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Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!


Postby jupe1407 » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:55 am

Route description: Aonach Eagach

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

Date walked: 01/09/2017

Time taken: 5.75 hours

Distance: 8.8 km

Ascent: 1110m

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Almost four years to the day I, along with various other WalkHighlanders took on the Aonach Eagach on a fairly dull, at times claggy day above Glencoe. Despite the conditions, it was a thrilling scramble and my fears beforehand, not to mention stupidity in googling various terrifying photos and videos (never do this) of it would be largely unfounded, save for a couple of "interesting" route-finding errors.

So, fast forward four years and finally a calm, dry forecast along with me finally having enough flexi for the day off and my pal Rob wanting to have a go at the ridge all came together and we duly headed through to Glencoe for an 8:30am-ish start. Early starts on the AE are useful imo, much later on a good day can see people queuing up at the pinnacles.

We started from the usual small layby, and headed up the instantly steep path. It's a good climb though as the path is stepped for a good distance and gains height well, with the angle of ascent ranging from "steep" to "f***ing hell, this is steep". However early views were very promising.

Image
Loch Achtriochtan

The gradient eventually relents on the final approaches to Am Bodach, and despite having a bit of manflu and Rob not feeling great either, we reached the broad summit plateau of this munro top in little over an hour and a quarter. We decided to stop here to fuel up before tackling the ridge. The clag was moving through the glen and for a short while I was questioning the bizarrely optimistic MWIS forecast.

We also got a good view of the Chancellor, briefly raising the possibility of heading down to it. This was swiftly dismissed once we'd seen the path down to it :lol:

Image
The Chancellor

We stopped a chatted to a couple of young lads who were doing a recce on the ridge with a view to repeating it in winter conditions.

Image
The two young lads heading off to the ridge

We soon came to the downclimb from Am Bodach, which I well remembered from the first time I did this route. It does look awful from above but is surprisingly manageable. Rob was feeling pretty **** by now so sensibly decided to head back down and we arranged to meet at the far end of the walk. Once down from Am Bodach I did look back and still have the "How the **** did I get down that?!" moment.

Image
Back to Am Bodach

The section from here to the Meall Dearg is pretty easy with no nasty scrambles or large re-ascents. There's a couple of wee gullies that give fine views of the steep plunge into Glencoe though.

Image
Down into Glencoe

I soon reached the first munro summit, Meall Dearg. Fine views had opened out, especially across to the Mamores. Ahead, the ridge had that wonderful visual effect of cloud hanging onto one side of it, looking menacing and thrilling at the same time.

Image
Summit of Meall Dearg

Image
The ridge ahead


The first introduction to the ridge is the wonderful chimney, which is mildly awkward to actually get to the base of, but is brilliant fun to ascent, with excellent holds all the way.

Image
The Chimney

Following this, you then have to deal with a series of exposed scrambles both up and down, but the situation is nothing short of magnificent, with glorious views into Glencoe, across to the Mamores and back towards Rannoch Moor.

Image
Shortly after the Chimney


Image
Looking back towards Meall Dearg


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Garbh Bheinn

I'd remembered most of the route from my last trip (it must have been firmly etched in my mind), however I struggled on a couple of sections, one was a tricky downscramble from which I genuinely could not remember from last time, however I eventually figured it out, I also had to briefly leave the crest shortly afterwards and bypass another scramble to the left due to a combination of very polished rock and placement of my boot sole with was rather worn :shock: I just couldn't reliably put my weight on it so took a brief drop out to the left and re-ascended to the crest 20m further along.

Back on the ridge, the views were clearing nicely.

Image
A narrow section of ridge with Glencoe far below.


I soon came to another section that I just couldn't remember from last time. Eventually though I scrambled up what seemed like a pretty hairy route just to the right of the crest. I suspect I'd have been better on the crest, but wasn't sure I wanted to commit to something I didn't know or would possibly struggle to get out of. This next photo was taken basically hanging onto a rock before scrambling back up to the rest. There's a drop of at least 1500 feet to the left :lol:

Image
Precarious photo position

After getting back to the crest, and on surer footing I took another shot looking back. Prob easier without the shaking hands :lol:

Image

I took a short breather here to enjoy the views, particularly down into Glencoe.

Image
Glencoe and Loch Achtriochtan


After this there was only one other section I couldn't remember properly, which I eventually figured out was because I'd taken one of the shady bypass paths to the right hand side last time, not the best of ideas. This time I tackled the longish scramble up the face before more tricky downscrambling to the last of the difficulties.

Image
Stob Coire Leith and Sgor nam Fiannaidh


Image
A long way down...

