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Northern Cairngorms Winter Conditions.

 

 

Winter Abates ….. & Returns

The week has seen weather moderate from last weeks severe “Weather Bomb”. As I write the temperature on Cairngorm summit is dropping as colder air moves in from the NW. From a high of around 0 deg C today, it’s presently -2. The last 36 hours has seen a thaw at all levels on the hills and lower ground with around a high of 2 deg C at 1200m. The snow cover on the mountains is more obviously patchy but with all the new snow and very high winds of last week that was always essentially the case. Deep accumulations of snow still remain on lee slopes and in the lee of features. These milder conditions have introduced more moisture to the snowpack and with the arrival colder conditions this should help to stabilise things. Tuesday in the mountains was a bitterly cold day with the temperature dropping as low as -8 on Cairngorm Summit (1245m) and accompanied by very strong winds. Monday was little different whilst Sunday gave us a brief 6 hr thaw with the temperature rising and falling sharply giving us a high of 5 deg C on the summit. All in all there have been some good melt freeze cycles over the last week.

 

For the next 3 days the wind is forecast to be between 60 and 80 mph (gusts 90 mph) with the freezing level starting at 500 m to then rise well above the summits on Sunday. As we approach Christmas the forecast is for it to become increasingly wintry. There are to be continued freeze thaw cycles but with a progression toward significantly colder conditions around or after Christmas Day with snow falling to lower slopes and the ground frozen from valley floor upwards.

 

So in summary – not a bad start to the winter. Last Saturday also saw the start of the ski season on Cairngorm.

 

Best wishes,

 

Andy Bateman

 

PS: Fri – heavy snow showers and settling snow at all levels

 

Useful links:

Mountain Weather Information Service

Scottish Avalanche Information Service

Cairngorm Mountain

 

Related blogs:

New partnership between WalkHighlands and Scot Mountain Holidays: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/new-partnership-walkhighlands-and-scot-mountain-holidays/

How do I prepare for a winter skills course: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/how-do-i-prepare-winter-skills-course/ 

Hogmanay in the Cairngorms – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/hogmanay-cairngorms/

When to come to the Cairngorms: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/when-come-cairngorms/

Which boots to choose for a winter hiking holiday – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/which-boots-choose-winter-walking/

How to build a snowhole – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/best-practice-building-snow-hole-scotland/

How to choose a walking ice axe – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/how-choose-walking-ice-axe/

Hogmanay plans at Fraoch Lodge – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/hogmanay-plans-fraoch-lodge/

Why is it called Hogmanay? – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/why-it-called-hogmanay/

Andy’s winter weather expertise – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/northern-cairngorms-winter-conditions-blog-4/

Northern Cairngorms Winter Conditions.

 

Winter arrives with vengeance.

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November was a mild month with the odd brief wintry interlude. As often appears to be the case a change in the month (and hence lunar cycle) heralds a change in the weather pattern.  Sunday 30th was a beautiful mild day but within 24 hrs there was a fresh snowfall on the hills. For the first week in December the weather was a bit up and down but the hills were becomingly increasingly white by the weekend. During Saturday night freezing levels lowered and by Sunday morning there was a good aesthetic covering at valley floor level at Boat of Garten (230m). Since then there has been seen a continuation of the colder weather with only the briefest of milder interludes. Tuesday warmed through the day with lying snow at valley level melting but by sunset the forecast cold front had passed through and showers became increasingly wintry. Wednesday was one of intense and frequent snow showers passing through on very high winds (gusting at over 100mph on Cairngorm Summit). These have been of wet snow at valley level as temperatures hovered fractionally above freezing. This has translated as around -5 deg C on the hill.  The intense showers continued through the night and into today on slightly cooler temperatures leaving us with approximately 10 cm of lying snow.

 

With respect to what’s going on in the hill this is all the more impressive when taking into account that a) Boat of Garten is somewhat in the sheltered lee of hills wrt the prevailing conditions and b) a proportion of the snow of the last 48hrs has melted at low levels.

 

Obviously due to a) the very high level of drifting and b) the extreme conditions in the last 48hrs it’s hard to say how much exactly has gone down but be rest assured it’s a considerable dump. I would expect in the Cairngorms, due to orographic lift, this would be at least 30cm and of course with all this weather coming in from the west I would expect appreciably more snow as you go further west. Of course the wind exposed shoulders etc of mountains will be scoured of snow but in the sheltered lees the snow will be pretty deep. Considering the strength of the winds the question will be how much snow has been blown off to much lower elevations?  It goes without saying that on certain aspects the avalanche risk may be very high. The Scottish Avalanche Information Service kick off the season today so do check out their forecast & reports if you are heading into the hills. Up until now the predominant wind direction has been from the west so many of the sites that are used for winter skills and snow-holing should have a good depth of snow in them now.

 

Predictions are suggesting the Northern Cairngorms will be getting more heavy snow as the low pressure moves east on Friday. This cold period is set to continue through to the weekend with the temperature at 900m presently forecast to drop as low as minus 6 deg C on Saturday. This is close to the usual seasonal minimum! It’s suggesting next week will be milder but not too mild which overtime should help to consolidate the snow. The ski road on Cairngorm is blocked by drifting but the ski area may open on Saturday for skiing.

