SAIS Torridon not running yet: where to get info on avalanches?

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 Peterswindley 14 Nov 2022

Hi there,

 I intend to climb Liathach in early December.  Going from the main road up the path that is closest to the Ben Eighe end of Liathach.

 As per title, I believe the SAIS has ceased operation.

I guess the most pertinent question is are avalanches a possibility in December?  And where is the best place to find information, or pool of information on recent avalanches?

 Also any other tips welcome.  

 As far as my experience level goes, I have done a few Munros and lots of wainwrights, including a fair amount of snowy conditions.

Also to reduce risk, my only goal is to get up to Spidean a’ Choire Leith.  Anything further would be judged on conditions and my own comfort.


 morpcat 14 Nov 2022
In reply to Peterswindley:

What has led you to believe SAIS has ceased operations?

 Myfyr Tomos 14 Nov 2022
In reply to Peterswindley:

From their website, they'll resume service on Thursday 15th December. And a wonderful service it is.

 OwenM 14 Nov 2022
In reply to Peterswindley:

From their website.

Start of Season 2022/23 - Be Alert to Early Winter Snowpack Instabilities

A standby avalanche forecast service will be provided mostly for the Northern Cairngorms and Lochaber regions during the months of November and early December. In collaboration with Met office meteorologists, future weather patterns will be monitored. When significant blanket snow cover is likely to be present in the mountains SAIS avalanche forecasters will carry out field observations and produce public avalanche hazard reports. Lochaber reports will be a good reference for the western highland ranges and Northern Cairngorms reports for the eastern highland ranges Daily Avalanche Information Reports for the 6 operational areas of Lochaber, Glencoe, Creag Meagaidh, Southern Cairngorms , Northern Cairngorms and Torridon regions will be issued from Thursday 15th Dec 2022.

 MikeR 14 Nov 2022
In reply to Peterswindley:

SAIS doesn't normally start reports until around midday December. As far as I know they will still be doing them for the Torridon area.

As for assessing avalanche hazards for areas with no avalanche forecast (and for areas with), there are often winter conditions reports on Facebook, of variable reliability, but I would recommend going on a course to learn about avalanches and spend plenty of time assessing the weather forecasts for the area, not just a few days before you go but at least a week or more to understand how the snowpack has evolved.

This is a skill that you build up over a number of seasons though obsessive weather watching and getting out lots, but a good course to build a proper understanding of how snowpack behave would give you a much better chance of understanding what to look for.

 aln 15 Nov 2022
In reply to Peterswindley:

Given the current ridiculously mild weather I'd be more inclined to wonder if there's going to be any snow.

 ExiledScot 15 Nov 2022
In reply to Peterswindley:

With or without an avalanche forecast you still need to be making your own judgements, assessing the snow yourself as you progress, no forecast is precise and there are always local anomalies due to minute variations in aspect, altitude, temperature, snow depth, previous weather etc...The SAIS forecast should be used as much to confirm your judgement, or be the basis to expand your view of local conditions on the day. It’s a fantastic service, but you need the skills too.

 ExiledScot 15 Nov 2022
In reply to aln:

> Given the current ridiculously mild weather I'd be more inclined to wonder if there's going to be any snow.

There is change slowly coming, maybe wet snow, on wet grass... it can be quite lively!! 

 Craig McLaren 15 Nov 2022
In reply to Peterswindley:

Have a close read at this - and, if there is snow forecast, or there has been recent winter conditions in Torridon when you plan to go, read it again with a map in front of you and a decent mountain weather forecast of the area.

 UKC Forums 15 Nov 2022
In reply to Peterswindley:

Sorry to re-iterate, but it's probably worth repeating: As others have said, SAIS is running fine but full forecasts for Torridon don't start until later in the month. I've amended your thread title so no one is misled. Whether or not that service is running when you get there, you also need to be able to judge things for yourself. 

At present there's no snow up here, but the weather is cooling down and conditions could change several times between now and when you come. By early December you could have anything from bare ground to full-on winter conditions; heavy snow and high avalanche risk definitely isn't unknown outside of the SAIS forecasting period.

