I love rime. I love how these tails of ice seem to form on rocks, fences, walls, posts and anything bold enough to stand upright on a frozen, windy mountain. I love how rime’s strange, white crystalline structures seem to sprout from the dark surfaces of rocks to either bring them into relief or bury them in ice. It amazes me that rime can form as a razor of ice down one side of a single blade of grass and as an icy lattice inches deep on a wire fence. What I especially love about rime is how it adds a new beauty and character to these small things as well as to a whole mountain landscape. Rime is also wonderful for being something that is superficially simple – frozen water – that forms from an interesting process into something varied and complex.
Rime is essentially the white crust of ice that builds up on exposed objects in cold conditions, often on the tops of mountains. It is formed when the tiny, super-cooled water droplets in cloud or fog make contact with an object which has been cooled below 0 degrees Celsius. These droplets immediately freeze to that object. As more droplets make contact, this ice builds-up and forms into feathers and tails.
When I first saw rime I assumed, like a lot of people, that it forms away from the wind. It seemed to make sense that these fans and flutings were an icy wake or cloak blown behind whatever it had formed on. The fact is that rime forms into the wind. This makes it more amazing and striking for me, as the build-up of these tiny, frozen drops seem to defy the elements that brought them into being. This fact also makes rime potentially more valuable. This is because it can provide an indication of recent wind direction and so can be a useful bit of information when trying to work out which slopes of a snowy mountain might be avalanche prone.
Yet what I really value about rime is it’s intrinsic beauty and the beauty it gives to the objects it coats. It not only makes me see a place differently, it makes me feel differently too because I associate encountering rime on a mountain with getting higher. Rime clings to the windy summits I’m trying to get to, and that’s why most of my photos featuring rime are the summit shots taken to show I made the top of the mountain.
It may be that getting to that summit has been made harder by the rime coating the rock, but I still smile to see it and to wonder at it. It is because of rime’s beauty that I’m putting some of my favourite photos of rime here.
An explanation of how rime ice, dew and hoar frost and glaze ice form.
The online dictionary’s definition of hard rime ice.
Some stunning photos of the rime that forms on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, USA.
AccuWeather.com – Rime ice
A blog post from 2008 by someone stationed at the weather observatory on top of Mount Washington. It describes the incredible rate at which rime forms at the summit and has a couple of cool photos of rime several inches deep.
I’d wondered about doing this post as a rhyme, but decided better of it. That was probably a good idea. However, if anyone has any rhymes about rime, please feel free to add them as a comment.