New Winter Monitoring Station on Clogwyn y Garnedd

Posted by Thomas Carrick on 22/11/2023

The BMC have installed an additional Winter Monitoring Station on Clogwyn Y Garnedd, North Wales.

Following the successful upgrades to the sites in Cwm Idwal and Cwm Cynefion last winter the BMC has expanded the program onto Clogwyn Y Garnedd which most of you will know as the Trinity Face on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).

Cliciwch yma i ddarllen y fersiwn Gymraeg | Click here to read in Welsh

This site was chosen as its one of the most popular areas of winter climbing in North Wales, and due to its altitude comes into condition more regularly than other venues, with routes starting at around 850m, and finishing near the summit, many of the gully routes form up during the brief snowy intervals that we get in North Wales, but co-inhabiting some of these gullies are also rare Artic Alpine plants. 

For Biodiversity

One of the main reasons for installing this equipment is to protect the rare artic alpine species that inhabit some of the cliff faces. The UK sits in the extremes of the arctic boreal region and alpine (this can be any high mountain environment) and therefore gives a small window in which we see plant species under the Arctic Alpine description. Many of these species are some of the most native to the UK and have been around since the last ice age, with climate change and increased pressures from grazing many of these species have been pushed into small enclaves on the highest peaks. This includes 10 of the rarest Arctic Alpine plants and two invertebrates, the Arctic Pea Clam and the Snowdon Rainbow Beatle.

Many of these species are at home on the small steep ledges on the impressive faces of Clogwyn Y Garnedd, and each winter these plants will hibernate, this sensory equipment will firstly give us short term temperature data to show if the turf where many of these plants live has frozen, if the turf has frozen (temperatures indicated below zero), then damage to these plants would be minimal if a climber was to climb through swinging an ice axe and crampons. However, if the temperature remains above zero then the turf can be ripped out and damaged.

The data long term will also show us how the climate at this altitude is changing. In Cwm Idwal and in the Lake District we now have over 10 years worth of temperature data that can be analysed.

READ: Exploring the intersection between winter mountaineering and environmental data collection with Robbie Blackhall-Miles

For Climbers

This data will also be important to climbers, if the turf has not frozen solid then it makes climbing much more hazardous. Ice axes and Crampons are more likely to slice through the turf, and Bulldogs/ terriers are no use at all. 

This will enable climbers to look in detail at the turf temperatures before making their drives to the mountains. 

One of the most useful scenarios is when we get large amounts of snow falling on warm ground. This makes for poor and dangerous climbing conditions as all the snow does is insulate the turf. The air temperature might show below zero degrees but could still be warm at 5cm below the surface. Snow on the ground doesn't always mean good climbing conditions.

CHECK THE CONDITIONS: Eryri Winter Monitoring Systems in Cwm Idwal, Cwm Cneifion and Clogwyn Y Garnedd

The Equipment

The sensory equipment installed is not much more than a lunch box, and predominantly is there to look at turf temperatures. There are four monitors in total, one measures the ambient air temperature, the three others are placed at different depths into the turf; one at 5cm is roughly the depth a crampon point will reach, one at 15cm, the max depth an ice axe pic is likely to reach, and one all the way down at 30cm will give us an indication if the full depth ever freezes. This data is then sent to a repeater managed by Conwy County Council whcih allows us to stream the data onto the BMC webpage.

 


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