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Aonach Eagach

Aonach Eagach


Postby Scotjamie » Fri Aug 13, 2010 1:45 pm

Route description: Aonach Eagach

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

Date walked: 21/05/2009

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 9 km

Ascent: 1100m

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The Aonach Eagach – “that’s the worst over”
As there have been a couple of recent reports thought I'd return to our own experience in 2009

I get vertigo shooglies when using ladders. A quick reference to my walk report on Sgurr a Mhadaidh will evidence this mountain terror. I can work myself into a feartie munro frenzy by reading a couple of walk reports and a piccie or two of the odd cliff edge.
Every year my more experienced chum Malcolm and I organise a walking trip for friends, and they, not knowing any better, all look forward to the annual spring outing.
This was our fourth year and with a couple of the easier Cuillin under our collective group belt, Malcolm resolved that the Aonach Eagach would be an ideal taster on the way up to Kintail for the main weekend’s walking. The group was experienced enough and ‘ready’ and Malcolm has long stated to me that he did it 10 years ago and difficulties of the ridge are overstated.
I had for years intimidated myself with pictures and stirred myself into a fearful emotional mess about the ridge. Malcolm said it is easier than it looks in pictures - slightly exposed but not dangerous. Our other friends were up for this as they were daft enough to trust Malcolm’s verdict, and so the plan was best laid.
I had serious doubts, but reserved judgement and confined my comments to screaming at Malcolm that he was obviously trying to kill us all and that I hated him.
Prior to the weekend I exhausted a great deal of will power banning all thoughts of the ridge by deep breathing, thinking of green and pleasant places and chanting OM for minutes at a time. The day arrived, my fears surfaced and manifested themselves in the tendency to continue screaming at Malcolm and asking him what the S.O.B. thought he was doing and who he thought would provide for my children once I had plummeted to inevitable doom.
We had started onto the hill later than we intended and it took years to ascend the occasionally steep but straightforward Am Bodach, as a new member of the party was less fit and very slow. We did in fact rest up for a snack before the final pull to Am Bodach.
A luch stop before Am Bodach.JPG
I don’t remember it, but I am reliably informed that at one point I almost instructed our slower colleague to stop eating – blame the nerves for I was a bundle of them.
We stopped for pictures across the glen
View across the Glen.JPG
Bidean and some shady characters.JPG
(must learn how to use photoshop!!). We posed for some "final" 'piccies with the ridge stretching away westwards,
Innocents abroad.JPG
and it did indeed look less fierce than some pictures. On top of Am Bodach I was desperately keen not to start, as well as desperately keen to get it over with.
The descent of Am Bodach is much as is described elsewhere.
Off Am Bodach.JPG
I was surprised to find it felt safe enough if care and time were taken, and there was enough of ridge width to avoid any sense of real exposure at that point. Looking carefully shows Hans bum shuffling down just above Richard's locks.
Hans bum shuffling just above Richard's head.JPG
The easier walk to Meall Dearg (not being tempted out to the Chancellor) reinforced the slight hope that this ridge may be manageable and my communications with Malcolm subsided into vitriolic cursing of him and his forbears. Hans and I were the most nervous in the company and we reassured ourselves by being aware that we could descend northwards off Meall Dearg if we felt overwhelmed. Neither of us referred to the gnawing awareness that once on the rest of the ridge there was only one way to go. We also reassured ourselves by gripping tightly to anything that didn’t move.
And so we descended from Meall Dearg, and I have to confess the rest was a bit of a blur as I concentrated as hard as possible on not being scared enough to stop and cry, whilst plotting with Hans on how most cruelly to dispose of Malcolm and all his abhorrent progeny. I was not really able to use the camera, as my focus became survival of the nervous.
The chimney was not the trial I thought it might be, because it was a welcome chance to focus on scrambling and keep the mind from fearfulness.
The Chimney.JPG
Indeed, it seemed that, quite perversely, the trickier the downclimb or scramble on the ridge, the easier I found it to replace fear with focus - always looking to slide the bum over a bit, or scramble sideways a bit to relieve the exposure.
Hans emerges.JPG

