The Aonach Eagach Ridge: your Spring challenge?

It’s officially Spring! If you take this as your cue to head to the garden centre – enjoy! If, however, it makes you want to climb a mountain (and why wouldn’t it?), why not challenge yourself to take on Aonach Eagach, famed for being the narrowest ridge on the British mainland? Well, that escalated quickly didn’t it?
Lying to the north of Glen Coe in the Scottish Highlands between the two Munro summits of Meall Dearg and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, Aonach Eagach is usually regarded as the most difficult horizontal scrambling ridge in mainland Scotland.
Many BCH Camping customers are experienced hikers and keen scramblers and would find the Aonach Eagach experience to be unforgettable. This is not, however, a challenge for the inexperienced scrambler.

Aonach Eagach terrain and scrambling

The terrain is mainly steep and stony with some bogs at the east end, and paths are unclear at times. With some thrilling exposure, there is hard, exposed Grade 2 scrambling along the ridge between Am Bodach and Stob Coire Leith.
There are three grades of scrambling. The first grade is essentially an exposed walking route where you will need to use your hands and feet. For grade 2 scrambles such as Aonach Eagach, inexperienced scramblers would want a rope to protect them, and have the support of a leader who must feel confident moving over exposed, yet relatively easy climbing terrain. Grade 3 scrambles require more experience and usually the use of a rope for some sections.
The British Mountaineering Council have a basic guide to scrambling that less experienced scramblers might find useful.

Reaching Aonach Eagach

Parking is available at a small car park 300m west of Allt-na-reig on the A82. You begin by ascending Am Bodach. There are two options for the route up; heading either directly and up the steep spur to the summit, or going further right to walk alongside the Allt Ruigh.
The path alongside the Allt Ruigh hugs the stream and emerges on the narrow pass between Sron Garbh and Am Bodach. Here, you turn left along the ridge to climb to reach the Munro top of Am Bodach where you will meet climbers who took the direct route. From this viewpoint you will see the imposing rock pinnacle known as “The Chancellor” below.
The descent from Am Bodach presents the first section of real scrambling. There is a tricky steep cliff to descend with a large drop from the ridge below it. Once you’ve tackled this descent, the ridge becomes narrow with a few short scramble sections and then the path leads to Meall Dearg, the first Munro at 953 metres.

Crossing Aonach Eagach ridge

The ridge, as its reputation would suggest, has several steep rocky chimneys and other scrambling sections to be climbed and descended. It is very exposed in some places but not always precariously narrow, so there is some respite along the way.
The most difficult section of scrambling is known as the 'Crazy Pinnacles' with a tricky descent onto a narrow section of ridge at the end, which must be climbed down facing the rock. Once the Munro top of Stob Coire Leith is reached, the terrain becomes easier.
It is important to note that there are no safe descents from the Aonach Eagach once you’ve reached this section of the ridge. The only possible escape route is to descend northwards from Meall Dearg.
From Stob Coire Leith the ridge continues easily with a broad path to the second Munro, Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, the highest on the ridge at 967 metres with its superb view of the lower reaches of Glen Coe.

Descending from Aonach Eagach ridge

To descend from Aonach Eagach ridge, do not attempt the the rim of Clachaig Gully, which has an extremely eroded and very dangerous 'path'. There have sadly been several fatalities and there is the added danger of displacing stones that could endanger the lives of others below.
It is sometimes recommended to descend southwards to Loch Achtriochtan, but this is a very steep descent with much scree and is also probably best avoided.
The best option is to head west along the ridge, ignoring the path towards the Clachaig Gully to continue along the ridge until it climbs to two small cairns. At this point, bear slightly right to pick up a rough path from which you can enjoy a stunning view over the Ballachulish narrows
This stony path eventually becomes clearer and works its way down the broad slope that links the ridge with the Pap of Glencoe. The path leaves the ridge before the mountain pass, bearing left to join the Pap of Glencoe path further along.
Turn left down this path, eventually crossing the Allt a'Mhuillin burn, then on the far side follow the path to a track, turning left to head down to the Glencoe - Clachaig road. If you haven't arranged transport, you have a long walk back up the glen to return to your parked car.

Are you ready?

BCH Camping supply all the clothing, footwear and equipment such as ropes, harnesses and helmets needed for walking routes like Aonach Eagach. We also have a range of products for backpacking, such as rucksacks and sleeping bags should you decide to tackle Aonach Eagach as part of an extended hike.
The most suitable footwear, fitted correctly, is essential for scrambling. We provide a free of charge boot fitting service to ensure that our customers take away the best footwear for their needs. If, however, you are unable to reach one of our stores and would like to buy online, our staff will be more than happy to offer advice if you call 01225 764977.

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