A deep low and associated cold pool pushed some very cold surface temps across the more northern-central areas of SA, and combined with plenty of moisture had a reasonable chance of producing snow on a couple of SA’s higher peaks. I had anticipated this for the week proceeding, and was a little disheartened with the models the day before pushing the real cold air further north than I would have liked, given the borderline setup. The problem was, the more northern peaks looked colder, but moisture was less than my ideal target of Mount Bryan. However in the morning models showed further south, and with a broad area of showers I headed off from Clare at 7am.
Fog and light rain followed me all the way there, and it wasn’t until I reached the base of the trail to the summit (around 620m) that raindrops of a decent size started to fall. There was a little sleet mixed with the rain, and from memory it was around 4 degrees here. The climb to the top involved mostly light droplets, which became sleet halfway to the top. By the time I was 50m height wise from the summit I seen the first flakes. The roar through the towers could be heard from almost halfway down the trail. There was a particular spot here where the wind funneled over the summit, and dipped into the valley and raged over this ridge with sustained winds well over 50km , gusts over 80km, one had to lean into the wind and essentially ‘crab’ into the wind.
At the summit the bulk of the shower passed over as I arrived, and there was a decent shower of snow, however the temperature never dipped below 1.2 degrees and the snow only settled on the metal objects, windward side to a depth of maybe 1cm. It cleared and I was left with roaring winds and loads of fog flying past at speeds I have never seen before. There was no way to look into it without bad windburn. Looked to be flying by at over 100km at times, the wind was truly unbelievable. Who knows what the actual strength was, but it’s the strongest I’ve seen, undoubtedly this plays a big part in the stunted vegetation up here.
I had to wait about an hour and a half for the next, and most significant line of cells to make its way up. These rode behind the trough line, and were mixed in with the coldest air of the system. They took a bloody long time to arrive, but eventually when they did there wasn’t even a hint of rain, it came in as snowflakes, driven by a huge gust of wind before easing and then the heavier snow starting. Previous to this it had risen to 3 degrees, but was plummeted down to 0.2 degrees within 5 minutes.
The snow came down hard and sideways for maybe 20-25 minutes, peaking around 11.20 from memory, I wasn’t really paying attention to time, before it eased to just light snowfall, but huge snowflakes. The way the wind distributed the snow was interesting, it tended to roar over the top of the range, and eddy back on itself, with snow surging upwards at times from behind the mountain and most of the snow drifts were deposited on the lee side of the mountain. The temperature reached about 0 degrees, I didn’t see it get any lower but I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention to it.
The snow lingered for over half an hour after this and I explored the mountain during this time. I seen a few roos up in the snowline, as well as a European Fox, which was making barking noises, and looked quite cool with its bright colours amongst all the snow. It wasn’t even 30 metres from me and was completely unaware of my presence being very vocal, was a rather cool moment.
The snow rapidly melted/blew away as soon as the snow cleared. The temperature warmed to 2.8 degrees rather quickly and the winds picked up strength again and the scenes were reminiscent of Antarctica with the gales blowing the snow around. Indeed this wind did help to pile drifts up to 3 inches deep behind plants and rocks. The general depth at its max would have been around 1-2cm so a reasonable fall.
There was a continual presence of fog around the summit, which although I seen the sun just before I left at around 12.30pm, the orographics drove copious amounts of fog, and even drizzle at times to the point where it never really cleared. The only time I had decent visibility was during the main snowfall, otherwise 150m was about the best I could get.
The climb back down was hard to say the least, the top is very steep, and there was still plenty of snow laying around and I slipped over numerous times. The windy ridge I mentioned before was interesting, at the top the snow piled into objects from due west generally, however down here it was piled into the southern side of the rocks, I was really amazed at how this waterfall like effect over the mountain eddied the wind. Imminently behind the main ridge, there were even some drifts from the east. After crossing the fence and having dropped almost 250m of altitude the wind suddenly dropped back to just a fresh breeze. Looking back at the fog, you could see it swirling over the top, then surging north across the ridge at great speed, massively dynamic. I’ve never seen a mountain have such an effect on wind, probably because SA has very few of them 😛
Anyway here’s images.
This was one spot on the lee which was sheltered and allowed for snowflakes to settle and float upwards from the back, rather than being driven straight into the ground.
The showers they had had in the lower areas ran off the saturated hills and swelled the local catchments, from a trickle to medium flows in a few hours, considering there was only about 10mm that fell, I was very surprised by the amount of water laying around.