For those who don’t know, scrambling is the bit that fits between walking and climbing. When you start to need to use your hands as well as your feet for upward progress you are entering into scrambling terrain. Grade 1 scrambles visit rocky terrain with small steps that require climbing, as the grade increases so does the difficulty of the moves and the often exposure increases too. Grade 3 scrambles can have sections that are rock climbing, with easier scrambling terrain in between.
You may have been stuck at home away from the mountains and you’re are absolutely desperate to get back out there. As with any activity when you haven't done it for ages it is going to feel different when you get back to it.
Making sure you are ready and build up to the bigger adventures in a progressive way will help make sure you are looking after yourself and those you are out with.
I’m going to think about scrambling in this blog post, some of my favourite scrambles and some I would do to get myself back in the zone.
It is always more fun to be out when the weather is dry and the winds are light - when you are getting back in the zone keep as many things in your favour as possible. The best weather, the longest amount of time, good food and good supportive company. All these things will keep you at ease and help to support your confidence, as well as making it a great day out.
Firstly, the south ridge of Moel Siabod - a total classic and you can make it as easy or difficult as you want. The day out is fun on a big mountain with a variety of terrain to get stuck in to.
The walk from Pont Cyfyng in Capel Curig allows you to get back into the swing of things navigationally. I regularly use the path up to Llyn y Foel as an area for giving myself a refresher on measuring distances using the major features along the way.
Carrying on from the quarry lake up to Llyn yFoel there is plenty of scope to re-familiarise yourself with contour features. It can be good to set yourself some points, whilst also tracking on your phone. Then check yourself to see how accurate you have been - just don't be tempted to look too soon!
Once on the ridge the fun begins. Feel free to pick out a line that suits how you are feeling. Stay further left if you want it to be easier or go for the crest for the full experience.
The summit has a trig point and shelter just off the summit. This is perfect to huddle down if it is a bit breezy, get a bite to eat and check out your route for descent. This summit is also very rounded so if visibility is poor or blowing in and out, it is worth walking on a bearing to make sure you are heading in the right direction.
If you fancy more rocky fun, follow the east ridge along to its end and back to the track you walked up. Alternatively make a beeline for the woods above Plas y Brenin and follow the footpath through the woods beside the river back to the start.
If you are feeling confident, Y Gribin on the Glyderau starting up the false Gribin start gives more continuous scrambling too and is a good option to extend the grade I scrambling. It is a wonderful scramble with fine views over the Carneddau and into the mysterious cwm cniefion and down to cwm Idwal. The journey across the summit plateau to Glyder Fawr is a good place to practice your navigation, the challenge being to find the actual summit rocks! From here you can retrace your steps to go to Glyder Fach and get the classic shot of yourself stood on the cantilever stone, then head down to the miners path and back to bwlchtryfan. The path down beside bristly ridge is not a fun option and heading towards the miners although longer is a much more pleasant option.
Alternatively the traverse of Lliwedd up the Gribin ridge and over the summits is a brilliant rocky scramble. It has a couple of tricker sections on the gribin ridge but is polished and so you can stay on track just by following where others have been before. You top out at on the Gribin bybwlch y Saethau (pass of the arrows NGR SH 614542) where King Arthur is said to be buried.
The scrambling continues as you traverse Lliwedd, over each of the two summits. To your left there is the great drop down to Lly Llydaw, and the impressive crags of Lliwedd. A training ground for many climbers and mountaineers including Mallory and Irvine. You’ll need to stay alert on the descent as the scrambling terrain continues on the final steepening down to Llyn Llydaw. The final section down to the path is steep and it could be easy at the end of the day to have a weary stumble if you are not concentrating.
If you’d like to step up into the steeper stuff some of my favourites include.
When you’ve got back in the zone, Crib Goch is the classic ridge traverse on most scramblers hit list for north Wales. Perhaps the full horse shoe would be the perfect day to set your sights on? Ideally you’ll be looking for fine weather and good views to accompany you across Crib Gochand Crib y ddysgl. Then head over to Snowdon and enjoy the descent to traverse over Lliwedd.
Make sure you head off the top of Snowdon in the right direction! It is easy with the hustle and bustle to end up on the south ridge rather than the Watkin path. The critical moment comes 50m below the summit when the path to Nant Gwynant veers East. It continues down to split again at 750m above sea level into the Watkin path or alternatively take you back up and over Y Lliwedd. There are some sign posts at key points, but it’s along way back up from the valley floor if you get it wrong.
The East ridge of Y Garn - grade I scrambling up the bottom spur, topped off with a narrow ridge and scramble up the buttress at the top. Not always perfect rock, but brilliant terrain and scenery.
A link up of Cneifion Arete and Dolman ridge are the perfect grade III journey in my opinion. A classic alpine-esque ridge followed by atmospheric journeying up the side of a buttress on the north face of Glyder Fach - topping out on the very summit. It really doesn't get much better.
There are a huge range of guide books for scrambling in Snowdonia available now. However, I really rate Garry Smiths ’North Wales Scrambles; Garry has selected the best rather than including everything.
The descriptions and photos in this pocket-sized guidebook are great plus he has split the grades providing greater detail. He’s done this by simply adding a ‘+’ or ‘-’ to the traditional grades (1, 2 or 3)and accompanied it with short descriptions of exposure and level of commitment. Doing so gives enough detail to allow you to make an informed route selection.
As with all outdoor activities, reading books and articles is only going to teach you so much and if you’re in the ‘first time scrambler’ category, want to learn something new or are struggling with confidence, there’s no substitute for hiring the services of an outdoor professional.
Xtreme Exposures works with a number of outdoor professionals who operate around the UK, including myself, and you can find out more and book us by clicking here.
If you decide to do it yourself, which ever route you choose to take, have fun but do it carefully, take your time and don’t stretch yourself too far. The last thing you or anyone else needs is to be involved in a mountain rescue call-out.
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