What is scrambling
Scrambling is where hiking meets climbing. The routes are less technical than a full blown climbing route but many are longer and far more exposed than your typical climb. It also has the advantage of not needing as much equipment as a normal climb either. Scrambles come under a three-grade system; Grade 1 being the easiest, Grade 3 being the hardest and Grade 2 being somewhere between the two.
There are a couple of words that come up frequently when talking about scrambles, or indeed most climbs:
Exposed: Where you can see a very large drop on one side (or both) of the route and creates a greater psychological sense of fear and exhilaration.
Technical: Requires the more frequent use of hands to move up, longer sections requiring more thought for foot placement and potentially needing a rope to protect the route.
The best scrambles in England
While there are hundreds of scrambles throughout England a couple of them stand out above the rest:
Striding Edge (Lake District)
Possibly England’s most frequented scramble and for a very good reason. It offers a superb route up to Helvellyn with plenty of exposure but without the need for almost any technical climbing ability. This makes Striding Edge perfect for a first time scrambler. Ticking off one of the largest mountains in England is a nice bonus.
From the ridge you will get magnificent views over the surrounding fells and lakes. Following the ridge line itself is fairly easy but if the exposure, or the final ‘down climb’ is a bit much for you then there is a path just down from the ridge itself that you can use.
Combining Striding Edge with Swirral Edge as the descent route will give you a day in the mountains you will never forget
Sharp Edge (Lake District)
Our second scramble for England is also in the Lake District that leads to Blencathra. Like Striding Edge Sharp Edge is ‘only’ Grade 1 requiring little technical ability on paper but it will feel a lot harder unless you are in perfect conditions. So if you are not confident yet you may consider leaving this for a drier and less windy day.
Part of what makes Sharp Edge so alluring is the you can see it’s wonderful curve from the main road and it’s only an hour walk away from the car park. Ticking off another of England's highest mountains probably helps its popularity as well.
The best scrambles in Wales
Grib Goch (Snowdon)
Quite possibly the most famous, and probably the busiest, scramble in the UK. The knife edge ridge lives up to that name with the first few metres being a wake up call for those thinking this is just another walking route.
Forming the first half of the horseshoe routes that was used by the 1953 Everest Expedition as a training ground you will be walking in the shoes of the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary. While soaking up the history of this route don’t forget that the views are almost unparalleled in the whole of the UK. A solid length with plenty of exposure, especially during the short down climb section, and then finishing at the Summit of Snowdon makes this a truly great day out.
For those with energy left try finishing the horseshoe by ascending Y Lliwedd as well.
Nantle Ridge (Snowdonia)
A nice quiet one for a change. Situated North of Snowdon with hills of no great height you can sometimes have the ridge just to yourself. There are some moments of exposure but most of the difficulties can be avoided if you want (though sticking as close to the ridge line as possible is by far the most fun way).
This route links with a number of lesser climbed peaks affording you a variety of different views; coastal, forest, mountains and moorland. While there are other routes down from the various peaks if you want to make a full day out of it you will need transportation from the far end as it is a linear route.
North Ridge of Tryfan (Snowdonia)
Most of Tryfan itself is a scramble with only the first 20 minutes or so being a walk. This length and height gain makes the North Ridge exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.
A mountain best climbed in good weather as when the cloud comes down navigation can become tricky for some. But when you get the good weather you are rewarded with rugged mountain views and the opportunity to jump between the Adam and Eve stone monoliths on the summit.
If you still have daylight you can continue by day’s scrambling by taking of Bristly Ridge as well.
The best scrambles in Scotland
Aonach Eagach Ridge (Glencoe)
Long, exposed and prone to bad Scottish weather the Aonach Eager is like Crib Goch dialled up to 11! Situated in the picturque Glen Coe this is often described as the best Ridge on the British Mainland.
To complete the traverse, as there is no safe retreat option, you will require more than just a head for heights and good hiking fitness. You will need to be practised at Grade 1 scrambles and have a few short Grade 3s under your belt as well as knowledge of rope technique. While a rope isn’t absolutely required it can come in very handy in few sections- mainly the first down climb as the start of the route.
When you master this fine ridgeline you will definitely have earned a drink or two.
Cuillin Ridge (Skye)
Easily the finest ridge in the UK. 11 Munros, 12km of route, knife edges, pinnacles and 3000m of ascent. This is the truest test of a scrambler with a rope definitely recommended for this one! The views over seas and mountains are like those from a fantasy book with remote and sustained beauty.
It is recommended that you practise for this one first; do parts of the ridge to build up your skills and route finding technique before trying for a full one day traverse of the whole ridge.
Despite these challenges, or because of them, the Cuillin Ridge is the Holy Grail for many. There will be many bragging rights available once you complete it.
These are just a few of the amazing scrambles in the UK, all of which can be done in winter as well but develop from Scrambles to Winter Routes. There are plenty of guidebooks for all mountainous regions of the UK where you can discover for yourself some hidden gems to test yourself against.
Written by Joe