Aonach Eagach from Bidean nam Bian

Aonach Eagach traverse

Rock-scrambling route in Glencoe up Meall Dearg and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh

A commiting rock-scrambling route crossing the famed Aonach Eagach running along the northern side of Glencoe. The traverse takes in the two Munro summits of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and Meall Dearg, while tackling some exposed sections of rock-scrambling.

Route outline


Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, 

Meall Dearg

Ascent 1200m (3930ft)
Distance 8km (5m)
Time 6:00hr
Start Three Sister's car-park (north)
Grid Ref : NN173568
Finish By Loch Achtriochtan
Grid Ref : NN147571
easy hard
easy hard
easy hard
ok fab

The Aonach Eagach which appropriately means 'notched ridge', travels along the northern side of Glencoe and is probably the most famous ridge in the country. Viewed from Glencoe below, the Aonach Eagach ridge appears as a narrow crest with a series of small towers. It is only once onto the crest that the scale and size of the ridge of becomes apparent.

This is a commiting route and there are no 'escape' routes from the ridge between Meall Dearg and Stob Coire Leith. To attempt this route, you'll need a decent head for heights and be confident on at least Grade 1 rock-scrambling ground. You may find comfort in the security of a rope on some sections or prefer the help of a guide (see below).

Route map

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Route description

1. Getting to Glencoe

Looking down to the Aonach Eagach car-aprk in Glencoe

Looking down to the Aonach Eagach car-aprk in Glencoe

On the A82 in the heart of Glencoe there are two large car-parks looking over to the impressive buttresses of the Three Sisters of Glencoe. Just up the road from these car-parks and on the other side of the road there is a rough smaller car-park with room for around 5 or 6 vehicles - the route starts from here.

This route finishes down the glen, just east of Loch Achtriochtan - a path tracing the line of the old road connects the start and end points.

2. Am Bodach

On Am Bodach

On Am Bodach

From the rough car-park, aim uphill on an obvious path climbing steeply aimming eastwards. The path turns northwards and meets some old iron fence-posts, and then climbs another 200m of ascent where there are a couple of options .

The route from this point that most people take heads directly uphill north-westwards, following the path, rough and loose in places with a few hands-out-of-pockets moves, ending up on the summit of Am Bodach .

Alternatively, a better route follows faint traces of an older path that initially heads right under a buttress of rock to pick up the banks of the Allt Ruigh. Crossing this burn a couple of times (a good place to top up water-bottles), a final grassy ascent leads onto the crest between Sron Ghairbh and Am Bodach for a superb view along the Aonach Eagach towards Meall Dearg. A rough ascent up bouldery ground gains the summit of Am Bodach .

3. Meall Dearg

Aonach Eagach ridge leading westwards from Meall Dearg

Aonach Eagach ridge leading westwards from Meall Dearg

After taking in the views from Am Bodach (stunning over the Mamores to Ben Nevis), the next bit is slightly tricky and sets the scene for the the traverse of the Aonach Eagach.

From Am Bodach's summit follow the path north-west and it comes to a sudden and sharp drop. The drop is around 20m or so and looks a lot more difficult to climb down than it actually is, though it can be slippy if wet. Keeping to the north side of the crest, start to descend, the route quickly switches back left (south), and drops in a series of big steps to the safety of the path below. You'll know if you're on the right route if you can see the fence-post and crampon-marks !

This awkward bit done, there's some easy rocky ground to reach the bealach between Am Bodach and the Aonach Eagach's east Munro, Meall Dearg. Continue westwards, passing occasional fence-posts and The Chancellor - a huge drop on the south side of the ridge - and reach the Munro summit of Meall Dearg .

4. Crazy Pinnacles

On the Crazy Pinnacles (pic courtesy Al Halewood)

On the Crazy Pinnacles (pic courtesy Al Halewood)

From Meall Dearg's summit, continue west on the obvious and well-worn path downhill following the crest of the ridge.

A narrow gap is followed by a climb of 15m up a chimney (much easier than it looks), then continue along the distinct path on ridge's crest, some short sections of easy scrambling and rough moves on the way.

Eventually the crux of the ridge, the 'Crazy Pinnacles' , is reached with drops on both sides. A path descending westwards on the north side of the ridge looks like a bypass path - it's not, it's a dead end ! Keeping to the ridge and on its north side manouvre yourself by hugging the two pinnacles - it looks daunting, but again it's actually easier than it looks - there are good handholds to be found.

You'll now be confronted with a short steep exposed rise, there is no option but to head straight up it - again it's easier than it looks !

(pic courtesy Al Halewood)

5. Sgorr nam Fiannaidh

Ridge done, heading up to Stob a'Choire Leith

Ridge done, heading up to Stob a'Choire Leith

That's the real difficulties over with ! Continue along the ridge tackling a few more easy rock-scrambling bits on the way and reach Stob Coire Leith .

The path continues along the ridge over easy ground to a bealach , then goes up some patches of scree and boulders to the cairn on Sgorr nam Fiannaidh . Superb views in all directions, particularly back along the ridge just done.

6. Return to Glencoe

Descending screes down to Glencoe

Descending screes down to Glencoe

There are various options for descent, including a direct route down to the Clachaig (probably best avoided as considered dangerous) or the Pap of Glencoe path which will see you end up around 2km north of the Clachaig.

My personal choice begins with a return to the bealach , then descending initially on steep loose scree, head directly downhill. Traces of path can be picked up on the scree with the route turning south-west with some sections of good running screes - great fun bounding down.

Lower down the screes are replaced by grass and a couple of paths can be picked up to descend to the A82 - one follows the Allt an t-Sidhein to the western end of Loch Achtriochtan, the other aims direct for the long lay-by to the east of Loch Achtriochtan.

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