The scrambling proper now over, it was time to tackle the day's last two ascents, a steepish one up to the Munro top of Stob Coire Leith, followed by the much easier one to Sgor nam Fiannaidh. I had a brief chat with the two young lads from earlier before heading up. It is indeed steep in places, but over very quickly. It's also an excellent viewpoint.

Image
Back to the ridge


Image
Summit of Stob Coire Leith


Following a brief descent from this top, it's a nice level-ish broad ridge to the foot of the final ascent to the second munro of the day. Looking back also gives you a fine perspective on the immense ridge you've just scrambled.

Image
One of my favourite views of the day


The ascent to the munro from here is minimal and I soon reached the shelter cairn, which itself gives a great view back across the route.

Image
View from Sgor nam Fiannaidh

I didn't hang about long as I'd phoned Rob and arranged to meet him on the Pap path for a quick climb of the Pap itself. I'd also forgotten how long and tedious the descent from here is. Annoying quartzite boulders litter the path (i fell on my arse over one of them) and progress is slower than I'd have liked. Great view to Ballachulish though.

Image
View to Ballachulish and Ardgour beyond

Another phone call to Rob on the way down and we reached a consensus that neither of us could be arsed with the Pap and finding a shop that sold cold drinks and ice cream was a much better plan. Perhaps it's my imagination but the Pap path has really deteriorated since 2013, and indeed one long stretch of it has basically become a burn. However we eventually got down and along to the car park, before heading into Glencoe village to buy ice creams where were pretty much inhaled :lol:

In summary an utterly brilliant day on a route which has pretty much everything. A quick ascent, epic and exposed scrambling, amazing views and a god-awful descent. I'm definitely going to repeat this one a lot. 8)


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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby Coop » Sun Sep 03, 2017 2:32 pm

We were on there the day before you.
Unbelievable and what a ridge.
Different descent though- we went up to Sgor nam fhiannaidh then retraced to the SCREE!!!
Everyman for himself/ herself at that point on the descent. The waterfall was nice about half way down.
Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Great report cheers
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby BobMcBob » Sun Sep 03, 2017 2:44 pm

Nice report Jupe. I went back for my second go at this a couple of months ago, got a similar day to you (and some very similar photos :D ). My day got wetter and wetter and I bailed out before Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and also took the scree route down like Coop did ... yes the Pap path has got much worse but it's still better than that.

You should have done the Chancellor though, it's not that bad. One for next time ;)
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby spiderwebb » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:29 pm

Cracking day there JP :D Great photos, definitely get on the Chancellor next time, it's a great photo opportunity :D
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby Magoo82 » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:47 pm

Great pics & report. I also sh@t the chancellor. A wise move.

I did these for the first time on Saturday. I've often heard it said that the descent off Am Bodach is the hardest part of the traverse if going east-to-west but i thought the Pinnacles were harder.

The overall difficulty was about what I expected. There are scary bits but nothing that can't be overcome by "keeping the heid".

You're fair knocking them off now!
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby Graeme D » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:53 pm

Never tire of seeing photos of this ridge! :clap:
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby jupe1407 » Sun Sep 03, 2017 11:58 pm

Coop wrote:We were on there the day before you.
Unbelievable and what a ridge.
Different descent though- we went up to Sgor nam fhiannaidh then retraced to the SCREE!!!
Everyman for himself/ herself at that point on the descent. The waterfall was nice about half way down.
Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Great report cheers


I didn't realise the Glencoe drop was a retrace, I saw a cairn and what looked like a descent path a few minutes beyond the summit cairn. Steep scree is quite literally hell :lol:

BobMcBob wrote:Nice report Jupe. I went back for my second go at this a couple of months ago, got a similar day to you (and some very similar photos :D ). My day got wetter and wetter and I bailed out before Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and also took the scree route down like Coop did ... yes the Pap path has got much worse but it's still better than that.

You should have done the Chancellor though, it's not that bad. One for next time ;)


I would like to head out there, just not on what appeared to be a dewy grassy path with *slightly* worn soles :lol:

spiderwebb wrote:Cracking day there JP :D Great photos, definitely get on the Chancellor next time, it's a great photo opportunity :D


Cheers Dave :D

Magoo82 wrote:Great pics & report. I also sh@t the chancellor. A wise move.

I did these for the first time on Saturday. I've often heard it said that the descent off Am Bodach is the hardest part of the traverse if going east-to-west but i thought the Pinnacles were harder.

The overall difficulty was about what I expected. There are scary bits but nothing that can't be overcome by "keeping the heid".

