Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Meall Lighliche by moonlight

Last night I went for a moonlit walk to a summit that is rarely visited--the sub-Munro, non-Corbett Meall Lighliche (778m, to the NW of Sgor na h-Ulaidh). With the bright moon and clear sky, a headtorch was not required and the moon was so bright on the snow that colours were vivid and it looked almost like mid-day! A fantastic hillwalking journey.

I did not get to any appreciable altitude, but can report that the snow I walked on alternated between solid neve and tiring, crusty powder. The surface crust varied considerably, so that in places it offered almost no resistance, whereas in others it would support your body-weight. Beneath the well-bonded crust the pack consisted of rounded thawing grains. Stability seemed to have improved considerably and I did not see any avalanche danger on the steep route I took up the mountainside, which was Grade I in places.

However, it is worth stressing that this was a SE-facing slope at moderate altitude, which will have been exposed to the warm sun. These observations will have little bearing on what is going on in the shaded northern corries where most climbers will be operating.

So all is not doom and gloom, but today a thaw has set in as forecast. Let's hope this is the start of a freeze-thaw cycle that will bring things back into good conditions.

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