When west isn’t best, at least at Creag Meagaidh.
3rd February 2021
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(Above) The main drag up through the forest to Beinn a Chaorainn. Used this for access whilst in search for a meaningful west aspect in Coire nan Laogh today. About 5cm of fresh snow on the track in the shelter of the trees and close to 7cm just before you break out the forest at the top. The fresh snow covers firm & crusty snow on the track and offers fast passage on skis or on foot. Different story beyond the trees though.
(Above) The entrance to Coire nan Laogh. The coire is initially a pronounced V-shaped valley eroded into the SW flank of the Creag Meagaidh summit massif. It widens out into a well defined shallow coire only in its upper reaches just 1500m from the summit of Creag Meagaidh. Truth be told, the upper coire is a bog-fest in summer but at the moment it holds a lot of snow. Plus it provides us with a selection of tolerably accessible West aspects which we’re actually a bit short of at SAIS Creag Meagaidh. Our persistently strong Easterly airflow and occasional snow showers means places like these provide us with the best snowpack information right now.
Everything’s a bit about face at the moment. West and South West are our most common wind directions so our hunt for instability is usually focussed on North to East aspects which are bountiful in Coire Ardair and many other places within our patch. Unfortunately, west aspects all seem to be in relatively remote and quite committing to get to locations! We’d better get used it though as it looks like we have another week to ten days or so of this airflow.
Arctic feel in Coire nan Laogh this morning. Abrupt transition from crust to wind-blown snow at lower levels, with the crust varying from firm and hard to thin and breakable in many places. Persistent drifting all day so was no surprise to find new snow instability where snow had accumulated as windslab in steep and sheltered areas. Also notable today was lee slope scouring but only on less steep ground where there was less shelter from the wind. Yesterday’s buried weak layer was responsive again just not as reactive. Perhaps increased snow-loading in the next week or so will bring about The Great Awakening of the buried weak layers quite a few SAIS areas have been reporting recently? Let’s hope not.
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