At some point in the ridge, I think it was after the first set of pinnacles, Malcolm announced “that’s the worst part over” suggesting we could relax a bit. I was elated for two or three seconds, but…having rehearsed this ridge for years in my mind and in books, I pointed out that the major part of the pinnacles must yet be to come as well as the tricky bit at Stob Coire Leith. Malcolm stroked his chin, stared at the pinnacles ahead and acceded that I may be right, as it was a long time since he had done the ridge and there were bits he had forgotten. That did it - I was going to swing for him. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was clambering round a pinnacle with four limbs attached to walnut sized fragments of rock 2000 feet above Glencoe I would have gone for his throat.
A backward glance at a pinnacle.JPG
Instead I settled for further streams of foul abuse and a threat to kill his pet coy carp.
Dougie and Brian were more comfortable with the exposure and, along with Malcolm, led the way along the ridge.
Eastwards with group bottom right.JPG
The Aonach Eagach is exposed; as a convicted feartie I am allowed to say this, though I had a sense of always having firm foot, hand and bum holds.
The ridge eastwards.JPG
The pinnacles were really awkward, but never terrifying, though one final downward section was seemingly impassable without ropes. It was there that the only other two walkers we met on the ridge that day caught up with us. We bypassed by descending very steeply down a rough dirt and rock gully on the north side, with an awkward re-ascent. The other two elected to bypass this obstacle on its south side but compared their route quite unfavourably to ours when we all re-emerged further on. One more bad step at Stob Coire Leith and the path became simply a narrow and enjoyable ridge walk, exaggerated by photo angles and you might just catch Brian and Dougie bottom right of the pic.
The easier walk.JPG
followed by the even easier ascent to Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh. Perhaps the adrenalin confused my perception, or affected my memory but I think the final tricky looking path was enjoyable after the tightness of the preceding mile, even though the photos suggest I should still have been clenching buttocks and throwing rocks at Malcolm.
Scotjamie.JPG

It was my most exhilarating mountain experience (second even to Bertha the barmaid at the Old Forge). I was lightheaded and elated at dispelling years of fears (good name for an 80s pop group).
Malcolm emerges.JPG

Hans and I, equal fearties, were particularly pleased with each other. He congratulated me as he prised my hands from Malcolm’s throat. We all then spent an age on top of Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh
View across to Ben.JPG
basking in our achievement as much as in the evening sun. Hans, Scotjamie, Dougie, Brian and Richard
Post panic experience.JPG
We decided on the direct descent to the road – a vicious and gruelling slide on scree and rocklump grass, not to be recommended though it is shorter than the Pap and safer than the Clachaig Gully. The best Clachaig pint of our lives followed, and off we drove to the Kintail Lodge as high as hills for the rest of the weekend. I shall say to all of you, if I can manage this, so can you.
The only photies were taken with my old-point&shoot idiot-proof-nikon, so apols for quality.
PS
Malcolm’s my hero
Malcolm and Bidean.JPG
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby Stretch » Fri Aug 13, 2010 2:44 pm

Fantastic report Jamie! I really want to do this, but only with someone who has done it before and knows the ridge. Maybe I should hire your hero Malcolm :lol:
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby goth_angel » Sat Aug 14, 2010 10:30 am

That was a terrific, and absolutely hilarious, report. Well done though! I am a complete feartie and doubt I will ever do this - my closest experience being doing the CMD arete in the rain which I found a pretty bum clenching experience. :shock:
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby Scotjamie » Sat Aug 14, 2010 3:16 pm

Stretch wrote:Fantastic report Jamie! I really want to do this, but only with someone who has done it before and knows the ridge. Maybe I should hire your hero Malcolm


Praise indeed Stretch from one of such WR talents (loved the time stood still WR of the Month). Malcolm loves walking anywhere, but think even he was surprised by how little he remembered of the AE. I think definitely go with someone who has experienced the ridge and you will enjoy. I see some WH members might be looking to join up in Glencoe in October (Meetings forum) - plenty of experience there I guess. Will pass on your kind words and invitation to Malcolm! :)

goth_angel wrote:I am a complete feartie and doubt I will ever do this - my closest experience being doing the CMD arete in the rain which I found a pretty bum clenching experience.

