What is Scrambling?

Scrambling is the territory that lies between hill-walking and rock climbing. Scrambling requires you to ascend a mountain or a hill using your hands to climb short sections of steep ground: hence it’s definitely more than hill-walking. However scrambling is not quite technical enough to be rock climbing and for the easier grade 1 routes the moves aren’t too hard and you shouldn’t need a rope or any of the equipment needed for rock climbing. For people new to the mountains it can feel quite scary at first – but quickly it becomes simply a lot of FUN!

Scrambling on Jacks Rake in the Lake District

image showing a woman high up Scrambling on Jacks Rake in the Lake District

Scrambling … a GREAT way to ascend a mountain

In short, scrambling is exciting, it’s airy, it’s exposed, it’s exhilarating, and most of all it’s simply a GREAT way to ascend a mountain. It is almost easier to describe what it isn’t. It isn’t just hill walking, it isn’t as technical as rock climbing. Scrambling lies in that grey area between hill walking and rock climbing. It is where you head out to the mountains equipped for a day of walking, but you look for lines or route choices to the tops that will allow for some clambering and climbing on the rocks – but hopefully nothing too hard!

Scrambling on Crib Goch in Snowdonia

group Scrambling on Crib Goch in Snowdonia

Scrambling grades

Scrambles are graded 1 – 3, with grade 1 scrambles being at the easier end of the spectrum. Normally grade 1 scrambles are easy to find, follow and to climb. If you’re having a bit of an epic scrambling, then these routes shouldn’t be too hard to escape from. That said escaping from classic grade 1 routes such as Tryfan’s North Ridge or a traverse of Crib Goch could prove difficult and more dangerous than sticking to the route. (Read: Five Grade 1 Scrambles to Get You Started)

Grade 2 scrambles will involve some harder moves and will in general be more committing. Inexperienced scramblers who may not be so confident at height or who may not so sure-footed may prefer some of the moves to be safe-guarded by a rope. Hence knowing how place gear, to rig stances and belay a second are essential skills on these harder routes. (Read: A Beginner’s Guide to Scrambling)

With grade 3 routes you should expect the whole shebang! Go out and expect the route to be hard to find, hard to climb and do expect to need to rope for the crux moves. It won’t always be like this, but you should expect an adventure and be confident in your mountaineering skills if you’re going to take it to this level.

Grade 2 and 3 scrambles also tend to involve a lot of decision making the whole way and so care needs to be exercised on this ground.

Scrambling high on the Y Gribin Ridge en route for Snowdon

image showing a woman high up scrambling on the Y Gribin Ridge in Snowdonia

Warning: scrambling comes with risk!

Scrambling on Crib Goch Snowdonia


Beware though: with scrambling comes risk. If you’re not sure about which route to choose for that day, or you’re not sure about how to find it or how to follow it you can end up on dangerously steep ground that you’re unable to escape from. If you don’t have a rope and find yourself needing one the consequences of a fall can be catastrophic. If you have a rope but don’t have the skills to safely use it, again the outcome could be fatal.