Mission almost accomplished…

On Thursday I hit the slopes at Glenshee with the intention of riding all five Scottish Snowsport Areas within five days as the start of half term loomed. Originally my plan had been to get both the Lecht and CairnGorm Mountain in on the Friday and move to the West on Saturday and Nevis Range!

Had I stuck to the original plan I’d have got the five areas done in four days, however having managed to bag B&B in the Caledonian Hotel in Fort William for £19 for Sunday night – I spent a day at the Lecht on Friday and took in CairnGorm Mountain on the Saturday.

A day practicing ‘Jedi Skiing’ at Glencoe on Sunday in incessant snow fall saw four areas in four days. But Nevis was StormBound, the SE wind that was blowing the snow around Glencoe was howling at Nevis and with the same windspeed forecast for Monday, left me with a bit of concern!

Alas the wind beat me, with Nevis Range again afflicted by a substantially stronger wind than generally in the Western Mountains due to local topography. However, it turned out to be a superb day at Glencoe on the slopes of Meall a’ Bhuiridh and five good if varied consecutive days sliding in Scotland. Also repeated trips up ladders deicing cams and weather stations at Glencoe!

On Tuesday it’s back to CairnGorm, may not be much sliding – wee project in hand! ;)

Oh and WordPress is patched up and talking to the server again.

Glencoe Access Run on Sunday afternoon.

Glencoe Access Run on Sunday afternoon.

Glencoe: Groundhog Day

As of Monday afternoon all the Glencoe webcams were back up and running, including the Summit Cam at the top of the Main Basin.  At this point I must say a big thank you to Nigel and the team at the Glencoe Hotel, who’s hospitality and support has been a great help to quickly restoring the webcam service once the physical damage on the hill had been fixed.

After spending much of last Thursday and Friday marching up and down under the Access Chair, searching for cable joints, then for complete pairs and joining the parts of the cable jigsaw together, as dusk began to fall on Friday afternoon the ADSL modem at the top of the Access Chair synced up!!

Colourful Dusk Sky on Fri 13th Jan

Colourful Dusk Sky on Fri 13th Jan

With that (and some server side stuff) the majority of the Glencoe webcam views came back online for the first time since Hurricane Bawbag turned 200 odd individual wires into a cable soup at the foot of the Access Chair – the wind at the Car Park having attained 106mph before the power failed – for more than a week!

The unrelenting sequence of storms since Hurricane Bawbag has caused further damage to buildings on the hill, the  concrete  hut at the top of the Main Basin T-bar losing 2 walls! With the repairs  completed early last week, the Summit webcam equipment could be returned to the hut and a new shelf put in for the kit. The computer apparently having survived being found buried in and being full of snow in the badly storm damaged hut, fired up, the vodafone dongle connected to the GPRS service and webcam images flowed from the Summit once more.

Old Summit Anemometer

Old Summit Anemometer

A new Peet Bros Ultimeter Automatic Weather Station (AWS) was also installed on Monday, to replace the previous technoline WS2300 which was torn to shreds in a storm last year. It’s worth noting the same model of weather station has recorded windspeeds over 100mph on several occasions without damage at the Carpark and SSC Hut – an idea of the windspeed required to do that!

By end of play on Monday all webcams were up and running, along with the new Summit AWS. All that remained to do was tidy a few bits up and put up the replacement anemometer mast at the SSC Hut. Then attention could turn to restoring the WiFi bridge from the Access Chair to the SSC hut, which would enable much more frequent webcam updates than the vodafone GPRS connection.

New Peet Bros Anemometer

New Peet Bros Anemometer in action on Tuesday afternoon. Rated to 160mph....

Alas, in the early hours of Tuesday morning the Summit Webcam Computer’s previous misadventures with a snowdrift caught up with it and it suffered a hardware failure.

So after realising that the computer would not work reliably if it booted at all, it was time to bring up a replacement, which was no small portable computing device, but rather a huge hulk of a tower desktop. Over the Plateau on a Quad Bike, up the Cliffhanger Chair, lugged it over to the foot of the Main Basin, then it was Ski Patrol to the rescue.

PC First Aid... Lashing a large desktop to a Ski Patrol Sled

PC First Aid... Lashing a large desktop to a Ski Patrol Sled.

Thus Tuesday was spent much like Monday, moving hardware to the top of the mountain, setting it up with the camera, downloading the backup scripts for the camera and AWS from the Winterhighland Server, configuring them and then getting it online. That proved to be another headache, the Vodafone dongle refused to work. So out came my own Three dongle, what do you know, HSDPA and a faster internet connection than I get at home on ADSL at the top of Meall a’ Bhuiridh!

