INCREDIBLE video shows a 30ft-high cathedral-like snow cavern left behind by last year’s unmelted snow.
The film was taken by snow scientists, who have revealed that the summer’s poor weather has resulted in the largest amount of unmelted snow in Scotland for 20 years.
More than 50 significant areas of snow survived the summer – a record high since 1994 – and the first of this year’s snow is now falling on many of them.
The partially-melted snow has created sprawling ice grottos – whilst others have made ideal playgrounds for winter sports enthusiasts, who have been skiing on Ben Nevis through the summer.
A video shows remarkable scenes on Ben Macdui, the UK’s second-highest mountain, where a gigantic slab of unmelted snow up to 40ft high is leaning against a rock face on the Cairngorms peak. The huge cavern underneath is filled with light.
But scientists are warning that the unmelted snow could be a sign of things to come – as Scotland faces a return to harsher, colder and more snowy winters – with temperatures of -10C forecast for parts of the country this weekend.
With fresh snow falling across the country last week, the final count of snow surviving the summer is now in, with nearly double the amount compared to last year.
Iain Cameron, who undertakes the yearly snow census every summer as part of a team working for the Royal Meteorological Society, said: “There are more patches surviving this year since 1994 because the spring and summer were cold and miserable – you may have noticed.
“There was fresh snow on the hills up until June this year, so the season for melting was shorter than normal.
“This, allied to the cold summer, meant that we have lots of patches surviving. In excess of 50.”
This year’s cool summer – with some monthly temperatures two degrees below average – was blamed on the jet stream bringing particularly low pressure to the north.
But Iain, 42, says the cold trend for colder weather is also rolling out across the winter months.
He added: “Since 2007 the winters have been snowier than from 1995 to 2006. There’s been a reversion to what we would call ‘normal’ Scottish winters.”
Speaking out about the difficulties of undertaking the yearly survey – which he has worked on for a decade – he said: “It can be hairy. The snow in summer can be rock-hard and slippy.
“Usually it sits at a steep angle as well. This makes traversing it very risky. Ice axes were needed this year right up until September and October to traverse the old snow.
Many of his stunning images taken of the snow across Scotland show that over the summer months it slowly melts, forming elaborate patterns and caves which he explores.
Iain explained: “The snow tunnels are created, initially, by small water courses melting their way from top to bottom. As these tunnels get a little larger, the allow air to pass through.
“This air then expands the tunnels until they become large enough to walk through. They are truly amazing things to experience. The hexagonal features are called ‘ablation hollows.’
“There is danger going inside snow tunnels, but the risk is a calculated one. The edges of the snow tunnels are the most vulnerable, as they’re the ones most likely to break apart. Once inside they’re really very safe.”
Up to eight inches of snow are expected to fall across Scotland this weekend, with the possibility of high ground hitting lows of -10C.
Weather forecaster James Madden said: “We could see low temperatures heading towards double negative figures in parts of Scotland during the early hours of Saturday, and this could produce our coldest temperature of the weekend.”