Area: Loch Leven to Rannoch Station
Munro’s: Meall Dearg, Sgorr nam Fiannaidh
Date walked: 15/09/2001
Time taken: 5 hour 35 minutes
Distance: 10 km
The Aonach Eagach is a spectacular narrow ridge running high above the pass of Glencoe. It is an exhilarating and heart stopping traverse with many scrambles, ascending and descending, linking the two Munro’s, Meall Dearg and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. This walk is not for the faint hearted nor the inexperienced lone walker and is reported to be the most difficult walk on the Scottish mainland.
I was back in Dunfermline after a long time in HM Forces and I was still none the wiser about The Munro’s. My nephew Danny and his friend were planning a mountain walk and duly invited me to join them. The walk, over Munro’s in picturesque Glencoe, was to include two Munro’s separated by the Aonach Eagach ridge. I was of course more than happy to join them having no idea at the time how interesting the coming walk was going to be.
We drove on the A82 with its tremendous views of Mountains and Glens on all sides up to the Pass of Glencoe and parked in the layby near Allt-na-reigh. I remember there were a few cars in the area but it wasn’t overly busy.
After quickly donning boots we left the road heading up the small track at the back of the parking area leading to a steep ascent up the shoulder of Am Bodach. We were getting bitten all the way by hundreds of midges which was not very pleasant at the time, I was leading the walk under Danny’s direction and headed up the steep shoulder for the 800m ascent to the summit of Am Bodach. It was quite a tough ascent but the superb views were opening up as we ascended helping to take our mind of the pain. As we got nearer the first top I was more concerned about the way forward. I decided to traverse around the North side of the top of Am Bodach whereas Danny, who had walked this route before, led Keithy directly over the top. I soon found myself with a small vertical climb to get to the top which was quite scary. Danny later said that there was a look of terror on my face as I ascended to meet him but I was ok, honest.
I later read a book on this route and it warned the reader “Follow the crampon marks directly over the top. If you try to go around the side you will get into difficulties”.
Having revisited this route I can’t quite see where I went wrong as the route seems to be quite straight forward.
We continued on our way with a very steep descent. I think this is pretty much the steepest descent on the ridge. There is a sling here for those that wish to Abseil but in truth with good weather and a little bit of care the descent does not prove to be too demanding. There are now a couple of scrambles leading to the summit of the first Munro, Meall Dearg. The views of the Glencoe peaks are superb but you also now have a good view of the ridge ahead and it looks daunting to say the least.
From here on it’s a series of scrambles and rocky ascents and descents crossing the so called Crazy Pinnacles, which at times become very narrow with steep drops on either side. I do remember at one point I ascend from a very narrow ridge up a small cleft in the rock and my heart was racing as I reached the top but apart from that there were no real issues. After traversing this impressive ridge there is one final sting in the tale before the final Munro.
There is a final steep descent onto a narrow ridge leading to the Munro top of Stob Coire Leith after which it’s an easy ridge walk to the second Munro of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. After a rest and taking in the breath-taking views we continue for approximately 500m down to the bealach and descend directly South down the steep scree slopes following the Allt an t Sidhein to Loch Achtriochtan. This is a steep scree slope descending 900m with lots of scree and this takes its toll on the legs.
After a swift walk back up the road to the car it’s now a short drive to the Clachaig Inn for a pie and a pint before the drive home.
What an exhilarating fantastic day in the hills.