Glen Coe’s Aonach Eagach ridge is the most legendary Grade 2 scramble in Scotland. Do you have the skills to take it on?
Whatever measure you use to assess the quality of a scramble – length, exposure, views, or overall adrenal gland-squeezing awesomeness – the castellated crest of rock that looms menacingly above Glen Coe is pretty hard to top. Nowhere else on the British mainland will you find a ridge of such narrow yet epic proportions; and when you add in the ease of access and the scenically stellar location, it comes as no surprise that this is one of the most bucket-listed mountain days in the country.
For a large swathe of the hill walking world, Aonach Eagach has all the dazzling unavailability of an A-list celebrity. You might pin her picture on your wall and dream hazily about meeting her one day, but the prospect of getting up close and personal is woefully remote. Unlike other celebrity scrambles – Crib Goch, for example, and Striding Edge – this sky rail scramble requires more than just some basic experience in the hills and a good head for heights.
From the east, Aonach Eagach is approached via a meandering mountain path that begins at a layby just off the A82 (NN173567) (keep in mind that it’s a long walk back up the glen once you’ve descended near the Clachaig Inn – most people arrange transport at the other end.)
You’ll encounter the odd scrambly section on the way up, but there are no real difficulties until you hit the summit of Am Bodach at 943 metres and prepare to descend. This downclimb is, for many people, the crux of the whole day.
In good weather, more experienced scramblers should be able to manage this section unaided. Then it’s a fun-filled tightrope walk up to the Munro top of Meall Dearg – the official start of the Aonach Eagach ridge. Consistent exposure and mind-bendingly beautiful views characterise the day from now on, with the fabulously varied scrambling taking in everything from terraced ridges and knife-edged arêtes to towering chimneys. The most technically challenging section ambushes you right at the end, in the form of a series of spikes known as the Crazy Pinnacles. It’s best to approach the pinnacles directly rather than trying to edge your way around the side.
The ground gradually eases after the pinnacles and the col below Stob Coire Leith marks the end of the serious scrambling. Any attempt to escape the ridge between Meall Dearg and this point is asking for trouble – there are no safe descent routes to the south, and the northern options will leave you stranded a long way from civilisation. Ignore the old path down the side of Clachaig Gully (now generally considered dangerous and unpleasant), instead turning right towards the Pap of Glencoe after the last rise and joining up with a path that zigzags down to the south west to emerge on to a minor road running parallel with the A82. Turning left, a walk of about two kilometres will bring you to legendary hill walking pub the Clachaig Inn, where it’s well worth rewarding yourself for your efforts with a pint of their finest ale – or a wee dram.
This scramble description has been taken from Hannah Lindon and the British Mountaineering Council.
If you would like to do a days scrambling with me, please get in touch on 07534 387152 or using the links below;