Heavenly Snowmaking: Revisited

Those who were following the blog late autumn and early winter will remember the snow making videos from Heavenly, California that I posted. By late January the Heavenly Snowmaking crew had met their target base depths that should ensure key links and low level trails last the season and the main winter snowmaking operations were stood down on 31st January.

The Snowmakers Episode IV: Looks back at their winter.

West Wall Chairlift: The Natural Choice?

It is said that a picture speaks a thousand words, so here are a couple of thousand words (with a few more overlain) which show a naturally made case for the West Wall Chairlift.

Access to the WWP last week

Access to the WWP last week

The top photo was taken from the Laogh Mor Return bridge at the foot of the lower Ciste Gully on Wednesday 17th March, the day before the forecast storm force winds brought a significant thaw.

No Access to the WWP this week

No Access to the WWP this week

As of the weekend no on snow route from the Ciste Gully, East Wall or the natural fall line of the West Wall (indicated by black arrows) back to the West Wall Poma remains.

All available routes involve crossing heather and uphill traverses to minimise this. The solid red line indicates a common route, while the dashed lines indicate the variations being attempted. All involve leaving the Ciste Gully at a height that misses out a substantial part of the run, compared to the Chairlift Boadwalk (purple line).

For now it remains easier to ski out the Ciste Gully to the car park, but this is a very low level run (below 2000ft) and can’t be expected to last far into spring.

Despite the faff of reaching the West Wall Poma  a significant proportion of the runs are lost, this puts of people off using the area, limiting terrain for more advanced riders. Plus the Poma itself deters intermediates and families from utilising some of the best blue graded terrain on the mountain.

Sign the E-petition to reinstate the Ciste Chairlifts: www.savetheciste.com

Improved Webcam Pages

The Webcam pages for the Glencoe, CairnGorm, Loch Morlich and Aviemore Winterhighland Webcams has had a small upgrade that makes it much easier to view the older images.

A ‘lightbox’ pop up has been added that enables viewers to toggle through 6 images from the last hour and/or the last 15 hourly images from each camera. So if you’ve just got in from work to see dusk on the camera you can view an hourly snapshot of the whole day with ease.

Viewing today's images from the Glencoe Summit Cam.

Viewing today

Loch Morlich breaks free, but the thaw eases

The sustained thaw of recent days has been steadily weakening the ice that had kept it’s wintry grip on Loch Morlich for 94 days and alas the overnight gales coupled with rising water levels eventually fractured the weakened ice and within hours the Loch was open and choppy, once the ice fractured the wind and increasing waves accelerated the break up.

^Loch Morlich remains ice bound at dusk on Thursday.

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^But by late morning the Loch was free from the grasp of winter.

Sad in a way that the Loch did not remain frozen for another week to break the 100 day mark and it will seem slightly strange to look down from the ‘Gorm for the first time in three months and not see the white frozen expanse below.

The bit of good news for snowsports though is that the air temperature was back below freezing at the Summit late afternoon and dew points are below 0c and it’s dry, plus the wind is moderating. Snow should be setting up firm higher up and drying out and crunching up lower down – the thaw for now has relented.

Adam Watson reports that by the afternoon snow had stopped thawing and was firming up about 150-200ft above the car park level at Glenshee and at 2600ft the ground was still frozen where snow free. Frozen ground is as good as a base in that any new snow falling sticks straight away, it might almost be the Spring Equinox, but spring can stay on hold just now, we’re hopefully not yet done with winter 2010.

Sheiling AWS Anemometer Replacement

Sheiling AWS down to remove sticking wind vane.

Sheiling AWS down to remove sticking wind vane.

Recently the Sheiling Tow AWS had been reporting an unusually high frequency of suspected anemometer icing when the SSC Hut and Loch Morlich weather stations were not. An inspection of the weather station on my last visit to the mountain showed that the anemometer cups were no longer spinning freely and was sometimes snagging the wind vane housing – giving the anemometer an abnormally high resistance to be overcome before the cups would spin, greatly increasing the threshold wind at which an actual wind speed would be reported.

Two wind vanes sitting in the snow

Two wind vanes sitting in the snow

The anemometer was swapped out on Saturday (13th March) and replaced by a brand new one. This is not permanently installed until it’s determined if the old one is fixable, reason being not wanting to cut the long wind vane cable to the length needed for this installation unnecessarily as it could render the vane useless for other sites.

Unfortunately the long cable being bundled up is picking up electrical interference, which has been giving some nonsense wind speed readings  on Saturday evening. If gust speed or current wind speed is reported far in excess of other recent speeds or those from other AWS’s on the mountain, it is likely to be false. Will try and fix the Sheilings own anemometer and if this is not possible will shorten the cable and permanently install the new one.

Sheiling AWS back in place as skiers head for home on the Carpark Run late Saturday afternoon.

Sheiling AWS back in place as skiers head for home on the Carpark Run late Saturday afternoon.

