Pages about Scotland Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor
The Munros
Looking down into Glen Nevis from the ridge up to Aonach Beag. An Steall waterfall is in the centre.
Country: Scotland
Location: Glen Nevis.
Accommodation: Fort William (hotels, B&B), Glen Nevis (Youth Hostel, caravan/camping site, nice B&B and bunkhouse at Achintee House). Camping is allowed in the upper glen (beyond the carpark and Nevis Gorge).
Transport: Train and bus station in Fort William. A summer bus service goes to the carpark in Glen Nevis.
Maps: OS Outdoor Leisure 32 (scale of 1:25,000) or Landranger Map 0041: Ben Nevis, Fort William & Glen Coe (1:50,000).
Trip Dates: 11 September 1992 and May 2001
Also See:
The Lochaber 4000 footers by Paul Kennedy.
Introduction

A great high ridge near Fort William stretches for around 9 kilometres from Glen Albyn in the north to Glen Nevis in the south. It parallels the even higher ridge to the west that climbs up to Ben Nevis via Carn Dearg (with a high bealach connecting the ridges at an altitude of 830m). The topmost points on the ridge are Aonach Mor (big hill, 1221m) with its flat broad summit and Aonach Beag (little hill, 1234m), to the south and better defined with crags to the south, east and west. The massive corries to the east of Aonach Mor are best seen from Glen Spean while the rugged slopes along the entire ridge can be seen from the Grey Corries.

Both Munros and a couple of Tops can be climbed from Glen Nevis (the best route) or from the north, either starting easily from the top of the gondola through the skifield or less easily from Fort William. A thrilling expedition for the fit walker and long summer days is the "Big Four" - through Glen Nevis to Aonach Beag, Aonach Mor and then across the bealach to Carn Dearg and Ben Nevis.

I did not actually bag Aonach Mor on the first trip - for some reason I decided not to continue on from the bealach below Aonach Beag (perhaps the 10 metre visibility and strong winds discouraged me). Instead I contoured over steep slopes and crags around to the bealach below Carn Dearg - this is definitely not a recommended route. However I come back in 2001 and climbed Aonach Mor from the north.

From Glen Nevis

Start from the carpark at the end of Glen Nevis and follow the path up the glen and into Nevis Gorge. After a pleasant beginning, the path becomes even better as it becomes rocky and clings nicely between the crags above and the rushing river below. Keep an eye ahead as there are glimpses of An Gearanach with the An Steall waterfall at its foot. A kilometre of walking brings you to some grassy river flats (good camping) and a three-wire footbridge across the river. Continue on another kilometre past the flats to the bridge across the Allt Coire Giubhsachan and the ruins of Steall cottage (more isolated camping available here). Above you to the NE is the large and craggy Corrie nan Laogh with the south-west ridge of Aonach Beag providing one wall and the sharp, shapely peak of Sgurr a'Bhuic on the other side. The direct route to Aonach Beag is to climb NNE over steep, hummocky ground for 1.5 kilometres - curving towards the north to reach the south-west ridge. This ridge leads easily to the summit about 3.5 hours from the carpark.

A longer and more scenic route includes a couple of Tops on the way up - Sgurr a'Bhuic (963m) and Stob Coire Bhealaich (1101m). Head NE from the Steall ruins, following the banks of the Allt Corrie nan Laogh for a kilometre on a faint path. This brings you to steeper, craggy ground around the 500m height with another kilometre of climbing up to the 800m level. Get to the Top by either heading directly south to its west ridge or continuing above a branch of the stream for 500 metres to easier slopes up to the ridge. Either way, the ridge has a fine sharp edge to the south. Stop for the great views, especially across to the Grey Corries.

Leave Sgurr a'Bhuic and drop sharply NE along the tops of crags to a col at 898m. Climb for 500 metres up grassy slopes to a small unnamed peak at 1048m and turn to the west along a stony ridge with many glorious views through the crags into Killiechonate Forest. Don't expect any trees though - this is a deer forest not a tree forest. Stob Coire Bhealaich is soon reached and then you take a NW course up stony ground to the summit plateau of Aonach Beag (4 hours from the carpark). An alternative is to traverse the upper slopes of Coire nan Laogh to gain the south-west ridge and good views back into the corrie.

A foggy view of the summit cairn of Aonach Beag

A short steep plunge through rocky slopes to the NW, guided by the steep crags on your right, beings a well-defined bealach at 1080m. Easy grassy slopes to the north take you to the summit of Aonach Mor in a bit longer than a kilometre. This is marked by a cairn (as is that of Aonach Beag) which may be hard to find on the flat expanse of the summit plateau in misty conditions.

To return to Glen Nevis, return south towards the bealach but keep near the western cliffs (but not too close!). In about 750 metres (at map reference 192722), there is an ill-defined and steep spur that leads W down to the bealach below Carn Dearg. Be very sure to find the correct point since the slopes to either side are very steep. From the col, head south down a good path along Coire Giubhsachan and its quickly growing stream. Just short of 2 kilometres later, there is flatter, marshy section of the corrie where the path becomes indistinct and departs from the stream. There are some drier patches on the flats that are suitable for camping. At the end of the marshes, the path climbs a little to give good views of the rushing waters of the stream and then descends straight into Glen Nevis.

Alternately, continue north along the eastern cliffs to drop down to Aonach na Nid and then NW to the Snow Goose restaurant at the top of the Aonach Mor Skifield gondola.


From the North

It is possible to get a head start on the day by taking the gondola up to the restaurant, thus starting at 650m. If so then you can avoid most of the skifield paraphernalia by heading SE to look over the crags starting at Aonach an Nid and then follow them up to the summit. The summit of Aonach Beag is only a short distance away.

For a longer, harder and more satisfying day, start from the distillery just outside Fort William at Victoria Bridge. Unfortunately you should be starting too early to sample its wares. Pass to the left of the buildings and cross the railway tracks. There is a muddy path that leads via a track and a line of posts to an intake (this takes water under the slopes to the factories above Fort William) and bridge on the Allt a'Mhuilinn. Cross the bridge and follow the bulldozed track upstream until you are clear of the forest on the left (about a kilometre). Just before the track becomes a footpath, there is a good spot for a swim. On a hot day this is also a good place to refill your water bottles. Head NE roughly along the 350m contour for 1.5 kilometres and then west to the Allt Daim. Cross the stream and climb W under the crags below Meall Beag until you can turn SE up the ridge. Follow the line of the crags up to the summit plateau of Aonach Mor - ignore the skifield mess to your left.

To continue the route drop south down easy slopes to the bealach at 1080m (about a kilometre) and then up rocky slopes to Aonach Beag. Return the same way and find the spur that leads down to the bealach below Carn Dearg (see above). From the bealach, descend to the north and follow the Allt Daim down to your entry route.


Pages about Scotland The Munros