walkhighlands

This forum is for general discussion about walking and scrambling... If writing a report or sharing your experiences from a route, please use the other boards.

Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from England

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:04 am

denfinella wrote:This is an interesting one, and not just relevant to those living in England. For our holidays in the Highlands I've found the following things help:

1. Unless you have to go to a very specific destination with limited accommodation in the middle of peak season, don't book accommodation until just before your trip. Then you can pick an area of the country with the best forecast.

2. Base yourself somewhere that has quick access to different sides of the country / sides of hill ranges depending on which way the wind / weather is coming from. For example, we've just spent a week in Newtonmore. If the weather's coming from the west as it usually is, the Cairngorms usually have better weather and are close at hand. If the winds are from the east, an hour's drive gets you to Fort William and the West Highlands. Northerly winds? The southern side of the Monadhliath might be OK, or drive south along the A9. Storms coming from the south? Head in the direction of Inverness. In the end, we were fairly lucky with the past week's weather (aside from it being extremely hot!), but had it been wetter, Newtonmore was quite a "weatherproof" destination.

3. Don't have a fixed itinerary. I used to plan what I'd be doing each day but invariably ended up getting frustrated when the weather scuppered our plans. Now I just have a list of possible destinations / walks / sights (maybe three times as many as I'd be able to fit into the trip) ideally in different directions from my base (see point 1) and decide what I'm doing each morning, or the night before.

4. Having a reasonable understanding of how and why weather "moves" and evolves the way it does and how it's affected by topography is really useful for me - though I'm certainly no expert! Keep up to date weather forecasts (MWIS + Met Office for me), but at short range (i.e. hours) see if they actually tally with the live rainfall radar. For example, we had half a day left in Newtonmore on Saturday before heading home. On Saturday morning the Met Office app forecast sunshine all day in Fort William, with thundery showers further east. But looking at the live rainfall map, you could see the showers were all set up in bands heading right up the Great Glen (i.e. further west than forecast), so we scrapped plans to head to Fort William. Instead, we had a fully dry day with a reasonable amount of sunshine in Strathspey until we left after lunch, while (I believe) it rained for most of the morning further west. The showers slowly migrated eastwards through the day, but the main focus of them was never going to reach Newtonmore until after we'd left. This has been very useful for us in the past too - for example, a very wet week on the Isle of Mull was "saved" by heading to parts of the island which looked like they were going to be drier than the rest - we mostly had days of sunshine and occasional showers rather rain and occasional sunshine!

6. In summer, daylight hours are long! It very rarely rains all day - sunrise could be at 4am and sunset at 11pm. Even if it rains for 8 hours right up to lunchtime (or from lunchtime onwards) that leaves 8+ hours in the other parts of the day, which is long enough for a decent walk. OK, we don't (ever!) start walking at 4am, but getting up a few hours earlier (or later, with a later finish) can make a big difference.

7. Yes, invest in good waterproofs etc. if hill bagging is your priority. But if you don't like walking in the rain / clouds - I certainly include myself in this category - have plenty of backup options: riverside walks, lower hills, museums, castles, mountain biking...


What superb advice! - could be the topic for a Walkhighlands article?

The approach described in para 4 is especially valuable, I think. I live a long way from the hills (Birmingham) but I'm usually pleased with the weather I get in Scotland as long as I plan carefully and keep flexible. On a recent week in March-April based in Crianlarich, I managed to see some superb scenery, enhanced by dramatic cloud formations, even though the overall forecast for most days was totally dire. Eg by looking at the weather map (combined with some lucky guessing) I got a clear day on Sgiath Chuil, but for most of the day I could see a storm centred on Ben More that looked like a special effect from a movie. For me, that was far better than a cloudless but hazy day in June.

Another thought, as well as the southern/eastern Highlands, might be the far north eg Coigach/Assynt? The lower hills mean that even on claggy days more of the hills are visible. The weather moves fast up there, a morning of torrential rain might be followed by a beautiful afternoon, and there are some stunning effects of light on the otherworldly scenery when the clouds break open to reveal the hills and coast. I have been in a snowstorm one minute and had 50-mile views ten minutes later!

