Snow ablation, cornices, ice & rock fall

16th March 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.
Wet and mild overnight then cooler in the morning before the sun came out. Quite mild in the afternoon sun. Some superficial snow loss, especially at lower levels.
(Below) The view up Coire Ardair yesterday.
(Above) View from the same place today.
(Above) Recent rock fall from the south-facing crags in the Inner Coire of Coire Ardair today. Potential for falling ice, too, during thaw conditions.
(Above) The north-east facing crags of the Inner Coire of Coire Ardair. Bits and pieces of snow fell off the crags during the wet and mild overnight conditions. Large cornices still in place here above the entrance to ‘Cinderella’, whilst more directly sun-exposed cornices elsewhere (see below) collapsed in the early afternoon.
(Above) Looking across the steep east-facing Post Face to Easy Gully, The Pinnacle and, just visible, the bottom end of Raeburn’s Gully on the far left of shot. When we have full-on thaw conditions after fairly recent snowfall we often bang on about “minor full depth avalanches from steeply inclined benches and ledges on crags”. The photo illustrates what we mean by this pretty well. Starting on the far left of the photo, check out the steep left profile of The Pinnacle. Note the snow on some of inclined horizontal ledges, as well as other patches precariously clinging to the buttress. The mucky debris at the foot of Raeburn’s Gully emanates from some of these small ledges which fell off in the last 24hrs. Similar set up of the Post Face although the meltdown hasn’t been profound enough YET to critically lubricate the bed surface of these thick smears of snow.
(Above) Although not quite ‘ice creams & candyfloss’ weather it was very pleasant when the sun came out later in the morning. The Post Face of Coire Ardair partially illuminated by spring sunshine.
(Above) Cornice collapse debris (on the right) below a steep ESE aspect in Coire Chriochairein. Occurred around noon after the sun had been on it for some time. Didn’t trigger an avalanche but did plough off some surface snow whilst in transit down hill.
(Above) Meanwhile….over on Beinn a Chaorainn. A mountain infamous for its large cornices. I’ve definitely seen them bigger but even so they’re still an impressive size at the moment. The photo was taken this morning. This wide coire faces east it tends to pick up a lot of direct sun so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the larger cornices hadn’t shed a few chunks during the latter part of the day.

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