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Aonach Eagach - Camping On The Knife’s Edge

Highland, United Kingdom

Details

Distance

6 miles

Elevation Gain

3608.9 ft

Route Type

Point-to-Point

Description

Added by Jakub Konieczynski

Take on the challenge of traversing the notorious Aonach Eagach ridge in the Glen Coe area of the Scottish Highlands and experience breathtaking views, tricky scrambles and dizzying exposure that come with this classic walk. Easily accessible and free from heavy traffic, this traverse makes for one memorable and highly rewarding adventure.

  • Distance from Fort William: 40km (25mi)
  • Total Distance: 9.5km (6mi)
  • Altitude Gain: 1100m (3608ft)
  • Time: 6-9h
  • Terrain: Difficult (exposed scrambling)
  • Navigation: Easy (no space for deviation)
  • Accessibility: Good (car park at the trailhead)

If taking a train to Fort William, the trailhead lies some 40km (25mi) south and can be accessed by car or using a Citilink bus running along Glen Coe. Remember to tell the bus driver where you need dropped off!

The walk begins at the Buachaille Etive Mor car park and offers a stunning view of Buachaille Etive Mor - the most photographed mountain in United Kingdom. From there, take a narrow rocky path north to gain about 250m before you reach an obvious junction at about 550m (1800ft) above sea level. Head off west and gain another 150m to reach the summit of Stob Mhic Martuin. This makes for a really decent campsite and going any further means the ground will be too rocky to drive the pegs in. Even there, the soil is very thin and you’ll have to do a bit of probing before you find a patch of ground with sufficient depth to pitch your tent - needless to say that any such attempt should be avoided in really high winds, otherwise you risk your pegs coming out altogether.

This first stage shouldn’t take longer than an hour so depending on the time of the year, going soon before the sunset might be a good idea if you want to catch the golden hour from high up with your tent already pitched.

Next morning make sure to get up early - not just so that you can catch one of the most spectacular sunrises you’ll ever see, but also due to the sheer length and difficulty of this walk which can take anything between 6 and 9 hours, depending on your fitness, time of the year and weather conditions.

Once you get on the ridge (hailed by many as the narrowest one on the British mainland), you’ll have no choice but to commit as there are virtually no escape routes along the way which is worth considering during your pre-hike risk assessment. Access to the ridge is extremely difficult for any emergency personnel which makes even simple injuries like a sprained ankle much more serious than they would be should they befall you on an easier hike. Also, remember that being so high up for so long means you won’t be able to refill your water bottle so make sure you bring plenty of liquids with you!

While on the ridge, expect dramatic pinnacles, steep scree slopes, sheer drops on both sides and some serious scrambling action. If you’re extremely lucky (like I was!), you’ll get to see a very rare phenomena known as the Brocken Spectre, where your shadow appears to be cast against a circular rainbow below.  

When you’re nearing the end of the traverse, the village of Glencoe and Loch Leven should come into your view. Once on the final stretch of Sgurr na Cìche, don’t be tempted to try and descend down one of the gullies to your left as they’re full of scree and have claimed many lives over the years. Instead, carry on straight past two cairns and turn slightly right keeping an eye out for a rocky, zig-zaggy path which will take you straight down to the road and…

Snap! Your car is back at the BEM car park, some 11km away. Make sure you account for that before you start the traverse as the bus service along this road tends to be rather irregular. Trying to get a ride back to the car park might be an option as local people are known for being quite okay with hitch hikers. 

No luck? No problem! Should you find yourself stranded at the end of your walk with the nightfall approaching fast, don’t despair - about a mile south along the main road leading back to the car park waits the famous Clachaig Inn whose 3 unique bars boast a fantastic selection of Scottish and foreign spirits - from Japanese whisky to Isle of Skye ales. The inn also offers a restaurant and cheap accommodation so you can treat yourself to a meal and spend a night in one of their rooms before resuming your adventure the next morning.



Remember! - should any accident happen, make sure you dial 999 and ask the switch-board to put you through to the police, explaining the nature of your call. Don't try to contact Mountain Rescue Scotland directly. When giving your location, try and be as specific as possible. Having your current GPS reading or your map's grid reference to hand will be very helpful.

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