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Driven To Distraction

Driven To Distraction


Postby Jock McJock » Tue May 01, 2012 1:32 pm

Route description: Aonach Eagach

Munros included on this walk: Meall Dearg (Aonach Eagach), Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (Aonach Eagach)

Date walked: 29/04/2012

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 9.5 km

Ascent: 1100m

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I’m relatively new to all this walking around on mountains stuff. I’ve always liked getting out and about but didn’t realise just how accessible the hills were until a few years ago. Up until then I would often drive by and look up thinking, wow, wouldn’t it be great to get up there. At that time I thought it was something only qualified, proper, mountaineer type people did and I didn’t know any qualified, proper, mountaineer type people. So I’d drive on by in awe, very often almost crashing the car in the process because I couldn’t keep my eyes in the road :lol: .

One of the places that always stuck in my mind on those drives was Glencoe. This was like something from another world with these huge mountains on each side of the road rising high, high above. Even when I started walking in the hills Glencoe still seemed like something that was beyond me. I mean these were proper, big scary mountains, would I, could I, ever get myself up there? :shock:

I’ve now done a few hills and met other, more experienced people, and found out just how accessible these big scary mountains can be. With proper planning, some basic equipment, a little experience and some common sense it’s perfectly feasible for almost anyone to do. Brilliant eh? Lets get in about it? My thoughts exactly :D

Aonach Eagach, these are two words I’ve come to know well. I’ve read the reports on this forum, I’ve Googled, I’ve read books, I’ve heard first hand accounts of this fabled ridge and it’s awesome, and often fearsome reputation. Over time I’ve thought, yeah, I want to do that. I had toyed with just going and doing it on my own and had been, quite rightly, told by people who know better, not to. Why, I thought, can it really be that bad? :?

My mate Jim at work had spoken to me about it and told me about the time he had done it. He didn’t in any way play it down but said it was perfectly doable and that if I really fancied it he’d lead me over. He then promptly shot off the next week and done it again, himself. Cheers mate!! :lol: :lol:

So a couple of months go by and we wait for an opportunity. We need a day when we’re both off and the weather is looking good. So on 17th April at 11:01am, my phone announces a text. I nonchalantly glance at the screen, and then do a double take. It’s from Jim and it reads, “a week this Sunday IF we’re both still off and IF there is not much snow on it we could do the AE?” At that moment I was actually on Glas Tulaichean on a wee midweek sneaky peak club day out. Ya beauty, I thought, I’m going to do the AE!! :o

For the next week the weather was watched religiously. Information was collected from others who had been through the glen that week about the snow conditions on the ridge etc, and, through social networking mediums, another two nutters, I mean maniacs, I mean people had been recruited to join us. Arrangements were made, the weather was looking better and better as the week went on and the final decision to go was made, we were actually going to do it.

So it was that on Sunday 29th April at 0730 Jim and I, and George and Chantell met up at The Clachaig Inn, in Glencoe. We drove down to the car park at Loch Achtriochan and left a car there to save us the road walk at the end. Then off down the road in the other car to the start point. Much excitement and talk in the car and when getting our gear sorted, we were all well up for the day ahead.

We set off up the steep unrelenting ascent of Am Bodach in high spirits. The weather was playing ball too. In fact the weather was brilliant. Sun coming up nicely, clear skies, with just a touch of overnight frost that would soon disappear when the sun hit it. For me the ascent seemed to be over very quickly, and in what felt like no time at all we were on top of Am Bodach. The views were stunning and the weather could not have been much better.

At this point we found The Chancellor down below to our left. I had always wanted to get down onto that, it always looks so impressive in the pics I’ve seen of it. What the pics don’t show is the very, very, steep descent down to it. Or just how far away it actually is. It’s further than it looks. Due to the fact that there was still some snow and ice in the gully leading down to it we reluctantly decided to give it a miss. There’s that common sense thing kicking in. We did however find a ‘mini Chancellor’ further along the ridge and had some fun on that.

Most of the reports I’ve read say that the descent off Am Bodach is one of the trickiest parts of the day and that if you get past this you’ll be OK with the rest. With this in mind we all headed down, with Jim, the two time surviving AE veteran and today’s nominated mountain leader, leading the way :D . The descent is actually not too bad. Plenty of places to put your hands and feet and feel secure. But it does give you an idea of the exposure ahead on the ridge. It is a steep descent, and it is exposed. Once down below I looked back up and just thought, no way, we didn’t just come down there! Ahead the ridge stretches out like a big, undulating, rocky snake, hiding its surprises in each twist and turn.

