Full Aonach Eagach traverse with high camp - Devil to Pap
by HappyHillGoer » Tue Jul 16, 2019 3:37 pm
Munros included on this walk: Meall Dearg (Aonach Eagach), Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (Aonach Eagach)
Date walked: 16/04/2019
Time taken: 18 hours
Distance: 24 km
Ascent: 1500m9 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).
I thought it would be great fun to do the full traverse of the Aonach Eagach Ridge (though I note this definition is my own and is debatable) - Devil's Staircase to Pap of Glencoe - with a high level bivvy just to the east of Am Bodach, which as you'll likely know is the standard starting point of the main ridge section.
So one fine April afternoon I set off from Glasgow on the very handy CityLink bus and was deposited at Glencoe ski centre at around about 5pm. I made my way briskly to the foot of the Devil's Staircase and struck off west onto the first wee hill that one might consider to constitute the start of the full Aonach Eagach ridge - Stob Mhic Mhartuin.
Looking back down the Devil's Staircase before turning west onto the start of the 'soft part' of the Aonach Eagach ridge
It was a fine evening as I progressed along the ridge, slowly gaining in elevation until I reached the last summit before Am Bodach - Sron Gharbh.
It's a lovely stretch of lonely ridge between the Devil's staircase and Am Bodach, here looking over to Bidean Nam Bian
Vital water resupply for the high level camp that evening and ridge to come the following morning
Looking onward to the start of the Aonach Eagach ridge proper and (slightly before that) the high camp spot for the night (right side of view)
On Sron Gharbh I settled down for the night in my bivvy bag with a hazy sunset settling over Ardgour. The start of the main ridge section was tantalisingly close in view. The night was beautiful and absolutely freezing! I feel I learnt a lesson that night that when bivvying in spring at high altitude I'd benefit from a proper winter sleeping bag. It felt like I was under that bright full moon for 12 hours rather than the actual 6 such was the chill! I'm a real wimp
Looking onto the start of the Aonach Eagach ridge proper from my bivvy spot, showing Am Bodach to the first Munro, Meal Dearg
Shortly before daybreak
I awoke at 5 30 a.m. to find the sun poised to rise behind me and the moon in the process of dipping behind Bidean Nam Bian on the south side of the Glen. I made my way excitedly up to the summit of Am Bodach and with a huge sense of thrill, and began the awkward but enjoyable descent west down onto the main ridge section. Just requires care.
Start of the descent off Am Bodach
A wee zigzag in the lower part of the Am Bodach descent
Narrow traverse to finish the Am Bodach descent. It's perfectly fine in person if you take it slow and carefully - not to be hurried!
Looking back at the descent route off Am Bodach - route is roughly down a bit from centre left, then diagonally right then diagonally left
Conditions that morning were outstandingly beautiful and I found myself all alone with the birds who were slowly stirring from their sleep as I moved west along the Ridge. Crikey I was so excited. The main section of the ridge really is tremendously entertaining, providing a thrilling sense of exposure at some stages and generally inducing a feeling of magnificent circumstance.
Not much snow on the ridge, mainly a few soft patches early on between Am Bodach and Meall Dearg
Looking west from Meall Dearg along the main 'notched' part of the Aonach Eagach ridge; Stob Core Leith is the first main summit in view (marking the end of the real scrambling) and the 2nd Munro, Sgorr nam Fiannaidh is the next peak beyond that
A fun, true Grade 2 scrambling chimney shortly after descending from Meall Dearg
Typical of much of the main Aonach Eagach ridge section - very enjoyable, narrow ups and downs
Bidean Nam Bian looked great all morning
Quite frequently you come across some wonderful little stretches of scrambling which tantalisingly rise and disappear over a short horizon, leaving you excited to see where you'll end up
Always best to stick to the crest on the ridge I feel/felt. Invariably safer in my opinion
Looking back to Meall Dearg (sun above it) and Am Bodach further behind
Things really start to gear up about halfway between Meall Dearg and Stob Coire Leith - here shortly before reaching the so-called 'crazy pinnacles', which I was very excited to see and get onto!
