Aonach Eagach at sunrise

Route: Aonach Eagach

Munros: Meall Dearg (Aonach Eagach), Sgòrr nam Fiannaidh (Aonach Eagach)

Date walked: 05/06/2016

Time taken: 7.2 hours

Distance: 17km

I'd been thinking of doing the Aonach Eagach after doing bidean and the Buachailles last year. However as often the way life, work and poor weather conspired to make sure it wouldn't happen last year. This year started no better with health problems plaguing me since January. My fitness was and is at an all time low.

I'd managed to get out only once. Easy peasy mount keen and it had knackered me. Not the best start to my hillwalking this year but I was happy just to be out really.

With the gorgeous weather during the week and an ideal looking weather report for the weekend, I started hatching a plan. I really wanted to climb a nice ridge after doing mount keen. But in my unfit state climbing in the midday sun with temperatures rising to 22c was a no go. I've always struggled in warm weather, even when fully fit. I also wanted to see a nice sunrise though, so this would help me stay out of the midday sun, if I started very early.

My first thought was to go do cruachan again. It always seems much easier doing a repeat hill and I've done cruachan several times but have yet to get a view from the top. But then the idea of the AE started creeping into my mind again. Was I fit enough? Would the exposure be to much, when I was so out of practice with dealing with it? I'm not scared of heights, but I am scared of falling if I see a big drop. The forecast and recent dry spell couldn't be more perfect for an attempt on the ridge though.
I messaged my pal serge, who was back in the country, to see if he'd be up for a trip. He's done AE before and was very keen to give it another go, even after I explained I'd probably have all the pace of an arthritic snail.
I put a few messages up on fb, twitter and wh to see if anyone fancied joining us for strategic two car reasons. But the short notice and 3am start made it unlikely, lol. Never mind, we'd try to hitch back.

Sunday 12am and I left dalkeith having had a whole hour and a halves sleep. Picked up serge in town then headed up to Glencoe for 3 am. It was still very dark when we got to the car park but once my van lights were out it was obvious that we'd manage to start the walk without torches.

The path up Am Bodach is made of nice light grey gravel that practically glows even in low light. After a whole 10 minutes walking my calves were screaming with pain. I had to stop to let them recover for 2 minutes. Then on for 10 stop for 2 etc all the way up. As someone that normal only stops once or maybe twice I found this incredibly frustrating. I simply couldn't physically go any faster, but I had factored this into my timings and just had to keep reminding myself of that.


With about 5 minutes to go we made it to the top of Am Bodach for sunrise at 4.30. The skies where perfectly clear and the views where stunning. It was magical to watch sunrise from this view point.

Not the only ones watching


After a wee rest we headed onward down Am Bodach, which I found quite easy. The holds where nice, big and dry. The rock was beautifully grippy and confidence giving. Along to Meall Dearg there were a few narrow bits and a few easy scrambly bits. All very straight forward though. Watching the sun hit the Ridge and Bidean over the Glen was beautiful.

Coming down Am Bodach
The ridge
Bidean nam bian

So far nothing scary and actually quite fun. There's no one way to do a lot of the scrambly bits, myself and serge often took different routes depending on which way suited us individually. We always stuck to the top of the Ridge though, having heard that it's by far the safest way to go. The bypass looking paths can be very dangerous.

The climbing up gullies and down little rocky bits was great fun. We where soon on the Crazy Pinnacles which completely take all your attention. So busy looking for the next foot or hand hold that I rarely looked down into the Glen. When you do though it's a hell of a long way down with nothing between you and the road.


At any bits where it wasn't quite certain which way to go, the old polished rock and crampon marks on the rock showed which way the route went. The two last pinnacles seemed the worst.

The first you go right round to the right and down steeply, then you have to climb all the way back up on to the Ridge again on a steep face. It's a long drop down but the holds are all good.

Then after a skinny bit you meet a shattered pinnacle slap bang in the middle of the Ridge. The only way over is to the left on a slabby rock with good holds. The crampon marks and polished rock make the route obvious. The slab slopes left though, so as your climbing it feels like you being forced out away out over the edge. It's a hell of a big drop to make matters worse. It's the only bit where the adrenaline kicked in properly. Then I felt my backpack touch the rock to the right of me that slightly over hangs the slabby bit, i think my heart might have tried to jump out of my chest. The what ifs flew through my mind as there was no safe way to physically reverse back. I pulled myself together and continued forward as there was no alternative, ignoring the feeling of the backpack touching, on solid ground at the top I was very relived. The holds are good, it was just a moment of o **** this could go hideously wrong, after previously just having great fun scrambling up and down. Think I had just got a bit complacent as well. I had expected the ridge to be scarier, but it hadn't been even remotely worrying till that one little bit.

The Ridge continued to the next top where I had to stop for a wee rest and some food.


Dark side of the ridge

Then onto the last munro Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, all very straight forward after the fun. Still hadn't seen anyone else up on the ridge. The sun was fully up now and I was beginning to feel the fatigue kicking in. Not enough that I'd want to risk the Clachaig gully though, so we headed towards the pap to make our way down. There's a sort of path but the whole route down was loose rock and scree. The grippy and thin trail shoes that had made the Ridge so much fun where no where near protective enough for the scree and rocks. I felt every rock hit the arch of my foot all the way down. Worst part of the day by far.

Towards glencoe village

It was a huge relief to get onto the minor road. A quick stop in at the Clachaig to see if the bar was open to grab a cold drink, no such luck, far to early. The minute we hit the main road our thumbs where out trying to grab a lift. By the time we'd got half way past the Loch I'd about given up. I've given dozens of people a lift back along here as it's obvious where they've been and where there going. Serge turned round "you given up" I had a bit, but at that I put my thumb up one last time. Bingo! Blue astra stopped in front of us. Lovely fella gave us a lift back to the van and we where back in Edinburgh by 1 knackered but happy and grinning like a cheshire cat.


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Comments: 10

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User avatar
Location: outskirts of edinburgh
Occupation: Customer care operative ( fancy pants term for van driver)
Activity: Hill Bagger
Mountain: ben lui
Place: isle of mull
Gear: stowaway jacket
Member: None I wander the world alone
Camera: tiny wee canon of ebay £5
Ideal day out: Any kind of wander, up hill, round loch, not fussed at all.

Munros: 73
Corbetts: 2
Grahams: 4
Donalds: 13
Sub 2000: 24
Long Distance routes: West Highland Way    Forth & Clyde and Union canal towpath   

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Distance: 81.25 km
Ascent: 4987m
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Trips: 4
Distance: 10 km
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Joined: Jun 25, 2014
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