In my last blog I looked at what goes into my pack for a day in the mountains, which was really a generic day pack type affair that you can read about here. When I’m out running advanced scrambling courses and planning to take a rope, the pack and contents stay much the same, but there’s a few extras that I need to get in there…
Rope, for me it’s going to be a skinny single rope of about 30m long, my preference is for the DMM Crux which handles really nicely and seems to wear quite well for this type of rope. I don’t want a heavy rope as it will spend a fair amount of time in the pack and I don’t need a full 50m of rope as the idea is to keep moving nice and quickly, if I pitch anything I’ll keep the pitches nice and short. Efficiency creates speed when scrambling.
Harness, I’m not going to be carrying a big rack when scrambling so a lightweight sport climbing harness is the order of the day, again it may spend a lot of time in my pack. Currently I tend to grab my DMM Maverick – you can definitely get lighter though, something like the Petzl Altitude weighs a tiny 160g..! It’s always going to be a trade off to some extent, between lightness and toughness and whether you want a specific scrambling harness, or a do it all one.
Helmet, it’s a no brainer to wear a helmet when roped scrambling in my opinion, but again I want a nice light one, I use a Black Diamond Vapor. I have however broken a Vapor before, no exciting tale of an heroic ascent sadly, it fell out of my bag on the walk in to a crag. These are not built to last, but they fit me so much better than any other helmet, so I bought another. Check out the Black Diamond Vector, Petzl Meteor or the odd looking Petzl Scirocco, all lightweight options that may last a little longer. You can get much tougher helmets, but you’re getting the gist by now I’m sure, light is right!
Footwear, notice how I haven’t written boots… For me the perfect scrambling footwear is a decent approach shoe like the Adidas Terrex Solo, mega comfy, light and with sticky Stealth rubber from Five Ten. However if the day is going to be wet or involve some bogs the boots get the nod and my go to scrambling boots on my shelf are the Scarpa Rebel Carbons. These things are flipping ace! I’ve climbed up to HVS in the Alps with these on my feet, they’re so comfy, precise and, wait for it… light! Sadly they’re no longer made 🙁 You can’t go wrong with a pair of Sportiva Trangos though as a great all round mountain boot.
Rack, ask 10 different Mountaineering Instructors what rack they take and you’ll get 10 different answers and it also depends on the route, but this rack would work on pretty much anything for me I reckon…
Nuts, DMM Wallnuts 4-11 on a DMM Phantom
Cams, DMM Dragon 1,2,3,4 on a Phantom each
Slingdraws x 4 (60cm slings, with Phantoms)
Skinny 120cm slings x 3 with a Phantom snapper each
Skinny 240cm sling with a Phantom snapper
Black Diamond ATC guide belay plate with DMM Sentinel screwgate
DMM Boa, DMM Sentinel, DMM Phantom screwgates
DMM Phantom with 2 x prusiks
DMM Phantom with a nut key
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to chuck some hexes in there, but I don’t feel the need, the cams give me more flexibility, but obviously cost lots more. You can definitely thin this lot out a bit, depending on your ability, route and conditions, but this is my typical work rack.
Guidebook, you want to know where to go, lightweight though so maybe take a photo of the appropriate pages on your camera or phone.
There you go! Scrambling is such a fun thing to do, part of the joy is covering ground quickly and efficiently which uses some different techniques to rock climbing.
If you want to attend a course to learn these skills then get in touch!
Three top scrambles to use this kit on:
North Wales, Ogwen link up – Idwal North West Face Route II, Cneifion Arete III, Dolmen Ridge III
Lake District, St Sunday Crag, Pinnacle Ridge III
Scotland, Skye, The Cuillin Ridge III
When I was a teenager I was lucky enough to be brought up to North Wales by my brother for a weekend scrambling in the mountains, it was the start of my obsession with climbing and mountaineering. I loved being in the mountains straight away, but I definitely preferred scrambling to slogging up hills (the afternoon we arrived, my brother took us up the South Ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen, a slog if there ever was one!)
The best mountain in North Wales? Has to be Tryfan! Despite not being massive, it looks like a proper mountain with all it’s rocky buttresses flanking it’s North to South ridge. Tryfan has many classic scrambles and rock climbs on all sides and can be a great day out in it’s own right, or form part of a longer day, such as the superb Bochlwyd Horseshoe.