 

All in all it’s an excellent start to the season – as another avalanche of snow slides off our roof!

 

Best wishes,

 

Andy Bateman

 

Useful links:

Mountain Weather Information Service

Scottish Avalanche Information Service

Cairngorm Mountain

 

Related blogs:

New partnership between WalkHighlands and Scot Mountain Holidays: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/new-partnership-walkhighlands-and-scot-mountain-holidays/

How do I prepare for a winter skills course: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/how-do-i-prepare-winter-skills-course/ 

Hogmanay in the Cairngorms – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/hogmanay-cairngorms/

When to come to the Cairngorms: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/when-come-cairngorms/

Which boots to choose for a winter hiking holiday – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/which-boots-choose-winter-walking/

How to build a snowhole – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/best-practice-building-snow-hole-scotland/

How to choose a walking ice axe – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/how-choose-walking-ice-axe/

Hogmanay plans at Fraoch Lodge – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/hogmanay-plans-fraoch-lodge/

Why is it called Hogmanay? – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/why-it-called-hogmanay/

Andy’s winter weather expertise – https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/northern-cairngorms-winter-conditions-blog-4/

Scot Mountain Holidays are pleased to announce a new partnership with leading website WalkHighlands. We have set aside 3 dates for all-inclusive Winter Skills weekends which are available exclusively to Walk Highlands newsletter membership.

The winter skills course

For many, winter sends a shiver down the spine but for a few of us it’s a tingle of excitement. It’s the privilege of experiencing a crystal clear horizon some 70 miles distant, seldom seen during the warmer months. The delicate pinks and oranges of a setting sun interacting with the creations of ice and frost make winter in the mountains a magical time. This weekend winter skills course gives you the confidence and satisfaction of knowing how to be safe and comfortable in this unique and beautiful but sometimes hostile environment.

Winter in the Cairngorms

For an ice axe arrest to be effective, it must be possible for some one to execute “in the blink of an eye”, and therefore needs to be practised repeatedly. We’ve planned the course with this in mind and have not therefore included any training in the complex skill of winter navigation. The course forms a solid foundation in personal winter safety skills; like the proper use of the boot, ice axe and crampons as well as looking at avoiding avalanches, emergency snow shelters, etc. If you feel your winter navigation skills need a boost we recommend you attend either our 5 Day Winter Skills Course or additionally our Winter Navigation Weekend?

The winter skills course also includes a winter ascent of the Munro summit of Cairngorm.

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But we’re not offering only the skills – included in the price is accommodation at Fraoch Lodge and your meals from breakfast on the Saturday morning through to your packed lunch to take on the hill on Sunday.

Accommodation for your winter skills course

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Fraoch Lodge is a comfortable, homely base for your weekend. Andy, Rebecca and Gregor (your hosts for the course) are also keen hill walkers and international travellers. You’ll probably find many of the same books as you have at home on the shelves and recognise many of the views in their photos.

They’ve also been keen to include work by many of the local craftspeople in enhancing the decor.

Nethybridge pottery have supplied many of our bedside lamps.

Unique Tables (Mark Samuels of Grantown on Spey) have supplied big foot tables to act as bedside tables in many of the rooms.

We’ve purchased a peg loom from Three Bags Wool craft shop in Aberlour and made luxuriously thick rugs and are in the process of adding hand made cushions.

The meals

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Rebecca takes pride in providing tasty food with local ingredients, many of which are supplied by the garden which has been converted to a mostly edible garden, but is still a very attractive garden. There are fruit trees and bushes around the border and vegetable beds interspersed. Many guests like to tour round the garden and see what they can spot and identify. If you have the inclination you could well find yourself totting some herbs homeward.

Summary

Scot Mountain Holidays provides adventure tours centred in the Scottish Highlands. All tours include an element of physical activity and interaction with local people.

In winter, the calendar is filled not only with traditional winter skills courses, to encourage people to learn the skills to head out into the hills all year round, but more spice has been added with winter expeditions for a fun but safe way of taking a break from everyday life. For the less adventurous, but fit, there are also a range of winter walking holidays made up from a series of day walks, returning to a comfortable base at the end of each day.

 

USEFUL BLOGS

How to ice axe arrest: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/skills-how-ice-axe-arrest/

Best practice: how to build a snow hole in Scotland: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/best-practice-building-snow-hole-scotland/

How not to get lost – the art of navigation: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/hiking-how-not-get-lost-art-navigation/

Top 10 winter skills tips (for Scotland): https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/top-10-winter-skills-tips/

How to prepare for a mountain challenge: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/classic-ridges-and-horseshoes-hiking-tips/

Which boots to choose for winter: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/which-boots-choose-winter-walking/

How to choose a walking ice axe: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/how-choose-walking-ice-axe/

 

EXPEDITIONS FROM SCOT MOUNTAIN HOLIDAYS: https://scotmountainholidays.com/activities/mountain-challenges/

 

SKILLS COURSES FROM SCOT MOUNTAIN HOLIDAYS: https://scotmountainholidays.com/activities/mountain-skills-courses/

All content © Copyright Scot Mountain Holidays 2019

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