Aonach Eagach, the legendary and infamous ridge. Lying on the north side and running the whole length of Glencoe, regarded as the most difficult horizontal scrambling route in mainland Scotland. With two Munro summits, Meall Dearg and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and continuous extreme exposure throughout, it has earned a fearsome reputation.
The more time I've spent climbing in Glencoe building my skills and knowledge of the mountains, the more Aonach Eagach was always there taunting, "I'm here come and climb me!" After a failed attempt on Bidean nam Bian, Seb and I had a scouting mission up to Am Bodach the Corbett that begins the route, in deep snow with no ropes we had a quick look and retreated. For me, Aonach Eagach was now my number one must do.
The trouble with taking on the challenge is finding someone to actually do it with - Aonach's notoriety puts a lot of people off. My regular partners were either out the country or retired for the summer but I couldn't wait any longer, I decided on a solo traverse.
I set out on a spectacular Scottish morning, looking up from the start point, I wondered if I had the skill and nerve to conquer Aonach Eagach. The initial path up to Am Bodach is quite easy winding its way up, steep in places and testing my scrambling prowess, I was warmed up for the main event.
The minute you gain some height the views in all directions just keep coming, across Glencoe and north to Ben Nevis, it is incredible and breathtakingly beautiful. Once past Am Bodach and heading out onto the ridge, my full concentration was required. Initially it starts off quite welcoming with the full ridge now in view, it suddenly begins to narrow and the first test of the day appeared, a big drop with no visible path. I had to scramble down on narrow ledges but with good holds, it's fairly easy. In winter, ropes from this point onwards are a must.
The ridge from here is not to narrow, heading up steadily. Soon I reached the first summit Meall Dearg, rested and took in the views, looking in awe of what was beyond. A vast narrow ridge of pinnacles with exposed scrambling, up and down gullies, slabs and chimneys lay ahead - the hardest part of the traverse. I found the route quite clear but the dizzying height and unbelievable drops on all sides again required extreme caution, concentration and care cannot be stressed enough.
The hardest part done, it was a fairly straightforward hike up to Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and the ridge was complete. There are several routes down and I took the most direct route down into Glencoe. It was an extremely steep and continuous slope and found it to be unwelcome after the tiring traverse.
Now back down on the A82, I was faced with getting back to my car and a long walk up Glencoe. Thumbing a lift up, a group of tourists thankfully stopped and saved my legs from any more pain.
I had conquered Aonach Eagach. Solo. It was quite an achievement, but now the real challenge would be to do the winter traverse. I knew it would be a serious mountaineering expedition that would be extremely difficult and even though I made it to Meall Dearg in winter, I couldn't take on the hardest section solo. Ropes are a must and Aonach Eagach remains top of the list for the full winter traverse. It is more than just a mountain, it was for me, the ultimate mountaineering challenge and it's reputation totally justified.
On 18th September we will be leading a guided walk across Aonach Eagach with our partners Hebridean Pursuits. Join us on a Proper Adventure! There is only 4 places available. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.