The Aonach Eagach ridge is one of the most famous hillwalking challenges in Scotland; feared by some, boasted about by others and occasionally described as epic by those who dare in winter.
This linear ridge runs along the northerly side of Glencoe (which is more or less east-west). On the southerly side is the Bidean range including the famous "three sisters". The ridge itself runs frm Sron Gharbh/Am Bodach in the east to Sgurr nam Fiannaidh in the west, just above the Clachaig Inn. You could almost say that the ridge runs from the King's House hotel to the Clachaig Inn, but might give the wrong impression about hillwalkers/mountaineers!
How hard is it?
There is much hype about about traversing the Aonach Eagach, about how hard it is and about how scary and to some extent these stories have a smattering of truth and merit. The ridge isn't for the faint hearted and it can definitely be dangerous. However, if you have a head for heights and a certain amount of confidence that means you can withstand the exposure then you have nothing to fear from the ridge traverse - except getting stuck behind a group of people less "able" than yourself, roped up and moving slightly slower than a garden snail...
There are several technical difficulties on the ridge. You cannot avoid either of the more difficult descents or much of the scrambling and if you think you want to why are you even thinking about going? The ridge is narrow some of the time but it isn't like that all the way along - much of the ridge is just like any other - there's just some entertainment in between! Entertainment that almost anyone (see above) can cope with.
If you are planning to go in a larger group and suspect that a confidence rope is going to be used then please consider other people. Having 10 people on a rope on the ridge (5m apart) is not ideal and will really slow you down... and no-one will be able to get past you because that would be dangerous.
If you're not with a qualified guide then you probably shouldn't be roped in this manner anyway - if you must rope up, I would suggest groups of no more than 3 - how can the first person on the rope (probably the most experienced) protect the person at the back if there are 8 people in between???
OK, so you've decided to go and do it - what could go wrong? In summer, apart from missing the pub because you were benighted, not much! The only real problem is descent. If you're traversing from east-west you would probably expect to descend directly to the Clachaig Inn - don't! Clachaig Gully has a habit of eating the unwary - people die trying this descent!!! [Especially at night.] There are two other descent routes, down the scree slopes before the gully (nasty but relatively safe) or the recommended descent route which entails going over the summit and descending to the col before the Pap of Glencoe and then descending the easy, well worn path. Chech for restricions on using this route before setting out - this is a working farm and access may be closed!
The only other thing you might prepare for is having to snack on the ridge when you get stuck behind slower moving groups - sun-tan cream and inect repellant could be useful, too.
In order to maximise your day the adventurous could consider doing the traverse at night(!) or bivvying on Am bodach and getting started before the crowds.
The route I'm going to describe is probably the best one and runs from East - West. It's not that it's more exciting but I find it's better to finish closer to the car & the pub. Two cars are better than one because it is a linear ridge - you're going to end up about 6km from where you started so 1 car left at the Three Sisters' viewpoint (171 568) and one at the Clachaig Inn is the easiest way to do things - otherwise you can try hitching back to your car later...
Starting at the viewpoint, make you way to the summit of Sron Garbh, or if you're lazy (like me) just head for the summit of Am Bodach, the descent from which is the first difficulty on the ridge!
The descent from Am Bodach and the traverse of the Chancellor is short and sharp and care/steady nerves are certainly required - some people would argue that this represents the "worst" part of the ridge. If you're in a group, be careful to give everyone enough space/time - don't hurry anyone here - a slip could be very nasty. Once you've downclimbed the pillar/staircase you're at the top of a steep gully which you only need to skirt across (slippy) before a very short knife-edge section (<3m) leading to more reassuring ground...
From here you make your way over the ridge/pinnacles at your leisure - in good weather only easy scrambling is required and on a fine day you'll probably not notice the big steep drops... on a more atmospheric day some people might describe the pinnacles as scary...
The only other part of the ridge that could really be described as nasty is the descent from the summit of Meall Dearg - it's a uniform slop at an angle of about 45° and there isn't much to convince you you're not going to slip! There is a descent amount of friction from the rock though but rollerskates/running shoes would not be recommended - serious boots nly, please.
Enjoy, enjoy - then follow the more prosaic ridge to the summit of Sgurr nam Fiannaidh. Descend from either the scree (take a rough bearing to Loch Achtriochtan from the summit and follow it by the easiest route not the steepest) or the recommended route from (126 592) the col before Sgorr na Ciche (Pap of Glencoe).
It's well worth going to the Pap - the views down Loch Leven to Kinlochleven and over the Mamores is beautiful - and the descent is much safer and better for your knees!
The best map for this area is the OS Outdoor Leisure 38 - Ben Nevis & Glen Coe - 1:25,000 map.
You can't get lost on the ridge but you still have to be able to mapread/navigate effectively - you have to get onto and off of the ridge safely! As uaual, everyone in the group should have a map/compass and know how to use them properly.
In summer you need all the usual stuff; good boots, waterproofs, food, water and insect repellant!