Romancing the Ben

14th February 2024

Roses are red,

violets are blue,

patches of windslab can be found,

and some fragile cornices too!


Given the date, I thought I would try my hand at romantic poetry, what do you think? Perhaps I shouldn’t give up the day job just yet, plus it is not really mine.  Something very similar to this was written by a former Creag Meagaidh forecaster back in in the 1990’s (although it is possible it pre-dates that). In those days, the hazard categories were given numbers, a low hazard day would be category 1, a moderate day would be category 2 and so on. The numbers were phased out off the avalanche report around 15 years as it was felt that a word, such as considerable, to describe the hazard is much more descriptive than just a number, such as category 3.  This meant that  30 years ago when the original was written you could rhyme the word blue with the word two, as in the hazard category, to give something along the lines of “Roses are Red, violets are blue, the snowpack is generally stabilising, it is category two”.

However, I would say that for my version is more descriptive of conditions found on the Ben Nevis today.  Weather conditions were pretty benign, light winds, generally dry and a freezing level creeping up to around 1200 metres. The surface of the snowpack is slightly damp, but remain sub-zero beneath. There is plenty of windslab about, but it is slowly consolidating in the settled conditions. However, the rain forecast in the early hours of tomorrow morning,  has the potential to give the snowpack a bit of a shock, and cause a period of poorer stability and weak cornices. By tomorrow afternoon the snowpack is expected to be wet through, in will return to a slowly consolidating regime.

Looking up to Carn Dearg Buttress.

A closer shot of the area around the base The Shield, Gemini and Waterfall Gully. For scale a person can just be made out at the base of of the latter two routes (in the centre of the shot). I was impressed how much ice had formed here, I guess there was no shortage of water when it turned cold just over a week ago now. Over the years I have spent a fair bit of time looking up at the part of the crag as I have walked past, and in 15 years or so I think I have only once seen the initial corner of the Shield Direct holding more ice (and that was in 2015). Admittedly, I did go right up to the base of the route for a closer look, but from the path it looked pretty good. Unfortunately it looks like thawing at this level over the next few days, but hopefully turning colder again early next week.

Looking over at Creag Coire na Ciste. A significant cornices can be seen above Central Gully. Although not obvious in this picture, there was a crown wall above North Gully. This would have been from yesterday or the day before.

Looking up Number Three Gully.  Again not obvious in the photo, but a recent crown was evident in this shot.

Climber on Green Gully (centre left of the shot). First climbed in  April 1906, it was one of the worlds hardest ice routes at the time.

Looking back to the Carn Mor Dearg. A good example of cross loading. Although most of the face is scoured most of the shallow alluvial gullies which run roughly straight up/down slope are filled with pockets of windslab.




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