tomorrow, Monday. Starting bright but deteriorating around noon with stronger winds and snowfall - 10cm to15cm according to the Met man. We've also a lot of soft fresh snow available for transport lying around on the plateau, which by itself would be enough to create issues in lee areas. Local tradition has it that SE winds on Cairngorm are always stronger than official forecasts; the Met are estimating 25mph, gusting 30/35mph, coming from the ESE, but we shall see.

 (Above) The Cas headwall today. 
A thinnish layer of fresh snow covered everything (including a hard crust) and made skiing the headwall a much more agreeable experience than in recent days. If the wind does blow on Monday this will be a place well worth avoiding....
(For the first time ever Coronation Wall was machine groomed and pisted and was a pretty decent ski.)

(Above) Different story on the other side of the hill. 
This is on the S side of Cairngorm itself and holds better, deeper snow than on the Cas side. The little re-entrant had drifted in and was a great spot for some quick stability tests. Nothing bad is going to happen to you skiing over this sort of minor feature and you will get good stability and snowpack info. Quite slabby here where it's drifted and deeper.

(Above) Graupel. A layer of large graupel grains lies underneath yesterday's windslab - it's soft and supports the weight of what's above poorly. Very easy shears on this layer in the snow pit (and elsewhere) today.

(Above) From the top of Stag Rocks. 
L to R: Carn Etchachan separated from the Shelter Stone Crag by Castlegates Gully (the top is hidden). Pinnacle Gully, with the Forefinger Pinnacle at the top, is just to the right of the Shelter Stone Crag.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Contrasty conditions

(Above) More or less continuous snow cover above 900m.

The Glenmore 'corridor' was quite busy today with cyclists and walkers. A fair number of campers too at the main camp site enjoying mercifully bright and dry conditions, though bitterly cold at night.

(Above) Coire an Lochain from the ski road below the Coire Cas car park. White and wintry looking May!

(Above) The Cas car park was full this morning. Quite a few ski tourers gearing up for the day.

 (Above) The Cairngorm plateau: L to R - Loch Etchachan, Carn Etchachan and the summit of Ben Macdui highest on the skyline. 
 A lot of hard, unforgiving snow on the plateau but with some softer powdery snow on a few sheltered S aspects. Best descent of the day had to be from the summit of Cairngorm down its S flank towards spot height 1082m..sublime in the cold sunshine...but was tracked out pretty quickly.

 (Above) Some of the steep S-facing gullies above the Loch Avon basin - one in the foreground is Y Gully (I think), with Diagonal Gully next along. The NW winds of most recent days have dumped all the snow here and it's soft, cold and slabby in these and similar places. Quite noticeable today that the snow surface temperature stayed well below freezing and was little affected by solar radiation, even on these steep sun-exposed slopes. Note the small (soft) cornices in the background.

(Above) Diagonal Gully: the venue for formal snow pit. This is a steep gully (measured at 45 degrees near the top) that can be a great ski descent down to Loch Avon in the right conditions. I backed off this today but managed to get a pit done a metre of two beyond the rucsac: not at all happy about stability here. Instability and deeper softer snow is limited to the top 40-50m of these steep gullies at the moment, with some near-surface instability lower down.

(Above) Coire an-t Sneachda. L to R: Mess of Pottage, Forty Thieves, Aladdin's Couloir, the Goat Track, Point 5 Gully and the Fiacaill Buttress.

Another wintry shot of one of the Northern Corries. Haven't seen many climbers but there is evidence of ski tracks in Point 5 Gully (just r. of centre in photo) although I'm sure they're from the last weeks 'heatwave' because skiing it at the moment would be ski chattering ice-fest of the trouser-filling variety. The top section of Aladdin's down to the wee 'col'  is incomplete and rocky. Best to save the steep skiing in these north-facing places for when we have a nice thin layer of forgiving spring snow.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Wintry again

(Above) The Ptarmigan Restaurant in the ski area during one of the breaks in the mist and snow showers.

Wintry again after the baking sunshine and blue skies of recent days. Minus 5 degrees C. today on the summit compared to +6.2 at the same time yesterday (when Aviemore basked in +17 degrees of sunshine). The re-freeze makes for contrasty skiing conditions away from the ski area with large expanses of developing crust that made your skis chatter, changing suddenly to soft slabby snow in lee areas. Overall cover is very good and remains continuous above 900m with large expanses at lower altitudes which remain skiable, if crusty.

(Above) At the pit site above Stac an Fharaidh. 

Weakly bonded windslab is forming (30-40cms in places) at the top of many South aspects and it sheared readily. Conversely, excellent stability in most other places with a widespread crust that supported skis but not foot traffic this morning. Snow showers rattled in on strong northerlies and became more frequent later. Very poor vis for most of the day.