So onwards we went towards our first Munro of the day Meall Dearg. The views by now were breathtaking. In all, this walk would take us 9 hours. Georges GPS showed us walking for 5 hours and stationary for 4 hours. I put this down to mostly stopping for pics every 2 seconds. The views and the scenery were that good it was hard not to. Ben Nevis to the north and Bidean to the south. Beinn a’ Bheithir to the west and the Big Bookil east along the glen, WOW!!

The ridge itself was starting to get interesting too. This really must be one of the best ridge walks in Scotland. Lots of ascents and descents, lots of exposure and lots of fun. We were all in our element scrambling over the big rocks and just taking it all in. Soon Meall Dearg is reached and we stopped for a wee group photo on the top. Not much more than that though, we were all eager to get on.

The section between Meall Dearg and Stob Coire Leith is where it gets really interesting. This is where you start to hit the pinnacles. I’m OK with heights; I’m fine with exposure and love to stand right on the edge of anything high and look straight down. I also love scrambling over, up and down rocks. BUT, I have to say that there was occasions on this ridge that I was feeling scared :shock: . I think you’d have to be mental not to be scared by some of it. On some of the down climbs you look down for a foot hold and there is literally nothing between you legs but fresh air all the way to the floor of the glen a long, long way below. It’s hairy, it’s scary and it’s exhilarating all at the same time. We all developed a look as we went along, a look that we would give each other as each tricky section was overcome. This look had a kind of smirking grin and popping eyed stare that simply said, “Look at that, we just did that, did you see that??!!!!! That’s f****ing brilliant, I’m buzzing!!!!” But it also had that relieved side of it that said “thank god I didn’t fall!” No words were necessary; we all knew what each other was thinking.

We worked as a team, Jim leading the way, helping each other on the down climbs and giving encouragement. As each pinnacle was passed a sigh of relief would be let out immediately followed by looks along the ridge, eager to see what was next. The rock is great for holding onto. You can really get a good grip and there always seems to be somewhere good to hold onto. The exposure is always there, the sides of the ridge dropping away from you to nothing. It really is special.

Too soon, it seems, the last of the pinnacles is reached, a tricky wee one that pushes you out to the left over the sheer drop to the glen below. But mountain leader Jim knew exactly where there was an excellent hold, unseen from the ascent side. Each of us in turn went up and found the hold, which gave you the security to turn to the left and just gawp at the drop. The road, the one that I had driven down so many times, looking up, was way below, the cars looking like toys. I couldn’t help but smile down at them, imagining their drivers looking up and thinking how there was no way you could ever get up there, just like I used to do. Not anymore.

From the last of the pinnacles it’s over Stob Coire Leith and fairly straightforward towards the second Munro, Sgorr nam Fianaidh, and the end of the ridge. There’s still plenty to keep you interested and on your toes, and the views are ever present. From there it’s a steep descent down to Loch Achtriochan and back to the car. We all congratulated each other, the adrenalin still coursing through our bodies. We all looked back up and along the ridge, with that silly look still on our faces.

The only thing that was left to do then was head for The Clachaig, and toast our day, which we did :D . I know I am early on in my Munro bagging and walking, and I know that there will be many, many great days, but this is by far THE best day out I have ever had on the hills. This ridge deserves your respect, it demands it, but it is simply wonderful.

I’ll never again drive down Glencoe without that stupid look on my face and I’ll always remember the day that Jim, George, Chantell and I did the Aonach Eagach ridge. If anyone is in the car with me at the time and asks me why my face looks like that, I might just stop the car and say, “Fancy a wee walk?” :wink: :wink: :lol:

PS. I’ve added some pics below that hopefully show what it’s all about. I took 351 photos that day so getting it down to 25 was very hard. I’ve tried to show the ridge and the scrambles mostly with a couple of the views thrown in too. Hope you enjoy :D .

