Friday, 11 September 2009
The Traverse of the Aonach Eagach via the South Face of A'Chailleach
Today I awoke to blue sky and beams of sunlight shining over the summit of Aonach Dubh. That could only mean one thing: a hill day!
I walked up the length of Glen Coe admiring the clear lighting on the hills, making my way to the Study in preparation for an ascent of the South Face of A'Chailleach. This Grade 3 scramble is a route I've wanted to do for a while, as it appears to be a perfect 'playtime' route--just pick and choose which bits of rock you want to climb! It proved to be fantastic, and while it lacked a defined line and was somewhat contrived, many of the individual pitches were much better than anything on Curved Ridge.
The final crux pitch was simply magnificent (this is the cover shot for 'Scrambles in Lochaber'): a near-vertical corner-crack that looks utterly improbable for any kind of route described as a 'scramble'! Despite its forbidding appearance, however, it proved to be easier than the two tricker steps lower down; although it was very exposed.
After topping out on the ridge crest I then proceeded to make my first summer traverse of the Aonach Eagach. As I have some familiarity with the route from my winter traverse in February, and was nicely warmed up after 600m of scrambling already, I soon fell into a rhythm and made rapid progress along the ridge. My impression of the Aonach Eagach as a summer route is that it is a striking hillwalking ridge, interspersed with sections of quality scrambling. There's nothing hard here although a head for heights is obviously required, as there are several points where if you slip you will fall for nearly 3000ft!
Ignoring the Clachaig Gully path which other teams were making their way down, I chose the longer, safer descent via the col next to the Pap of Glencoe. Although it adds a mile or two to your journey, it is the safest way off the Aonach Eagach and avoids the excessively loose and steep ground next to Clachaig Gully which has been the scene of several fatalities over the past year. I would urge all scramblers most strongly to follow my route down, however tempting it may be to descend directly to the pub!
Today was the best day on the hill I've had since Skye, two months ago. I hope this good weather holds!
Photos from today