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gearr aonach zigzags

gearr aonach zigzags

Postby david roy » Sun May 31, 2009 9:36 pm

Munros included on this walk: Bidean nam Bian

Date walked: 31/05/2009

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On my first ascent of Bidean nam Bian , i came up the Lost Valley and met a walker who had ascended the nose of Gearr Aonach and said it was an easy scramble..However from the valley it looks so impossible i have always been keen to try it. Indeed when viewing the Three Sisters from The Study or even higher up the valley one can see the zigzags on the eastern face of Gearr Aonach quite easily.
So last Tuesday en route for Rum , i had the ideal opportunity to attempt it.
At first i walked up higher path in the Lost Valley but went too far and came to the scree slope.
Doubled back a bit and went straight uphill from a large boulder on the path to meet the extreme right edge of the rock face to find an obvious path ascending to the left at the edge of the rock.
I thought the route would then be easy , but following the path i again came to the same scree slope and realised i had gone too far . There were several possible routes but all looked very difficult.
I returned to the bottom of the path thinking of giving up , but on walking a short distance on the grass shoulder to try and get a better view , i found i could see the zigzag again, following some small trees. However as soon as you move to the rock face you lose sight of it. Exasperating.
I tried ascending again and by focusing on the small line of trees , found the next zigzag ascending to the right. There is a small 5ft easy scramble to this next path which is what makes it so difficult to see.
Next i came accross a sharp left turn with a steep scramble facing and again confusingly there is a path going straight ahead but i think this a dead end formed by those looking for an easier route.
The next 30ft of scrambling was the most difficult of the route but there is no sense of exposure.
One final sharp turn right brought me to the nose of Gearr Aonach and great views.
It is then an easy walk to summit.
I got tremendous satisfaction from this route , partly as it was quite difficult to find.
I suppose i might have been able to download exact coordinates for my GPS , but then would have missed the challenge.
I have never seen this route mentioned in a walking guide but it is definitely one i will use again.
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Re: gearr aonach zigzags

Postby mountain coward » Tue Jun 02, 2009 3:16 am

Thanks for putting that report out - I've looked and looked at those - every time I've driven down Glencoe I've looked at them instead of the road, and I've always wondered whether they were feasible for mere mortals or whether they were just suitable for top-end scramblers or climbers. Thanks for such a detailed description. I'm probably gonna print it off and see if I can find it...
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Re: gearr aonach zigzags

Postby Paul Webster » Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:45 pm

I've actually done this route too and can confirm it to be do-able! I saw it in a friends rockclimbing guide (I think graded 'Easy') which would have put me off if I'd seen that first, but as you say, not much exposure so not too frightening :lol: It can be seen very clearly from the road.
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Re: gearr aonach zigzags

Postby Bonzo » Wed Aug 17, 2011 11:28 am

I did this many years ago and found the route both easy to find and a simple scramble.

However, some years later I decided to do it again but had real problems in locating the route (the weather was far better than the first visit) and I ended up moving too close to the nose of Gearr Aonach with my backside hanging over a sheer drop. I remember looking down and seeing a walker watching my desperate manoeuvres - this didn't help :?

A few desperate moves over scree covered ledges brought me back to safety but a further search brought no joy so I walked across to the other side of the valley and did the Aonach Eagach.

It appears that if you don't locate the base of the zigzag route correctly from below you have a real task in finding it once a bit of height is gained. The terrain all looks the same.
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Re: gearr aonach zigzags

Postby malky_c » Wed Aug 17, 2011 1:10 pm

Yep, great route. I did this some time back, after seeing it in the 'Scrambles in Lochaber' book, which is well worth getting if you like this kind of thing.

Kinley got some great photos of it here:
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Re: gearr aonach zigzags

Postby kinley » Wed Aug 17, 2011 5:09 pm

Aye - that was a cracking walk - must go back and do all 3 Sisters. 8)

Re: gearr aonach zigzags

Postby Phil the Hill » Thu Aug 18, 2011 10:25 am

When we first started winter walking in Scotland in the early 90s, my friends and I went on a course to learn the skills. This was one of the first routes our guide took us on. I remember it as an excellent route, and well within the capabilities of novices in winter (roped up). Whenever I drive through Glencoe I look up at Gearr Aonach and think "Did we really do that in winter?!" :shock:

Good report by Kinley - I'd missed that one. Looks well worth tackling it again in summer conditions.
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Re: gearr aonach zigzags

Postby Milesy » Thu Aug 18, 2011 10:11 pm

david roy wrote:I have never seen this route mentioned in a walking guide but it is definitely one i will use again.

You will find it in the Scrambles in Lochaber book by Noel Williams :)
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Re: gearr aonach zigzags

Postby Milesy » Thu Aug 18, 2011 10:13 pm

It is not bad in winter. It was one of the first winter routes I done.

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