Is the Snow Deep on Aonach Mor?

12th April 2021

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After a cold night (the coldest April night in Scotland since 2013 according to the met office) it was a lovely sunny day. The clear conditions allowed for great views and an opportunity to take pictures of some locations I visit regularly to try to give an indicator of snow depth. In answer to my title question how deep is the snow on Aoanch Mor, well the answers depends (often I find when answering questions about snow and avalanches, I begin with “It depends…” or “It is complicated…..”). In absolute terms, in some locations the snow is deep; 5 metres easily, 10 metres in some locations. Just compare some of the features in some of today’s images with their summer counterparts below. On the other hand in relative terms, as compared to last winter for example, there is not a great deal, just compare today’s pictures with those taken at the end of last winter.
Last year to be fair was a fairly snowy winter.  This year a combination of less snowfall and more variable winds has deposited less snow in Coire an Lochan and the other high North and East aspects. However, this season is not the worst, I have seen seasons when there is significantly less snow at this time of year. My feeling is that the amount of snow is slightly, but not massively, below average for the time of year.
Occasionally snow lies all year in Coire an Lochan. However, unless the weather does something quite impressive other next few months I suspect that this year won’t be one of them.

The top of Coire an Lochan and summit ski patrol hut today.  Notice the tall post on the right, how far back from the edge it is. 

A similar view in summer. This was taken a few years ago, so some of the pots in the picture have now gone. But the tall one of the right is still there, but notice how close to the change in the slope angle that is, and compare to the previous picture. Gives you an idea how much snow builds up at the top of these gullies.

The same shot taken on the 17th of March 2020, the last day I was on Aonach Mor before the lockdown began. Although almost a month earlier in the spring,  from what remember about the weather during late March and early April, the amount of snow would not have changed significantly from then until this time last year. It is clear there is a fair amount more snow last year. 

The South side of Coire an Lochan today. 

The South side of Coire an Lochan in summer. You can the the two snowpatches that lie long into the summer and sometimes (like last year) survive throughout the summer to be buried by the following winter’s snow. The lower one especially sits in a deep hollow. You can get an idea of the depth of snow by comparing the location exposed rocks on the bulge above this snowpatch with the previous photo.

A similar shot on the 17th of March 2020, clearly lots more snow. 

The top of Easy Gully today. 

The top of Easy gully during a rare summer ascent (not the finest summer route in Lochaber!). Again you can get an idea of snow depth by how much the obvious rocky rib in buried in the winter pictures. 

The top of Easy Gully on the 17th of March 2020. Excuse the fact the right hand side of the gully is a bit over exposed, but you can see that the rock rib so evident in summer is almost totally buried. 

Comments on this post

  • Iain Cameron
    13th April 2021 6:55 am

    Great post, Blair. Who’s that odd chap in Easy Gully during summer??

    • lochaberadmin
      13th April 2021 1:42 pm

      Who knows! Perhaps he is making an audacious solo summer ascent of Easy Gully, or perhaps he is just lost! Glad you liked the post!

  • Paul Morgan
    25th April 2021 11:01 pm

    Hi Blair,
    Regarding your photo of the 2 snow patches on the south side of Corrie an Lochan, as above.
    Is it fair to say that this would be the “birth place” for a future glacier, should the planet cool as per the LIA period ending 1850 approx?
    Paul (Ex Glencoe)

    • lochaberadmin
      27th April 2021 11:30 am

      Hi Paul, that is a good question. In general terms yes glaciation would start in the high NE facing Coires. The amount of snow surviving through the summer during the LIA would certainly have been more significant, and there has been some debate as to whether there was a very small glacier in Garbh Choire Mor on Braeriach during that time. From what I understand the general feeling is that it was not quite cold enough for even minor glaciation in Scotland at that time.

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