A wild day

9th February 2023

(Above) Coire Chriochairein – ENE through E to SE aspects on display in the photo. A very windy day with plenty of airborne snow throughout so opportunities for photography were fleeting, to say the least. Felt very wintry indeed above 800m. Cornice growth noted above all recent lee slopes much of it weak as evidenced by new cornice debris adjacent to today’s snowpit test site. Report of triggered dry slab avalanche activity in Raeburn’s Gully in upper Coire Ardair at 11am.


(Above) Ice was beginning to re-form low in the coire but this will be short-lived as the freezing level on Friday is expected to rise to 2500m (with rain) by the end of the day.


(Above) “I heard it through the grapevine”  Dan and Mel, up from Devon for some steep winter sport but didn’t manage to get anything done today because of the foul weather and avalanche activity. They passed on to me the details of the avalanche in Raeburn’s Gully they’d received from some (aspiring) ascensionists ahead of them who’d triggered a couple of events and then backed off the route.

There’s nothing quite like some avalanche activity to dispel your uncertainty about snow stability in a particular place. Sounds so obvious but if you see an avalanche, or trigger one, then stability is very poor on that aspect/location. I guess some may think that once it’s avalanched then everything is OK there. Not so! More than likely it will be the beginning of an avalanche cycle, not the end of one.

Here’s the text of their submission to the ‘Report an avalanche’ utility on the opening page of the SAIS website:

“Party of three ahead told us of a small human-triggered avalanche as well as debris from cornice in lower section or Raeburn’s Gully. They carried on a short distance before causing a slightly larger avalanche and then backed off. Approaching Lochan a Choire, winds were enough to knock you off balance, About 100mm of new snow, turning to slush underfoot quickly at 650m. Ground not frozen.”

Helps us enormously when we get this sort of info from members of the mountaineering community.

Dan and Mel may have had an ultimately frustrating day but they made a very sound mountaineering decision since, in these situations, discretion is always the better part of valour. Raeburn’s Gully will be there for them on another, better, day.


(Above) Coire Dubh, one of coires gouged into Carn Liath’s SE flank, as viewed from the A86 this afternoon. Looking much whiter today with fresh snow on the ground down to 450m this morning.

Comments on this post

  • Stan Wygladala
    9th February 2023 11:41 pm

    As I very frequently say, There are old climbers and bold climbers, but no old bold climbers ! Glad the party made it OK. Foul conditions and after such a long journey from Devon.

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