Travel and Coronavirus
Temporary Coronavirus restrictions and travel advice applies until Monday 26th October.
Click for details
Aonach Eagach A Brief Taste Of Winter
by yokehead » Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:15 pm
Route description: Aonach Eagach
Munros included on this walk: Meall Dearg (Aonach Eagach), Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (Aonach Eagach)
Date walked: 18/03/2012
Time taken: 7 hours
Distance: 7.1 km
Ascent: 1247m11 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).
This is it, the day is here, the AE for me and hopefully not Accident & Emergency. How do you feel before doing this? Excited? Certainly! Trepidation? Indeed! I'd read a bit beforehand and seen a few photos but you won't know what it's like until you do it yourself. I set out at 7.15 on a stunning, cloudless, cold morning. Driving across a still Rannoch Moor I was constantly tempted to stop to take photos of mountains reflected in the lochans, but the lure of the ridge was too great. The Buachaille did make me stop though, the low angle of sunlight clearly showing the east faces, ridges and gullies.
Glencoe looked as spectacular as ever as I parked at the foot of Am Bodach. No-one else here and just a couple of cars in the main car park down the glen. Where is everyone on this glorious day? I was away from the car at 8.30 on the superb path up Am Bodach where constant photo stops were a must.
Great views of Broad Gully on SCNL that I'd climbed a few days earlier and I could see the snow gullies I'd come back down. I soon reached the point where there is a choice of path. The less steep option to the right involved a loss of height though - no thanks! The direttissima gives some mild scrambling as it sneakily threads its way up the ridge, along with great views down the glen. Icy patches began to appear as I reached freezing level, a mental note to look out for later.
Clouds were moving in rapidly as I reached the first cairn and could see the way ahead to the summit of Am Bodach, on the ridge proper now. Getting into a stride now I passed the classic sight of The Chancellor, now feeling that wonderful sense of height. At the summit you can see the way ahead to Meall Dearg but the pinnacles are tantalisingly hidden from view, increasing the sense of expectation.
But first there's the famous climb down to deal with, ok let's see what it's all about. To get you started there's a couple of ups and downs and then you're at the top of the drop. I've seen photos of people facing out and shuffling down the first part almost seated. No no! Face in, look down at the rock, use the plentiful holds, take your time and climb down to the ledge. Walk along the ledge to the end then face in and climb down to the lower ledge. A careful walk along this, duck round the rock at the end and you're down. Brilliant, I do like down climbing though! Looking back up makes it looks worse than when you're on it.
Halfway to Meall Dearg the mists came down and it started to snow. Well, the forecast was for snow showers and I was well pleased to be getting a second wintery day! For a while it came down fast and by the time I reached the cairn at the high point before the dip and following rise to Meall Dearg there was a fair dusting on the ground.
The descent from the cairn was in fact the trickiest part of the ridge for me today. The bouldery slope, although with plenty of foot and handholds, was very slippy in the fresh snow.
As I climbed again the clouds shower began to move away and at the summit of Meall Dearg there were superb views to the north and, best of all, atmospheric views of the best section of the ridge to come. I think my timing in getting here was perfect, the mountain gods were doing me proud! The dusting of snow set it all off perfectly.
I trotted down alongside the old fenceposts (why on earth would these be wanted here?) and there was the chimney ahead.
An interesting climb down to get to the foot of it and a dusting of snow within was a joy. I took it slowly, savouring each foot placement and handhold and moving as smoothly as possible, entirely focused on the moment. This set the scene for the ridge that followed, a time to just revel in the experience, not rushing, making every moment count and being conscious of every move.
The delights just kept on coming and I took the route over the top of each pinnacle.
Near the end was the highlight for me, where paths appear to go to left and right but straight up the pinnacle gave the steepest climb.
All too soon I was looking at the last big down climb and the way ahead to the end of the ridge.
On the ascent to Stob Coire Leith the skies cleared completely and I came across 'elephant rock', so sat there for the first proper food and drink stop of the day. Only nibbles on nuts and dried fruit up to now!
The sun didn't last for long and there was another snow shower as I approached the final summit of the day, sealing the wintery conditions for my outing. I didn't stay long on Fiannaidh before heading south for the shortest route back to the road. I wouldn't recommend this way, the top scree section is grim, however I wanted to keep the road walk as short as possible. I think I didn't move to the west soon enough, but eventually found the path that leads down to the junction of the Clachaig Inn road and the A82. There were some good views however, as compensation.
I thought I'd give it 10 minutes to try hitching before walking. Of course, the convoys of cars I'd seen coming along the lane from the Clachaig direction dried up completely and it started to pour with rain. The A82 punters zoomed past, some waving. I was tempted to wave back in a different way. A rescue helicopter flew low and slow down the glen, I tried to hitch from them but they pretended not to see me. But then, just as I was about to don waterproofs and begin the trudge, a little green car screeched to a halt and I got my lift! It was a student returning to Glasgow Uni from his home in The Bill. My great thanks to this gentleman and star, clearly a better class of person.
Just my car all lonely in the layby. I took my time changing the gear and had a bite to eat. Watching the Lochs and Glens bus stop for the views, the passengers getting out then smartly back in again as the cold wind and rain blew up the glen. Continuing dramatic views toward Bidean, changing every few seconds. I sat for a quick reflection of my day, and what a day it had been. A sublime day in so many respects. I must have been the only person on the ridge today.
I was treated to more spectacular scenes as I drove back to Dalmally, I just had to stop as the storm clouds and light continued to bring magic to the Scottish landscape.
by kev_russ » Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:28 pm
by ChrisW » Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:30 pm
by pollyh33 » Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:07 pm
This is by far the best I have read to date, incredibly honest and thrilling at the same time.
I am so pleased for you and glad that you got some sunshine along the way
PS do you think the guy who gave you the lift managed to get a coherent sentence out of you- you must have been buzzzzing!!!
by Gable Gable End » Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:27 pm
by Tomsie » Sat Mar 24, 2012 6:04 pm
Looking forward to doing this sometime, but without the snow.
Doesnt look easy well done
by 2dalmatians » Sat Mar 24, 2012 6:07 pm
by Steve B » Sat Mar 24, 2012 6:29 pm
by yokehead » Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:32 pm
pollyh33 wrote:PS do you think the guy who gave you the lift managed to get a coherent sentence out of you- you must have been buzzzzing!!!
I was certainly on a big high that even the scree couldn't dampen, nor the rain whilst I waited for a lift! Come to think of it, I was babbling on to the guy, and constantly thanking him for the unexpected lift. He probably thought I was some sort of loon and was glad to get rid of me after just 5 minutes!
I'm back in England now after a great 2 weeks, hope you guys can make the most of the conditions, enjoy yourselves out there.
by blanchie » Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:44 am
Steve B wrote:Top report! The best account I have read on this as it gives the feeling of being on it. Brilliant.
Got to agree with that. Great narrative and superb effort in those conditions.
by davetherave » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:01 am
Thanks again Dave.
by weescotsman » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:19 am
Congrats all the same on such an upbeat and positive report......
by mamoset » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:08 am
by jools » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:33 am
by skuk007 » Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:01 pm
Think I'll give that steep decent a miss if possible and head off further towards The Pap before coming down.