Wednesday 28 August 2019

Slim picking for the August Snowpatch Survey.

Back in March I wrote a blog post about the low amount of snow in the hills for the time of year, ( At the time I said that I thought it was unlikely any patches would survive through the summer. Given the recent annual snowpatch survey, it thought to would be a good time to post about how things have developed, and re-look at the question of how likely it was that any patches would survive.

The annual snowpatch survey is something I have written about before. Since 2008 each year, around the 20th of August, a survey of the surviving snowpatches in the Scottish hills is organised by Iain Cameron and carried out by a team of volunteers. This year there was not very many patches to survey. In fact it was only the third time since the snowpatch survey started that no patches existed outwith the three mountains that consistently hold the snow the longest; Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag and Braeriach.
The Observatory Gully snowpatch not looking overly impressive on Sunday the 18th of August 2019.  
To show what it can look like, the same snowpatch on the 20th of August 2015. 
On Sunday the 18th, after a slightly delayed start due to heavy rain, I headed up to the North Face of Ben Nevis. I knew there would be no snow left below Zero Gully, so I went straight to the base of Point Five Gully. There had been snow at this spot few days previously. However, by the time I arrived it had all gone. I think this is the first time I had seen this spot free of snow in August. I then continued up Observatory Gully to the narrows, the site of the longest lying snow on the Ben. Here I did find some snow, but not much. There was a patch which was about eight by eight metres. The patch was still there the following Sunday (the 25th), but it is unlikely it made it to the start of September.

The following day Iain Cameron headed over to the Aonach Beag patch and reported a fair bit more snow than on the Ben, the patch was 35 meters long by 25 meters wide.

The following Sunday, the weather was a beautiful. My climbing plans fell through at the last minute, so I went for a amble over to the summit of Aonach Beag having a wee peek at the snow patch for myself on the way past. Although it did not look like it had melted much since the previous weekend, it was still quite small for the time of year. Given it size, the consensus is that it is likely to last into October. However, survival for this patch would likely to require some good heavy October snowfall.

Although I didn't head over to the Cairngorm myself, reports from Braeriach reports said there were a few patches remaining, the largest one being around 40 meters long. Again, survival possible but will require some cool weather and early autumn snows.

So as compared to March, I am slightly more hopeful that one or two patches might just survive, it might all be down to when the lasting snow of next winter arrives.
The Aonach Beag patch on Sunday the 25th. About 35m long and 25m across. Could possibly survive, but at the moment I would say the odds are against it.