Glencoe Summit Webcam

After a trial with a laptop for a camera server a couple of weeks ago it was decided to install a permanent webcam at the top of the Main Basin T-bar, just short of the Summit of Meall a’ Bhuiridh itself. The trial being followed by the ‘big snowstorm’ and resultant road issues  on the planned installation day, meant a longer delay in installing a permanent camera than planned, but this was undertaken today (Friday).

Summit Webcam at Glencoe

Summit Webcam at Glencoe

The Live Image can be viewed at http://www.winterhighland.info/cams/glencoe .

I’d also like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to Nigel and the entire fantastic team at the Crianlarich Hotel where I spent Thursday night for their hospitality and friendly service. Their Skier Special provides simply amazing value, £25b&b per night for a single or £40 for a twin/double and if you stay 3 nights you get a 4th on the hotel.

Fantastic breakfasts, will keep you going all day, from the traditional full fry up, to smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, to healthier options of fruit juice, fresh fruit etc. Excellent evening meals too, served in the bar or informal lounge with two massive wood burners at either end. Also have a drying room (much need after Thursday afternoon lugging stuff up the hill in preparation for Friday…)

See www.crianlarich-hotel.co.uk .

GPRS Issues affecting our CairnGorm and Glencoe on mountain cameras

There continues to be intermittent but regular service interruptions to Vodafone’s data service in some rural parts of the Highlands. Glencoe staff report regular occurrences where connections are possible but no data throughput is available – this has caused several spells of down time to the cameras, but not always at the same time. It appears that some of the cameras might be able to intermittently pick up more distant masts.

There is also a recurring issue with the Meall a’ Bhuachaille mast above Glenmore that serves CairnGorm. The root of this problem is thought to be weather related but the word from Vodafone is that engineering staff have not been able to carry out work on some of the high level rural masts due to access issues and depth of snow cover.

How much snow?

If your sliding around CairnGorm Mountain (or any of the areas for that matter) this weekend, stop and have a look around and think what your sliding on, what does this terrain usually look like, what’s under my feet in summer?

Just how much snow might be under you feet will depend where you stand, gullies, burns and other terrain depressions will likely have the most, but let’s consider the Coire Cas Gunbarrel,  the T-bar track to be exact. Both of these photos though looking up from a different position and angle show the same tower of the Cas T-bar up-line nearest the camera.

Coire Cas Gunbarrel – going up the Cas Tow on Wednesday 3rd March:

Cas Gunbarrel on Wed 3rd March

Cas Gunbarrel on Wed 3rd March

The small orange roundels that give the tower number give a fixed point of reference, this allows the height from roundel to top of tower to be measured in each photo, giving a scale factor that means it’s possible to assess the relative portion of the tower still visible in the above photo.

On the photo below the red-line gives a representation of the snow surface level on the top photo:

Cas Gunbarrel on 11th December 2009

Cas Gunbarrel on 11th December 2009

The snow fence up the track side is approximately 5ft and the tower base height is around 2ft on the uptrack side. Given these bits of info and from comparing the tower to the skiers in the top photo, an estimate of 10ft/3m depth on the tow track at that point would not seem unreasonable.

Will try and measure the roundel to snow surface height on this tower accurately in the coming days and rephotograph it – this will allow the above estimate to be verified with a more accurately calculated depth and will continue to monitor it.

Wordpess over GPRS = Slow!!

Trying out the wordpress interface over a mobile gprs connection on Alvie Estate (of interest for a website I’ll be working on in the near future). You’d expect a basic html form to load in a few seconds, but the wordpress wysiwyg editor took over 4 minutes to load! Back to the drawing board for this one perhaps?

OK so nothing of much interest here as this is all uber geek gibberish, however some clear spells around Strathspey now, promising for Saturday.

Coldest Winter?

Earlier in the Season I posted up that for Scotland as a whole, the December and January combination was the coldest such combination since Scotland wide records begun in 1914.

As 1st March is the official start of the meteorological spring in the UK and is used as such for climate data the provisional Scotland wide figures are now available for winter 2009/10.

Winter 2009/10 has been the coldest winter in Scotland since 1962/63 and surpasses 1979.

The provisional average temperature for the whole of Scotland for Dec, Jan and Feb 2009/10 is +0.24°c, the 1971/91 average is +2.7°c and the provisional figure is just +0.08°c above 62/63.

Following winter 2008/09 the Met Office had the following to say:


“The cold weather has been in contrast to the run of very mild winter temperatures that have been recorded over recent years.

Natural variability of climate means that the UK will continue to see spells of colder weather at times. Although, if it had not been for the general warming already observed in global temperatures, this winter may well have been even colder.

Peter Stott, Climate Scientist at the Met Office, said: “Despite the cold winter this year, the trend to milder and wetter winters is expected to continue, with snow and frost becoming less of a feature in the future.

The famously cold winter of 1962/63 is now expected to occur about once every 1,000 years or more, compared with approximately every 100 to 200 years before 1850.”