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Aonach Eagach

Aonach Eagach

Postby Verylatestarter » Sat May 15, 2021 6:31 pm

Route description: Aonach Eagach

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

Date walked: 16/06/2019

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 9 km

Ascent: 1100m

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In my later years I thought I’d talk up mountain walking in earnest, in preparation for retirement. Apart from a solitary Corbett in 1995 I’d walked mainly abroad on holiday. In 2018 my son Ben and I hiked around the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada (Spain). In 2018 we tried a couple of the easier Munros in Skye and Torridon. This gave us the confidence to tackle first up the Aonach Eagach in 2019’s visit to Scotland. Given our relative inexperience you may well ask why we didn’t start on one of the more forgiving Glencoe hills. But we were happy in our ignorance and having read a couple of WH reports we were up for it.

We were up early for once and staying in Glencoe, didn’t have far to go, we were at the foot of Am Boadach by 8;00. The weather was windy with full cloud cover and a build-up of cloud on the North slopes making the walk along the ridge suitably dramatic but not too onerous to navigate (not that you need to do much of that on such a narrow ridge). The slog up the SE spur of Am Bodach was arduous but made easier by the distinct impression of gaining height quickly and the quality of views behind. As we got to the ridge proper, we needed more layers.
The path up from the car park below An Bodach

A pose on the way up

Down the first big chimney

The view across and down the valley was wonderful, below to the Southwest The Chancellor looked a fun diversion but not being confidant of how long the whole ridge would take, we pressed on. The reports we have read refer to the down climb from An Bodach being one of the most difficult sections; a tricky down scramble before you get the chance to scramble up. Still, it focuses the mind and builds confidence once you have achieved it. The route over to the first Munro, Meall Dearg (perhaps someone should compile a list of all the Scottish hills with the same name components to do as a series of rounds – you could start with all the Deargs), is straightforward with a little easy scrambling. The shifting clouds provided drama, the views entertainment.
Notch on An Bodach

Bidean nam Bian, with the two Munros in cloud. The gullies on the face overhanging the glen are typical of faults resulting from volcanic activity

View from An Bodach looking West

The ridge narrows

And gets lumpy; tricky bypass

A short squall sets in

The 'path' ahead

And back

As the route Westwards progressed, I seemed to be more and more focused on the individual moves required and less on the ridge as a whole. The exposure was secondary to getting over and down individual rocks. Time seemed to pass very quickly, and we were over the pinnacles and up to the last obstacle all too soon (it seemed). The last obstruction turned out to be tricky as a slightly tilting slab tended to force my rucksack sideways close to a drop; it would have been easier to take it off, but I squeezed past.
The way we came - i hardly remember crossing any of this

An Bodach lost in cloud

Hands on

Down to a path

Coming down off Meall Dearg

here comes the fun bit

Up the chimney 1

Up the chimney 2

Cloud builds up against North face of ridge

Inclined slabs, narrow arete

The last big downclimb

looking down on the last narrow section, including the awkward pinnacle

So that was it The Aonach Eagach – it was only later when I checked out wilkemurray’s video that I realised how much exposure there was – In my work I can spend a lot of time on high scaffolds, so I guess I just blank it out! Strangely I have become more sensitive to exposure as I have climbed more hills; recently I have spent less times on scaffolding and not enough time in the hills.
Awkward pinnacle on narrow section

Awkward slab

Traversing the last narrow section

looking East

Ben and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh

After the last obstruction the narrow ridge carries on for a short distance then broadens out for the undulating pull up to the summit of Stob Coire Leith. We had a sit down for a snack and to take in the view both back along the ridge and across the valley to Aonach Dubh (anyone fancy a round of Aonachs or Dubhs?). A raven dropped in to see us, sidled up and got in our eyeline, clearly intent on relieving us of some of our food. A bit like the characters hanging round the Roman Forum in legionary costume in the hope you will pay for a picture the raven seemed to want to be in every photo. How could we resist in handing over nuts and dried fruit? The bird exuded such an air of confidence and intelligence I became fascinated and checked them out on Wikipedia when I got home. For similar encounters see scottnain's report on Blaven. https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=102671

The King of the Aonach Eagach. Note very small buses on the A82 and to the left the 'f'ootpath' route with two walkers in blue scrambling down a gulley.

