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Saturday, 12 March 2011

Wild and snowy

The weather forecasts have all been a bit hit and miss and depending on your choice and update you would have had a good day today before the snow and blizzards arrived. The Cairngorm Mountain ski area outlook looked promising with good fresh powder on all the runs and a good day in prospect - so packed carparks with keen skiers.
However one look at the Met Office, BBC and SAIS and you got a totally different picture and even a severe weather warning!!!
Fortunately we'd seen all the reports and knew things were unpredictable with lots of snow and a big change in wind direction more than likely before mid-day.
Anyway, I met Will for a winter skills intro for a forthcoming Haute Route ski trip. I explained we'd have keep and eye on the weather in case we got snowed in. We covered all the basics of axe and crampon use and had ideal conditions for looking at avalanche assessment before heading for a look at Coire Laugh Mor.
Massive cornices (looked like seracs!!!) on the NE aspects as expected were just glimpsed between whiteout vis. Then unexpected terrain changes, snow aretes, wind scoops and cornices at the foot of the coire - what!
I suddenly realised that large sections of cornice had previously collapsed releasing the wind slab below and then drifted over creating the terrain change. Good for nav aspects, avalanche pits and snow shelters though...
The avalanche risk was reasonable so we dug a couple of emergency shelters for lunch and then realised the wind direction had changed quite a bit with lots of fresh snow being blasted from the NE.
The weather was changing for the worse and a hasty retreat to the carpark for called for before we got stuck! We followed our original path back which had drifted over to knee depth in some place with shooting cracks in the wind slab.
At the ski carpark a number of the cars were having problems with the snow and some powerful 4x4 were spinning their wheels and skidding all over the place, I soon realised they were just showing off that they couldn't drive as I headed down to Aviemore with ease with my two front snow tyres!!!
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