Tim
User avatar
HalfManHalfTitanium
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1677
Munros:95   Corbetts:10
Grahams:2   Donalds:1
Hewitts:148
Wainwrights:103   
Joined: Mar 11, 2015

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby GillSte » Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:05 am

"What do you do for accommodation if arriving at midnight - I wouldn't want to be putting up a tent at that time, and I can't imagine many b&bs taking arrivals at such a late hour? Spring, another one I might try."

Of course, I forgot about accommodation! :crazy: I'm in a club, who have a hut at Ballachulish more or less for members only, where you can arrive any time so long as you're quiet and considerate of others. Check out the Rucksack Club, Fell and Rock, Cairngorm Club, and many others, listed on the BMC website and Mountaineering Scotland. People doing normal commercial accommodation can also be very helpful about late arrivals if you phone and discuss it with them. A lot of my friends sleep in their cars but that's too gruesome for me!
User avatar
GillSte
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 178
Munros:282   Corbetts:222
Grahams:137   Donalds:38
Sub 2000:422   Hewitts:221
Wainwrights:107   Islands:62
Joined: Jan 30, 2016

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby jmarkb » Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:03 pm

HalfManHalfTitanium wrote:The approach described in para 4 is especially valuable, I think.


Yes, weather chasing is indeed a useful skill! In general, being downwind of other large hills is a good option. This can be true even over quite short distances: e.g. the Grey Corries are sometimes clear in westerlies due to shelter from the Ben/Aonachs when everything else around is clagged in.

Location-wise, I normally choose the Spean Bridge / Roy Bridge area for the Central Highlands - can easily drive in all 4 directions from there!
jmarkb
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 4483
Munros:241   Corbetts:96
Grahams:79   Donalds:31
Sub 2000:43   
Joined: Oct 28, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby Phil the Hill » Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:24 pm

Being based in South London and having to book holidays from work in advance, my strategy has been always to go up to Scotland in the last week of May (plus 2nd or 3rd week of February when I was doing Winter hills) for the best chance of good weather. Nothing is guaranteed, of course! I've had some washouts, but always managed some hills and mostly have had good if not excellent weather. Some flexibility to move to different areas helps, though that gets harder as the number of Munros left goes down and I become more focused on compleating them.

Last year I had an excellent week in the Southern Cairngorms as planned with two wild camps in sunny conditions. This year the weather was more variable. I delayed setting off and came back early, but still got in a wild camp at Chest of Dee plus 3 Munros with two long days, and some nice walks in the West Midlands and Peak District before and after.

Walking in different weather conditions and being flexible as to which area and what height of hills are all part of the experience.
User avatar
Phil the Hill
Walker
 
Posts: 345
Munros:261   Corbetts:26
Grahams:5   Donalds:6
Sub 2000:9   Hewitts:136
Wainwrights:63   Islands:8
Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Location: Wallington, Surrey

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby Landsoul » Mon Jul 01, 2019 6:48 pm

Just buy an extremely fast car as once you get north of Glasgow and avoid the a9 there's no speed cameras. You can easily achieve well in excess of 100mph and usually even faster between crianlarich and ft.william.
Landsoul
 
Posts: 35
Munros:282   
Joined: Jul 31, 2016
Location: Inverness

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby al78 » Mon Jul 01, 2019 6:51 pm

Landsoul wrote:Just buy an extremely fast car as once you get north of Glasgow and avoid the a9 there's no speed cameras. You can easily achieve well in excess of 100mph and usually even faster between crianlarich and ft.william.


Please don't do this. I have no desire to be cycling on the road ahead of reckless drivers.
User avatar
al78
Walker
 
Posts: 827
Munros:28   Corbetts:8
Donalds:1
Joined: Feb 1, 2018

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby Billbobaggins » Mon Jul 01, 2019 7:37 pm

al78 wrote:
Landsoul wrote:Just buy an extremely fast car as once you get north of Glasgow and avoid the a9 there's no speed cameras. You can easily achieve well in excess of 100mph and usually even faster between crianlarich and ft.william.


Please don't do this. I have no desire to be cycling on the road ahead of reckless drivers.

You wouldn’t be ahead of him long at those speeds though :crazy:
Billbobaggins
 
Posts: 63
Munros:85   
Hewitts:33
Wainwrights:48   
Joined: Apr 8, 2014

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby al78 » Tue Jul 02, 2019 8:19 am

Billbobaggins wrote:
al78 wrote:
Landsoul wrote:Just buy an extremely fast car as once you get north of Glasgow and avoid the a9 there's no speed cameras. You can easily achieve well in excess of 100mph and usually even faster between crianlarich and ft.william.


