Conquering my obsesion

Route: Aonach Eagach

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

Date walked: 08/09/2023

Time taken: 8.5 hours

Distance: 9.5km

Ascent: 1100m

I have been equally fascinated by and terrified of the Aonach Eagach ridge since I climbed my first Munro in 2018 - Ben Nevis. Its fierce reputation as the longest and narrowest ridge on mainland Britain and the tragic deaths that have occurred there made climbing it a very daunting prospect. However I has nearly at a milestone point in my Munro bagging journey and wanted to do something epic to mark the occasion. We got a good spell of weather at the beginning of September, which quite frankly put summer to shame - high pressure dominated Scotland for around 10 days, it was beautifully sunny and pleasantly warm with next to no wind. It was forecast to change by the weekend with clouds creeping in from the west. I became aware that this might be my last window of opportunity to get perfect weather conditions with bone dry rock, I put in a last minute holiday request at work and the following morning was on my way north to Glen Coe.

As I was driving through the Trossachs I was a bit concerned at the mist that seemed to cling to the glens and was already thinking of a back up plan in case I got to Glen Coe and it was shrouded in clag. However by the time I got to the Bridge of Orchy the mist dissipated and it looked like it was going to be a fine day.

I arrived at the small car park on the A82, parked up and started getting ready for the hike. I was equally excited but also nervous at the prospect of tackling the ridge. I watched plenty of videos on YouTube prior and obtained some advice from colleagues who had previously done the traverse so had a fair idea of what to expect. For this hike I opted to wear my latest boot purchase - the North Face Breithorn mountaineering boots for the climbing and brought the smallest rucksack I own, following advice from my director at work, and this proved to be a great shout, for both bits of kit. I started following the relentless path up to the first Munro top, Am Bodach. The layers started coming off barely 5 minutes into the hike - it was already 18 degrees and as I was climbing up the East face I had the full exposure to the sun. There was some very mild scrambling along the way but it was a good gradient and I did not need to use my hands.

Admiring the view of my favourite mountain- Bidean Nam Bian

I reached the summit of Am Bodach after an hour and a half of hiking - I had to take frequent breaks for water as it was so warm. After a short break and admiring the view of the ridge ahead I put away my hiking poles, took a deep breath and started on the ridge.


The first real difficulty that I had been warned about was the descent from Am Bodach. It required a down climb - there were plenty of holds and the rock was dry but it did have a nasty camber should a slip occur. Putting my bouldering practice over the previous 6 months to good use I took my time and ensured I had 3 solid points of contact with the rock at all times and gradually worked my way down the rock face. Having finished the down climb, I was relieved to be on flat(ish) ground and continued along the ridge, up the the first Munro of the day, Meall Dearg. On the summit, I had my lunch (since I wasn't sure how long the ridge itself would take), topped up my sun cream, Took a self-timed photo of myself looking on the Aonach Eagach and proceeded onward.


Self-timer job

I am not entirely sure how long the traverse of the ridge took me. I'm not great with heights or exposure and this was my first Grade 2 scramble so I took each obstacle as it came, focusing only on the rock ahead and avoided looking down at my feet (and in some instances the A82, which was directly underneath!) There was a well worn path for most of the way and where it was unclear, I followed the polished rock and crampon marks. The Chimney presented no real difficulty - although it was a fair height I am fairly confident with climbing up - down climbs are not my favourite. I met some trail runners coming the opposite way but just sat on top of a rock pinnacle and let them pass after exchanging a brief chat. Even on the crazy pinnacles, I just focused on the next hold and tried not to look down or think what would happen if I slipped. Walk Highlands does warn about a difficult manoeuvre required at the last pinnacle, which must be climbed down facing the rock but I hadn't noticed it until I was on the path towards Stob Coire Leith. Once thing I did notice is that I felt mentally tired from the amount of concentration I spent traversing the ridge. Physical fitness was not an issue. Reaching the summit of the Munro top was a relief nonetheless.

From then on there were no real difficulties as the path followed a broad ridge and I started to grin as I was approaching the second Munro - Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, 141 for me, marking my half way point. I was running out of water by this point, despite packing an extra bottle, but the heat and absence of a breeze just made it sweltering. This did not concern me as I was just so excited and still couldn't believe that I managed the ridge I had been so obsessed with for the past 5 years. It still felt surreal. I took my time on the last Munro - had a good rest, aired my feet, and just admired the view.

View over to the Mamores and the Ben

I was not in a hurry as I had previously arranged a lift - Stewart was in the area. He was invited to join me on this trip but having watched some of the videos his response was "not a chance" so he opted to do a more forgiving grade 1 scramble up Schoolhouse Ridge on Beinn a'Bheithir instead and just meet me at the bottom of the footpath. Having proudly informed him by text that I survived the beast, I made my way down, initially towards the Pap, admiring the views to Loch Leven and beyond.

Still sinking in


The path was very rocky with much scree so was not the most pleasant descent. As great as the mountaineering boots were on the rock, giving me much confidence in the grip I had, on the descent they were just giving my toes pain, being so rigid. I was glad to reach the end of the scree but the descent was still steep. I was delighted when I came across the first stream, which seemed to come straight from inside the mountain and this was the first opportunity I had to refill my water bottle. The path now wound its way through green pastures, which to my dismay was populated by sheep, sheep that were much braver than usual and would not scatter as I approached. It would be a terrible shame to have survived the fearsome Aonach Eagach, only to be attacked by sheep! Thankfully on this occasion they just stared. Soon I was walking through lovely woodland by a fast flowing burn and enjoying the afternoon sunshine, making my way to the minor road where Stewart was meeting me. The experience of traversing the ridge without freaking out was still sinking in, as was the fact that I can now start counting down the way to completing all the Munros.

I met up with my hiking buddy and he gave me a lift to my car. To celebrate the end of a perfect and special day we stopped for a dip in Loch Tulla and fish and chips at the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum, before the drive home.

Munros summited: Meall Dearg & Sgorr nam Fiannaidh
Munro count: 140 & 141
Height: 967m
Distance: 9.5km
Time: 8.5 hours
Conditions: Hazy sunshine, no breeze, hot! Dry rock and paths
Lessons learned: Planning is everything! Take opportunities as they arise

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Comments: 22

Seana Bhraigh - the week long hike (or so it seemed!)

Attachment(s) Munros: Seana Bhràigh
Date walked: 29/04/2023
Distance: 27km
Ascent: 1095m
Comments: 4
Views: 397

Route improvisation in the Ettrick hills

Attachment(s) Fionas: Andrewhinney Hill
Donalds: Andrewhinney Hill, Bell Craig, Herman Law
Date walked: 11/03/2023
Distance: 18km
Ascent: 735m
Views: 188

Bogwarts calls!

Attachment(s) Munros: Chno Dearg, Stob Coire Sgriodain
Date walked: 04/03/2023
Distance: 13.5km
Ascent: 915m
Comments: 4
Views: 512


Occupation: Office rat
Interests: Hiking, camping, wild swimming, cycling, photography, cars, rock and metal
Activity: Hill Bagger
Mountain: Bidean Nam Bian
Member: Mountain Training Association, Mountaineering Scotland
Camera: Canon EOS4000D

Munros: 151
Tops: 49
Corbetts: 14
Fionas: 11
Donalds: 28
Hewitts: 2
Sub 2000: 21
Islands: 3

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Trips: 4
Distance: 68 km
Ascent: 3845m
Munros: 5
Donalds: 3

Joined: Aug 02, 2018
Last visited: Dec 01, 2023
Total posts: 26 | Search posts