Avalanches & collapsing cornices.
24th January 2024
(Above) High tide at Kingussie shinty club! Floodwater innundated this low lying ground next to the river Spey this morning. Up to this point the Spey only receives runoff from the River Calder (from the Monadliath mtns) and the catchment of the Creag Meagaidh massif. It had been raining a lot overnight at Creag Meagaidh and unusual weather events like this can be a precursor to avalanche activity, especially if it rains immediately after snowfall or drifting.
(Above) Easy Gully. Coire Ardair. A loose snow event beginning where the gully steepens up above the popular ice route ‘Last Post’ (in the photo, the wide curtain of ice that descends into the gully). Same timing, I think, as the others. In this instance the avalanche picked up more snow as it transited down the gully. Some bits and pieces of loose snow also fell down out of ‘Centre Post’ – just to the right of the Easy Gully debris tip. (There was also a suggestion of some minor wet slides in the Inner Coire but I wasn’t able to get a good enough view to confirm them).
(Above) Cornice debris from a few sizeable collapses on the S-facing aspects of Coire Ardair. There’s also a biggish cornice debris tip over on the right of shot. As you can see, cornices still remain in place.
Dry overnight conditions should encourage further consolidation of snow in most places. There will be some limited wet snow instability after the rain and mild temps kick in during Thursday morning. Those remaining cornices (some large) will all remain prone to sudden collapse. Also, cannot rule out minor full depth avalanches from the steep crags of the Post Face.
How come Low Hazard then?
Cornices are a separate mountain hazard not covered by the avalanche scale. They’re fickle beasts which can collapse suddenly in mild, wet conditions…but sometimes they don’t and just hang around, slump and slowly, harmlessly, decay. Full depth avalanches – often a worringly large spectacle when they slide – are similarly fickle and outside our remit for similar reasons.
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