Still thawing…

17th February 2024

Another mild day in the Southern Cairngorms as the thaw continues. It was also wet with persistent drizzle/rain at all levels. The summit of Glas Maol has lost a lot of the lying snow and ice cover that was there on Thursday.

The snowpack is continuing to consolidate, the older snowpack remains quite firm, whilst the new snow is soft and wet.

Lots of cracks around coire edges as the snowpack slumps, most of the cornices have melted away but some still remain and will be prone to collapse. Ice and Rock fall was also heard today, reduced visibility meaning I couldn’t see where it came from.

Midday temperature on the summit of The Cairnwell was 2.3°C

The summit of Glas Maol 1058m – a bit damp!

Another view of Sron na Gaoithe 814m. If you want you can compare todays against the last 2 days in yesterday’s blog.


Skiers and Snowboarders on Glenshee’s artificial snow slopes.


The Subnivean Zone:

Not many of the skiers and snowboarders on Glenshee’s artificial snow slopes would be aware that under their skis and boards there is a hidden world – the Subnivean Zone.

Snow is a remarkable substance, despite being usually well below 0°C, it is also a very efficient insulator. This means that during the winter, the ground under snow cover remains around 0°C and is home to a number of rodents such as mice and voles, who happily exist tunnelling around between the ground and the snow. Even dense melt freeze snow has quite a high ratio of air to water meaning that life can exist even under several metres of snowpack. Living out the winter under the snow is also safer for small rodents as the snow is effective protection from predators.

In the photo you can see the the 2 tunnels leading from the small hole. The right hand tunnel ran for approximately 5 metres before disappearing into another small hole under a boulder.

The Subnivean world. Tunnels created by mice or voles who live happily under the snow.


And now for something completely different…

Thaws and rain on the summits are not an avalanche forecaster’s favourite thing. They are however, an inevitable part of the ‘modern’ Scottish winter and we will have to get used to their frequency. It is nice, after a wet day on the mountains to look back at the SAIS Southern Cairngorms photo library and remind ourselves that snow and avalanches are still very much part of our world. The following photo is from 15th February 2021 and shows a very sizeable avalanche across the A93.

A big digger was needed to clear the debris from the road. Credit: Paul Noble SAIS Southern Cairngorms.

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