Aonach Eagach:
Sgorr nam Fiannaidh - 967m
Stob Coire Leith - 940m
Aonach Eagach 900m

Meall Dearg - 953m
Am Bodach - 943m

Sunday 10th June 2012

Weather/Conditions: Generally misty. Cloud formed to pretty much all levels in Glen Coe. The pinnacles were clear near the start of the day, but I climbed them in mist. Sometimes completely calm on the tops - a bit surreal. And a bit of drizzle between Meall Dearg and Am Bodach.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 10km / 1450m / 4h 55m
Accompanying: Alone

This trip was completely unexpected. The Saturday had been the Michael Coffield Memorial Football Tournament in Paisley, where I made an appearance. I didn't actually play but it was good to meet faces again. Among those was Sam Munro. At the game, she said she was going straight onto Glen Coe got a nice evening before returning home the next day, which presented an opportunity...

Anyway, I got a lift up and made the most of this short time to get something done.

In 2010, I did the Aonach Eagach and found it extremely challenging. I'd hardly done any climbing, and a bad experience in 2007 (Beinn Narnain, Spearhead) made me nervous about doing anything related to climbing, or anything that involved exposure.

But in the intervening time, I'd picked up my climbing. I'd done some trad climbing (up to E1 headpoints) and some bouldering (font 6c at Dumbarton). It was an immensely exciting prospect therefore to consider doing the Aonach Eagach myself, and finally put that little demon to bed.

The previous night, a local had told me it was worth just going straight up the flank of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh from the Clachaig junction. I decided to give it a shot, and set off from the Independent Hostel on a dull and misty morning. It was good light for some photos, though.

I headed up the flank, fine at first, but I soon realised that it was pretty damn steep! I'd get a patch of grass, then a bit with scree, all in all leading to a sense of lack of attachment to the hill. Going this way also made me realise how big this hill is - from the Clachaig, the foreshortened view can make the hillside appear somewhat tame. By the time I was gaining on the summit area of Fiannaidh, I was feeling exposed. It was fairly intense, and I was quite relieved to make the top in good time and also in one piece... and if I felt that way about some easy scree and grass, how would the Aonach Eagach feel?

The summit of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh was misted in, but it was calm and also thankfully dry. I decided I'd better make headway, and set off on an easterly course, over Stob Coire Leith and onto the pinnacles themselves. It was utterly thrilling to know that once I'd vowed not to come back. Yet I couldn't keep myself away, and here I was, alone, in less than perfect weather, about to do all the climbing I'd been so fearful of in 2010.

Needless to say, the pinnacles were dispatched with ease, but I did notice a couple of cruxes: a little down climb to reach the Crazy Pinnacles was particularly footless - harder than anything else and maybe right for about the grade Moderate. (I think the Aonach Eagach is a bit harder than folk grade it). Once I got to the pinnacles, a big chunk of the pinnacles had weathered off, fallen on top of one of the pinnacles, and was now straddled across the top of it. It was loose enough that I could rock it back and forth. I tried to climb around it, but it was fairly difficult - I'd have to go straight over. The thinking was, if I don't touch it, it won't move. I climbed down past it, knowing that if it released, it would probably take me with it.

And yet, I wasn't frightened by the thought. It was simply matter of fact. It's quite astounding that in a couple of years my head had matured and now the Aonach Eagach was now absolutely fine. I did wonder if I was happy was because the pinnacles were clouded in, thus no exposure. But subsequent visits have confirmed that this wasn't the case.

Over Meall Dearg, a light drizzle began to fall. But confidence had skyrocketed and I began to look forward to climbing the Am Bodach step - which I knew could well be damp. It was damp, and I climbed it, easily. It was no problem at all, and now just a descent awaited to Glen Coe to meet Sam.

Funnily enough my only real issue all day was when I got a bit lost on the descent of Am Bodach. With the mist ever-thick, I accidentally headed into a gully on it's south face. Bad idea! It took a compass bearing and a bit of map work to relocate the path and get back to the glen, but I was down fine. Sam picked me up and we headed back to Glasgow.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 4.35am Glen Coe Independent YH
(2.30) 7.05pm Sgorr nam Fiannaidh
(2.30) 7.05pm Stob Coire Leith
(2.30) 7.05pm Meall Dearg
(2.30) 7.05pm Am Bodach
(4.20) 8.55pm Glen Coe car park

Written: 2015-04-13