Start of the season

8th December 2022

It’s that time of the year again. You realise all the time you thought you had before the holidays, all the plans of getting the shopping done early and cards written and mailed off early (yes, I’m old fashioned and still enjoy doing that) are suddenly gone. “Holy Frosty the Snowman! It’s winter, and the avalanche service are back!”. That’s right, the first day of the season for us here in Lochaber, and our colleagues in North Cairngorms. The other forecast areas will be starting up towards the end of next week.

Well, after a mild and wet autumn in Lochaber, it finally turned cold around last weekend, and guess what, it stopped precipitating. The past few days must have been the longest dry period here for what feels like months. Although a bit of snow would be nice, I should not complain too much, dry and cold it a lot better that mild and wet (or even mild and dry). The old and very patchy snowpack which exists (mainly above 900m) is frozen rock solid. There is a dusting of fresh, as much rime as snow really, which makes things look a quite white at higher levels. However, is is mostly cosmetic, and would be gone in a few hours of mild weather.  However, in cold conditions (particularly with the absence of much insulating snow cover) the ground is freezing. This is no bad thing which for when the snow does arrive, but it does mean that areas of water ice that need avoiding are forming in places normally covered in snow

With the cold  and generally dry conditions forecast to continue here in Lochaber, little change in mountain conditions are expected in the next few days. However, as normal we will keep you up to date on snow and avalanche conditions through the season on the blogs. It is great to have some feedback on what we are posting, so any comments or interesting observations you have feel free to post in the comment section below.

Looking up the hill from the Gondola station. Not much in the way of snow.

Areas of water ice are forming on some hillsides in the cold conditions.

The summit run has caught the snow and is full width for almost all of it’s length. Compare this picture to the top picture, hard to believe it is the same mountain. The snow fences on the summit run work well when the wind is form the South or South-West (which I presume it was when most of the snow in this picture fell).  As soon as you got below the base of the summit run, the snowpack was very patchy. What you can’t tell from the picture is that this snow is bullet hard having gone through last week’s thaw, with just a dusting (one or two centimetres) of fresh snow on top.

Looking across/down Easy Gully on Aonach Mor. Again mainly hard snow with a dusting of fresh snow on top.

The top of Right Twin in Coire an Lochan. A similar situation.

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