In the years between doing my Mountain Leader training and my subsequent assessment I was blessed to have many days out on the hill assisting a highly experienced friend and qualified mountain leader working with school students on grade 1 scrambles and on steep ground in general. (In those days I was a teacher). Without going into the debate whether or not this was in our remit, those steep-ground days out on the mountain served me really well for when my assessment finally came, and more to the point in my time with clients out on the mountains now.
With that in mind here are 13 grade 1 scrambles for aspirant mountain leaders all packed into 8 stonking quality mountain days… (But do not fear, scrambling itself is not something you will ever be assessed on).
1. Nantle Ridge, Snowdonia
Get out on this route: if nothing else it’s a fabulous walk and chances are, you’ll hardly see a soul on it. It’s listed in the guidebooks as a grade 1 scramble, but in reality if you’re looking for a good scramble you will need to look for the interest on this route. Do it though since it is a good introduction to steep ground. Think how you would exploit it to make it more worthwhile as a scramble. Remember this day and route – when the weather is ragging the tops at or above 900m this delightful ridge will see you right since it lies at around 800m abs which can make all the difference.
2. Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, Lake District
Disappointing as a scramble, but a great way to ascend (and descend from) the summit of Helvellyn. (More an exciting walk really). Really there’s only one tricky bit and that’s the cheeky little down-climb you will do to get off the crest of the ridge-line. Swirral Edge is the natural descent to get in on the same day – though it does rather shorten the day to descend this way.
3. Sharp Edge and Hall’s Fell Ridge, Lake District
This is an iconic Lake District scramble that again links up to make a natural ascent and descent. I have included it in this list since I have come to the conclusion that this is an awful scramble to take people on. Over the years I have done this scramble many times in all kinds of weather and I have always found it to be slippery, greasy and rather poor value. Do this scramble to scratch an itch and to learn what makes for a crap day out! If you do decide on this route though, you really don’t want to be on Sharp Edge on a wet and windy day – be sure to consider the weather forecast carefully first.
4. Y Gribin Ridge, Snowdon group
Never again take the Miners’ Path or the Pyg Track to the summit of Wales’ highest mountain. Instead seek out this gem. It’s a great introductory route that’s worth knowing about. Route finding is easy and the scrambling is sustained enough to maintain interest, but not so sustained as to give you a epic-sized heart attack before you reach the top. If you’re not careful though you could end up walking up rather than scrambling. Try and make an effort to keep it interesting. Make it an even better day by following the crest of the east ridge to the summit of Snowdon before retreating back down its south ridge and then onto the Watkin Path. Finally hitch a lift back to your car which you probably left half a mile down the round from the Pen y Gwryd Hotel!
5. Llech Du Spur, Carneddau, Snowdonia
Wonder up the Afon Lloer from Bethesda and wonder to yourself how many people must be on Snowdon while you’re probably enjoying this delightful wilderness to yourself. Take yourself to the head of the valley and closely regard and consider carefully the description in the guidebook. Getting yourself to the start of this route might be the hardest part of the day – but there again, route finding is a good skill to hone! This is a superb route and particularly good when the south-westerly wind is too great to get up high anywhere else: since this route is nicely shielded by Carnedd Dafydd and its protruding spur Mynydd Du.
8. A traverse of Crib Goch
This is a grade 1 scramble at the top of its game. Big on exposure and big on commitment. I have done this route many times over the years and in both directions – I suggest for your first foray you go anti-clockwise towards Snowdon. With such a popular route finding your way is generally just a case of following the polish. If in doubt, always look to explore if there is a line over and along the true crest/pinnacles.