Mild, moist & avalanchey.

20th February 2021

Covid -19
The Scottish Avalanche Information Service issues information to support permitted activity under current Scottish Government guidance.
Please be aware of current mandatory travel restrictions in Local Authority areas within Scotland and respect local communities by referring to Scottish Government guidance and safe route choices for exercise. For further guidance please refer to the following information for hillwalkers and climbers and snowsports on ski and board.
This blog is intended to provide hazard and mountain condition information to help plan safer mountain trips.
(Above) Lochan a Choire and the buttresses, crags and gullies of the Post Face of upper Coire Ardair. Doesn’t show well in the photo but the ice on the loch is still relatively thick despite the persistent mild temperatures of late.
(Above) The ice on the lochan may not have fully succumbed to the mild conditions but the snow up high certainly has. Two Size 2 wet slab avalanches emanating from above 950m on this steep North aspect.  Both of these ran out nearly 300m from the ridge line near Puist Coire Ardair at 1000m altitude or more.
(Above) Raeburn’s Gully, Coire Ardair. A popular steep NNE facing gully above Lochan a Choire. Small (Size 0.5) wet slab avalanche debris visible on the talus fan below the gully. In Scotland a small avalanche like this is unlikely to bury you but could sweep you off your feet and result in you taking an rapid, unplanned ride down over rocks, or crags in some places. The consequences of such an event can be out of all proportion to the size of the avalanche.
Little known factoid: Back in the 1980s one of the authors of ‘Chance in a Million?’, a book about Scottish avalanches, was knocked off balance and had his footing dislodged by an innocuous-seeming sluff on the steep broken ground immediately west of Jacob’s Ladder in Coire an’t Sneachda in the Cairngorms whilst instructing for the ‘Perspiring Adventure’ outfit in Glenmore. This small event resulted in him falling over then sliding down steep ground over rocks and boulders before coming to a halt near the floor of the coire. The upshot of all this was that he spent many, many months off work recovering from multiple bone fractures the worst of which was a broken pelvis. When I visited him during his convalescence he was humble enough to inscribe the inside cover of my copy of his book with, “…..or should that be more like 1 in 10?  Best wishes.”
(Above) Easy Gully. The Post Face. Not easy to see in the photo but there is debris from two separate wet snow avalanches, the lower one coming out of South Post and the upper one from somewhere higher in Easy Gully. Both Size 1 events.
(Above) The crags and gullies of the Inner Coire, and The Window. 4 wet slides here. Left to right – debris below The Pipes, below Pumpkin, out of Cinderella (with a goodly amount of cornice debris here, too) with further debris below the steep ground to the west of Cinderella. The main Cinderella avalanche was a decent Size 2, the others Size 1 or 0.5.
Mild and wet again overnight but cooler and drier during the day with a few snow showers. Poor stability for a time before the wet snowpack responds to the colder air temperatures and starts to heal itself later in the day.

Comments on this post

  • C Cuthbertson
    21st February 2021 10:08 am

    Thanks for taking the trouble – a good read.

    • meagaidhadmin
      21st February 2021 2:58 pm

      My pleasure. Glad you enjoyed it and found it useful.

  • Chris
    21st February 2021 6:15 pm

    The author swept off his feet wasn’t the late Blyth Wright was it? Was on a ‘mountaincraft’ school course in 1989 at Glenmore Lodge and he was one of the instructors. Very knowledgeable chap and very opinionated! Full of good sentences like “When you’re at the summit you’re not halfway, you’re at a third distance. Most accidents occur on the way down when you’re tired, so take twice as much care on the way back.”

    Cheers for all the great work you guys are doing. Gutted that I couldn’t even enjoy the rare snow/ice in the Pentlands two weeks ago ‘cos of lockdown, but I look at Meggie a lot. One day..!

    • meagaidhadmin
      21st February 2021 8:05 pm

      No names, no pack drill. Have already given away far too many confidences, Chris.

      Ha ha, Blyth wasn’t backwards in coming forwards with his opinions. Ever! A fiercely bright and at times quite difficult character who, to coin a phrase, wasn’t always right but was never wrong!

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