Building up to the ridge.
Aonach Eagach (pronounced oonack eegack, we’re reliably informed) is the UK mainland ridge held in the highest regard by a lot of walkers and climbers. Because of it’s reputation, I had wanted to do this ridge for a long time. On our 1999 annual Scotland trip, we had perfect weather conditions for an attempt but decided to go elsewhere. June 2000 would be different, I’d dug my heels in and weather permitting, we’d be there. Naturally I was expecting crap weather for the rest of my life, but I was wrong. The day we decided to go for it, conditions were spot on – dry, not much wind and excellent visibility. Maybe we’d actually get to the end of this fearsome bit of rock.
We parked up in front of the 3 sisters to get ready – they weren’t interested so we drove on to Aonach Eagach ! Paul dropped us off as he was mountain biking that day and wasn’t interested in “The Ridge”, and promised to pick us up later at the other end. Nice chap!
Larking around on the ridge.
What a start. 2000 feet of ascent immediately. Nothing like being broken in gently. We followed the path alongside a gulley with a stream in it, gradually snaking our way to the start of the ridge proper. What a view. Glencoe gradually opens up in front of you everywhere you look there’s breathtaking scenery. As you drop down from the start of the ridge the Chancellor appears, jutting out into the valley and challenging you to well, if your name’s “Chris”, moon at everyone. Even HIS arse looked small compared to the surroundings. John, Mark and I sat in the small col and waited.
I took some video as luckily I’d decided to take the camcorder along, using the zoom to turn a thin grey line way down in the valley into a road. We gradually made our way along the ridge, taking care on a couple of slabs which slope off to thin air and 2000 feet of “oh shit I’m going to die”. In the dry the tricky parts of the ridge seemed to be less troublesome than parts of Crib Goch on Snowdon, or Bristly Ridge on Tryfan. This is not to belittle the dangers at all, we were well aware of the risks involved and wet or windy (or both) weather would have transformed an enjoyable scramble into a buttock – clenching experience. My personal feelings are, if the weather’s good, you’re reasonably fit and have no fear for heights; this ridge should be top of your wish list.
As we walked along the ridge I kept pausing to admire the scenery, to try and take it all in. Thank God for video and photography. We paused for lunch on one of the ridge’s tops, Sgorr nam Fianniadh and I did a 360 degree shot of the view – Ben Nevis, The Mamores, The Grey Corries, Rannoch Moor, Schiehallion, Buachaille Etive Mor, Bidean nam Bian, Beinn a Bheithir – just how good does it get? Well you could be looking at it from the cockpit of a jet fighter. The RAF were doing some low level manoeuvres and we were fortunate enough to be in a saddle in the ridge when one banked and flew over us – it felt like we could touch the wings it was so close.
Thankfully there were no “incidents” with our bunch but a group of older people we crossed paths with seemed to be having fun. They were all roped and one person, who really didn’t want to be there, was holding things up a bit. Like I said, you don’t wanna be scared of heights.
Climbing the Pap and loosing John.
Chris, Mark and myself decided to go do the Pap Of Glencoe at the end of the ridge and agreed to meet up with John back on the path. Either we were more tired than we thought, the ascent was steeper, further, or a combination of all these, but shit it was hard work. Mountain goat Mark, as tribal leaders in Nepal call him, came breezing past me like I was going backwards, and despite several attempts, all the rocks I threw at him whilst shouting BASTAAAAAARD missed.
Nothing much else happened, apart from loosing John, going down a bit, waiting a bit, deciding John MUST be in the pub, going down a bit more, spotting a sheep, the sheep turning into John, John turning into an annoyed John, and finally ….. ah the pub.
It was a top day. The scenery was the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying and can only be described as breathtaking. I’ve done the ridge now. I’ve done scarier scrambles but I don’t underestimate it at all. We all had PERFECT conditions and nobody slipped, twisted an ankle, got hit by a falling rock, sneezed at the wrong time, or did any of the hundred and one things that can turn a day into a nightmare.
Would’ve liked to have been in that jet though.
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