Crib Goch vs Aonach Eagach – Which is Harder?

exposure on aonach eagach-min
After crossing both Crib Goch and Aonach Eagach, I've taken a bit of time to weigh them both up. Here's my comparison of the two ridge crossings and an attempt to answer the question, "which is tougher?"

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Crib Goch vs Aonach Eagach – Which is harder?

Aonach Eagach

That’s the short answer. Aonach Eagach was both longer, with fewer “escape” options, more complex scrambling and more down climbing. 

But it’s worth saying that I absolutely loved both of these ridge crossings. I had similar weather for both Crib Goch and Aonach Eagach.

While I think Aonach Eagach is the technically more difficult of the two, I couldn’t pick a favourite between them. I really do have incredible memories (alongside photos and videos) of both.

There are, of course, lots of things that influence how difficult something is perceived. And for someone who actually has done loads of down climbing before and really enjoys it, then perhaps Aonach Eagach wouldn’t be the toughest.

It’s also worth mentioning that I was very fortunate with the weather on both of these ridge crossings. Dry rock, clear conditions, no rain and mild to warm temperatures made the whole thing considerably easier than I imagine either would be on a bad weather day.

I would bet Aonach Eagach on a  dry day is less difficult than Crib Goch on a wet one.

So, based on crossing both of these in similar conditions, here’s my comparison!

Crib Goch vs Aonach Eagach in Summary

The weather conditions on the day, how wet or dry the rock is, your hiking companion (or lack of) and the hike u to the ridge itself can influence how tricky you perceive it.

So here’s a comparison of both of the hikes I took to cross Crib Goch and Aonach Eagach.

 Crib GochAonach Eagach
Date of crossingJul-22Aug-22
Who with?CousinSolo
Weather conditions?Brilliant conditions! Clear, mild to warm temps and dry!Clear, dry and mil temperatures
Overall hike distance15.5km16.94km
Overall hike difficultyModerateModerate
Overall hike time6.5 hours 7 hours 28 minutes

Aonach Eagach and Crib Goch had lots in common for me. I hiked both on dry days and the the rock was dry. This was by design! I waited for good weather days to go. This was particularly important to me for Aonach Eagach because I had read that the rock becomes very greasy when wet. So I wanted a dry day where it had also been dry the day before.

The temperatures on both were mild to warm. In fact, if I could design my perfect hiking day, that’s probably what I’d have picked for both (minus a cloud inversion or something which would have been nice, but I’m not picky).

In terms of the hikes up to the ridge and back down from it, both Crib Goch and Aonach Eagach were, I’d say, moderate hikes. But both have elements of scrambling as you approach the ridge.

Crib Goch is a scramble up to the summit before the ridge. And as you come off Am Bodach to approach Aonach Eagach itself, there is a down climb which can be a tad tricky by scrambling standards.

The safest way off Aonach Eagach is to follow the route over toward Pap of Glencoe. It’s a long walk back down, but pretty straightforward despite loose scree and rocky terrain on descent.

Crib Goch and Aonach Eagach Difficulty Compared

Ok, so let’s compare the actual ridge crossing itself, which is what I’ve based the short answer at the top of this post on.

  Crib GochAonach Eagach
ExposureIncredibly exposed. One side has a sheer drop and the other side is very steep. Exposure here requires a real head for heightsIt is very, very exposed. Now for me, this didn’t feel as consistently exposed as Crib Goch. But the parts where it is exposed it is very, very exposed. 
Complexity of Scrambling

A grade 1 scramble. 

Relatively straightforward scrambling but with the addition of pinnacles at the end. The main ridge doesn’t require particularly technical scrambling though.

A grade 2 scramble.

Significantly more complex scrambling than Crib Goch in parts. This isn’t sustained the whole way though. 

Lots of down climbing and the crazy pinnacles at the end to consider too.

How NarrowVery, very narrowVery, very narrow at its narrowest
Distance Across RidgeA relatively short ridge (but followed by further scrambling up to the next summit)A longer ridge than Crib Goch with no escape route
Accessing RidgePyg track first and then leave the Pyg Track to scramble up to the summit of Crib Goch.A steep, steep hike up to Am Bodach first and then a 20m or so down climb to head towards the ridge itself.
Escape Options or Bypass PathsNone. Attempting to descend half way through down to the Pyg track is potentially dangerous with a very, very steep slope and loose scree. So unless you really don’t have a choice, your best bet would be to complete the ridge and walk back down one of the paths.

Absolutely none. Lots of the guides warn against attempting to escape Aonach Eagach in the middle of the ridge. It just isn’t feasible or safe.

Some parts of the ridge look at though they have little escape routes, but these are consistently dead ends. Stick to the ridge and don’t descend in the middle of it.

You’re very committed once you get started here.

These two are right up there as my favourite hikes in the UK. Crib Goch was incredible – the views, the scrambling, the weather… it all made for a really special day.

Aonach Eagach is, hands down, my favourite ever solo hike though. The buzz of completing the ridge, the views around Glencoe and the weather were spectacular. You can literally see hundreds of other peaks from up there.

I love them both and I would do either again.

Which is better?

I’m just not doing it. It’s like asking me to pick between my children. They’re equally as good.

I would add that neither are ideal for beginners. Personally, I’d suggest starting out if you’ve done no scrambling before with something like CMD Arête or Striding Edge (both of which will present a challenge and really fun scrambling and give you a chance to test your tolerance for exposure).

But as for a favourite? No. I’m not picking.

My Favourite Crib Goch Photo 

I took so much footage and photography at Crib Goch, but this one is one of my favourites of the day. Watching the cloud his the ridge like this was pretty special and the blue skies highlight how fortunate we were with the conditions.

crib goch cloud

 

My Favourite Aonach Eagach Photo

This photo of Aonach Eagach again shows how fortunate I was with weather conditions and the views. it also highlights how much longer that ridge is than Crib Goch. I love them both though and would hike either again in good conditions. views over aonach eagach

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