/ Aonach Eagach

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ralphio - on 02 Mar 2017
We've been meaning to do the Aonach Eagach for a while now but because it has a bit of a reputation I think I've built it up in my head to a point I'm almost to scared to try. We've done all the usual grade 2's in the area Golden Oldie, Dorsal Arete, Ledge Route etc and a few PD's in the alps. How much is it a step up from the routes I've mentioned? Or am I just getting myself in a flap about nothing?
1
Pina - on 02 Mar 2017
In reply to ralphio:

It's probably a step down in terms of technical difficulty. It's just long and quite exposed. It didn't look like it was much in winter condition yesterday but that might change with the snow coming in.
andy hunter - on 02 Mar 2017
In reply to ralphio:

Others might feel differently, but for me, ridges like that are different from 'straight up' climbs. (Mind you, the latter still have the walk in and walk off, as well, which can be hugely demanding).

4 of us did Liathach in good winter conditions (two ropes) and it wasn't the technicality that was a challenge so much as -

(a). the energy level required to do 2 Munros and a top in snow, and
(b).the up and down climbing made quite different demands on your head/attention/thinking.

The AE isn't quite as arduous as Liathach, perhaps, but the exposure is there just the same. It'd make for a hard day of Winter Mountaineering, requiring fitness and good basic alpine skills. Skilled moving together on a rope would be useful, perhaps.

I've no idea what current conditions are like. Certainly one to tick all the prep boxes for before trying it.

TheGeneralist - on 02 Mar 2017
In reply to ralphio:

Go for it. I'm a pisch winter climber (never got above grade 2ish) and built it up in my mind as this huge deal. But luckily I discovered the secret on a summer trip without a car....

Do it from West to East, really. It's far far better that way. By some quirk, most of the ridge is a bit of a sawtooth, with the vertical bits more often than not facing west and the uphills facing east.

The first time I did the AE in summer I really didn't like it. Lots of walking up slopes and then downclimbing rocks (Am Bodach anyone?)

The next time I ignored the guidebook and did it from the Clachaig, it was a revelation.

When we did it in winter from the Clachaig it was just lovely. Nohard scary bits, just really nice fairly easy climbing up stuff. I was amazed how simple it was.

Go East young man
TheGeneralist - on 02 Mar 2017
In reply to ralphio:

you also don't need to stress about the decent route at the Clachaig/Pap
Somerset swede basher - on 02 Mar 2017
In reply to ralphio:

I have done it summer and winter. In winter I remember a tricky down climb at the start but I think most parties abb that (there was tat insitu at the time and others on the day abbed).

I've not done GO. DA I thought was harder. I found ledge route very exposed (should probably have taken a 2nd axe) and therefore scarier than the AE. I would only put it off it its very windy.
Stuart en Écosse - on 02 Mar 2017
In reply to ralphio:
I think I've done it 7 times in a variety of winter conditions, mostly from the east but a couple of times from the west. I'm not sure I'd pick a favourite way, but as far as difficulty goes, from what you've described about your experience I'd say you'd have a brilliant time, it is a magnificent outing. It is serious of course, but it is all there and shouldn't give you any trouble unless the conditions are unusually horrendous (in which case go and do something else).

Assuming there is not a trail of footprints, there are a couple of short sections where the route finding is not as obvious as you might anticipate on a sharp ridge. Nothing treacherous, just requires a bit of attention. If you are doing it with someone there would be no harm in taking a rope and couple of big slings. Start early, many people finish it later than planned (in the dark).

I haven't been near the Clachaig Gully path in a long time but if you are not familiar with it then I'd avoid it for a descent, too many tired people have come to grief there. All the best and hope you have great day on it.
Post edited at 20:56
Simon Caldwell - on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to TheGeneralist:

> you also don't need to stress about the decent route at the Clachaig/Pap

Not sure I'd agree with that if you get there after dark - we found it very hard work both in route finding and terrain (the latter possibly due to a failure in the former!)
1
colinakmc - on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to Somerset swede basher:
> I have done it summer and winter. In winter I remember a tricky down climb at the start but I think most parties abb that (there was tat insitu at the time and others on the day abbed).

A few people abseil off Am Bodach but it's not compulsory and it slows everything down massively. Been over AE a couple of dozen times, summer and winter, never used a rope. Always East to west, strangely - lack of imagination! It's good for your Alpine technique, keeping moving as long as there's somewhere to put your feet (there always is)
You're giving me the notion to get back there....

Re Clachaig Gully path it's very unstable and there have been a couple of fatalities there, it's not recommended. Best to either head round to the Pap of Glencoe and down there, or else circle the shallow N facing coire just after the second Munro, then head down towards the road. It's a knee wrecker but doesn't kill.
Post edited at 11:54
shantaram - on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

I think what TheGeneralist meant was if you do the AE from west to east you don't have to stress about the descent route at the Clachaig/Pap
Simon Caldwell - on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to shantaram:

Yes I think you're right
1
tistimetogo on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to colinakmc:

Just a note regarding the Am Bodach abseil - because the ridge stuck out and there were snow platforms on either side at the bottom we did simu-abseil. This worked well and I think if you were slick it would def be the fastest way (as long as everyone knows what they're doing).

Would be curious if anyone else has simu'd this section?

We saw another guy soloing the route but he looked like he regretted it at one point. He was being cautious/stuck on the crux for some time. I'd suggest having a rope in winter.
1
ChrisH89 - on 06 Mar 2017
In reply to ralphio:
We did it on Saturday as a west to east traverse - it's in pretty decent nick right now. If you've done stuff like Golden Oldy, Dorsal Arete, Ledge Route etc you'll be fine. A lot of it is very similar to Golden Oldy, it's just a lot longer and there's more downclimbing involved. We didn't bother using a rope at all: it's often easier than it looks like it'll be. There are sections you might want one for it you're not 100% sure about soloing though as the exposure is pretty serious at times. It's a long route though so rope management would be important if you want to be off before nightfall!
Post edited at 12:36
olddirtydoggy - on 06 Mar 2017
In reply to ralphio:

Get it done!
colinakmc - on 06 Mar 2017
In reply to tistimetogo:

Maybe just demonstrates that everyone's got their own level of tolerance for exposure. I already had a couple of summer traverses done before I got round to it in winter, and tbh I love be the snow & ice anyway. (Not at I'm great at winter climbing or anything)
nufkin - on 07 Mar 2017
In reply to ChrisH89:

> it's just a lot longer and there's more downclimbing involved. We didn't bother using a rope at all: it's often easier than it looks like it'll be. There are sections you might want one for it you're not 100% sure about soloing though as the exposure is pretty serious at times.

One of the hazards to bear in mind, if going W to E, is all the other people coming the other way - especially on a Saturday. Passing each other at some points is tricky
ChrisH89 - on 07 Mar 2017
In reply to nufkin:

True. We didn't have to deal with that as we had the ridge to ourselves: I guess the forecast put everyone off, though it ended up not being that bad! But I imagine there are plenty of chokepoints on a good weather day.
Jim C - on 07 Mar 2017
In reply to ralphio:
We took a group of local Ramblers ( young and old) with no problems . ( Towards the Clachaig )
( summer)
Post edited at 18:31

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