White Christmas in Lochaber

25th December 2020

Covid -19

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It was a very cloudy day on the hills today with the freezing level rising to around summit level through the day. There was a little light snow at higher levels in the morning, soon turning to light drizzle at all levels.

Looking online it appears that the met office has officially recognised this year as a white Christmas in the UK as there was some snowfall in the early hours of the morning at a couple of their stations.  According to the met office “Since 1960, around half of the years have seen at least 5% of the network record snow falling on Christmas Day. However, the Dickensian scene of widespread snow lying on the ground on Christmas Day is much rarer. There has only been a widespread covering of snow on the ground (where more than 40% of stations in the UK reported snow on the ground at 9 am) four times since 1960—in 1981, 1995, 2009 and 2010.”

In a more local context there is always at least some snow on the mountains of Lochaber by Christmas, so in some ways it is always a white Christmas on Ben Nevis. However, some Christmases can be significantly “whiter” than others. I thought it would be interesting how this year compares in the hills of Lochaber going back to 2007 (which is the earliest year I have got decent data for). In the 14 years (including this year) since then, the midday Christmas Aonach Mor summit temperature has been below freezing for 11 times, and above 3 times. 2018 was the mildest year at +6.4 degrees C and 2009 the coldest at -4.6 degrees C. Snowfall was recorded for 6 years 2020, 2017, 2015, 2013, 2012 and 2010, while rain was recorded at 900 metres for three years, 2020, 2016 and 2011. The other years were dry. The observed avalanche hazard was low 3 times, moderate 6 times, and considerable 5 times.  So this year with a summit temperature of just below freezing, a small amount of both rain and snow, and a moderate avalanche hazard, was certainly nothing out the ordinary.

Looks like being a wild day tomorrow with lots of fresh snow at above about 900 metres.

Aonach Mor this morning before the cloud level dropped. 

The view from the CIC hut this morning

What the view from the CIC hut would have looked like if it had been clear. This picture was taken yesterday afternoon, and shows that although the mountain is looking quite white, cover is generally quite thin. 

Looking up at the lower part of Tower ridge around midday, the Douglas Boulder on the left. 

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