Thanks goth_angel - very kind things to say. Seriously I am a certifiable feartie (like you) and also struggled a bit with the CMD arete in fog (tiredness at the time increased the nerves). But if I can do it the AE.....
mc did both AE peaks separately and I might challenge my own vertigo by going up Am Bodach again or indeed ascend Meall Dearg from the north (in good weather) and from there test out small sections of the ridge, always within safe return distance. even if I don't reach the more difficult sections again it is a stunning place to be.
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby Penguin » Sat Aug 14, 2010 10:07 pm

Great report and top pictures. I did the ridge many years ago when I was young and fit (sigh). It was winter conditions and I had no idea what to expect. It was cloudy, slippy and icy and I can only remember repeated scrambles up and down a seemingly endless number of rock formations, with a crazy descent down Clachaig Gully! :shock: One wet day I might get around to writing a report and stick it on here.

I'm quite tempted to do this again on a fine sunny day, inspired by your fab report. Great effort. :D

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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby Paul Webster » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:18 am

Aye great report, pretty much how I felt about it too 8)
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby Scotjamie » Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:13 pm

Penguin wrote:It was winter conditions and I had no idea what to expect. It was cloudy, slippy and icy and I can only remember repeated scrambles up and down a seemingly endless number of rock formations,


Thanks Penguin, your trip sounds too scary - I strongly recommend a sunny day, or I would need medication
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby gillhowatson » Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:42 pm

I really enjoyed your report. I did this a few weeks ago with my club. Me and nine blokes. I managed it fine although I got jelly legs at one point when I looked down. I was utterly exhausted by the end of it but hardly slept that night...marvelling at surviving!! It was an utterly thrilling experience.
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby Barnety2000 » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:03 pm

Wow very good report- it is always good to hear the experiences of others before trying things yourself. I must get round to doing this one day, but the closest thing I have done so far is the CMD arete and I assume it is significantly harder than that...

Did you manage to complete the whole ridge without a rope? I don't mind the heights so much, but using special equipment is a bit beyond my level of experience so far...

Amazing pics too- help to portray the route 8)
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby Scotjamie » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:16 pm

Thanks Gill
gillhowatson wrote:It was an utterly thrilling experience.

I agree the utterly thrilling bit.
gillhowatson wrote:Me and nine blokes
I tried inviting nine women but ended up with this motley crew
:?


Thanks too Barnety2000
Barnety2000 wrote:but the closest thing I have done so far is the CMD arete and I assume it is significantly harder than that...
See reply to goth_angel above re CMD arete.
Did you manage to complete the whole ridge without a rope? I don't mind the heights so much, but using special equipment is a bit beyond my level of experience so far...

The AE is harder than the CMD arete, but if you are ok with heights you are already a step ahead of me.
No rope used, but my view is that an experienced friend is a must for reassuring the fearties or guiding the less experienced.
regards
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby Barnety2000 » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:56 pm

Thanks- yes, think I must get a bit more experience first...and try to locate that friend with experience :D
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby ken reid » Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:48 pm

great report it brings it all flooding back. you will have to try the curved ridge next it is easier in my op including the crowbury tower for a great lunch spot happy scrambling
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Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby jerryhill » Sun Jun 05, 2011 6:26 pm

Fantastic report (as mentioned previously!) Informative, hilarious and a joy to read. I must have driven through Glencoe 400 times and frequently look up to the AE, with aspirations to walk it, but alas, my feardom (is that a proper word?) and fitness make it a future ambition/challenge. I'm returning to walking after years of slothery (another fine word?) and need some time to shock my body into action - best wishes
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