This consists of ascending the North Ridge of Tryfan, where cunning route finding can either keep you on easy Grade 1 terrain or you can hunt out trickier Grade 2 sections, maybe passing the Canon, which will eventually lead you on to the summit where Adam and Eve reside – are you brave enough to take the jump…? From the summit the descent along the South Ridge is still scrambly in places and requires concentration to stay heading in the direction of Bwlch Tryfan, the col between Tryfan and Glyder Fach. Here you have a choice of tackling Bristly Ridge, which is a step up in terms of scrambling and although still a Grade 1, can feel closer to a Grade 2, it’s a bit steeper and has the odd bit of loose rock, helmets would not be unwise, or tackling the scree to it’s left which is a loose slog but thankfully not too long. If you’re confident in your ability then Bristly Ridge is definitely the better option. Once through the initial gully section (Sinister gully left of a dry stone wall) you arrive onto the ridge, passing over the Great Pinnacle Gap, leading onward to the Glyderau.
Up here you’ll have to pause to get your photo taken atop the Cantilever Stone, before continuing across the plateau, where you’ll need to use your navigation skills, especially if the visibility is poor, with lots of big drops around this is not a place to be “navigationally challenged”. Hopefully the weather will be clear and you can get the classic view of Castell y Gwynt with Snowdon in the background, as you make your way towards Glyder Fawr. Now this is where your navigation must be super precise as you’ve got to find the top of Y Griben Ridge, easy enough if you can see it but requiring good skills if you can’t. This marks your descent route back down towards the valley and is another Grade 1 scramble, stick to the ridge for fun and a bit of exposure or stay just left of it to make life a little easier. Once you’ve reached the large flat grassy area known as the football pitch, the difficulties are over but keep concentrating as there still a way to go back to Llyn Bochlwyd, down the knee jarring steps and eventually back to the car. Time for tea and cake at the Moel Siabod Cafe in Capel Curig.
You can make this day longer by taking in Glyder Fawr and then descending via Twll Du – The Devil’s Kitchen, or even further still ascending Y Garn as well, it depends on how much the cafe is calling your name….
Hopefully you’ve still got some gas left in your legs, because day 2 is a big one! Remember looking over to the Snowdon massif yesterday? That’s what day 2 is all about, but not by one of the walking routes, but by the ridge everyone’s heard about… Crib Goch. The Snowdon Horseshoe, it has to be done, preferably on a quiet midweek day when Snowdon is not covered with people, on a quiet day the atmosphere is altogether different. For that reason when I’m guiding it I always start from the Llanberis Pass rather than the Pen y Pass car park.
Park or get dropped off near the Climbers Club hut Ynys Ettws and meander your way up along the stream (you’ll need to break left at the last steep section) to the beautiful Cwm Glas which is simply a stunning place. Have a break here, you’ll have earned it and it’s too nice not to take some time to soak it all in. From here you’re going to break out in an Easterly direction to pick up the North Ridge of Crib Goch which is such a quiet and lovely easy scramble leading to the main ridge itself. You probably won’t have met any other people yet, but you probably will do about now!
You’ve read the articles and seen the pictures and now you’re here, on the knife edge, death defying ridge. It’s not quite that bad! But it is exposed and you wouldn’t want to slip, the terrain is easy, take it steady and you can always use your hands, if it weren’t for the drops you wouldn’t give it a second thought, but look left, look right and embrace the position you’re in, stunning! As you get to the end of the ridge the scrambling gets a little trickier, with one particularly exposed step but all too soon Crib Goch is behind you. The grassy area of Bwlch Goch is another good spot for a break and gives you opportunity to collect your thoughts and regain your composure if Crib Goch proved a little nervy!
