Snow on the horizon…

2nd March 2023

A cosmetic dusting of fresh snow fell overnight above 650 metres in the Northern Cairngorms, giving the area a much more wintery feel than of late.

Coire an t-Sneachda was a popular location for many today, and the main gully lines were an obvious choice given the firm snow ice that exists in the north facing coires above 1000 metres. Inevitably, there isn’t a full repertoire of routes to be done and people are forced into the same areas bringing additional hazards.

The mixed routes on the buttresses were pretty much devoid of snow prior to this, and will feature loose rock that isn’t glued in properly. This ubiquitous feature of Coire an t-Sneachda is to be expected in any coire that gets freeze thaw action. Thanks to the party who shouted down from ‘The Message’ or ‘The Hybrid’ after trundling a block into clear space below.

Weaknesses are present in soft windslab in isolated locations around the coire rim and tops of gullies where crossloading has occurred in the East-North-Easterly and North-Easterly winds. These are generally easily avoided but are likely to gain depth overnight and into Friday. The avalanche hazard is low, but there will be a subtle change as snow is redistributed.

Although tomorrow is expected to be dry, precipitation is likely over the weekend at the high pressure system nudges to the west a little giving a north-north-easterly flow. There is little shelter for the Northern Cairngorms in these conditions and we have our fingers crossed for some showers coming in off the coast.


Aladdin’s Buttress, Coire an t-Sneachda. Looking busy today.


Firm icy snow (the older snowpack) obscured by a thin covering of overnight snow.


Some knobbly rime ice and firm snow at the top of the ‘Goat Track’. Cutting a nice few steps through this gives a secure platform for the foot even when wearing crampons. Nice to practice ones craft and practice some step cutting – an under utilised technique with modern tools…


Alladdin’s Lamp – I am sure there used to be another block on the top of this!? So maybe more correctly, what is left of the lamp?…


View obliquely over to the ‘Mess of Pottage’ and ‘Windy Gap’ in Coire an t-Sneachda.


Small deposits of fresh snow on the summit plateau. These are quite soft and contain weaknesses which will present as soft windslab elsewhere. Particularly on South-West through West to North aspects above 1000 metres. With good visibility they should be avoidable.

Comments on this post

  • Ron
    2nd March 2023 5:37 pm

    Photo from eight years ago of Aladdins Seat if that helps with possible missing lamp block!

    Cheers Ron

  • Matt Dalby
    4th March 2023 12:04 am

    The missing? block on Aladdin’s lamp reminded me of one of the best April fools stories I’ve ever read, and briefly fell for. In 2016 ukclimbing had an article claiming that a lightning strike had knocked the block off the top of the Inn Pinn, meaning that it was no longer a munro as Sgurr Dearg was now slightly higher. They then said that local mountain guides were thinking of using a helicopter to but the block back in place as they got a lot of business taking munro baggers with no technical climbing experience up the pinnacle.

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