Northern Cairngorms Winter Conditions.
Winter arrives with vengeance.
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!
Mountain Weather Information Service
Scottish Avalanche Information Service
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/