AMAZING pictures show the results of “exceptional” amounts of snow clinging to Scottish mountains in the height of summer.
Experts say low summer temperatures mean vast quantities of the white stuff remain in places they would never normally be seen.
An unusual mix of circumstances has produced a stunning world of snow tunnels and bridges towering higher than a double-decker buses.
A range of factors has seen a growing number of ‘snow patches’ refusing to melt since 2007 but this summer there are more than experts have seen in 20 years.
The stunning structures are created when the snow begins to melt. As water begins to flow underneath a tunnel of air forms, melting the snow from underneath.
The results are magical – vast caverns, sometimes so big you can walk underneath, decorated with melting patterns that look almost like choppy waves.
Nicholas Adam, a 24-year-old hill walker from Crieff, stumbled upon one on Tuesday while climbing An Stuc, a mountain in the Ben Lawers range to the north of Loch Tay.
He said: “I was amazed. I have certainly seen patches of snow all through the hills this summer but nothing quite this spectacular.
“I would guess it was about 4 metres, or just under. I’m 1.8m and it was more than twice my height. I found it at roughly 940 metres according to my OS map.”
He continued: “It was only 50 meters or so off the main path which is hugely popular, so I was surprised to find it totally untouched by humans.
“I went over for some photos and took a walk through to have a closer look. It was pretty cool to think what was now a little stream would have been an icy torrent earlier in the year.”
Iain Cameron, a snow patch researcher based in Stirling, said bridges discovered in Scotland this month have been the depth of a double decker bus.
Explaining how they form he said: “That bit of snow sits on top of the water. When the snow starts to melt the water flows underneath the snow and creates a tunnel.
“The wind gets in from the top and create great big snow bridges.”
Speaking about the levels of snow this summer he said: “This year has been very unusual. I would call it exceptional.
“The amount of snow there is still lying on the hills is Scotland – we don’t usually see this.
“It is lower down on sections you would normally have expected to have melted a couple of months ago.
“There are sub 3,000 ft hills in the Highlands with snow in August. It’s very unusual. I’ve never experienced that myself – not at this time of year.
“It is fair to say that it is most we’ve seen in over 20 years.”
Among the places where snow can still be seen is Beinn Ime, a munro near Arrochar in Argyll and the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor, a munro on Glencoe, near Fort William.
In both areas the snow has usually vanished by June.
Mr Cameron continued: “The 90s and 2000s were lean years for snow. There was a lot of melting. In 1996, 2003, 2006 it disappeared from Scotland altogether.
“Since 2006 there’s been a reverse. From 2007 onwards there has been more snow on the hills in Scotland.
“There are many reasons why snow is persisting more since 2007. It is sufficient to say that there has been more snow falling in general terms.
“In 2014 there was a phenomenal level of snow over winter, but the mild summer meant that this didn’t translate into as many survivals as you might expect.
“In 2015 there was a lot of snow, but a cool summer. If we’d had last year’s snow with this year’s summer then we’d be looking at a ridiculous amount.”