Britain has lost its longest-lasting patch of snow for the first time in over a decade, an event which has happened only six other times in the previous 300 years.
Known as the Sphinx, (or affectionately known by climbers and walkers as “Scotland’s Glacier”), the patch at Garbh Choire Mor on Braeriach is historically the longest-lasting in Scotland’s mountains and last melted in 2006, making this the first time in 11 years that no patches of snow have survived on Scotland’s hills. Braeriach has been described as an ‘alpine’ mountain due to the amount of snow it can hold, and until now was known as one of the few British mountains that features snow throughout the year.
All of the snow in Britain has melted only six other times in the past 300 years – in 1933, 1953, 1959, 1996, 2003 and 2006.
Iain Cameron, a Stirling-based ‘snow patcher’, climbed the mountain at the weekend and noticed that what was remaining was small enough for him to hold in his hands. The 44-year-old, who monitors snow across Britain as a hobby, puts the unusual occurrence down to a dry and mild winter.
“On Saturday, the Sphinx was so tiny that I could easily hold it in my hands, it’s normally massive. It had been snowing at the summit but that all melted away more or less as soon as it hit the ground. It’s at an altitude of 3,700ft and mostly shaded from direct sunlight. It’s very interesting because it’s not something that happens very often. It’s only been absent from our records a few times in history” he said.
National snowsports body Ski-Scotland described it as a “challenging” season for Scotland’s outdoor ski centers because of the lack of snow and mild conditions, and the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) reported its lowest number of recorded avalanches in almost 10 years.