So you’ve heard all about scrambling, you have a vague idea about what it is (it’s exciting, it’s airy, it’s exposed, it’s exhilarating, and most of all simply a GREAT way to ascend a mountain) and you’re keen to get started! Here we have listed for you five taster scrambles to get you started.
They have been selected on the basis that you are likely to be new to this activity and so with a view to keeping things as simple as possible we have selected five routes that should be easy to find and easy to follow. They are all great routes – though arguably better routes are to come!
Get a feel for scrambling by getting started on these five grade 1 routes …
Pavey Ark via Stickle Ghyll and Jack’s Rake
Many people have heard of Jack’s Rake – which must be one of the BEST scrambles in the Lake District, but almost no one approaches it via an ascent of Stickle Ghyll. Most people walk beside this ghyll without realising the fun there is to be had ascending it! The key to ascending this ghyll is to look for adventure and excitement but not to take on the sections that might be a bit beyond the scope of your skills. Don’t overly worry – try it – you can always escape from it at any time by sidestepping onto the path.
Once you come to the tarn at the top you will quickly see Jack’s Rake scratched diagonally onto the ark of rock that is opposite you. Your first reaction will be to take a gasp and question your marbles. But as you get closer you’ll see that it really is very doable. Follow the obvious rake and love it love it love it all the way to the top!
Top tips for this day … It’s worth considering wearing helmets for this day. The ghyll scramble can lead to a slip, and Jack’s Rake takes a line that is below popular climbing routes where loose rock and gear may fall down upon you. Or consider going on a week day when there are fewer people about.
On Jack’s Rake you will feel safest against the wall – but actually the open scrambling on the left of the rake is usually the easier ground to take – though very airy!
If you have any doubts about your head for heights don’t start this route – once you’re on it, you will be committed to seeing it through to the end.
Summit Ben Nevis via the Carn Mor Dearg Arete
Never again walk up the tourists’ trail to summit Scotland’s highest mountain: it’s the biggest mountain in these isles so have an adventure ascending it. There are many ways to have an adventure on Ben Nevis but for the aspiring mountaineer cum scrambler this is a good place to start. And to be fair, on a summer’s day this route won’t really need you to get hands on with the rock, it is barely more than a walkers’ route, but the grand sweeping arc of this ridge that delivers you to the summit of the UK is an excellent place to start!
The Bell & Levers Water Beck, Coniston Fells
The Bell is a great little route/crag for cutting your teeth on. It’s low in altitude and so it doesn’t get so battered by the weather, the rock is generally solid, and the holds are good. Care is needed however with the route-finding since it’s not always obvious. In essence if it feels a bit ‘necky’, or wrong, it probably is wrong. That said, one of the things that make this a good introductory scramble is that it is easily escaped along the way.
This scramble is perfect if you’re looking for a quick blast up the rocks maybe before getting on the road to head home. In fact it’s only fault is that it’s over too soon! If however you’re looking for a longer day on the hills, a natural continuation would be to connect this route to Levers Water Beck. This latter scramble is a bit scrappy and not particularly sustained in interest, but if you’re there anyway – you may as well give this grade 1 scramble a go anyway. From the top of that you can continue up the zig zags and bag the Old Man of Coniston!
Helvelyn via Striding Edge & a descent down Swirral Edge
The bark is far worse than its bite and that’s why I recommend that on an early foray to head to the Lake District for this classic route. For a novice, one great thing about Striding Edge is that for a large part you can tame the ridge by taking the path that runs alongside the ridge proper. (You don’t want to do that though). There is a tricky down-step to take, but so long as someone is below you guiding your feet this should be fine. The ridge leads you to England’s third highest mountain, Helvelyn, and then you can choose to walk off down one of the many paths on offer or, even better descend via Swirral Edge. At first sight this might look a bit necky – but actually it’s fine! Do it.
Y Lliwedd via an ascent of Y Gribin
Perfect for a bank holiday weekend with a view to bagging a great route whilst avoiding the crowds. This is another great little route, easy to find and to follow yet overshadowed by its mighty neighbor, Crib Goch: maybe because of this there’s rarely anyone on this ridge-line – and that only makes it all the better! It offers easy scrambling up a broad-backed ridge which brings you out at a col between two more broad easy ridges. Turn right and you’ll be at the summit of Snowdon inside the hour. Personally I prefer to steer clear of the hordes and so I choose the easy ground that will take us to the summit of Y Lliwedd on the left. This is a slightly shorter day so a good one to do maybe before the drive home.
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.
For those early forays go with someone that has experience and knows what they are doing. That could be with an experienced mate, a local mountaineering club or of course with us!
If you have never tried scrambling, make plans to do so now! As well as being exciting, airy, exposed, exhilarating, and a GREAT way to ascend a mountain, it’s also extremely addictive.
Recommended Scrambling Guide Books
North Wales Scrambles: a guide to 50 of the best mountain scrambles in Snowdonia
Scrambles in Snowdonia: Snowdon, Glyders, Carneddau, Eifionydd and outlying areas (Cicerone Guide)
Scrambles in the Lake District – South (Cicerone Guide)
Scrambles in the Lake District – North (Cicerone Guide)
Grade 1 Scrambles for Aspirant Mountain Leaders
Tips and Advice: How to Get Your Kids Climbing
Ten ways to be better at map reading
Outdoor First Aid – Five items of essential first aid kit for the outdoors
What to do in an Emergency Outdoors