Top 6 spicy scrambles in Britain

Posted by Peter Burnside on 11/08/2016
Taking a breather atop Tryfan on the Cwm Bochlwyd Horseshoe.

Short and sharp, or long and steep; there's no room for messing about here. You'll have to keep a cool head and a strong grip, as we bring you Britain’s top six spicy scrambles.

From sampling the Cwm Bochlwyd Horseshoe to testing your nerve on the longest rock climb in Britain; from teetering  on the knife edge of Cneifion Arête to pushing your limits on Curved Ridge, here are six of our sauciest scrambles. Get your hands out of your pockets and take a deep breath – it’s time to get a grip.

1. Cwm Bochlwyd Horseshoe, Glyders, Wales

Give the Snowdon Horseshoe the hump and mount the Bochlwyd Horseshoe. This combines two of the area's best scrambles: the North Ridge of Tryfan (hands-on ground from road to the summit) followed by Bristly Ridge (exciting ground at an amenable grade), or a more difficult scramble up Glyder Fach. Most of the Snowdon Horseshoe’s thrills come from the narrow ridge of Crib Goch – which, although exposed, presents little difficulty for the more seasoned scrambler. Bochlwyd’s ridge ride, however, varies between exposed arêtes, narrow gullies and broad ridges. It may lack a touch of the Snowdon grandeur but you’ll still hit the summits of Tryfan and Glyder Fach.

“The best easy all-day scramble south of the Scottish border.” – Dan Bailey

GRADE: 1
SPICE FACTOR: 3/10

Shorter, but sharper, than the Snowdon Horseshoe. Ideal for hill walkers looking for the next step after Crib Goch.

2. Ledge Route, Ben Nevis, Scotland

Don’t be misledged by a utilitarian name, Ledge Route is a hill walker’s scrambling line to the very highest point in Britain. The easiest scrambling route on Ben Nevis, Ledge Route is a great introduction to Britain's highest mountain and takes you right into the historical heart of Scottish mountaineering. Containing a bit of everything, it starts in No. 5 Gully and weaves an improbable line up Carn Dearg Buttress to a narrow ridge and, finally, the summit of Carn Dearg on the Ben Nevis plateau. Ledgendary.

“Interesting route finding with a big, serious feel. It might be low in the grade but don’t take it lightly.” – Dan Bailey

GRADE: 2
SPICE FACTOR: 3/10

Relatively straightforward but with a big feel. Careful route finding required.

WATCH: How to move when scrambling on BMC TV

3. Clogwyn y Person Arête, Snowdon, Wales

Are you the type that likes to escape the crowds? Put your head down for a long walk in, up past the silent walls of Cyrn Las. You’ll be rewarded with high mountain solitude and Clogwyn y Person Arête, probably the best scramble in Snowdonia. It’s climbed via a series of little walls and ledges and the easiest line (grade 3) takes some finding. Tougher variations are possible; tough persons might also like to add a harder start with a couple of Difficult pitches up the Parson’s Nose. Above the arête there’s plenty more excitement: follow the Crib y Ddysgl - Crib Goch ridge to bag the best bit of scrambling on the Snowdon Horseshoe (grade 1), then complete the circuit with an airy descent of Crib Goch’s little-trodden North Ridge.

“This adventure on the wild side of Snowdon follows a compellingly obvious line.” – Dan Bailey

GRADE: 3
SPICE FACTOR: 6/10

A mountaineering day with an alpine feel. With the easiest route at grade 3 – and the option of starting up Parson’s Nose (D) – you’ll need to know your ropes.

4. Curved Ridge, Buachaille Etive Mor, Scotland

Curved Ridge: where scrambling becomes mountaineering. Buachaille Etive Mor is one of Britain's most evocative mountains and this is a real route to remember. After a two-hour approach the views over Rannoch Moor are stunning and they only get better the higher you scramble. Curved Ridge weighs in at a hard scramble or an easy rock climb, but it is climbable in all weathers. Much of the route is straightforward, with the exception of a steep section near the top where a few obligatory rocky steps have to be climbed.

GRADE: 3/MODERATE ROCK CLIMB
SPICE FACTOR: 6/10

An outstanding ridge that requires basic rock climbing ability. Big and exposed, it’s one for the technically competent.

WATCH: How to route-find when scrambling on BMC TV

5. Cneifion Arête, Wales

Nudge yourself up the knife edge of the Cneifion Arête. Exposed and demanding, this test piece is an absolute classic – whether taken on its own or combined with the Idwal Slabs. You can access Cwm Cneifion in several different ways but a favourite is to warm up on the Idwal Staircase (a very pleasant grade 2 scramble up the side of the Idwal Slabs) then skip across Cwm Cneifion to the foot of the route. The start involves a couple of pitches of rock climbing but after that it eases back and becomes a beautiful knife-edge ridge; you could be in the Alps.

“A brilliant mountain day. Something for both experienced climbers and scramblers.” – Gareth Hanson, Editor, RCUK

GRADE: 3/DIFFICULT ROCK CLIMB
SPICE FACTOR: 8/10

Exposed and demanding. This grade 3 arête is the benchmark for its grade. A couple of Difficult rock pitches and the knife-edge ridge mean it’s for seasoned scramblers only.

6. Dubhs Ridge, Skye, Scotland

Dubhs is pronounced do, and you really should. At about 900m this is often quoted as Britain’s longest rock climb; it’s hard to think of a better one at any grade. Sweeping straight out of Loch Coruisk, a huge mound of overlapping slabs runs unbroken from near sea level to a subsidiary summit at over 700m, with perfect sandpaper-rough gabbro all the way. From here the ridge narrows dramatically, with sustained interest right to the Munro summit of Sgurr Dubh Mor. You don't get much more thrilling than this without it being pure rock climbing.

GRADE: 3/MODERATE ROCK CLIMB
SPICE FACTOR: 9/10

Long approach. An unroped scramble for most of its length but the occasional tricky step and one airy abseil earn a Moderate grade. Very remote: getting benighted is entirely possible.

Good luck!

Words: Katy Dartford / Alex Messenger.

Thanks to: Dan Bailey and Jon Sparks. Dan is author of ‘Scotland’s Mountain Ridges’ and ‘The Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland’ and Jon is author of ‘Scrambles and Easy Climbs in Snowdonia’. Buy both from the BMC shop.

WATCH: The complete scrambling skills series on BMC TV

Supported by DMM and the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, our new video series aims to give you the knowledge you need.

WATCH: Rope Work for Scramblers video series on BMC TV

READ MORE: Tips and safety guidance for scrambling

GO ON A COURSE: Learn scrambling from professionals

  • Take a course in safer scrambling - for less: Are you a summer hill walker looking to tackle steeper, more challenging terrain? These great-value scrambling courses in the spiky mountains of Snowdonia are the perfect next step.  

Read our "how to scramble" guides:


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