A delightfully narrow, short section between Meall Dearg and Stob Coire Leith
Technically I think the SMC assignment of 'grade 2 scramble' is appropriate though there are occasions I feel where the safer move is arguably to stay right on the crest rather than to attempt to sidle around a difficulty. These occasions, although safer, can be closer to grade 3 scrambling I think. I feel this is particularly true at the steep wall section immediately after the two crazy pinnacles.
Sitting very happily atop the 1st of the 2 'crazy pinnacles'
Looking over to the 2nd pinnacle from atop the 1st one
The rather high exposure experienced at and around the 'crazy pinnacles' section of the ridge
Coming off the 2nd pinnacle you're faced with a choice; to take a narrow path over to the right of a fairly steep wall, or to rise directly over the wall. I judged the direct route to be the safer of the two, though this conclusion would require one's comfort with Moderate solo climbing I feel
One of the ridge's most interesting sections I think is a descent you make shortly after leaving the 'crazy pinnacles' section; here looking back at said descent. Similarly as for the descent off Am Bodach, it should be fine if you approach it carefully and without haste
I loved this little section - here you drop slowly down to the right, cross the short 'bridge', then head up and right then sharply back left. It's perhaps slightly easier/more bearable than it looks, though I wouldn't be inclined to dispute any suggestion that this section constitutes Grade 3 scrambling, if not mostly owing to high exposure levels
The above mentioned section in closer detail
The real scrambling ends when you reach Stob Coire Leith and it was a pleasant walk up to the second Munro of the ridge. Looking back from Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (and shortly before there) you can get some exceptional views back along the ridge, as far as Am Bodach - the beginning of the Aonach Eagach ridge proper (if traversing from east to west)
I headed north west down to the Pap of Glencoe to end the full ridge line traverse, where I enjoyed some cracking views up to kinlochleven and onto the Mamores in the late morning sun. Incidentally the Pap itself has some good fun, though intermittent, easy scrambling to the left of the main path to the summit - worth a bash if you're looking for some added fun.
Looking west off the summit of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh - it's a mostly gently sloped but rocky (i.e. small boulders) drop down to the col below the Pap of Glencoe
Heading down to the Pap to finish the full ridge traverse ('full' again being according to my own humble definition - Devil's Staircase to the Pap)
There's a fair amount of scrambly fun to be had up the last 50 or so meters of the Pap - a nice surprise!
I took the obvious next step of descending southwest down the Pap and straight along the road to the Clachaig Inn just in time for a midday lunch order and a refreshing pint of beer.
Down in pursuit of beer I go
This was quite simply one of the best couple of days in the mountains I've ever had! I quite fancy doing a full repeat in the reverse Direction at some point in the future.
Many thanks for reading
by iainR » Tue Jul 16, 2019 6:27 pm
by HappyHillGoer » Tue Jul 16, 2019 8:02 pm
by steviesea » Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:19 pm
Noticing a pattern here in that your routes always finish at the Clachaig Inn
by HappyHillGoer » Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:23 pm
by past my sell by date » Wed Jul 17, 2019 2:31 pm
by HappyHillGoer » Wed Jul 17, 2019 7:26 pm
by dav2930 » Sat Jul 20, 2019 10:01 pm
by aaquater » Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:08 pm
by past my sell by date » Mon Jul 22, 2019 8:50 pm
dav2930 wrote:Cracking report and a great concept. You got some superb shots of the ridge, showing just how spectacular it is. I've also toyed with the idea of an AE 'greater traverse', possibly starting from Kinlochleven and using a bike to get back. Finishing at the Clachaig has a definite appeal though!
The direct descent to Achtriochtan is unbelievably steep and hard on the knees - mine were wrecked Going to the col before the the Pap and walking back to the Clachaig is definitelky preferable (IMO)