Traverse of the Aonach Eagach Ridge

25 July 2011

12.4 km/1443 m/08:00 hrs

After a good night’s sleep at the Glen Nevis Campsite I felt ready for another great day on the hill: The weather was still perfect, and I wanted to climb the Aonach Eagach again, a ridge I have traversed several times (in both directions), but I think I will never get enough of it 🙂

I started at 10:30 from the car park in the bend just before Allt-na-Ruigh and ascended the path to Am Bodach. Even at this time in the morning, it was already very warm – too warm for my liking, actually.

Looking across the road to Geàrr Aonach, the second of the Three Sisters, with Coire Gabhail on the left and Coire nan Lochan, overlooked by Stob Coire nan Lochan, on the right.

Loch Achtriochtan.

The view towards Rannoch Moor, Buachaille Etive Beag on the right, with Buachaille Etive Mòr behind.

From Am Bodach, I got a good view North towards Garbh Bheinn, The Ring of Steall and Ben Nevis behind.

Ben Nevis, zoomed.

Before continuing along the ridge, I made a short detour to The Chancellor, a pinnacle pointing out from the ridge into Glencoe.

The only difficult bit is this narrow rock slab sloping both ways, apart from that it is really just a walk to the end of the pinnacle.

Loch Achtriochtan, seen from The Chancellor.

View from The Chancellor to the main ridge.

After climbing back up to the ridge, the descent from Am Bodach was next. This is steep, but there are lots of good handholds, and solid ledges to stand on.

The descent from Am Bodach.

Am Bodach from further along the ridge.

Sròn Gharbh, Am Bodach, and the Blackwater Reservoir in the top left corner.

After the first Munro, Meall Dearg, follows the most interesting part of the ridge, which gives the Aonach Eagach its name – a variety of pinnacles, alternating with sections of sandy paths.

A chimney, again with lots of handholds, it can be climbed like a staircase.

Close-up of the chimney, there is no feeling of exposure as the way up is very enclosed.

Looking down a narrow descent between two rock walls, the options are squeezing through the middle or downclimbing some steep rocks on the left.

The narrow gap from below.

Approaching the last of the pinnacles.

Another steep descent.

The most exposed pinnacle towards the end of the ridge.

There is a very tempting “path” leading down on the right hand (N) side, and during my first traverse a few years ago I followed this – not knowing that the climb back up to the ridge would be quite difficult and scary!

Later I had found out that it is much safer to climb directly up the pinnacle and to swing around it on the right hand side, facing the rock (which is not as bad as it sounds ;)).

After the last steep downclimb…

… Stob Coire Lèith lies ahead.

Looking back along the ridge.

From Stob Coire Lèith it is an easy walk to the second Munro, Sgorr nam Fiannaidh.

Ben Nevis, Stob Bàn and part of the Ring of Steall seen across Loch Leven.

View East towards Rannoch Moor.

Stob Coire nan Lochan and Bidean nam Bian.

From Sgorr nam Fiannaidh I walked further along the broad ridge for a few hundred metres, until I came to the cairn marking the start of the descent route.

The path leads down the scree slopes to the left of Cnap Glas, the “lump” in the middle of the next photo.

Soon it joins up with the path that comes from the Pap of Glencoe. The view to Loch Leven makes the descent along the loose, stony path a bit more pleasant!

Further down the hillside, the path improves, and eventually it arrives at the single track road in Glencoe, about one kilometre up from the Youth Hostel. On the way down I caught up with two couples who had walked the same route, but I had not seen them up on the ridge. They must have been far ahead of me, because they had started just after 08:00 in the morning.

Walking along the single track road, I tried to get a lift back to my car, but there was hardly any traffic. An American couple did stop, the driver asked me where I was heading, but he apologised as they were only going to Glencoe Village.

Although I normally hate road walking, I enjoyed the walk on this warm, pleasant evening. When I passed the Clachaig Inn where some guests were sitting at the picnic tables outside, I was very tempted to have a drink as well – but I wanted to have a bar meal in Fort William (the Clachaig is ok for drinks, but I am not impressed by the food), and it was getting a bit late.

When I arrived at the junction with the A 82, a white van came along the single track, and I waited to see which direction it was going, ready to stick my thumb out in case it was turning left. But the van stopped, and through the open passenger window a woman shouted if I wanted a lift – they were the two couples I had met on the descent 🙂 One of the women got in the back of the van, and I was invited to sit at the front. Five minutes later I was back at my car, and soon on my way back to Fort William.