So at the close of play on Tuesday, like on Monday, I left the top of the hill with Ski Patrol having just restored the Summit Cam and AWS to service. It was starting to feel a little like groundhog day.

Then while watching the rising wind at the Summit from the Glencoe Hotel on my laptop, this happened:

Anemometer Uh Oh!

Anemometer Uh Oh!

A gust just shy of 90mph is followed by a consistent wind speed reading of zero and exact direction of due South. That sort of wind graph gives a feeling of (probably costly) dread. Tomorrow wind permitting, we’ll find out what befell the anemometer and whether it or any part of it is still at the top of the mountain. I just hope after all the Glencoe team have had to deal with from the storms this season that we don’t find the building upside down on the T-bar off ramp!

Tomorrow could well feel a bit more like groundhog day…..

A Flat Calm?

No it hasn’t been a week of flat calm at Glencoe, the SSC Hut anemometer blew down during an October cold spell when iced up. Thus the weather station 2750ft is only reporting temperature and humidity at present, we’ll get the anemometer back up in November as soon as the Access Chair is ready after it’s annual service and weather conditions are suitable.

Will also get the Rescue Station camera overlooking the foot of the Main Basin switched on for the winter at the same time. Also, a new window pane has been taken up to the Summit, to replace the scratched perspex which sometimes affects the view from the Summit Webcam, this will be fitted when weather permits.

Where is the anemometer?

Where is the anemometer?

Glencoe & Webcams

A site visit on a fine July Friday to Glencoe (how pleasant to be able to say that after some of the weather earlier this summer) and a hoof with a pile of computer kit in the Sun to the Glencoe SSC Hut at 2800ft, in order to get the webcam which looks out to Buachaille Etive Mor back on-line. On fine days Ben Nevis is visible on this cam and it’s a great cam to keep an eye on for cracking sunsets in the Summer.

Sun Set from the Glencoe SSC Hut

Sun Set from the Glencoe SSC Hut

Lots of people walking on the hill and riding the chairlift, it’s been a good busy summer week at Glencoe with the fine weather.

Winterhighland now manages 12 physical webcams (the Glencoe Access Chair camera provides five views in total) and some new additions are in the pipeline ahead of winter 2012. A big thank you to those who have directly supported Winterhighland in establishing and maintaining a network of cameras, including forum members who have ‘Winterhighland Snowflakes’ as a public thank you. See www.winterhighland.info/support for more information on helping Winterhighland further improve our camera network.

Also a big thank you to the guys at Glencoe for their help and support, plus to the Scottish Ski Club (www.scotski.org.uk) for hosting some of our cameras both at Glencoe and CairnGorm Mountain. Also thanks to the club sparky for installing the additional power sockets in the ‘Coe hut!!

Building a Stevenson Screen

Several of the mountain weather stations Winterhighland already have in place where completely calm days are rare and very high winds can occur have screens built from up-turned plastic saucers and long M6 bolts with locking nuts to space them.

While not as effective as a true double louvred Stevenson Screen, with nearly constant air-flow through the structure in exposed locations they give decent results without spending a fortune and with structures that are resilient to the adverse mountain conditions.

Here are some photos of a new wooden framed screen being built for use in a less exposed location, a few of these will be getting assembled in the next few weeks before winter arrives. The frame is built out of 45mm square soft wood, treated with primer and undercoat and two layers of gloss.

The slats are provided by white plastic 9inch by 9inch louvred vent covers. On 3 sides these are screwed on, but on one side, 4 short bolts through the timber frame are held in place by slightly counter sunk locking nuts. This allows one 9inch vent cover with four holes drilled in it for the bolts to easily detached and re-attached for access to the AWS sensors when required, it is held in place by 4 butterfly nuts.

I’ll post up some more photos of the construction stages before this when the next one is getting built.

Winterhighland Mid Summer Slide

The now traditional Winterhighland mid-summer slide (planned for the weekend closest to the Summer Solstice) was slightly un-traditional on Sunday 20th June, no trudging up from the Daylodge skis strapped to back and no repeated runs down a solidarity and lonely patch of snow!

Instead a fitting way to wind down an epic season, a summer carnival of snow with the Funicular providing uplift to the Top Basin (and indirectly for the Ciste Gully) and a couple of Rope Tows in the Ptarmigan Bowl, over a 100 skiers and boarders took to the ‘Gorms remaining Summer snowfields.

A very short and hurriedly stuck together video from clips from a small compact camera (it’s time for bed after all that excitement and the first train is only 9 hours away on Monday morning)….

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

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.

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.