Following the spectacular serrated north wall of Glen Coe, this classic Lochaber scramble has a reputation as the gnarliest ridge traverse on the Mainland. While there are harder ridge scrambles elsewhere it's true that few are as long, as thrillingly exposed, or as tricky to escape as Aonach Eagach. Unusual among Mainland ridges the most difficult grade 2 sections cannot be skirted around, and they definitely need a steady head. The customary way to do it is westwards from Am Bodach, but while this has the advantage of a high start the various descent options from the western end of the ridge are either unpleasant, unsafe or slightly unintuitive on first acquaintance. Besides this the standard route is a fairly short day that visits less than half of the range that forms the north side of the glen. If you've time a full traverse from the Pap of Glencoe to the Devil’s Staircase on the West Highland Way is a more satisfying and substantial day out; for the sake of being different the route is described here in the easterly direction. This linear walk needs pre-arranged transport back to the start; or chance your arm hitching.
With short bursts of easy scrambling the ridge now continues towards the rocky west buttress of Am Bodach, where a steep climb is the last of the day's major hands-on challenges: From a rusty fence post first go up a slabby ramp just to the right of the crest, then climb blocks to a big boulder. Airy ledges now cut up the left flank of the ridge to safe ground on top of the buttress. The summit of Am Bodach is an easy walk.
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Distance: 9.21 miles (14.83 km)
Total ascent: 1,658m
Steepest Gradient: 54% (1 in 2)
Time: 9 hours (Walking)
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SummitsAonach Eagach - Meall Dearg 953 m
Aonach Eagach - Sgorr nam Fiannaidh 967 m
Aonach Eagach - Stob Coire Leith 940 m
Sgorr na Ciche (Pap of Glencoe) 742 m
Am Bodach 943 m
Additional InformationStart Track entrance on the back road from Glencoe village to the Clachaig Inn - there's some verge parking along this road, or park in the village, NN110586; Finish Car park on the A82 at Altnafeadh, NN220563
Largely steep and stony, with some bogs at the far east end. At both extremities of the ridge paths can be a little unclear at points, though the ground on the scramble itself is so well trodden that route finding is not an issue. The central section, roughly from Stob Coire Leith to Am Bodach, provides the meat of the scrambling, with some thrilling exposure and several difficult bits of grade 2 ground. In slimy conditions or high wind this needs care. If escaping Aonach Eagach note that to descend from Sgorr nam Fiannaidh the Clachaig Gully path is very steep and unpleasant; heading due south from the summit is a better idea. East of this summit there is no safe way into Glen Coe until the southeast spur of Am Bodach.
Under proper winter conditions this is a full-on grade II climb. Its difficulty and more crucially its length are both often underestimated.
Weather and Hill Conditions: mwis: Northwest Highlands – Met Office: West Highlands
Glasgow-Ft.William buses stop in Glencoe village
Great Mountain Days in Scotland, Dan Bailey, pb.Cicerone http://www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/612/title/great-mountain-days-in-scotland/refer/ukh Scotland's Mountain Ridges, Dan Bailey, pb.Cicerone http://www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/469/title/scotland-s-mountain-ridges/refer/ukh The Central Highlands, Peter Hodgkiss, pb.SMC http://www.smc.org.uk/Publications/Publications.php?ID=6
OS Explorer 384 (1:25,000), Harvey/BMC Ben Nevis (1:40,000), OS Landranger 41 (1:50,000)
Glencoe YH 01855 811219; Clachaig Inn 01855 811252
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by Dan Bailey UKH