Aonachs seen from Ben Nevis
The Aonach mountains are the 7th and 8th highest mountains in Scotland, located just east of the Ben Nevis/Carn Mor Dearg massif. The two massives are connected by a low ridge (approx. 830m), by the Allt Daim stream.
The Aonachs massif is long and flat, where only the slightly narrow saddle introduces careful excitement. The normal routes run from the Nevis Ski Range or from the Steall ruin in the Glen Nevis valley. Another ridge extends passage eastbound towards the Grey Corries. The names are somewhat confusing. Even if Aonach Beag is the higher mountain, the name is "Little ridge" in English. The Aonach Mor ridge is however much longer.
In winter, the northern slopes of Aonach Mor are excellent for downhill skiing, and a number of skichairs and skitows take you up the mountain. In summer, a bike trail runs from the restaurant halfway up the mountain to the ski range visitor centre. A gondola runs from the visitor centre to the restaurant (approx. 650m).
The Aonachs from Nevis Ski Range (summer/autumn)
The route described below is not a hiking trail, but it will get you up the mountain. Please refer to the guide books for proper trail descriptions
The weather this morning was probably close to what I had expected
to find in Scotland. Misty and rainy. Nevertheless, inspired by the
many mountains around, I had to go for some high ones. I had studied
the Aonach ridge from Cairn Mor Dearg two days earlier, and could not
understand how one could *not* get those mountains even in dense fog.
I took a taxi (7 pounds) from Ft. William to the Nevis Ski Range, and asked around for the hiking trail. Noone knew of any trail and seemed puzzled by the question. "Why not take the gondola"? This was not an option, and I started to follow the forest road. I was not excited about the long walk eastbound before the forest road turned in the direction of the gondola, but at least I wouldn't get a biker in my face. Finally I saw some indication of a hiking trail, parallel to the bike trail. But after 10 minutes, I was in the bike trail, and decided to follow this upwards.
When the bike trail changed direction from the gondola, I left the bike trail and followed the gondola line. It was raining, and due to the fog I didn't see the restaurant until I got there. By the restaurant, I was looking around for a trail upwards, but only found trails going sideways. I decided to hike upwards into the fog and see what good fortune I would be blessed with. As the skitows were on my map, it was possible to understand where I was, while passing them. Soon I was on the beginning of the Aonach Mor ridge, with no view except the ground.
I followed the eastern side of the ridge for a while and moved towards the center when I saw a pole. Soon I reached the cairn (pile of rocks) and assumed this would be Aonach Mor summit. Two trails led from the cairn. One to the left and one straight ahead. I chose the one straight ahead and found myself quickly in steep terrain. I had been carefully studying the ridge between Aonach Mor and Cairn Mor Dearg and found it quite steep. I assumed this is where I was heading, and decided to leave the compass in the backpack. I went back to the summit and took the trail going slightly to the left. This was a wider trail and I was confident that I was going the right way.
After a descent of approx. 100m, I could see the contour of Aonach Beag, raising mighty in the fog. Obviously, the fog was much lighter, and I had some hopes for some views on top. After the short hike up to the top, I decided to wait around for some views. I could sense some blue sky just above. After 10 minutes the fog cleared for a minute, providing views in most directions. Then the fog closed in again, and I decided to hit back home.
Back at the skitows, the weather had cleared, and I could see all the way down to the visitor centre. I was in no mood for any long walks on forest roads and decided to follow the side of the bike trail. I reached the visitor center 5 hours after leaving it.
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