A few fact concerning Ravens: -

[i]The common raven (Corvus corax- in English Raven crow), also known as the western raven or northern raven is a large all-black passerine bird. Found across the Northern Hemisphere, it is the most widely distributed of all corvids. It is possibly the heaviest passerine bird; at maturity, the common raven averages 63 centimetres in length, with a wingspan of 115 to 150 cm and weighing 1.2 kilograms in mass. Although their typical lifespan is around 15 years but can live more than 23 years in the wild. Young birds may travel in flocks but later mate for life, with each mated pair defending a territory.
It has a longish, strongly graduated tail, at 20 to 26.3 cm , and mostly black iridescent plumage, and a dark brown iris. The throat feathers are elongated and pointed and the bases of the neck feathers are pale brownish-grey. The legs and feet are good-sized; with a tarsus length of 6 to 7.2 cm. Juvenile plumage is similar but duller with a blue-grey iris.
Flying ravens are distinguished from crows by their tail shape, larger wing area, and more stable soaring style, which generally involves less wing flapping. Despite their bulk, ravens are easily as agile in flight as their smaller cousins. In flight the feathers produce a creaking sound that has been likened to the rustle of silk. The voice of ravens is also quite distinct, its usual call being a deep croak of a much more sonorous quality than a crow's call
Common ravens have a wide range of vocalizations which include 15 to 30 categories of vocalization have been recorded for this species, most of which are used for social interaction. Calls recorded include alarm calls, chase calls, and flight calls. The species has a distinctive, deep, resonant prruk-prruk-prruk call, which to experienced listeners is unlike that of any other corvid. Its very wide and complex vocabulary includes a high, knocking toc-toc-toc, a dry, grating kraa, a low guttural rattle and some calls of an almost musical nature.
Like other corvids, the common raven can mimic sounds from their environment, including human speech. Non-vocal sounds produced by the common raven include wing whistles and bill snapping. Clapping or clicking has been observed more often in females than in males. If a member of a pair is lost, its mate reproduces the calls of its lost partner to encourage its return
In the British Isles, they are more common in Scotland, Wales, northern England and the west of Ireland, the range has been increasing, though it favours mountainous or coastal terrain. In general, common ravens live in a wide array of environments but prefer heavily contoured landscapes
Common ravens have coexisted with humans for thousands of years, part of their success as a species is due to their omnivorous diet: they are extremely versatile and opportunistic in finding sources of nutrition, feeding on carrion, insects, cereal grains, berries, fruit, small animals, nesting birds, and food waste.
The brain of the common raven is among the largest of any bird species. Specifically, their hyper pallium is large for a bird. They display notable ability in problem-solving, as well as other cognitive processes such as imitation and insight.

Linguists have argued that ravens are one of only four known animals (the others being bees, ants, and humans) who have demonstrated displacement, the capacity to communicate about objects or events that are distant in space or time. Sub-adult ravens roost together at night, but usually forage alone during the day. However, when one discovers a large carcass guarded by a pair of adult ravens, the unmated raven will return to the roost and communicate the find. The following day, a flock of unmated ravens will fly to the carcass and chase off the adults. The advent of linguistic displacement was perhaps the most important event in the evolution of human language, and that ravens are the only other vertebrate to share this with humans.

There has been increasing recognition of the extent to which birds engage in play. Juvenile common ravens are among the most playful of bird species. They have been observed to slide down snowbanks, apparently purely for fun. They even engage in games with other species, such as playing catch-me-if-you-can with wolves, otters and dogs. Common ravens are known for spectacular aerobatic displays, such as flying in loops or interlocking talons with each other in flight.
They are also one of only a few wild animals who make their own toys. They have been observed breaking off twigs to play with socially.
Raven posing for his lunch

Aonach Eagach & Big Bookle, which we walked later in the week

The ridge widens, the black spots above the hump are ravens enjoying themselves in the breeze

We carried on up the long slope to Munro No 2, on a small knoll ahead there were three dark. specks seemingly bouncing up and down in the breeze. Ravens playing with the updraft, there seemed to be no reason they were doing it except for the fun of it.

Munro No 2– Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, was something of a disappointment after the ridge but a fantastic viewpoint, across to Bidean nam Biam and the North towards The Mamores. A guided party was already at the summit taking picture; the guide kindly offered to take ours for us. I suspected at the time he was not quiet a master of technique, that’s why in the photo I’m talking under my breath and smiling like a fool. Still, it was kind to offer; we wouldn’t have got the father and son shot with the AE behind if he hadn’t.
Happy times, note missing legs.

Path West off Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, we went too far to the South

The view West

We headed off west along an apparent path, expecting to drop down the NW face of SnF. Somewhere along we took a wrong turn and ended up at the top of the West face and the Clachaig gully. We had read the advice to avoid this but we had gone a long way down the slope and were getting tired. Also, the pub came into view and this seemed to be the most direct route down. Aware that we had to take great care we eased down the loose scree and boulder strewn zig zags. Being the only people on the route there was little chance of sending debris onto walkers below. Still, we were very cautious, and the half hour descent was probably the most stressful we have done. We were relived to find the slope easing off and to be back onto tarmac.
Top of Clacaig gully route

Clacaig gulley route, as much fun as it looks.

BnB Western slopes

The Clacaig gully with the path down to it's left

I found the last few hundred yards to the Clachaig Inn very difficult, my legs seemingly turning to rubber, a cliché I know but surprisingly accurate. We then had the small matter of a few mile walk back to the car. There was no way I could do the walk and Ben volunteered to go back along the old road, whilst I went to order food in the pub. It turned out the walk was eventful as an air sea rescue helicoptered landed in the Glen to collect an injured climber.

The car recovered and a good meal consumed I felt a whole lot better. We drove up to Skye that evening in glorious sunshine. What a great day.
The Chancellor
Mountain Walker
Posts: 81
Munros:26   Corbetts:4
Joined: Oct 14, 2020
Location: East Anglia

Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby AJ01 » Sat May 15, 2021 7:47 pm

Ah, so that's what the views look like! When I did the AE it was in thick clag with occasional rain, and I actually have no memories at all of the day or the route. I must do it again in good weather before I get too old and knackered.

Great report, both text and photos (and it's the writing that gives me a much more vivid impression of the experience rather than the photos). Thanks for posting. :)

Posts: 62
Munros:221   Corbetts:3
Joined: Aug 11, 2020
Location: Opposite end of the UK.

Re: Aonach Eagach

Postby Verylatestarter » Mon May 17, 2021 9:02 am

Thank you Angus

in truth there are stretches of the walk i don't remember as i was concentrating on the problems in front of me. I'd love to do it again but there are so many hills and not enough days.

I hope you get back there.

Mountain Walker
Posts: 81
Munros:26   Corbetts:4
Joined: Oct 14, 2020
Location: East Anglia

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