Cold for now…

19th December 2023

Another windy and wild day in the Northern Cairngorms with gusts of 96 mph recorded on the summit of Cairngorm. The moist snowpack from yesterday quickly froze last night, resulting in consequential travel over snow patches.

Isolated accumulations of fresh snow were observed above 1100 metres in steep location such as coire rims and ridge flanks. These are shallow in the most part but contain instabilities where they gain depth. Some windslab development exists in the tops of gullies and in steep wind sheltered locations.

Precipitation is expected overnight, falling as snow above around 700 metres. Amounts are expected to be small. However, calculating snow amounts is always challenging and the tomorrow is no exception. Greater amounts may fall if showers merge, or on the western periphery of the Northern Cairngorms area. The Avalanche Hazard will be Low.


Yesterdays moist snow patches have frozen in the colder temperatures giving very firm surfaces with consequential runouts.



Firm snow patches on even modest inclines favoured the use of crampons today. This was about the maximum I could get away with in a stiff mountaineering boot.


Old snow patches are largely confined to coire back walls above 1100 metres. Isolated ribbons of snow can be found in sheltered stream beds and depressions down to 750 metres.


Crampons were essential on the refrozen snow patches.


Isolated accumulations of fresh snow have been deposited overnight in steep locations close to coire rims. Here in Coire Cas deposits were isolated and shallow – visible to the left of the Forecaster here in contrast to the greyer, refrozen snow to the right.


Some people were out using the snow patches for skills training, seen here in the relative shelter of Coire Cas.

Comments on this post

  • jim
    19th December 2023 5:59 pm

    great update guys appreciate it, always very thorough

    • ncairngormsadmin
      20th December 2023 9:20 am

      Thanks Jim.

  • James
    20th December 2023 9:53 am

    SAIS is a great service/one I’ve used for years. But with this post:

    Beware the service doesn’t become an ego-fest for the reporters; personally, I would be very cautious with any staff member who wishes for multiple photos of themselves within a single post.
    I will add that this isn’t about you – and if it becomes about you, this website will fall/go the way of so many others.

    RE boot image: are Scarpa sponsoring you or SAIS?

    This entire post has left a very bad taste in my mouth, with the potential direction of travel it implies. …Do we really need a photo of you putting your crampons on?

    Hopefully I’m paranoid.

    • ncairngormsadmin
      20th December 2023 5:26 pm

      Thank you for your comments and your perspective. The intent here is not for product placement but to clearly illustrate the fact that the snowpack has gone very hard/icy and that even though there is limited snow cover there is an important consideration for those going into the mountains. We are mindful of the significant number of falls and injuries over the last winter in lean winter conditions. By illustrating the use of crampons and ice axe in location, for educational purposes, may help inform. However we will consider your view re products but in this day and age it is virtually impossible to illustrate a field observation without equipment being identified! PS unfortunately we are not sponsored by scarpa!

  • Hugh Spencer
    21st December 2023 11:26 am

    The thing we all want from the blog pics are views which show us the general volume and coverage of snow. These type of pics are immensely useful for us towners to make decisions about going to the hill or not. Pics of people or things are perfectly acceptable so long as the above prevails. But thanks a million for the service and the effort….much appreciated.

    • ncairngormsadmin
      21st December 2023 2:25 pm

      Thanks Hugh, much appreciated.

  • Mark
    21st December 2023 11:55 am

    A huge thank you for the FREE and important service you provide us. All photos are super useful for me and along with webcams, trip reports, weather forecasts and messages from pals all add to the picture I can get of conditions on the hill. The fact that I get to see any images from your day on the hill is amazing and I really appreciate whatever you post, how I let those images affect me is up to me, I just appreciate you offering them in the first place. Cheers.

    • ncairngormsadmin
      21st December 2023 2:26 pm

      Hi Mark
      thanks for your positive feedback.

  • Stuart sinclair
    21st December 2023 7:24 pm

    Hello people just like to say any information we receive from this service is second to none and thank everyone involved pictures or no pictures? Merry Christmas all at sais

    • ncairngormsadmin
      22nd December 2023 4:07 pm

      Hi Stuart
      thanks for your positive feedback.
      Merry Christmas to you from the SAIS team.

  • Siobhan
    24th December 2023 4:48 am

    Excellent, thorough, relevant information. Really appreciate your hard work and efforts in providing this service. So important for winter hill goers in Scotland. Thank you SAIS team!

  • Siobhan
    24th December 2023 4:55 am

    Thanks SAIS for providing such an excellent, thorough, reliable, information service about the winter conditions in the Scottish mountains. We don’t even have to pay for it! Really appreciate and rely on your hard work. Thank you!

    • ncairngormsadmin
      24th December 2023 8:31 pm

      Hi Siobhan
      Thanks for your comment, we wish you a merry Christmas from the SAIS team

  • Alun
    25th December 2023 7:17 pm

    Really appreciate the images of current conditions. Please keep posting landscape images (with or without team members)

    • ncairngormsadmin
      28th December 2023 4:24 pm

      Hi Alun
      thanks for your comment, have a great new year!

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