You're fair knocking them off now!


These were repeats for me so I managed to remember most of the moves/routes from last time. I just had a couple of "Oh ****, what the hell do i do here?" moments :lol: Like you say though, keep the heid and it's all pretty logical route-finding.

Hoping to compleat next Autumn now :? That wintry walk on Drumochter seems an age ago now. Hard to believe it's a shade under 5 years.

Graeme D wrote:Never tire of seeing photos of this ridge! :clap:


I've really enjoyed it both times I've done it now. I foresee quite a few repeats :lol:
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby onsen » Mon Sep 04, 2017 3:50 am

Hairy looking scramble with o so gorgeous views... :thumbup:
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby redrook » Mon Sep 04, 2017 11:04 am

Awesome photos and great report.

I think we could be the two guys in the black and white picture! If one of them is wearing blue trousers, then it was us!

First time doing the ridge, and definitely much more serious than anticipated. I've done plenty of gullies in winter without protection, and never felt as precarious as on the ridge.
I think next time would be better as we would know the route, but I'm not keen to repeat it. Definitely the most scary and committing hill day in my experience - although the chimney is definitely fun. Most of the climbs are not bad at all, but some of the downclimbs are downright dodgy, especially if wet. There also seems to be a prevailing myth that the downclimb from Am Bodach is the hardest part, when it definitely is not.

It's an incredible place, but I'm genuinely surprised there aren't more accidents. And yes, the Pap path was pretty awful, but a relief after the ridge to honest!
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby jupe1407 » Tue Sep 05, 2017 12:24 am

redrook wrote:Awesome photos and great report.

I think we could be the two guys in the black and white picture! If one of them is wearing blue trousers, then it was us!

First time doing the ridge, and definitely much more serious than anticipated. I've done plenty of gullies in winter without protection, and never felt as precarious as on the ridge.
I think next time would be better as we would know the route, but I'm not keen to repeat it. Definitely the most scary and committing hill day in my experience - although the chimney is definitely fun. Most of the climbs are not bad at all, but some of the downclimbs are downright dodgy, especially if wet. There also seems to be a prevailing myth that the downclimb from Am Bodach is the hardest part, when it definitely is not.

It's an incredible place, but I'm genuinely surprised there aren't more accidents. And yes, the Pap path was pretty awful, but a relief after the ridge to honest!


Aye we had a quick chat at the first cairn on Am Bodach. Definitely agree about the downclimbs, I far prefer "up-scrambling" anyway, but that's certainly magnified on the AE. It doesn't help that a lot of the rock has become extremely polished over the years. There's absolutely no danger i'd be on that in anything other than dry weather.
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby wilkiemurray » Tue Sep 05, 2017 7:29 am

lovely - cant beat the AE :)
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby Fife Flyer » Tue Sep 05, 2017 7:03 pm

Up to your usual standard JP :clap:
Always like to read reports on the AE especially as "we" can relate and understand the scariness involved.
Like you I have ventured across the ridge twice, not sure I will ever do it again - but then again I have said things like that before.
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby Jaxter » Tue Sep 05, 2017 8:58 pm

Looks amazing dude :clap: :clap: :clap:
Take me with you next time :wink:
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby jupe1407 » Tue Sep 05, 2017 11:12 pm

wilkiemurray wrote:lovely - cant beat the AE :)


It's wonderful, your video/trip rep of it is terrific :clap:

Fife Flyer wrote:Up to your usual standard JP :clap:
Always like to read reports on the AE especially as "we" can relate and understand the scariness involved.
Like you I have ventured across the ridge twice, not sure I will ever do it again - but then again I have said things like that before.


It's hard to believe it was 4 years ago that we tackled it. Time flies :lol: I'll definitely do it again on a good, dry day. Looking back, I'm pretty sure we took one of the bypass paths you're definitely not supposed to take. In fact it may have been the scene of a fatality last year :(

It's both a fantastic and a scary place to be though, the full extent of which you don't realise until you've got to the end of it.

Jaxter wrote:Looks amazing dude :clap: :clap: :clap:
Take me with you next time :wink:


Thanks Jaxter.

Deal, as long as I don't have to go down the ****ing Pap path again. Three times I've suffered that unending misery :lol:
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Re: Aonach Eagach Return: What a Day!

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Sep 05, 2017 11:23 pm

Some of the best pics I've yet seen of this superb ridge. Great stuff :clap: :clap: :clap: . What a wonderful day you had for the traverse.

I didn't do any reading before I did it a few years ago, and descended via the Clacaig Gulley :roll: . Definitely bad news...
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