Scrambling skills: the grades explained

Posted by Hanna Lindon on 21/04/2015
Grade 1 scrambling on Jack's Rake. Photo by Duncan Andison/ Shutterstock.

New to scrambling? The first step to becoming a rock-hopping pro is to know thy enemy. In part one of our scrambling skills guide, we demystify the grading system.

Scrambling covers the middle ground between walking and climbing, and provides many memorable days out on the hill, as well as being fantastic training for the Via Ferratas of mainland Europe. It’s essentially easy rock climbing, travelling through some stunning mountain scenery, but such terrain can be very serious and a full range of mountaineering skills can be called on.

Keen to make the transition from walker to scrambler? To avoid accidentally straying into rock climbing territory, it’s crucial to understand the grading system. 

“The natural progression for walkers is going into grade 1 scrambling terrain,” says Bryn Williams, National Development Officer for Mountain Training (Wales) and an active member of the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team. “But once ropes are used then it’s mountaineering with slimmed-down rock climbing techniques – requiring a huge amount of judgment which only comes from experience. The higher scrambling grades are climbing terrain.”

Scrambles in the UK are generally graded from 1 to 3, although the exact scale will depend on the guidebook. So what can you expect from each grade?

Grade 1

All scrambling grades require a degree of rock climbing as both hands and feet are employed, but a classic grade 1 scramble is essentially an exposed walking route. Most tend to be relatively straightforward with many difficulties avoidable, and some of the most popular days out in the British mountains are ‘easy’ Grade 1 scrambles. Despite some knee-trembling sections, the likes of Striding Edge on Helvellyn, Snowdon’s Crib Goch or Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark can typically be attempted without ropes and protection.

Grade 2

Above this, for Grade 2 and 3 scrambles, the line between scrambling and rock climbing becomes a lot more blurred, and the use of protection becomes more advisable. There is a popular misconception that scrambling is a milder and less dangerous version of rock climbing - ‘climbing-lite’. But scrambling can be actually be the more serious activity, particularly in the higher grades, mainly because people typically attempt it with less protection than rock climbing or none at all.

Grade 2 scrambles such as the Aonach Eagach Ridge above Glen Coe will usually include sections where a nervous scrambler would want a rope to protect them, and the person in front (the leader) must feel confident moving over exposed yet relatively easy climbing terrain. We would recommend learning to climb to at least V Diff level or taking a scrambling course before attempting serious scrambling of Grade 2 or above.

Grade 3

Grade 3 scrambles often appear in climbing guides as ‘Moderately’ graded climbing routes (the easiest climbing grade), and should only be tackled by the confident. Use of the rope is to be expected for several sections, which may be up to about Difficult in rock climbing standards.

If you've done a little climbing or a few easier scrambles, however, then venturing onto something a bit more difficult can be very rewarding. Classic Grade 3 scramblers include Pinnacle Ridge in the Lake District and Skye's spectacular Cuillin Ridge

It's worth having a few tricks up your sleeve to help your day flow well - and we’ll be covering everything you need to know about technique and safety in the rest of this series.  

WATCH Britain's Mountain Challenges on BMC TV


JOIN THE BMC: 5 reasons hill walkers should join the BMC

Join online today by Direct Debit and save 50% on your first year's membership.

WATCH: What does the BMC do for hill walkers? on BMC TV

GET THE KNOWLEDGE: BMC resources for hill walkers

  • Hill Walking Essentials DVD: Follow Fredelina and Ben as they learn essential skills and techniques for the British mountains. Buy it now in the BMC shop.

Follow the BMC's hill walking Twitter feed: @BMC_Walk


« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 8411 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

How to scramble: Crib Goch
7
How to scramble: Crib Goch

This thrilling Grade 1 scramble in Snowdonia is one of the country’s most popular ridges - so what does it take to tackle Crib Goch?
Read more »

How to scramble: Striding Edge
3
How to scramble: Striding Edge

Striding Edge is a classic Grade 1 scramble in the Lake District - and if you’re looking to make your first foray into scrambling territory then it’s the perfect place to start. Here, we take a look at the know-how you’ll need to tackle this epic mountain day.
Read more »

Fastest ever winter Cuillin Ridge traverse by Gomersall and Wild
0
Fastest ever winter Cuillin Ridge traverse by Gomersall and Wild

In search of romance (perhaps) Tim Gomersall and Finlay Wild spent Valentine's Day trotting across 11 Munro summits, fuelled mostly by jelly babies, in an uncontested (so far) record six hours 14 minutes and 17 seconds. Tim tells the story of the day, the gear they took, and says it could definitely be done quicker, if anyone fancies rising to the challenge?
Read more »

Post a Comment

Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
1
1) Anonymous User
04/10/2016
Informative post! We use a similar system in the States but most climbers who climb 5.11 can't tell you why the rock scale starts at Grade 5.0, and getting the general hiking public to acknowledge the difference in grades would certainly help reduce some of the rescues we have when hikers end up in rock climbing terrain. Thanks for the post. You might like some of the stuff I have blogged about at www.northeastalpinestart.com. The last post on rappel knots was shared a lot and gave me my highest amount of UK views in a day!

RELATED ARTICLES

How to scramble: Crib Goch
7

This thrilling Grade 1 scramble in Snowdonia is one of the country’s most popular ridges - so what does it take to tackle Crib Goch?
Read more »

How to scramble: Striding Edge
3

Striding Edge is a classic Grade 1 scramble in the Lake District - and if you’re looking to make your first foray into scrambling territory then it’s the perfect place to start. Here, we take a look at the know-how you’ll need to tackle this epic mountain day.
Read more »

Fastest ever winter Cuillin Ridge traverse by Gomersall and Wild
0

In search of romance (perhaps) Tim Gomersall and Finlay Wild spent Valentine's Day trotting across 11 Munro summits, fuelled mostly by jelly babies, in an uncontested (so far) record six hours 14 minutes and 17 seconds. Tim tells the story of the day, the gear they took, and says it could definitely be done quicker, if anyone fancies rising to the challenge?
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £16.97.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »