Three strikes and you’re out.

8th April 2021

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This blog is intended to provide hazard and mountain condition information to help plan safer mountain trips.
We have an unwritten rule at SAIS Creag Meagaidh that if you’re blown over 3 times during the day you immediately turn tail and head home.
Strike One. Aberarder Farmhouse car park. The wind slams the car door into me as I’m donning wet weather gear in the pi**ing rain and I fall arse first into a puddle. Needless to say, ‘We are not amused’. A portentous start to the day? (OK, technically not blown over but definitely wind related.)
Made it to Lochan a Choire in upper Coire Ardair, here:-
(Above) A snatched photo between massive and powerful squalls that spun across the surface of the loch with little or no warning.
Bracing against the sudden squalls I lurched along the loch-side path heading for the Inner Coire. Strike Two occurs as I attempt to stride across a large puddle on the path and am swept suddenly, crisp packet-like, into a boggy morass beside the path. Muddied but unbowed I managed to make it into the Inner Coire, did the necessary observations and took photos of avalanche debris.
Strike Three.  Easy Gully: the top of the talus fan to take more photos of avalanche debris. Was a bit of a fight (or graunch, perhaps?) getting there but made it more or less upright with dignity intact. Relaxing a bit coming down the steep ground, I was momentarily caught off balance by a powerful gust, did an exaggerated form of ‘dad-dancing’ before tumbling head first into some (mercifully) soft snow. What was said after that cannot be relayed on a public forum even with disguising asterisks. But next stop was Aberarder, the car, and home.
Yes, we had some avalanches today. One big one in Easy Gully with debris 1.5+m deep and two more in the Inner Coire in a couple of our frequent flyer locations.
(Above) Easy Gully avalanche debris. Good Size 2 avalanche almost certainly emanating out of South Post. There’d been a lot of early drifting in cold temperatures followed quickly by much milder conditions and rain at all elevations save for summit level. This lot came down at around 1245 to 1300hrs today. A pretty classic ‘transitional’ Scottish avalanche. (‘Transitional’ because it occurred during the transition from cold/snowy/blowy conditions to milder/wetter weather, or at least shortly thereafter.)
(Above) ‘Cinderella’, a low grade gully route in the Inner Coire of Coire Ardair and one of our frequent flyer avalanche paths. Size 1 avalanche here.
(Above) Just west of the ‘Cinderella’ avalanche and towards The Window, a Size 0.5. I saw this one slide down as I photographed the ‘Cinderella’ debris.
Was snowing as I made my way in total disarray off the hill and some new windslab will have been blown onto E aspects above 1000m. More Arctic-influenced weather tomorrow: much colder with showers of hail, graupel and snow. The old soft and moist snowpack should respond well to the colder conditions and become firmer, crusty & better stabilised in most places. Some new but localised windslab expected to develop at the top of lee slopes and gully tops by the day’s end on Friday.

Comments on this post

  • Colin
    8th April 2021 7:34 pm

    Awesome effort. Well done.

    • meagaidhadmin
      9th April 2021 2:40 pm

      Thanks, Colin. My mental and physical equilibrium now restored!

  • roger
    8th April 2021 10:01 pm

    Scottish weather eh? Nothing like it! Appreciate your efforts and reports today and through the season.

    • meagaidhadmin
      9th April 2021 2:41 pm

      Was definitely the raw, uncomfortable reality of avalanche forecasting in Scotland yesterday, Roger.

  • Stan Wygladala
    9th April 2021 1:58 am

    Gave me much amusement,
    Was once blown upwards near the summit of Helvellyn.
    A very strange sensation on losing contact with planet earth for the first time in my life. For a few seconds I thought I might continue upwards but thankfully returned very quickly. Nothing had prepared me for such an experience.
    Progress made by the party using ice axes in the turf, ropes, with much shouting of totally useless advice.
    Later saw that wind gusts directly from the west peaked at 120 mph!

    • meagaidhadmin
      9th April 2021 2:47 pm

      Sounded like an epic day in the Lakes, Stan.

      I can (kind of!) cope with strong wind but the addition of heavy rain makes for a truly miserable experience. The coup de grace was a drop in temperature and snowfall as I made my way down Coire Ardair. Battered, soaking wet then freezing cold. Oh, joy!

  • KEITH
    9th April 2021 12:45 pm

    Great reporting – the ‘three strikes’ rule is one I adopt as well, although with increased age (and weight!) I tend to be able to stay in contact with terra firma a bit longer than previously…….

    • meagaidhadmin
      9th April 2021 3:01 pm

      Thanks, Keith.

      I’m built like a backrow rugby player and normally cope OK with really windy conditions…but not yesterday. Memory’s a funny thing but there’ll be no looking back at Thursday with a rose-tinted glow, I can assure you!

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