Sunday 5 April 2015

Snow Cover in Lochaber 2.

In January 2012 I wrote a blog post entitled "Snow cover in Lochaber". This proved to be one of the most popular posts on my blog. Unfortunately after I had written about how promising a start to the winter it had been in that post, it all turned a bit mild. I think that March was the mildest on record. I hope therefore I am not tempting fate with this post.....

Last winter was very snowy at higher levels. Despite a mild spring, summer and autumn, there were a good number of snowpatch survivals including Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Creag Meagaidh and several on Ben Nevis. I wrote a few blog posts about visiting some of these patches last autumn. The single biggest contributing factor to snowpack survival is how much snow accumulates in appropriate locations during the winter. As we are roughly around the time of year that snow depths reach their maximum in these locations, I thought it would be a good time to compare the state of this years snow accumulations to previous years.

The South Side of Coire an Lochan in August showing the two snopatches that sometimes survive on Aonach Mor. 
Shown below are pictures taken from roughly the same location of south side of Coire an Lochan of Aonach Mor in March/April for the every year going back to 2008 (apologies for the poor quality of some of the older pictures). The view in August with two snow patches that sometimes survive is shown above. Although most years snow peaks around March/April, this was not the case for 2012 and 2014 when snow depth likely peaked earlier in the season. I also include a picture from February 2014 showing what is probably the most snow I have seen in the Coire. 

As the pictures show, this year is way ahead of most other years, a little ahead of 2008 and in appearance similar to April 2014. However, I suspect that the snow in April 2014 was a bit denser, as it had thawed and consolidated significantly by the time the picture was taken. Therefore, I would say that in real terms we are slightly behind last year. These are, of course, pictures of just one location. Last year there was definitely a significantly more snow in terms of overall mountain coverage. However this year there are a few specific locations, the top of Easy Gully for example, where I would say that there is more snow this year.

Both 2008 and 2014 were good snowpatches seasons. As there is comparable amounts of snow in the correct locations this year, and the larger snowpatches have retained a large icy heart from last year, it is a promising start to the snowpatch season for the hills on the West Coast. This however, is not the case of the Cairngorms which have not received very much snow this winter.

For some other good snow pictures, there was a recent post of the SAIS Lochaber blog where pictures taken in summer and this winter are compared. See

4th April 2015

18th April 2014

19th Feb 2014

30th March 2013

23rd March 2012

5th April 2011

10th April 2010

5th April 2009

20th March 2008