A Patch Of Snow That Has Nearly Never Melted

Grace Higgins | July 18th, 2019

In Britain’s highest mountain, a patch of snow exists that has a nickname. You may wonder why a patch of snow might garner such affection but the story is that it has only ever melted seven times in the last 300 years.

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Known as the Sphinx, this patch of snow exists on the Garbh Choire Mor on Braeriach, and in all of the Scottish mountains, this snow patch is historically the longest lasting. Climbers that regularly trek up and down these mountains, even use it as a point of navigation, calling it Scotland’s Glacier. In recent years it melted completely in 2017 and 2006, meaning that it stayed put for eleven years.

The patch of snow is so famous it is also one of the most studied by snow experts and researchers around the world. Many experts, such as Stirling based Iain Cameron, record the snow that survives around the highest mountains. They believe it is an important way to tell how climate change is affecting the mountains. However, recently it is more simply the mild and wet conditions of recent winters that have caused the snow to melt.

Ben Nevis which is Britain’s highest mountain was also strangely snowed free during the summer of 2017. However, snow is much more random in the Scottish mountains. If the Scottish winter of 2016/2017 was very mild, you only have to look back a couple of years to find records of tons of snow falling in 2013.

According to the records put together by experts who have crawled through years of family stories from the highlands, the Sphinx previously melted in 1933, 1953, 1959, 1996, 2003 and 2006. A biologist by the name of Dr. Adam Watson has warned that it appears to be melting faster than usual and the snowy peaks do not stay snowy for long in modern times.

A sign that pollution and climate change are making notable changes to the north of Scotland, which could completely change the region. Garbh Choire Mor is described as being remote and having an alpine feel, but without snow will it be the same?

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