The week so far

22nd January 2009

(Above) Drifting was more or less continuous today in and out of showers. Snow lies at all levels but is deep, even in the heather where you might think it would be shallow. Progress on the hill is slow and difficult (with snow shoes). The shot above was taken in Coire Chromharsain at 550m.

The week has been dominated by persistent and heavy snow showers. On Monday windslab was widespread on all NW through N to ENE aspects above 600m and this has settled down and formed the base for copious quantities of additional slab that accumulated throughout the week. Cornices have formed over all steep wind-sheltered gully tops and corrie rims. Not surprisingly we’ve had a fair amount of avalanche activity where windslab build up has been fastest and deepest.

We haven’t found any lingering and buried weaknesses in the snowpack having thought we might have a problem with surface hoar after the prolonged New Year freeze. Most of the avalanche activity has been the fairly typical Scottish variety – new snow avalanches during or immediately after snowfall or persistent drifting. At Meggie we get a lot more rain-on-snow avalanches than further east and were expecting evidence of this today but the temperatures stayed fairly cold and had snow on snow.

There’s a thin crust wherever the wind has scoured away new snow, it’s not much of a hinderance but does get thicker with altitude. Can’t recommend skiing here at present – it’s just bottomless snow with no real base. Skinning up hill would be OK but descents horrifying (a snowboard might be a good option?).

Climbing conditions are also severely affected by the amount of snow on the ground – you just can’t get to the bottom of the crags. All popular routes have a lot of unstable snow at the top of them and you may end up riding a big one if you did manage to get on a route.

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