Aonach Mor, 1221m (Big ridge)
Aonach Beag, 1234m (Little ridge)

Mountain area : Scottish Highlands
Nearest town : Ft. William
Map : OS Map 41
Primary Factor: Aonach Mor: 134m+ (Aonach Beag)
Primary Factor: Aonach Beag: 514m+ (Ben Nevis)
Hiked : July 2002
Aonachs seen from Ben Nevis

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).

Trail Descriptions

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

Difficulty : Easy
Risk : Low
Distance : Approx. 18-19km round trip
Time : Approx. 5-7 hours round trip to the top
Starting Elev.: Approx. 130m


Follow A82 eastbound from Fort William and exit right onto the Nevis Ski Range. Drive all the way to the visitor centre and find parking there.

The trail:

Just behind the visitor centre, follow a forest road eastbound. At the first junction, stay right. Stay left in the next junction and exit right in the third junction. Watch for yellow markers indicating a hiking trail. I was able to follow the hiker's path for a short while, before I ended up in the bike path.

It is not desirable for either the hiker or the downhill biker to share the same path, but I chose to follow the bike path on the outside. Closer to the restaurant, the bike path and the gondola line separates. Either follow the bike path to Sgurr Finnisg-aig and follow a hiking path to the restaurant, or continue to the restaurant below the gondola.

From the restaurant, there is said to be a hiking path up the mountain. I didn't find this, but chose to hike towards the westernmost skichairs, and then straight up to the Aonach Mor ridge. On the top, there is a small hut which can be used as a reference in case of fog.

I did not see any clear trail across the ridge to the summit cairn, which lies on the south side of the ridge. A vague trail followed the very eastern part of the ridge, providing views to Stob an Cul Choire. After passing a pole, head towards the centre of the ridge and you will see the summit cairn after a while.

From Aonach Mor, descend southbound to the ridge connecting the two Aonachs. From Aonach Mor, the direction is more to the left than straight ahead. If you run into steep terrain (in fog), you are probably on the way down to the saddle between the Aonachs and Carn Mor Dearg. The ridge over to Aonach Beag is narrow, but by no means exposed. The climb up to Aonach Beag is a switchback up the rocky north slopes of Beag.

In good weather, the view is astounding. The grey corries in the east, Ben Nevis in the west and the Mamore range in the south. Even the Glen Coe mountains further south can be identified.

Trip report July 15 2002:

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.

Pictures from the July 15 2002 hike:

Move cursor to read notes, and click on the images to see full version.
Some of the thumbnails may have been cropped to fit the format

The restaurant and visitor center down in the valley (195KB) Fog moves up the slopes (158KB) A small lake east of the ridge (199KB) Aonach Mor summit (151KB) Aonach Beag in the fog (59KB) The ridge to Aonach Beag (128KB) Aonach Beag summit (182KB) Aonach More slopes to the saddle (152KB) Carn Mor Dearg seen from below Aonach Beag (177KB) Grey Corries seen from below Aonach Beag (209KB) The gondola (186KB)

Back to Scotland 2002 page