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Four Wobbly Legs and Two Broken Ducks on Aonach Eagach

Four Wobbly Legs and Two Broken Ducks on Aonach Eagach


Postby Magoo82 » Mon Sep 04, 2017 11:01 pm

Route description: Aonach Eagach

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

Date walked: 02/09/2017

Time taken: 8 hours

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This hike has been two years in the making. My friend Derek and I both enjoy a hillwalk, especially if it involves bagging munros and we agreed a couple of years ago that we'd give the Aonach Eagach ridge in Glencoe a bash together at the next best opportunity. However, with us working different shifts it took two years to finally get a day when we were both available and the weather was agreeable. We had looked at Sunday but then the weather forecast changed and Saturday started to look like the day. Derek cancelled his plans to go out for a pint for a mate's birthday (sorry Ian!) and we agreed to go for it.

Our scrambling experience prior to Saturday was pretty limited so we'd be breaking our "exposed scrambling" ducks. Striding Edge and the Horns Of Alligin were about as difficult as i'd previously encountered so we were relying on eachother for moral support. However, our already fragile confidence was not helped when we stopped on our way up the hill to chat to another climber who informed us that his pal had fallen off the ridge a few weeks earlier. We were left feeling a bit silly when Derek asked the fellow how his pal was only to be told; "Deid". It turns out the chap we were speaking to was a friend of the late Stuart Thompson, a trail runner who sadly lost his life following a fall in Clachaig Gully.

The ascent to Am Bodach is steep and steady enough to keep you honest but the views down Glencoe make the effort worthwhile.

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

You get a bit of a fleg when you peer over the edge of the descent from Am Bodach but we were spurred on by the rumour we'd heard that this was the toughest section of the ridge. Let's just get this out of the way, we thought, and the rest will seem like childsplay. Little did we know! :lol:

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

One or two tricky moves later and we were at the bottom of the buttress feeling rather proud of ourselves that we'd managed what we believed would be the hardest part. As with most mountains, it looks far more difficult when you look back at it wondering "how did we get down that?" than it does when you're actually on it. However we did watch on a little nervously as another pair of hikers scuttled down it.

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

Once down off Am Bodach the walk towards the first munro top is straightforward with dramatic views to The Chancellor. We had a look at the path down to it but decided that cowardice was the better part of valour and continued along the ridge. 8)

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

The views really begin to open up of the ridge from here though with other climbers visible climbing up the Chimney.

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

After a slightly hairy descent round to the right we reached the bottom of the chimney and, after promising myself I would not look down, I set off up as quick as I could thereby not giving myself enough time to think about it and start panicking! Derek soon followed me up.

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

From here things started to get a bit dicey. There are a number of up and down scrambles over the Pinnacles and whilst I was fine going up the way for the most part coming down felt like a struggle with the exposure. There's not much room for error as the ridge starts to narrow. We found the Pinnacles to be tougher than the descent off Am Bodach but I guess it's all a matter of personal experience and perception. Even still, there was no hiding the drama of the mountain scenery or the heart-pumping thrill of the traverse at this stage.

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

At one particularly steep, slabby section we veered round to the left to avoid what looked like the worst angle of ascent. The holds were better to the left but the exposure was more immediate especially with a portruding boulder pushing you further out to the left than you'd like. The views over to the Mamores and Ben Nevis and back east down Glencoe towards Rannoch Moor from the top of the Pinnacle were breathtaking though.

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

After one last steep, exposed descent down a rocky buttress we were able to look back safe in the knowledge that the worst of the difficulties were over. What a relief!

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

Feeling all chuffed with ourselves we were able to enjoy the ascent of the minor top which afforded wonderful views of Beinn a'Bheithir in the distance and the broad ridge towards our next munro which would have looked exciting had it not been for what we'd just done! :lol: The greatest view was back to the Pinnacles though which looked as menacing as they did majestic from this side.

