Spending any time in the hills is brilliant but have you ever looked over at those rocky ridges and buttresses or into those sheltered rocky gullies? Scrambling opens up some really adventurous journeys into the mountainous areas where regular hill walkers won’t dare to go. Once you start scrambling in the mountains you’ll be hooked and many of those long uphill slogs will be a distant memory as you edge your boots onto footholds and wrap your fingers over grippy protrusions of rocky goodness.
Crib Goch fun times!
Scrambles can be anything from a slightly exposed ridge requiring the occasional use of your hands through to routes that are basically rock climbs, and they get graded accordingly. Grade 1: These will typically be attempted without ropes and any real difficulties will be avoidable. You will need to be using your hands and perhaps deal with some exposure. Eg. Crib Goch or Striding Edge.
Grade 2: You might start thinking about using a rope and rock climbing gear for this grade, especially when you’re getting started. Exposure is pretty likely and the terrain might feel like easy rock climbing. Eg. Idwal Staircase or Aonach Eagach
Grade 3: Most people are going to get the rope out on these scrambles and they are sometimes graded rock climbs. You’ll need more confidence and more skills on these routes and often feel like mountaineering routes. Eg. Cneifion Arete or Pinnacle Ridge (Lakes)
So you’re set on trying your first scrambles? You won’t really need any extra kit for grade 1’s. Some people prefer stiff boots to make standing on footholds easier, others prefer softer ones which grip well when smearing on rock, you’ll work out your preference after spending a bit of time on the rock. Personally I like a nice narrow climbing style rucksack so it doesn’t get in the way when I’m squeezing through a chimney or doing an awkward move.
Grade 1 ground on the North Ridge of Tryfan
Beyond grade 1’s you’ll want to consider taking a rope of about 10mm diameter and around 30m in length, you’ll need to have a few bits to go with this too, including a harness, helmet and some gear to use for protection as runners – a few 120cm slings and screw gates plus a small selection of nuts and hexes. Most importantly you’ll need the skills to know how to use all these bits of new kit! You’ll need to know how to belay, how to place gear and make use of it, and know how to abseil in retreat.
Route finding can be difficult as scrambles often take you into complex ground and the navigation is different to using your map and compass skills that you’ll already have from being a hill walker. You’ll still need these skills during the day out but for the route itself you’re more likely to be using a guidebook like rock climbers do.
As scramblers we often go to places less travelled so we are going to encounter some extra hazards above and beyond those when we’re out hill walking. These can include loose rock, vegetated rock, route finding issues, big drops and exposed sections. Helmets are often a good call, even if you come across other people not wearing them.
High above Llyn Llidaw, on the awesome Grade 3, Bilberry Terrace
If hill walking naturally leads to scrambling, once you’ve spent some time scrambling you’ll probably want to move on to climbing, or maybe mountaineering in the Alps. It’s a slippery slope of rock addiction!
You really can’t beat scrambling as a way of covering ground in the mountains whilst having an absolute blast of a time, so what are you waiting for!