The OMC trip to the Alex Macintyre hut at Onich was blessed with some half decent weather (at least for the Saturday!) With snow on the ground, James and myself planned a classic winter traverse of the Aonach Eagach.
I grabbed a lift up the road with Andy, with a wee stop at the Clachaig for dinner on the way. The usual drinking and banter was curtailed by bag pre-packing and an early night before an ‘Alpine Start’ the following day.
We were up at about 5:15AM, and at the start of the route for 6AM, thinking that we might have over done the alpine start being the first car in the car park.
Fresh and drifted snow, coupled with our taking turns at breaking trail proved to be slow and tiring work. Below us we could see a trail of many head torches following along. Across the A82, we could also see folks slowly making their way up towards Bidean nam Bian. A couple of steeper pitches on the lower slopes while it was still dark got the interest levels up early on, and allowed us to pull away from a much larger group behind (which turned out to be my chums from Lancashire).
The sunrise was spectacular gradually picking out the details of more and more hills. Just after sunrise, we were thankfully overtaken by the first group (of many) young guns, thankfully because it meant that our trail-breaking days were over, some of those overtaking thanking us for our efforts!
Eventually, we arrived at the summit of Sron Gharbh marking the start of the ridge, where the hoards gathered. The usual abseil point onto the ridge proper was sans-tat, and my only sacrificable sling proved to be too short! No one else volunteered a sling so we gingerly down climbed the 1st section finding some tat about half way down. Unfortunately, I dropped a glove at this point, it stopped on top of the rope coils, but then set off again down the steeper slopes never to be seen again. Bugger!
Once down on the ridge proper, progress speeded up, with the main difficulty being the snow conditions. Unconsolidated powder snow, covering most of the natural protection, and no neve to be seen anywhere. Moving together on this sort of terrain would have been unwise.
We negotiated the minor difficulties, leap-frogging another group (from Leeds Uni), before arriving at the main pinnacles at the same time as they did. At this point, as we had arrived together, we opted to move together on the pinnacles as a group of 6, with their man (another James) at the front.
After the pinnacles, there is an awkward down-climb, down sloping slabs we started off down this, but then returned to some tat we had found on the way down and abbed it instead! After this, there is a climb out onto the final pinnacle, expertly led by James P, after I clipped into his sling and invited him to go forth!
After the pinnacles, its basically done with the two Munros lying beyond at the far (western) end of the ridge.
At the final Munro, we met up with a guy called Neil with his hareem he was a fellow drone fan, so it was time to get the birds out! (much to James’ annoyance!). We descended into the bealach near the pap of Glencoe, opting to remove crampons soon after leaving the ridge as they were becoming a pain with the deep powder snow and the uneven, rocky ground it covered. We managed to bum slide some of this which at least gave the legs a rest!
After that, there was just the long walk down into the glen and to the Clachaig, which seemed to go on forever, and involve lots of sliding about and falling over on the re-frozen snow lower down. On the road, we were thankful to get a message from Andy M, swiftly followed by a lift to the pub for a well earn’t pint! Grand day out and we were both spent.
I’ve previously done the ridge in about 7 hours, but due to the snow conditions this time, it took us around 12hours.
The following day dawned raining, and miserable. I think just about everyone had big days on the hill making the most of the weather Saturday so were were happy to bail and head home. On the way, we stopped at our hut in Crianlarich as Neil (the guy with the drone) was staying at our hut. I obtained his email address for the future sharing of drone footage and a wee edit can be seen below.