It's worth mentioning that Spidean a' Choire Leith is one of the more challenging mainland Munro summits in winter conditions. In walking terms there is no easy way up or back down, and I've always felt like it's mountaineering. The standard path up onto the east end of the Liathach ridge from Glen Torridon is very steep at the top; it's high consequence ground in snow/ice, and potentially exposed to avalanche risk from crags overhead. Once up on the ridge, heading west it's easy scrambling in summer but snow cover gives it a real alpine edge and I think in full winter conditions you're basically doing grade I winter ridge traversing with lots of exposure in places. You'll be coming back down the same way too.

(Pictured here, the east ridge of Spidean a' Choire Leith - it's great, but depending on conditions I can imagine a lot of walkers finding it pretty scary)

In winter, pretty much any other single Munro summit in the area is less serious and technical via its easier routes. Does it have to be this particular summit? Forgive me making assumptions, but from the tone of your question I wonder if you'd be better off choosing something else? For example, Mullach An Rathain is considerably easier up and down from Glen Torridon, if you're fixed on doing a bit of Liathach. There are few crap hills around here, so you'll have a good day whatever you pick.

 Kimberley 18 Nov 2022
In reply to Peterswindley:

Reporting to start 15th December 2022

Post edited at 09:09
In reply to Peterswindley:

If you are climbing Liathach in early December you can forget about any snow. Highlands generally  are snowless at the moment and long term forecast up to mid December is looking dry and settled with very little precipitation.

In reply to Peterswindley:

Now looking like NW Highlands getting significantly colder from Sunday 4 December with snow showers from Wednesday 6th. Very low hilltop temperatures later next week. 

Post edited at 13:31
 31770 01 Dec 2022
In reply to UKC Forums:

Dan's post above is really good and gives lots of info. As others have said the forecast doesn't start yet and is only part of the picture you need. If we have a heavy snowfall they have been known to start the service early but I'm not expecting that. 

At the moment there's no snow and my main concerns, taking into account the long-range forecasts we have, would be verglas on the rocks making tricky progress and slips likely, wind - I've been up there in 50-70mph and wouldn't recommend it, cold meaning good quality kit needed, and short daylight. If you're not comfortable dealing with those then a guide or instructor can really help you with this. Remember you'd be paying them to make good decisions though not to get the thing done 🙂

Full disclosure though I do run Climb Torridon so might be a little biased. 

In reply to Peterswindley:

A very light dusting of snow on Torridon tops today, but with more to come as the week goes on. 

 Dave Hewitt 06 Dec 2022
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

> A very light dusting of snow on Torridon tops today, but with more to come as the week goes on. 

There's a fair covering further south. I was out on the Ochils yesterday and there was a quite definite snowline at about 650m. Not masses above that, but a proper complete covering. Looking north to the higher hills, the north-east looked to have a complete covering from about the same level, as did Ben Lawers. Also snow on Vorlich/Stuc etc in the west but perhaps at a slightly higher level. Looking from the house in Stirling just now (I've not stepped outside as yet), the Ochils appear the same this morning - no snow visible as yet on the Hillfoots slopes - but the level looks to have come down slightly on Vorlich/Stuc. It suddenly feels quite wintry here. (I was on Ben Vorlich on Saturday and there was no snow then, just hoar frost on the summit ridge. Saw a ptarmigan in maybe 80% winter plumage!)

 Joak 06 Dec 2022
In reply to Dave Hewitt:

I had a nice day out on Vorlich and the Stuc today from Ardvorlich, returned over Ben Our.  Snow from about 700M, below this the ground was firm and frozen with ice forming on paths with seepage. The Stuc's NE Buttress gave a pleasant wee winter scramble. The Lawers hills looked nice and white, but as usual at this time of year it's mostly cosmetic. The big plus for today is I never met another soul car to car (I normally avoid the Ardvorlich approach due to it's popularity).   

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