Christmas Eve at Creag Meagaidh

24th December 2020

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service issues information to support permitted activity under current Scottish Government guidance.  Please be aware of travel restrictions within Scotland and respect local communities by referring to Scottish Government guidance and how to participate safely by referring to Mountaineering Scotland guidance


(Above) The general set up at Creag Meagaidh as viewed from the east at Laggan. About 1cm of soft fresh cold snow down at glen level – check the roof of Blargie farmhouse on the far right. Overall depth and extent of cover remains pretty poor just looks better when illuminated by sunlight.


(Above) 900m on the SE facing backwall of Coire Chriochairein. Note the shallow snow cover. It was cold today, circa -6 degrees C. on summits with a N to NNW airflow up high which only eased later.


(Above) Deeper more recent snow exists in the last 15 to 20m beneath the cornice line here on S and SE aspects. The skyline is at 970m. Some cornices also over selected steep NE and E facing aspects. All our cornices are of quite modest size at the moment which tells you a lot about how limited snowfall and drifting have been recently.


(Above) Looking back down from Coire Chriochairein towards Aberarder and Loch Laggan. The cold temperatures have induced the development of what I would call ‘proto’ facetted crystals, in their first or very earliest form, above and beneath a buried crust. Not that much of an issue when considering stability at the moment since our snow cover is thin and poor so their potential to produce an avalanche of even a small size is limited. Always interesting to see these grains under the loupe though. Didn’t log them on our formal snow pit since they weren’t proper ‘facets’ (or ‘mixed forms’) but rather the precursor of those types of snow grains.

(FYI, avalanche forecasters and snow technicians across the world can have quite animated discussions about snow grain identification. I recall standing in a 3m deep snow pit in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada observing a couple of the local ski resort snow techs argue the toss about whether the grains in a particular layer were ‘partly decomposing’ or ’rounds’. Tetchy didn’t cover it; it got quite heated even though it had little to do with stability issues!)

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