Last Friday (the 21st of August) I was again up on the North Face of Ben Nevis to do some surveying. This time I was helping with the Ben Nevis part of the annual Scottish snowpatch survey.
The Scottish snowpatch survey occurs each year in mid/late August,and basically involves people wandering around the hills counting and measuring the remaining snowpatches. I have been involved most years since 2008, and it is something I have written about on my blog a few times. This year I was joined by three fellow snowpatch enthusiasts; Iain Cameron, Mark Atkinson and Al Todd.
As expected given the snowy winter and cool spring/summer, there was a lot of snow on the Ben. In fact there was far more than I had seen at this time of the year before, you would probably have to go back to 1994 to find a time when there was a comparable amount of snow on the hill at this time of year.
The biggest patch of snow on the hill (and quite possibly the biggest in Scotland at the moment) was at the top of Observatory Gully. This is the most permanent patch of snow in the Lochaber area, with snow having been here continuously since November 2006. This year it was huge, hundreds of meters from top to toe. In fact the toe of the patch was at about 1130 metres, and you could have walked on snow all the way into Gardyloo gully, or across and up to the top of Tower Gully at 1340 metres. The depth of the centre of the patch could only be guessed at, but greater than 15 metres seems reasonable. This patch certainly won’t be disappearing this year.
The edge of the Point Five Gully Patch. Not a shallow patch of snow, but probably not as deep as the Observatory Gully Patch.
We then headed down to the patch at the base of Point Five Gully. This patch was about 70 metres long, and perhaps a bit more width wise. The stream that runs down Point Five Gully had formed a tunnel through the centre of the patch. Donning headtorches (as it was very dark in the middle) we went for an explore, and managed to scramble all the way through. At the top we were able to get an idea of the great depth of the snow, again it is very unlikely this patch is going to disappear this year.
We finished off with the zero Gully snow patch. This is currently a comparable size to this time last year. Last year it survived for the first time in a long time (since 2001 or 1994). Although I would not say this patch is guaranteed to survive this year, I think it is fairly likely. It will depend a lot on the weather through the autumn.
Although all the data from the different areas has not yet all be collated, the preliminary results of this years the Scottish snowpatch survey are impressive.
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