Aonach air Chrith via the North Ridge and Maol Chinn-dearg Walking

In Glen Shiel you can barely step off the road without stumbling over a sculpted crest or a pleasantly pointy peak. Yet given its ridgey layout, the Kintail area is surprisingly short of actual scrambles. Stand-out is of course The Saddle's Forcan Ridge, a route which fully earns its classic scramble status. But that's not the end of the story. Also on the south flank of the glen is another hands-on gem that sees a fraction of the attention. The route described here climbs the craggy peak of Aonach air Chrith via its north ridge, a straightforward but enjoyably airy scramble with a little-frequented feel. Close the circuit with some of that lovely ridge walking over to Maol Chinn-dearg, to complete arguably the best short section of the South Glen Shiel Ridge.

Looking for winter and finding spring, on the short but sweet North Ridge of Aonach air Chrith   © Dan Bailey -
Looking for winter and finding spring, on the short but sweet North Ridge of Aonach air Chrith
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Detailed description

NH0440111485 Cross the road and pick up a path heading south (look for a signpost). Ford the Allt Coire a' Chuil Droma Beag at stepping stones and stick with the stalker's path as it begins to zigzag up the lower slopes of Druim Coire nan Eirecheanach. After the first big zig, at about 300m altitude, turn off the path and go east-southeast, contouring rough, boggy ground to reach the Allt Coire nan Eirecheanach at the point that this burn is met by the smaller burn draining Coire na Doire Duibhe.

NH0505810334 Climb the steep slope just right of this side burn into the shallow corrie, then go up the corrie headwall, cutting diagonally left to skirt around small slabby crags on steep grass and scree. At the broad bealach above the corrie turn right, and climb steeply onto the nose of Druim na Ciche and the start of the North Ridge.

NH0517408874 Continuing south, ascend the well-defined crest onto a little summit. Beyond a shallow grassy col, the upper ridge sports two steps that from below look like ragged towers. The first appears off-puttingly steep, but can be climbed direct with care; alternatively it's easily skirted via vegetated ledges on the left flank. The second tower is climbed via a groove and ledge just on the right, to reach a short but delightful rock crest above. With some exposure, but little actual difficulty, this abruptly leads to Aonach air Chrith's easy summit slope.

NH0509808337 Descend the west ridge. Straightforward at first, the crest soon narrows, and there's some rocky ground to negotiate above the mountain's impressive northern crags. The continuation of the ridge is grassier, leading over a minor top before the steady climb onto Maol Chinn-dearg.
Heading west to Maol Chinn-dearg  © Dan Bailey -
Heading west to Maol Chinn-dearg
© Dan Bailey -

NH0322508750 The descent of the north-northeast ridge, Druim Coire nan Eirecheanach, is grassy and delightfully easy. From about the 600m contour the path begins a long series of zigzags. A tremendous hand-built stalker's trail from the days pre-dating the modern bulldozing generation, this indirect, meandering route may add distance, but it also tames the incline and spares your knees. These old path builders really knew their business.

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