Sierra at Tahoe

A largely overcast day with some blustery snow showers coming through on Sunday. Weekends inevitably bring crowds to Sierra, being the first ski area reached for those heading from the Bay Area on highway 50, but apart from the Grandview Express and despite Sierra being a fairly compact Snowsports Area queues were pretty short and non existent on the older duplicate lifts and over the back.

Mix of slightly firm grippy snow to loose chalky mid winter corduroy on the groomers. More snow expected overnight.

Grandview Express - not so grand a view today

Sierra in Snow

Highway 50: Meyers Grade

Heading down the Meyers Grade on highway 50 at the end of the day, far below highway 89 follows the valley floor before climbing over the Luther Pass, to join highway 88 to Kirkwood. With high snow levels over the next day or so, Kirkwood should be catching fresh at all levels with a 7800ft base vs 6500ft at Heavenly and Sierra. A break in the weather forecast later in the week, so hopefully Kirkwood will come good with a bluebird powder day!

Destination Tahoe: A journey begins

Every journey begins with the first step they say, tonight the first steps were along a windswept River Ness in driving cold sleety rain to catch the late ScotRail train through to Aberdeen.

River Ness on a wild wet night

River Ness on a wild wet night

At a wholly unholy hour on Thursday morning the next hop of the Journey from Aberdeen to London Heathrow will take me South (providing snow doesn’t close Aberdeen Airport…) to join a Virgin Atlantic flight to San Francisco. An hour or so into the Transatlantic flight one can expect to hear the captain say ‘if you look out the left windows you’ll see Loch Ness, the right windows the Cairngorms…..’ Ever get the feeling your going round in circles! ;)

Trains waiting to depart a wet Inverness Station

Trains waiting to depart a wet Inverness Station

It’s just gone half eleven at night, we’re chugging through the Northfield area of Aberdeen. Time to log off, but hopefully lots of posts over the next two weeks. Big storms forecast for Tahoe, perhaps I need wider skis, but for now Goodnight.

Caught in the Act!

Caught in the act putting up a new 8dBi gain external WiFi antenna on the Glencoe Rescue Station at 2800ft for the Webcams to replace an internal antenna. The external attenna should improve strength and thus relability of the wireless link to the top of the Access Chair, over which the mid mountain webcams and SSC weather station connect.

webcam capture

In case anyone is wondering why a spirit level wasn’t used to make sure the antenna was vertical, it’s supposed to be tilted downhill, so the band of strongest signal is aiming at the Top of the Access, not some 1800ft above Rannoch Moor. Higher gain omni directional antennas are only omni directional in the horizontal plane, there’s no free lunch with RF technology, the higher the gain is horizontal plane, the narrower the main beam of the signal becomes. A truly omni directional antenna, the theoretical isotropic antenna, radiates in all directions with uniform intensity – a perfect spherical radiation pattern. Think of a high gain omni directional antenna field more as a pancake!

That’s why in home WiFi putting a higher gain antenna vertically orientated upstairs likely wont improve your downstairs reception, but instead make it worse!

2010: Year of the Endless Winter

2010 was quite literally the year of CairnGorm Mountain’s Endless Winter, with a number of skiers notching up not just 12 consecutive months sliding on CairnGorm itself, but completing the full Calendar Year with sliding every month. The count as of Hogmanay is 14 consecutive months, the New Year and new month will be the 15th.

Here is the year that was 2010 on CairnGorm Mountain, in pictures, month by month.

^JANUARY: Sunday 24th, the final run of the day back through the trees to the Glenmore Gates.

^FEBRUARY: No filters, no doctoring – it really was that blue. West Wall Poma and Chairlift on Sunday 21st.

^MARCH: A sign of the times on Loch Morlich, Wednesday 3rd.

^APRIL: Friday 16th, the Funicular passes an absolutely loaded and full width White Lady with superb spring riding on offer.

^MAY: Beautiful spring snow under blue skies, Coire Cas T-bar, Saturday 15th May.

^JUNE: The lift served season officially ended on Monday 21st. Boarder rides a rope tow in the Ptarmigan Bowl on Sunday 20th. Rope Tows in the Top Basin and lift assisted descents of the Ciste Gully, by walking back over to the Funicular for the Solstice. Ptarmigan Tow run 5th and 6th June.

^JULY: H11lly and Jamie grab some final turns in the Ptarmigan Bowl after a visit to the Ciste Mhearaidh.

^AUGUST: H11lly skiing the Coire Cas Headwall, photographed by George Paton from the Fiacaill Ridge.

^SEPTEMBER: H11lly sets off for some September turns on CairnGorm. My last turns on winter 2010’s snow in the Ciste Mhearaidh, Thursday 2nd September.

^OCTOBER: A beautiful crisp autumn day for the first turns of winter 2011 on Monday 25th Oct. Hiked to the Summit and skied the Marquis Well, and onwards down the Traverse, 105 and upper Cas to just short of the Zig Zags.

^NOVEMBER: Skiers and boarders head out of the Ptarmigan on the first lift served day of the new season, Saturday 13th November.

^DECEMBER: Fresh tracks above the Ciste Bowl on the day of the Winter Solstice. Photo by H11lly.

A ScotRail Adventure

Gliding North under bluebird skies and stunning winter sunshine on the snowbound sparkling scenery of Highland Perthshire, alas this is the 8.14 from Perth, departing Blair Athol at 12.40. To the north the cloud is down over Drumochter, more weather coming in?

This might yet become a mis-adventure. An uplanned photo stop at Pitlochary to swap trains due to failed brakes.

Trains waiting at Pitlochary.

CairnGorm Mountain kicks of 50th Season

The train took the strain to notch up my 13th consecutive month of snow sliding on CairnGorm Mountain on Saturday as CML kicked off their 50th Season.

The 23rd of December 2011 will mark the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of the White Lady Chairlift and the 10th anniversary of the Funicular which replaced the Cairngorm Chairlift.

While the chairs of the White Lady live on all over the country and beyond, there still is a 2 stage Chairlift on the ‘Gorm and perhaps the most fitting way to mark the 50th anniversary and the start of the next half century on the ‘Gorm is that once again skiers can ride up the mountain to herald the start  the 51st Season on the Coire na Ciste and West Wall Chairlifts.

Glencoe Webcam update

Driving rain and sleet and steadily increasing wind speeds turned out to be the order of the day at Glencoe on Thursday, where the mission was to complete the re-installation of the wireless networking kit for the webcams following completion of an overhaul of the top of the Access Chairlift!

At the top of the chairlift the off-load deck has been rebuilt and raised to make it easier to off-load, esp so for smaller riders. A completely new lift control hut has been built to, looks good, plus has the Access 2200ft camera now has it’s own window!

Access Chair

Access Chair suggests the Cliffhanger is a no go!

It really wasn’t weather for lugging a computer up a mountain! So the second mid-mountain camera will have to wait a few more days until next week.

However the SSC Hut cam and AWS are once again connected to the network, and will come back online along with the Access Chair camera when work on the power supply to the hut is completed, hopefully on Friday weather permitting.

There is now a mixture of fixed  cameras –  at the top, mid and bottom of the snowsports area (good for seeing what happens when the weather closes in) and a variety of zoom images from the Access Camera which completes the coverage of the mountain.



Despite slightly milder conditions there was still a dusting of fresh on the top,  there could be more snow showers to come over the next few days.

See all the Webcams at Glencoe:

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)….