I went straight to the Glen Nevis Restaurant on the campsite, worried I might be too late for a meal. But there was plenty of time, and I celebrated two brilliant hillwalking days with a menu consisting of Lemon and Herb coated Brie, then Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, followed by Cranachan, and a couple of pints of cider.

During the conversation with the couple sitting at the table next to mine, it turned out that they live in Kincraig and are both experienced TGO Challengers! So I spent the evening not only with nice food, but also in pleasant company – a perfect end to my trip!

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18 thoughts on “Traverse of the Aonach Eagach Ridge

  1. ooh! It sounds like you met Val & MA! Two wonderful girls!

    I could never, ever consider dong this one; your pictures had me clinging to my desk. What a fabulous day out.

    I feel quite giddy now – I shall go and have a lie-down!

    • Val & MA? You mean the Challengers in the pub? They were an (elderly) married couple, but I didn’t ask their names, unfortunately.

      I’m sure you could do the Aonach Eagach, there is really only one hair-raising bit towards the end of the Pinnacles 😉

  2. Ah – I missed that it was a couple – in that case it might be the Harpers or the Machins. Val Machin is tiny, has a mass of ginger hair, freckles and is wonderful. Her hubby Dave is tall & rangey, quite quiet compared to Val and a really good bloke. MA (Harper) has blonde hair and speaks very nicely indeed and is also really really lovely too..

    And no – never in a million years.

    • Oh, that description fits them perfectly – it must have been Val and Dave then! 🙂 Both very lovely people indeed, and it would be great to meet them on next year’s Challenge…

      (P.S. Never say never!)

  3. Wonderful Tour-Report. It’s pity, that we’ve got some weeks later bad weather and can’t go over the Ridge. Sometimes you loose and sometimes wins another. 😉

    • Many thanks!

      Yes, it was a shame about the weather, but the Aonach Eagach won’t be going anywhere – and if you get a really fantastic day for it, it will have been well worth the wait 🙂

  4. Thanks for this – I’ve looked at a few videos and reports of the Aonach Eagach and genuinely reckon this is the best / clearest / most helpful description of the AE I’ve read, so thanks 🙂

    • Thanks, I’m glad that you found my description useful, I always try to put myself in the position of someone who is doing a walk for the first time, so they know what to expect 🙂

      • Cheers. Just to update, we did the AE a couple of weeks back now and this really helped, especially the part talking about the going over the pinnacle and then up to the right (rather than following the path down). Got everyone in the group back on track!!

    • Agreed Brummie. Best online blog Ive seen. Full of crytal-clear narrative and helpful facts; utterly devoid of egocentricity. Just what’s required (other bloggers take note!). Great advice about not going to the lower, “easier” right-hand path around one of the pinnacles. Pity I read this only 2 days after doing it (in low cloud and rain), so only now do I see how exposed it was! It was like anything else: taken as a whole, the challenge looks insurmountable to the uninitiated; but. viewed as a long sequence of conquering localised problems, it’s eminently achievable. Thanks ness64.

      • Many thanks for your kind comment!

        I try my best to give accurate descriptions (and photographic evidence) of the more challenging parts of a route as that is also what I look for in other blogger’s reports.

        I’m sorry to hear that you were unlucky with the weather but that shouldn’t stop you to do the ridge again in nicer conditions and with better views – it’s definitely worth it 🙂

  5. Damn good description and explanatory photos – but I’m with Alan S – never in a million years for that one! It looks horrendous in places. I did go up Am Bodach and have a look down but I turned straight back. Richard continued to Meall Dearg and then had had enough.

    • It’s really not that bad! You wouldn’t believe it but the first time I did the Aonach Eagach was in hail and snow showers – with a complete stranger I had met on the way down from Am Bodach (after a look down and deciding against it), and who persuaded me to go back up and do the walk with him.

      Thankfully he was an experienced walker and I felt totally safe, and I enjoyed that walk so much that I couldn’t wait to go back and do it again.

      You certainly have done much scarier things and would probably do very well as long as it was dry and not too windy 🙂

  6. PS I forgot to mention the superb photography, which really could be used as a guide. I love this site: the sober, well-written, massively informative walkers’ equivalent of a Haynes manual. Bravo, ness64. Have you published any of your stuff in printed format?

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