Holy Moly…

30th January 2024

There was little change in the Northern Cairngorms today, the snow remaining firm, icy and stable. Certainly this was the case on the ubacs, the shady north facing side of Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain.

Thanks to Sarah from Cairngorm MRT who flagged up the avalanche debris in Coire an Lochain. This is likely to have released on or around the 24th January in thaw conditions. This is a large avalanche with the crown wall just visible running from western end of No.5 Buttress close to the coire rim towards the ‘Twin Burns’. This is a crown wall that is a round 400-500m across.

Correspondingly, the debris runs down to the lochan in the base of the coire, while some large blocks have come to rest on a slight bench above some crags. The debris has displaced the ice from the lochan with some blocks approximately 50 metres down hill.

Reports of avalanches old and new are greatly appreciated, these can be done online on the SAIS Report an Avalanche page. [Please don’t feel that you have to fill in all the fields].

Little change to the snowpack is expected tomorrow with cold temperatures. A transient warming, as the freezing level reaches the summits, will occur in the afternoon. Precipitation later is likely to result in windslab accumulations in steep wind sheltered areas of a North to East aspect above 850 metres. These accumulations will be isolated and avoidable.

The real headline is the windspeed for tomorrow, which is anticipated to be storm force with speeds around 100 mph. The Avalanche Hazard will be Low.


The crown wall (approximating the red line) of a large avalanche in Coire an Lochain. Probably size 2.5-3.


An oblique shot with the crown wall indicated by arrows, and the debris just visible in the lochan below. This is a common situation in the Cairngorms – it would be be right to assume that there isn’t really that much snow, but greater depths have accumulated close to the coire rim. Here the snow is deeper and unsupported by a thin snowpack below. The crown wall links convexities or rocks where the snow is under tension or potentially at its weakest.


An aerial shot of the ice blocks pushed up and out of the lochan. There were some above 50 metres downslope of this image.


Looking down at the debris. It can be seen here by the dirty mottled snow which extends over half of the lochans surface.


Looking up towards two mountaineers on ‘The Great Slab’. These steep slopes require careful and sure footed progress to reach the climbs above.


Holy Moly – The title of this blog seemed apt given the slight surprise as to the size of the avalanche observed in Coire an Lochain AND it is also the name of one of the local reindeer!


Comments on this post

  • ncairngormsadmin
    31st January 2024 10:27 am

    Further to this post this reindeer may be Dante, a female born in 2017.

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