The Aonach Eagach Ridge by Moonlight

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When I began my stravaiging over the bigger hills I was lucky to have started with my older brother and his pals. We lived in a small village in Lanarkshire and transport lay with the few who had jobs and cars! To get to the hills you needed a car - or a thumb (but hitch-hiking although cheap was unpredictable!).

Anyway, the guys I started Munro-bagging with were unusual in that they found climbing hills at night more interesting than the normal 9 till 5!. And so it was that I found myself starting out for Am Bodach at 11 in the evening on a clear night in April with the promise of a full moon to aid our traverse of the 'Notched Ridge'.

They say ignorance is bliss and I hadn't a clue what I was letting myself in for. The Aonach Eagach Ridge was one of my earliest hill adventures. I was told the Ridge was narrow in places and required a wee bit of scrambling here and there. Shit they weren't kidding!

By the light of the moon, and a wee bit of snow to reflect the moonlight, the traverse was a dream. No need for a torch for most of it and soon we were halfway along. And then the surprise of a lifetime which stopped me in my tracks!! A spectacular light display to the north - over Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries - it was the Aurora and it was - out of this world! I had never seen it before and it danced almost above our heads for the remainder of the night. 

Sunrise found us on Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and we lazed around on the top watching the colours forever changing ......

That was it! I was hooked and have since traversed the Ridge at night at least a dozen times. One of those times was quite by accident. Derek (of Glasgow Climbing Centre fame) was in those days a sales rep and had the use of a rather large and plush company car with a boot full of goodies! We could travel anywhere in Scotland on company fuel so why not head to Diabaig in Torridon for a bit of climbing. Arriving there in bright sunshine you will rarely find a more picturesque spot to climb some immaculate rock. A rare day was had by all and soon it was time to head for home. Neil (also of Glasgow Climbing Centre fame) was romantically involved with a girl who lived in Glencoe and according to Neil we just had to stop on the way home so he could catch up.

After an hour or so in the Clachaig we were beginning to feel a little restless and realised there was a full moon and clear sky above. Why don't the rest of us not romantically involved, traverse the Aonach Eagach and catch up with Neil in the morning. And that's exactly what we did except when Neil heard of our plans he cut his visit short and just had to join us as well. I'm not sure how Derek drove us back to Glasgow in the morning - I suppose all those hours behind the wheel as a sales rep gave him lots of practice. Me? I was hallucinating in the back seat of the car - but still made it to work the same day (I think).

I've also traversed the ridge in winter a number of times but never in winter at night although we had a couple of attempts at this. One of these failed attempts ended before it started. When we were getting geared up at the car my climbing partner discovered he had left his crampons at home! The night was perfect and the conditions ideal. However, to tackle the Ridge during the day without crampons would have been daft never mind at night. We didn't want to waste the full moon and decided we could handle the Wee Buachaille with me cutting steps. At least we salvaged something as the night had everything you would get from a winter hillwalk - except with much much more. The hills have a different feel at night. Small hills appear much bigger, a wee bit more care has to be taken but the experience of the sky at night is something extra special!

On any mountain walk at night it's always a good idea to take your sleeping bag and bivy for a few hours and take in the sunrise. You will never be disappointed (although I can't guarantee you the Aurora)!

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