DSCN0326.JPG
Me and the sisters


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The Chancellor


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Nearing the top of Am Bodah, Ben Nevis in the background


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The ridge ahead from Am Bodach


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Ben Nevis from Aonach Eagach ridge


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Jim descending Am Bodach


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George looking back up Am Bodach


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The Pinnacles, Beinn a' Beithir in the distance


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Me and Bidean Nam Bian


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Jim descending just before The Chimney


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The Chimney


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Chantell and George coming up The Chimney


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Me on the 'mini Chancellor'


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George and Chantell negotiate a Pinnacle


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More Pinnacles ahead and the two peaks of Stob Coire Leith and Sgor nam Fiannaidh


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Jim on a narrow section in amongst The Pinnacles


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Chantell making her way across a narrow Pinnacle


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Jim and Chantell ascend yet another Pinnacle


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Looking back along the ridge, people catching us up now


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The last of the Pinnacles that pushes you out over the drop to the left


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Jim, George and Chantell descending off the back of the last Pinnacle


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Jim heading along the ridge


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Looking back up one of the descents


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Bidean nam Bian opposite and the glen below


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Looking back along Aonach Eagach ridge from the end at Sgor nam Fiannaidh
Last edited by Jock McJock on Tue May 08, 2012 9:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Jock McJock
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby 2dalmatians » Tue May 01, 2012 1:44 pm

One of the best reports I've read on the AE ridge. The pictures really give a great backdrop to the narrative. Brilliant report. Thanks for posting this one Jock! :D :D
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby jonny616 » Tue May 01, 2012 1:47 pm

Really well written account of your day Mark & great choice of photos. I still grin when i drive by this. If its me in the car & you ask the question the answer would be yes 8) Bring on The Ring Of Steall 8)
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby pollyh33 » Tue May 01, 2012 1:54 pm

Oh lordy, I'm going to be sick :shock: :shock: :shock:

A brutally honest and graphic account of the 'walk'!!!!

Fantastic report Mark!!!


So very well done!!!! :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby Fudgie » Tue May 01, 2012 1:54 pm

Another excellent read Jock :thumbup:

Well done.
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby Jock McJock » Tue May 01, 2012 2:29 pm

2dalmatians wrote:One of the best reports I've read on the AE ridge. The pictures really give a great backdrop to the narrative. Brilliant report. Thanks for posting this one Jock! :D :D


Thanks a lot 2dalmatians. Words simply can't express how good it really was :D
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby Jock McJock » Tue May 01, 2012 2:31 pm

jonny616 wrote:Really well written account of your day Mark & great choice of photos. I still grin when i drive by this. If its me in the car & you ask the question the answer would be yes 8) Bring on The Ring Of Steall 8)


Cheers mate. Yep, bring on the Ring Of Steall, can't wait now :D Via Aonach Eagach and Curved Ridge? :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby Jock McJock » Tue May 01, 2012 2:33 pm

pollyh33 wrote:Oh lordy, I'm going to be sick :shock: :shock: :shock:

A brutally honest and graphic account of the 'walk'!!!!

Fantastic report Mark!!!


So very well done!!!! :clap: :clap: :clap:


Thanks Polly, you'd love it really, honest :D :shock:
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby Jock McJock » Tue May 01, 2012 2:33 pm

Fudgie wrote:Another excellent read Jock :thumbup:

Well done.


Cheers Fudgie, much appreciated :D
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby Banditman » Tue May 01, 2012 2:54 pm

That report was fantastic. Cheers mate.Shows just what's involved and pics are great at giving an idea of some of the trickier bits. :thumbup:
I'm desperate to do this walk but none of my regular walking buddies would be up for it :( so I think it'll have to be a guided walk for me. Especially since I'm a bit unsure of how I'll cope with the worst bits....got to give it a go though eh?
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby Jock McJock » Tue May 01, 2012 3:02 pm

Thanks Banditman :D Why not try and post on here in the meeting up forum and see if anyone else is up for it? I would think there would be some interest and maybe even someone who's done it before. If you get anything sorted let me know cause I'd do it again in a heartbeat :D
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby pollyh33 » Tue May 01, 2012 3:05 pm

Jock McJock wrote: If you get anything sorted let me know cause I'd do it again in a heartbeat :D



Nutter!!!!
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby SMRussell » Tue May 01, 2012 3:10 pm

Wonderful stuff! The photos are great. Just can't wait to do this myself :D
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby Jock McJock » Tue May 01, 2012 3:10 pm

pollyh33 wrote:
Jock McJock wrote: If you get anything sorted let me know cause I'd do it again in a heartbeat :D



Nutter!!!!


:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: Think I'm a bit of a masochist deep down :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Driven To Distraction

Postby jonny616 » Tue May 01, 2012 3:12 pm

Jock McJock wrote:Thanks Banditman :D Why not try and post on here in the meeting up forum and see if anyone else is up for it? I would think there would be some interest and maybe even someone who's done it before. If you get anything sorted let me know cause I'd do it again in a heartbeat :D


Me too :lol:
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