Please don't do this. I have no desire to be cycling on the road ahead of reckless drivers.

You wouldn’t be ahead of him long at those speeds though :crazy:


Yes I would, I would be plastered over his bonnet after the first blind bend. I would hope that someone who thinks it is a good idea to drive at those speeds on single carriageway roads with plenty of hazards would smash into a deer or farm vehicle, so at least they take the consequences of their actions :crazy:.
User avatar
al78
Walker
 
Posts: 827
Munros:28   Corbetts:8
Donalds:1
Joined: Feb 1, 2018

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby 37201xoIM » Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:30 am

And by the way, there are indeed plenty of speed cameras actually.... I'm glad to say! On a serious point, caning it up the single-carriageway sections of the A9 and the like because you're up against a deadline is definitely not a situation to be in, if it can be avoided.

Anyway, more constructively: which sources, please, do people use for this micro-level weather watching which does indeed sound like an excellent idea? Hitherto I've only used MWIS plus mainstream weather sources like the Met Office, Accuweather and Metcheck, none of which seems particularly good for this purpose. Thanks!
User avatar
37201xoIM
 
Posts: 79
Munros:11   Corbetts:11
Grahams:2   Donalds:10
Sub 2000:4   Hewitts:115
Wainwrights:42   Islands:15
Joined: May 15, 2014

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Tue Jul 02, 2019 12:51 pm

37201xoIM wrote:Anyway, more constructively: which sources, please, do people use for this micro-level weather watching which does indeed sound like an excellent idea? Hitherto I've only used MWIS plus mainstream weather sources like the Met Office, Accuweather and Metcheck, none of which seems particularly good for this purpose. Thanks!


I tend to use two sources. The Met Office do pressure charts with isobars at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/maps-and-charts/surface-pressure which I find very useful. They show the expected weather patterns for the next five days at 12-hour intervals.

MWIS do regional forecasts at https://www.mwis.org.uk/scottish-forecast

As an example: I can't remember the exact forecast on my recent walk to Sgiath Chuil, but the Met Office chart showed a weather system with densely-packed isobars out west, but more stable conditions further east. My interpretation of the Met Office info was confirmed by the MWIS forecast, but it said bad weather around Crianlarich. I wondered about re-doing Meall Ghaordaidh which is further east, but I had visited it in January and fancied a change.

I reckoned that the worst of the weather would run up against the big mountains around Crianlarich such as Ben Lui, Ben More and Ben Challum. I guessed that by going just east of the big hills, to a slightly lower peak, I would be relatively "sheltered" from the bad weather. Like being behind a wind-break on the beach.

It worked out (I was lucky!) This is looking west from the top of Sgiath Chuil - at this point, I was standing in bright sunshine

ImageIMG_0027 by HalfManHalfTitanium, on Flickr

A wider view from the same spot, showing the edge of the bad weather over the head of Glen Lochay

ImageIMG_0021a by HalfManHalfTitanium, on Flickr

Hope that helps. I must admit my thought processes about planning what to do each day are also based around the capabilities of my metal knee, eg alternating tougher days with easy days!

Tim
User avatar
HalfManHalfTitanium
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1677
Munros:95   Corbetts:10
Grahams:2   Donalds:1
Hewitts:148
Wainwrights:103   
Joined: Mar 11, 2015

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby denfinella » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:18 pm

37201xoIM wrote:which sources, please, do people use for this micro-level weather watching which does indeed sound like an excellent idea? Hitherto I've only used MWIS plus mainstream weather sources like the Met Office, Accuweather and Metcheck, none of which seems particularly good for this purpose. Thanks!


The one I'd add to this list for "micro-level" forecasting, and "now-casting", is the Met Office weather app. The hourly forecasts aren't anything special (though I do think they're better than the BBC's), but there's a useful "UK rainfall" map where you can toggle between a high resolution "Last 6 hours" radar and a lower resolution "Next 24 hours" one. The former is more useful for micro-forecasting, and because it's part of the app, it's easily reachable on your phone when you're out and about (signal permitting).

The day or two before, I would usually use MWIS, Met Office and BBC video forecasts just to get an idea of the general picture.

