Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A bright future for Scottish winter climbing?

We may be standing on the threshold of a period of bumper winters! This glimmer of hope for Scottish winter climbing in the face of seemingly inevitable global warming comes from the recent prediction that, over the next decade or so, temperatures might fall, rather than rise.

The prevailing westerly wind plays a large part in determining the humidity and the temperature of the British climate. The strength of this wind is in turn dictated by the balance between the Iceland Low and the Azores High, two pressure systems that lie to the west, an effect known as the North Atlantic Oscillation

It's important to emphasise that global warming has not ended; the overall warming trend will continue. It is just that the cooling effect of a shift in the North Atlantic Oscillation may briefly overwhelm mankind's effect on the climate.

Will we see more of this over the next few years? Coigach in winter; Stac Pollaidh from Cul Beag.

My appetite for this impending bonanza of winter sport was whetted by Dean Lords' article in issue 27 of Alpinist magazine. I quote a few lines below:

“Our remote mysteries require perfect timing and luck to unlock.......A line could vanish for three years, then flicker back like a ghost.....this landscape rarely reveals its secrets on the first or second visits; it could take a lifetime to know.”

Lords was describing the Lost River Range in Idaho, but to me these lines encapsulate all that makes winter climbing in Scotland's fickle climate such a compelling and satisfying sport. Charming though this unpredictability is, I certainly won't be complaining if the North Atlantic Oscillation dishes up some more reliable conditions in the coming seasons!

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