Onward and upward though! Garnedd Ugain next, with a little more scrambling thrown in, as you reach the top here, you’ll probably see lots of people to your left on the Pyg Track and plenty more coming up the path from Llanberis, you may also scoff at the people sat on the train getting an exercise free ascent of Yr Wyddfa, not for too long though, it’s still a long way to go! As you continue now, on towards the highest point in Wales, you’ll be on the much busier path up from town and it won’t be long before you’re at the top, take a quick photo, enjoy the view if there is one, but this is often a busy place so not somewhere I stay longer than necessary. Anyway, the quieter Lliwedd is the next mountain on the list and daylight is being burnt…
As you approach Lliwedd check out the size of the cliffs on it’s side, these really are the preserve of climbers and mountaineers, home to the amazing but very adventurous Bilberry Terrace, Grade 3 and climbing routes such as the almost 300m long route Avalanche, V Diff. If the cafe was calling you yesterday, after today’s long day so far it’ll calling you loudly now, but don’t worry, as you drop down from Lliwedd the terrain gets easier and easier, and before long you’ll be on the mini motorway back towards the Pen y Pass car park. Once you get here you can either walk back down the Pass to your car, hitch or get a bus down. Either way, you’ll have certainly earned your tea and cake after this mega day out!
North Wales has loads of great scrambling, we really are spoilt but these two days are a couple of the best easier scrambles. Because they’re so good it’s rare for them to be quiet, unless you can get here midweek and even then in good weather you’re unlikely to be alone – but that’s great, I love seeing people enjoy the outdoors! If you want those quieter scrambles, they are there to be found as long as you’ve got a sense of adventure and are keen to get exploring, but you’ll have to find them yourself, I’m not sharing all my lesser known gems…!
These two days left a lasting impression on me, they quite literally changed my life, after these two days all I wanted to do was be a mountaineer and scrambling was the gateway to a life of climbing and travelling all over the world to climb. I bought a book by Steve Ashton called Scrambles in Snowdonia, which I still use today, and I just worked my way through nearly all of the routes. These days I love passing on my knowledge and enthusiasm and will never forget the influence of those early scrambling days out.
If you want to get into scrambling but are unsure you have the skills, we run various courses to help get you up to speed: Intro to and advanced scrambling courses
Last year was a good year, in many ways, but especially in a climbing sense. I’ve loved climbing for as long as I can remember, but 2016 was the year I really started training properly and I made a conscious decision to try harder.
In terms of training, I mixed it up with bouldering, finger boarding, laps on the auto belay and some core workout sessions. The single biggest piece of enlightenment came from bouldering, and I’m saying that as someone who would never call themselves a boulderer! It was the realisation that sometimes you have to try hard, I mean really hard, every last bit of energy you have might need to go into that move and instead of not trying, and letting go, giving it everything and trying might mean you get that route. Outdoors I bouldered Font 7a and indoors 7b and this has really translated to my sport and trad climbing, if you don’t give things a max effort attempt, you’ll never know if you could have got it or not.
The other biggest improvement came on my climbing trip to Spain. A month of climbing with super psyched people (in some amazing places!) really sorted my head out, not being held back by unrealistic thoughts of hurting yourself etc. really frees up your climbing. On that trip I managed to onsight my first 7a, then 7a+ and redpointed my first 7b then 7b+.
On returning to the UK I’ve been super keen to keep riding the wave of psyche so I’ve tried to translate the extra fitness I’ve got from the sport trip and the good mental state from taking loads (I mean loads!) of falls on sport routes. Yesterday I managed to get my first non slate E4, Katana on Holyhead Mountain, which has really got me excited for the climbing possibilities of 2017.
The list on my fridge helps give me some focus, sometimes I find the amount of climbing on offer a bit overwhelming and struggle to know what I want to do. Last year the list was 43 routes long and I only ticked about half of them, but the list provided a bit of structure and my total number of routes was just shy of 200. Highlights included routes like Left Wall E2 5c, The Strand E2 5b, Khubla Khan E4 6b, Heading the Shot 7a+, Quartz Icicle E2 5b and Dale Duro Negro 7b.
This year’s list is going to be hard to complete, I’ve made it quite challenging! But I’ll love every minute of working through it!
I love climbing, obviously, and I love sharing my passion for it with all my clients, none of us should ever stop learning so this year I’ve enrolled on some coaching courses to improve my own delivery so I can really make the most of my clients time with me.
A massive part of the fun hasn’t just been the climbing, but also the amazing places I’ve been and the awesome people I’ve met along the way that have made the last year so brilliant.
