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Aonach Eagach - Conquered
by Stretch » Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:13 pm
Route description: Aonach Eagach
Munros included on this walk: Meall Dearg (Aonach Eagach), Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (Aonach Eagach)
Date walked: 04/06/2011
Time taken: 6.4 hours
Distance: 7.1 km
Ascent: 1100m3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
In May 2009 I had read about the Aonach Eagach in a small guide book to Scotland's best walks. I had only climbed 3 hills in the Cairngorms up to that time and in my newbie mind I thought the AE sounded like fun. So I scheduled the last weekend of May to camp in Glencoe and do the route. Thankfully I mentioned this to a professor in my department at St Andrews who persuaded me, er, insisted that I was not going to do the AE. When I arrived in Glencoe I chose to go up Bidean and had a fabulous day, one that was much safer no doubt. I eyeballed the Aonach Eagach from Bidean and was glad someone warned me about trying to cross it . . . but since then I've had a bit of an urge to conquer it.
Willie (Gammy Leg Walker), Alan S, and a few of us from the site had planned to take our shot at the ridge on the 1st weekend in June. We would be joined by Graham and Stewart and two of their mates so we knew we would be in experienced company, and that was the only way I would attempt the ridge. Gammy and I even insisted that a 'confidence' rope be carried up just in case we get scared silly. On Friday night I camped down Glen Etive with Gable Gable End (Stuart) who I had invited along and we talked about the AE while sitting next to our very nice fire. It was decided that if it rained, or threatened rain, that we would take ourselves somewhere else. Having now done the ridge, there is no way in hell I would do it in wet conditions. Anyhoo, after some confusion on my part as to where to park for the start of the walk, we finally met up with the gang at the layby. Gammy and Alan were already heading up, having thought that I had bailed! But Graham led Stuart and I up the path to Am Bodach. It was one heck of a slog, I was overheating almost immediately. The Bells whisky we had the previous night didn't help matters.
Once we reached the top of Am Bodach we took a rest and prepared ourselves for 'the drop'. I felt weak, but was determined to give this a go as the conditions for walking across the ridge could not have been better and I knew this might be my only shot at doing the route. Slowly but surely we scooted down the drop and made it to safer ground. I'm not going to paint a pretty picture of the drop - to me, it was pretty hairy. But the rest of the route to the first munro, Meall Dearg, was rather enjoyable and easy.
From the summit of Meall Dearg all eyes were focused on the pinnacles and the more difficult sections of the ridge. No stopping us now though, and on we went. Up first was the Chimney. There is a bit of an awkward move required to get down to the base of it, but going up the Chimney was not too bad at all. From there we crossed some narrower sections of the ridge before reaching the pinnacles. At several points I wanted to cry for my mommy over this part, but I moved very methodically and with the help of Graham and Stewart we all managed to get up and over the three pinnacles. I think a few of us were actually starting to enjoy ourselves, although I was dying of fatigue and couldn't wait to get to Stob Coire Leith and safer ground.
After reaching Stob Coire Leith we all congratulated each other and took a much needed break. The remainder of the route to Sgorr nam Fiannaidh presented no problems and the banter picked up in the group. After soaking in the view back toward Am Bodach for a few minutes it was decided that we would descend down a scree path on the south face of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. I was of the mind that heading toward the Pap of Glencoe and down would have been the better/easier way, but I wanted to stay with the group, so down I went. This was very steep, but there was a path, and I just had to take it slow. It was a long way down to the car and the scree seemed to last forever, but once we reached the grassy lower section it really started to hit me that I had achieved something pretty amazing on the day.
After we collected our vehicles it was off to the Clachaig for some well deserved pints and grub. Those of us who had not crossed the Aonach Eagach before were truly elated, although Willie and I decided that we'd never go up there again. Once is certainly enough for me. Having said that, conquering the Aonach Eagach will go down as the pinnacle of my hillwalking adventures. My time in Scotland is coming to an end, and I doubt I will attempt anything like the AE from now until I leave, especially not without the company of experienced climbers like Graham and Stewart. This will go down as one of the finest days I've had in my 4 years here, and it will remain a huge personal achievement for many years to come.
by Stretch » Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:13 pm
And finally, a video.
by ChrisW » Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:28 pm
Are you back to the US soon or elsewhere, and will you be posting in the 'Outside Scotland' section when you go ?
by chrisoff » Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:29 pm
Don't know if I'll ever feel the need to go over that drop and tackle a ridge like that...
by rockhopper » Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:29 pm
by walk aboot » Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:35 pm
GLW won't be so fussed about the ridge in Kintail now, I expect
by gammy leg walker » Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:49 pm
I am so glad we managed to conquer the ridge befoe you go home for your summer break,and as you said if it was not fo Graham & Stewart this would not have been possible
by Stretch » Sun Jun 05, 2011 3:00 pm
Chris, I'll be outta here by the end of the year, but will still be active on the site, and will certainly post some of my hikes across Tennessee in the future.
Helluvah day Willie, I didn't feel truly safe until I walked into my flat Cheers for getting this together pal!
by JonetCol » Sun Jun 05, 2011 3:28 pm
by gammy leg walker » Sun Jun 05, 2011 3:47 pm
walk aboot wrote:GLW won't be so fussed about the ridge in Kintail now, I expect
by walk aboot » Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:01 pm
gammy leg walker wrote:walk aboot wrote:GLW won't be so fussed about the ridge in Kintail now, I expect
No, not really
by skuk007 » Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:13 pm
Now that it's finally conquered, if you'd decided to try it on your own is there any point where you'd have thought you couldn't go on? I won't be doing this on my own just curious what people think afterwards.
by Gable Gable End » Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:27 pm
I have struggled with scrambles/heights/exposure since I started walking but yesterday was a massive step forward for my confidence, absolute pleasure to take in this fine ridge with great company.
The ridge was even in my sleep last night....not sure if it was a dream or nightmare
by Stretch » Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:36 pm
skuk007 wrote:Now that it's finally conquered, if you'd decided to try it on your own is there any point where you'd have thought you couldn't go on? I won't be doing this on my own just curious what people think afterwards.
Hmm, my view is - there's strength in numbers. Having an extra pair of eyes to help spot the holds and someone around to talk you through things would be the best bet in my opinion. I wouldn't do this on my own even now, I'm not a huge risk taker, so for me getting across this safely on a great day will be enough. If you are a confident scrambler and have no fear, then doing it alone might be no problem. But I wouldn't advise people like myself who have only done some minor scrambling to take this on alone. I know others have said that the ridge sounds worse than it is, but personally I think it's fairly dangerous in certain spots.
by JB likes a beer » Sun Jun 05, 2011 7:17 pm