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

We were treated to both a flyover by the Lochaber mountain rescue team and some glorious views of the Ballachulish Narrows as we meandered down the stony path to the right, avoiding Clachaig Gully and eventually joining up with the Pap Of Glencoe Path.

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

ImageAonach Eagach by Ross McGowan, on Flickr

Ridge traverse complete, we were now faced with the 7km hoof back to the start point and if we're honest neither of us were overjoyed by the prospect. We chanced our mitt and stuck our thumb out and to our eternal gratitude a delightful couple from Dijon, France pulled over and made space in their car to give us a lift. They'd just done the Pap of Glencoe and were on their way to Oban.

Overall i'd say the traverse was about as difficult as I expected it to be, no more no less. It's not a mountain you can take liberties with and I certainly wouldn't fancy it on wet rocks. It demands and deserves your respect and full concentration. But even with the fear it generates, this really is a wonderful hill. The scrambling is utterly involving, you constantly have to have your mind on what you're doing and how you're going to do it. The scenery is the most dramatic I've seen yet in Scotland. You can admire mountains from the bottom but it's only when you get up there that the best stuff shows itself.

It's certainly given us the confidence to go and try hills like Liathach next summer but i'm not going to look too far ahead just now. I'd rather just sit back and enjoy what we did on Saturday and a wee bit of me might even allow myself to feel proud! :lol:
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Magoo82
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Re: Four Wobbly Legs and Two Broken Ducks on Aonach Eagach

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Sep 04, 2017 11:34 pm

Great stuff, well done both.
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Mal Grey
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Re: Four Wobbly Legs and Two Broken Ducks on Aonach Eagach

Postby jupe1407 » Tue Sep 05, 2017 12:37 am

Excellent report and photos of the action involved there Ross :clap: . Those photos of the rock buttress descent look utterly mental. I took ages plotting my way down it, at one stage heading off at an angle to the left (on your photos) before looking at my next potential move, loudly muttering "F***ing hell" then traversing back right :lol:

Liathach's scramble seems a lot quicker (maybe just my perception) plus you can back out of any of the really horrendous stuff onto the bypass path. The AE doesn't give you that option. The rock isn't quite as polished either. You'll love it 8)
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Re: Four Wobbly Legs and Two Broken Ducks on Aonach Eagach

Postby Bonzo » Tue Sep 05, 2017 10:59 am

It's always good to see photos of the main scrambly bits on the ridge as, for some reason, I appear to have forgotten about most of it despite walking it on three occasions.

You're right about wet rocks - on two occasions, in the dry, we romped along the ridge and never felt in danger at any point. However, on the day we walked the ridge after a spell of rain it was a completely different experience. The polished wet rock required extra care and attention.
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Bonzo
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Re: Four Wobbly Legs and Two Broken Ducks on Aonach Eagach

Postby Fife Flyer » Tue Sep 05, 2017 6:47 pm

Really enjoyed that, your descriptions of the 'interesting' bits made me smile.
Some of the photo's really do emphasise some of the serious scrambling that is involved, looks like the ridge was quite busy - which also helps as you can make mental notes about routes, holds etc.
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Re: Four Wobbly Legs and Two Broken Ducks on Aonach Eagach

Postby Jaxter » Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:04 pm

Wonderful :clap: :clap: :clap: Like half of WH was up there in the last few days :lol:

You'll love Liathach, stick to the crest and you'll be grand :D 8)
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Re: Four Wobbly Legs and Two Broken Ducks on Aonach Eagach

Postby Roger n Sue Fellows » Wed Nov 01, 2017 8:53 pm

25 years or so ago now, I was waiting for the scream as we made the descent to the North of Clachaig Gully having seen a couple heading off to the south of it. The slope is convex trending into the gully and liberally sprinkled with scree on the south side. It's the only time I've blown my whistle in sixes. Two retained firemen sprinted back up from the inn to help the young lady. The helicopter didn't bother lifting the body from the gully.

You do know where you are and how to use your compass don't you?

I must be getting old. I've been more upset by writing this just now than at any time since.
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