Mountain Course & Activity Locations

Lakes Outdoor Experience cover locations across the UK, including North Wales, Scotland and The Lake District to mention but a few. We also offer guided scrambling and traverses on The Cuillin Ridge on The Isle of Skye.

The Zig Zags, Gearr Aonach.

The Zig Zags, Gearr Aonach., Glen Coe, Western Highlands

zig-zags-one.jpgLocated on the eastern side of Gearr Aonach - the middle one of the "Three Sisters" of Glen Coe, The Zig-Zags give a good low level introduction to Summer Scrambling and Winter Mountaineering. Graded overall at I, the route has a couple of steeper sections at grade II where less confident persons may appreciate the security afforded by a rope.

Leaving the upper main car park on the south side of the A82 in Glen Coe, one descends south to the footbridge crossing the River Coe and then climbs through woodland emerging on the west bank of the Allt Coire Ghabhail. Here, the footpath in to The Lost Valley continues up the western bank of the stream but we look for a somewhat indistinct path heading off up rightwards in the direction of the east side of Gearr Aonach a short distance after passing through the gate in the Deer fencing. Follow this less obvious and often wet route up to the lower left hand side of the imposing bulk of Gearr Aonach until an obvious rocky ledge slants off back right up across the face; at the foot of this is a good place to get geared up.



Start the ascent of The Zig-Zags by heading up this seemingly, rather exposed ledge which can be slippery when bare rock: it is much better with a covering of hard snow as in photo one. After a few hundred metres of traversing up along this ledge the route goes up and then back left where a short, steeper step is encountered. This will present no problems for competent mountaineers, but it does present a good place to move from short roping to practising pitching & belaying techniques as seen here in photo two. 



There are two pitches possible on this steeper section before the route reaches an easier angled and broader sloping ledge seen here, in photo three. 

Rock anchors are hard to find on the wall above this ledge, so a bucket seat/body belay will most likely be the best method to bring your seconds up that last pitch before short roping southwards along this ledge to a point where the route zig-zags again weaving first rightwards up a steep step (photo four), then back leftwards up towards easier ground and the end of the technical section. Further pitching & belaying skills can be practised here.                                                        

zig-zags-final-pitch.jpgPhoto four sees the leader heading off up that rightward trending step on this, the final steep section of the route. Above here, it is but a short distance to the summit of Gearr Aonach where one can unrope and remove climbing harnesses et cetera if choosing to head south along the ridge in the direction of Stob Coire An Lochan or, if you wish - keep the equipment on and we can descend the Zig-Zags looking at options for staying safe when descending technical ground as the route is a good place to cover descent techniques. 

broad-gully-descent.jpgIf you choose not to reverse the ascent of The Zig -Zags, then heading along the ridge towards Stob Coire An Lochan is a good option - the views left into Coire Gabhail (The Lost Valley) and right into Coire An Lochan (your descent route back to Glen Coe) are great. You can opt to miss out the summit of Stob Coire An Lochan by traversing right at the end of the ridge in to Coire An Lochan but then again, the final slope to the summit of Stob Coire An Lochan gives further scope for practising mountaineering techniques on another section of grade I ground and there's another Munro summit to be bagged! From the top, descending west brings one to the top of Broad Gully (grade I) - an easy route down in to Coire An Lochan seen here in photo five; you may arrive here in time to see people teetering on the final airy crest of Dorsal Arete (grade II) the sight of which may "whet your appetite" for a further day of winter mountaineering! If Broad Gully is hard icy snow and serious as a consequence, then it is simple enough; and not much further, to traverse above the crags that rim the corrie towards Aonach Dubh and then descend easily in to the corrie and then pick up that path back to the glen. Whatever we choose to do, this is a superb intro to winter mountaineering; and a great day out!

Frequently asked questions about our Winter Mountaineering Days on The Zig-Zags.

Where do we meet for this Winter Mountaineering Day? Answer In the upper large car park on the A82 about 1 & 3/4 miles/2.8 km up Glen Coe on the right if driving east past the obvious loch (Loch Atriochtan) in the valley bottom.

What time do we start our day? Answer - 08:00 am is a good time to meet: any later and the car park may well be full! The walk in to the foot of the route is little more than a kilometre and we will generally be starting climbing on the route little more than an hour after leaving our vehicles. 

Do I need any previous experience to be able to learn winter mountaineering on The Zig-Zags? Answer - yes you do! You must have already attended a two day Winter Skills Course either with Lakes Outdoor Experience or another winter course provider. Ideally, you will have previously done a number of easy summer rock climbs or scrambles ; and will be familiar with basic ropework skills and belaying techniques as a result. This winter mountaineering day makes for a good "next progression" from winter walking; and will give you a good grounding should you decide to try winter climbing next.

What equipment do I need in order to be able to undertake a Winter Mountaineering Day? Answer - you each need a full complement of personal winter clothing - Goretex or similar hardshell jackets and salopettes, hat, gloves, winter gauntlets, ski googles, spare warm layers, lunch and a flask of hot drink and a headtorch and spare batteries. Your winter boots will be B2 or B3 rated and you must have 12 point crampons (The Grivel G12 is a well known example), that have previously been fitted to your boots before we meet on the day. You will also need a walking axe as a minimum or two winter climbing axes; and ski poles are useful for the ascent to the start of the route and for the descent back to the valley floor at the end of the day.

All of this equipment must be packed into rucksacks of at least 45 litres capacity. We will provide harnesses, helmets and the other technical equipment required to facilitate your Winter Mountaineering Day - make sure you have room in your rucksack to carry a share of the rope and mountaineering rack! We will meet you the evening before your Winter Mountaineering Day day to ensure that you are properly packed, prepared; and ready to go.

How fit should I be in order to successfully complete this Winter Mountaineering Day? Answer - You need a good level of mountain fitness from regular walking in the mountains and should already have plenty of previous experience walking in amongst mountainous areas of the uk.

How much does it cost per person to undertake this Winter Mountaineering Day with Lakes Outdoor Experience? Answer - To do this day with us is a minimum fee of £300.00 for 1 to 2 persons. For three persons the fee is £405.00 or £135.00 each. The fees are regardless of whether you are being guided by us or are here to learn Winter Mountaineering Skills. The ratio of clients to a Mountaineering Instructor is a maximum of 3:1 on technical mountaineering terrain up to grade II. At grade III or above, the ratio of clients to an instructor is reduced to 2:1.

To book this Winter Mountaineering Day on Gearr Aonach or any of the other options you see listed for Glen Coe - contact us here.

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Iain GallagherLakes Outdoor Experience is run by Iain Gallagher. Iain was born and brought up in The Lake District by parents who were very keen on the outdoors.

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