How Difficult Is The Aonach Eagach Ridge Hike?
The Aonach Eagach ridge in Glen Coe is one of the most famous mountain climbing routes in the UK, up there with Crib Goch on Snowdon, Hellvellyn in the Lake District, or Tryfan in Snowdonia. It is a huge challenge, that can bring a sense of adventure, excitement and achievement, and the reward of spectacular views over mountains, lochs, and glens.
So, can anyone just rock up and expect to get to the top, or do you need special skills and training first? The answer to this question is a firm no, because you do need to have some decent scrambling skills to make sure that you can cope with the narrow ridge and steep chimneys. You also need to have a good head for heights!
Scrambling is regarded as a middle stage between walking and climbing. It requires the use of both hands and feet to navigate steep and rocky terrain, but not necessarily the use of equipment such as ropes or harnesses.
However, the line between scrambling and rock climbing is not easy to draw, because it depends on the experience and agility of the individual. The weather and conditions can also make a huge difference to the difficulty of the route, with even a light drizzle adding an extra layer of slippery treachery to the rocky surfaces.
the Aonach Eagach ridge is classed as a Grade 2 scramble by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), but some sources rate it as a Grade 3, or even a moderate climbing route. If you are fairly new to scrambling, it is recommended to learn some basics of rock climbing first, because some sections may require this.
Scrambling on the more difficult stretches is actually a more dangerous and demanding activity than rock climbing, because the risks are greater. The less scrambling experience you have, the more important it is that you should have some climbing training and equipment.
Many people book an experienced guide to help them with their first attempt at the ridge. This means that you can concentrate on the scramble without the extra work of navigating, and you will have someone to get your back if you get completely stuck! They will also offer you the benefit of their years of knowledge, which should stay with you for life.
So, if you fancy adding the Aonach Eagach to your bucket list, it’s important to get some scrambling practice in. If you’ve never done any before, start with a straightforward Grade 1 route. There are dozens of these in Scotland, the Lake District in England, and in Snowdonia in North Wales.
One of trickiest scrambling challenges are chimneys, which are vertical towers of rock, that requires you to use your body weight, hands, and feet, against the opposing rock faces. The skill lies in finding nooks and ledges that will support your hands and feet on the way up, or down, the rock.
Test each handhold and foothold first to check it will support your body weight. As your confidence and skills increase, you can move on to the tougher challenges.