Anyone can improve their climbing if they want to, I’ve just been lucky enough to meet the right people to give me the drive and determination to up my game a bit, but if you need any help working towards your own targets, get in touch!
This summer has been awesome!
Work has been top drawer fun and I’ve been enjoying my climbing loads.
Work has mostly been local which is ace because I love North Wales, but I’ve also done a bit in the Peak District and the Wye Valley as well as a two week work trip to Croatia, which I can only just call work. The majority of my work has been teaching / coaching leading and such like, which I really enjoy.
In my down time, training at the wall has dropped off a bit but I’ve been getting plenty done outside including a mega trip to Chamonix in the Alps. In North Wales I’ve ticked some classic routes like Kalahari E3 at Gogarth and loads of other equally brilliant routes.
I’ll make the next blog more interesting, but in the mean time check out our Facebook Page for more regular updates!
My climbing has been going really well lately, I’m loving it and getting some great routes ticked, like El Guide Direct E3 5c in the Pass, The Weaver E2 5b at Tremadog and Quartz Icicle E2 5b at Gogarth. Recently I had a few days work in Swanage…
I spent a really enjoyable three years living in Swanage once upon a time, the climbing there is amazing – steep and juggy but loose and a bit intimidating. I remember my first time climbing there, me and my skinny arms got utterly spanked and it made me think I was the worst climber in the world!
Whilst I was living there I worked my way through most if the climbs that I could, got hit by the odd rock, watched a mate fall in the sea, got dive bombed by various sea birds, tapped a lot of rock to see if it was solid (usually it wasn’t) and was often scared out of my box! By the end of my time there I felt like I’d had my fill of Ruckle climbing and any visit back to Swanage mostly resulted in sport climbing at Winspit or Hedbury. There were a couple of routes that were still on the “to do” list though, one of which was Elysium E1 5b where the crux moves are very “un-Swanage” – being a crack and a crimp rather than the usual brutal roof.
Having spent a winter down the wall I’ve managed to fit in plenty of climbing this year, so I really wanted to tick Elysium. I was down there for the week and managed some after work sport climbs but one evening was definitely going to be a Ruckle trip.
Me and Matt abbed down the free hanging 40m line to warm up on a VS called Heidleberg Creature which is ridiculously steep for the grade, I’m pretty sure it would be HVS anywhere else. I followed Matt up the first pitch and whilst it was easy, it was certainly a fierce reintroduction to Swanage trad! The second pitch was easy again, with the standard loose top out – having done the warm up it had to be time for Elysium.
Abbing down again for the main event I was psyched to finally be getting on it, although I was a little concerned that the very start of the route looked harder than expected, until I realised I was looking at the wrong bit..!
I’m a bit anal when it comes to my climbing kit and racking up with Matt’s kit was a little off putting, it’s all fine but it’s a bit of a motley collection compared to my nice matching rack of stuff.
The start is super steady and after about seven or eight metres you end up on a nice ledge where you can place a couple of good wires in readiness for the crux crack section which had a bonus newly stuck number 3 nut and the slightly dubious peg which I tied off with a sling. The crux involves using a small crimp to exit the crack into the halfway horizontal break, which was super soapy in the still evening air. After crimping hard on it with plenty of chalk on my hand, I was soon past it and traversing the break after placing a monster blue hex at the end of it.
After the crux the route goes through what’s described as a strenuous roof and that passed without any drama, ending in a welcome hands off rest which I milked as I was expecting the next section of small roofs to be a bit cheeky. Thankfully the holds are all good and even high up the rock is surprisingly sound for the Ruckle, the only struggle was the amount of rope drag I had as I hadn’t extended one particular piece of gear under the first roof.
I was super happy to have cruised this route as it had been on the list for so long, it felt like unfinished business.
Bringing Matt up on second was an extra work out, hoofing the ropes through with the drag fighting back, but before long he appeared at the top super happy to have followed it clean, but knackered – the standard Ruckle result!
Next time Billy Pig will be the target, another E1 I never did involving a mega roof which you cut free on…
If you want to learn the skills necessary to lead sea cliff routes or just want a taster of this amazing type of climbing then get in touch and check out the Facebook page to see what work we’ve been up to lately.