Aonach Eagach Ridge


The trail:

  • Location: Scotland
  • Categories: Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter / Highland / Mountain / Rural /
  • Duration: 6-8 Hours
  • Distance: 6 Miles

Walking the trail:

  • Summary: A superb Grade 2 scramble in the heart of Glen Coe. Regarded as the most difficult and narrowest horizontal scrambling ridge in mainland Scotland. A mountain adventure not to be missed if you have a head for heights.

A year has passed since myself and my mountain buddy Chris walked this cracking mountain ridge trail in the heart Glen Coe in Scotland. If you find yourself driving northbound along the famous A82 road through the Glen Coe valley, half way along, take a look up the mountains to your right and you will see a section high above of fear inducing jagged misty pinnacles. That is where this trail takes you!

This mountain route was the first of our Scotland adventures, and what a start to an epic 2 weeks of mountain fun. We don't start on easy walks, an exciting grade 2 scramble adventure straight away thank you!

The Aonach Eagach has been regarded as the most difficult and narrowest horizontal scrambling ridge in mainland Scotland, although it vies with the Liathach ridge (another we walked but had to bail due to very high winds) in the Torridon range. In terms of technical scrambling it could be considered no harder than a grade 1 however what makes it more difficult is the exposure. Some sections are extremely exposed both sides and once you have committed to the ridge it is next to impossible to safely bail out with very steep dangerous slopes each side, so a good head of heights is essential!

Anyone taking on this route as well can bag the Munros of Meall Dearg and Sgorr Nam Fiannaid.

The ridge can be talked in both directions but we opted to leave the car at the small carpark 300m west of Allt-na-reigh and walk westwards towards Glencoe village. This start point gives quite a tough uphill ascent up too Am Bodach (943m) However the rewarding views southwards towards the Three Sisters is more than worth the slog up!

You can't see the ridge itself until you are up and past Am Bodach and by the time we reached that point the nice sunny weather we had enjoyed had now disappeared, replaced with mist and rain and that 2km of ridge in the distance started to look very ominous! Luckily the weather still showed some brightness during the adventure although it stayed wet and extra care needed to be taken during the more slippery scrambling sections!

I must admit I can't quite remember (being a year ago since walked. Dam my late writing) any specific sections of ridge apart from the bit known as the pinnacles which are sheer sided teeth you have to climb across with very steep drops all round. As we climbed the last section, we came across a group heading in the opposite direction asking for the right way, which we directed and their response being.."you're joking, down there?!" There is also a section that gives 2 directions, one looking safer than the other, however this is misleading and has caused more accidents than the more exposed technical route.

I personally didn't think the scrambling was particularly difficult however there are some very steep high ascents and descents so it's all about taking your time and making sure you're comfortable with your footholds before committing to the next hold. Most of the scrambling is like this during the ridge and even more so in the wet. Snow obviously would be a different proposition and become a proper technical gear mountaineering affair.

Another thing about the route is just how long it takes. For a fairly short 6-mile route across it does take a long time to do all those scrambling ups and downs and the descent past Sgorr Nam Fiannaid seems to take a hell of a long time and is along very rocky paths which is very slow going. It is a great feeling though once you are through the last of the pinnacles of scrambling and you can see the misty ridge behind knowing it has been conquered!

Funnily enough that was only half of our adventure during the day. As we finished the ridge, I noticed a red bag/coat in the distance right at the base of the ridge where the pinnacles are situated. I joked about it being a person who had fallen (having seen a red coated person in the distance at the beginning of the scramble) which then concerned us just in case it was someone. After bit of deliberation Chris decided to call mountain rescue which led to multiple calls back asking if it was a body, our response being , we have no idea but potentially yes it could be! We then had to go to the mountain rescue building in Glencoe where Chris was bundled into a van and taken along the road to Kinlochleven where she directed a guy on a quad bike who then used a drone to fly to the area in question. I was left to get a taxi back to the car and then find them. Luckily it was just a red backpack, somehow just left there? It was all very interesting how the search was carried out and the mountain rescue team seemed very grateful we called on them. It was all very eventful and funny but also very late by the time it all finished so our dinner consisted of a sandwich and sausage roll from the co-op in Kinlochleven! I can only say such events make these types of adventures more memorable!

Regardless of our extra little adventure there is still the requirement to get back to the car once you have finished. Best bet is to taxi back or if you are in a group make sure you leave a car both ends perhaps. The idea of walking back along the A82 is not particularly appealing as you will most likely be tired after the hike and its pretty dangerous as well walking along that road. Drivers and very distracted by the spectacular scenery! A point to note is you would finish this route quicker than we did as you can descent from the mountain well before Glencoe village which will bring you down to the Clachaig Inn pub which would definitely be a more suitable celebratory finish than we had.

So, if your fitness is good and you have a head for heights and enjoy some scrambling then this mountain adventure is definitely for you. I would say for sure that if you have not scrambled before Definitely do some grade 1 scrambles first and see how you get on as you generally have safe bail out options on them if things don't quite go to plan. On the Aonach Eagach  ridge this just is not an option.

It really is a fantastic day out and one that any mountain trip to Scotland should include!

Any questions please feel free to send me a message.

GPX file available on request.