If you're really interested, more than a few days before, I look at the long range ensemble forecasts given by weather models. The GFS model is most easily available, e.g. on Wetterzentrale.de - here's the hyperlink to the Fort William forecast: https://www.wetterzentrale.de/en/show_diagrams.php?geoid=49897&model=gfs&var=201&run=6&lid=ENS&bw=. If you haven't seen these before, they take a bit of getting used to...

- The "Run" menu allows you to move between forecasts, which come out four times daily. For example, the "06" run probably starts being published at 6am, but usually isn't available to view until about 5-6 hours later. So make sure you're on the most recent one (or compare it to previous ones to see if the forecast is changing).
- You can get the chart to display a range of variables (see the Variables menu on the left), but the most useful is precipitation along with 850 hPa temperatures.
- 850 hPa temperatures are measured at a certain point in the atmosphere, so they don't correlate exactly with ground temperatures (which are almost always several degrees warmer at glen level at least). They do however show how warm the airmass is likely to be relative to the average figures for the time of year. The red line in the middle of the screen is the historical average for temperature.
- Each of the squiggly lines is produced by a different ensemble run - they're not useful in isolation, but the closer the different lines are together, the more certainty there is in the forecast.
- Temperature is shown by all the lines in the middle; precipitation is shown by all the lines along the bottom of the chart.
- The bold black squiggly lines (for both temperature and precipitation) show the average of the ensemble runs.

If this makes any sense, you can start to interpret the chart. Here's a screenshot of the hyperlink above (as the hyperlink might be showing a more up-to-date chart by the time you read it):

Capture.JPG


The chart for Fort William shows that it's going to be mostly dry over the next week (but not completely dry). The main exception is a spike of precipitation later on Thursday caused by a cold front. After that the temperature will drop to below average for the time of year. Beyond about a week ahead the squiggly lines start to diverage, showing there's more uncertainty in the forecasts. However it looks at this point like the weather will begin to warm up a bit, but also turn more unsettled. So as a fair-weather walker, I would be holding off booking a holiday in Fort William for mid-July at this point!
User avatar
denfinella
Wanderer
 
Posts: 1175
Munros:67   Corbetts:34
Grahams:26   Donalds:20
Sub 2000:62   Hewitts:14
Wainwrights:6   Islands:45
Joined: Mar 19, 2012
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby jmarkb » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:37 pm

The Met Office do regional mountain forecasts: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/specialist-forecasts/mountain
and also long range forecasts for up to 4 weeks ahead: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/long-range-forecast though the latter are very broad brush and only a rough indication of the most likely general picture.

The Wetterzentrale site seems to have fairly recently stopped carrying the sea-level pressure GFS ensemble graphs, which are arguably more useful than the 850mb temps and precipitation, but you can find them at https://www.netweather.tv/charts-and-data/ensembles (Click on the graphs menu, choose Air Pressure and then choose from the Location menu).
jmarkb
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 4483
Munros:241   Corbetts:96
Grahams:79   Donalds:31
Sub 2000:43   
Joined: Oct 28, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby maremalin » Thu Jul 04, 2019 8:41 am

MetOffice mountain forecast is generally ok but sometimes its just utter b$$$t.
I'm using this website too for pressure and rain -> https://www.windy.com

Living in south east with 8h drive to Glencoe on a good run. Looking at weather forecast is a hit and miss.
I love perfect day in the hills when weather is just right, great views bit of a breeze... its wonderful.
However i also get strange feeling of satisfaction and excitement after being out there in harsh conditions. With rain and wind fighting against you. This shows true nature of mountains..
User avatar
maremalin
 
Posts: 61
Munros:35   
Grahams:1   
Hewitts:22
Wainwrights:3   
Joined: Mar 6, 2013

Re: Strategy for getting good weather, coming up from Englan

Postby 37201xoIM » Fri Jul 05, 2019 11:51 am

Thanks a lot for these weather gen details - much obliged!
User avatar
37201xoIM
 
Posts: 79
Munros:11   Corbetts:11
Grahams:2   Donalds:10
Sub 2000:4   Hewitts:115
Wainwrights:42   Islands:15
Joined: May 15, 2014

Previous



Walkhighlands community forum is advert free


Your generosity keeps this site running.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by donating by direct debit?



Return to General discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 23 guests