Ten tips for getting started with scrambling

10 June 2021
6 min

Scrambling is the perfect activity for a mixture of hiking and easy rock climbing. It involves using your hands to help you ascend a slope or ridge line. While a lot of the enjoyment of scrambling comes from freedom and absence of technical equipment, this also poses a risk of falling and climbers are advised to take rope with them in case it’s required at a particularly difficult section of their route. Climbs are graded from one to three, with one being the easiest and three the most difficult. These grades give you a rough idea of what to expect before you set off on your climb, however scrambling can involve unexpected turns so it’s important to be prepared. 

Here’s our top ten tips to get you started:

Get your practice on an indoor wall

Building up your strength before you hit the outdoor rocks is always a great idea. This will not only get you used to planning your route up the rocks, but also to the movement of placing your hands on the rocks and pulling yourself up. Your muscles will strengthen and your balance will improve from building up strength in your core. Not to mention your overall stamina will improve from this full-body workout activity, which will come in very useful once you’re ready to scramble up the outdoor rocks. 

Check the weather

The weather conditions can quickly take your scramble from a comfortable one to a difficult one. While some people opt for wet conditions and try to make their route the most difficult it can be, a lot of people try to avoid this at all costs. Rain can make rocks extremely slippery so if this isn’t for you, plan accordingly. Although it’s easier said than done as in some places, Britain being a good example, weather conditions can quickly take a turn. So even if it’s supposed to be a sunny day, stay vigilant when on the rocks and make changes accordingly. 

Start early

Scrambling routes can often take longer than you think, so setting off early gives you that extra leeway. Furthermore, getting to the top of your route when the sun is setting isn’t ideal for being able to see on the way back down. Starting early also means you get the majority of your climb out the way before the weather changes. You’ll also most likely beat the crowds, which is perfect for if you’re a first time scrambler and don’t want the pressure of other climbers around you.

Pack precautionary measures

Preparation is key and this applies to what you take with you. Ideally you don’t want to be carrying a heavy backpack whilst climbing the rocks, but it’s vital to take some precautionary gear with you. An important and potentially obvious item to take is a fully charged phone, in case you need assistance. Pack this in a waterproof bag so it’s protected from any potential rain. Speaking of rain, packing waterproofs is always a good idea for if the weather takes a turn for the worst. Another useful item is a headtorch, for if the light dims earlier than expected so you can see where you’re going. 

Start off small 

It might sound obvious, but hitting a grade three scramble for your first go most likely won’t end well. We recommend starting off with a classic hillwalking scramble to get you used to the movements. From there, you can gradually build up your experience, strength and confidence. It’s recommended to sample several routes at a given grade before moving up to the next one. If this is something you’re working towards, you’ll need to learn how to use rope to assist you on your climb. 

Wear a helmet 

Some scrambling routes involve very loose terrain, putting you at risk of being hit by rockfall. Especially if there’s someone climbing above you and their foot slips on a loose rock. Even if you’re on a relatively easy route, it’s vital to be safe and wear a helmet just in case. Regardless of whether there's rockfall, your helmet will protect you from banging your head on the rocks as you look up to decide your next hold. 

Check the rock

Before you pull yourself up or take a step on a rock, it’s crucial to make sure your path is secure to avoid any injuries. You can do this by banging the rock with your hand and wobbling it. If you suspect a rock isn’t stable then treat it with caution, but do not kick it away as this can injure someone in your group or even people far below you that you may not know are there. It’s very likely that you’ll come across some loose rocks on your scramble, even on the best routes, so stay vigilant when climbing. 

Have the courage to turn back

Planning your route is key, but things can take a turn when scrambling. Whether that’s the weather, an unexpected change in rock or a group member not feeling well. Sometimes it’s safer to turn back instead of carrying on, so it’s important to have the courage to do so for your wellbeing. 

Don’t rush

Slow and steady definitely wins the race with scrambling. Although it can be tempting to reach the top as quickly as you can, you don’t want to exhaust yourself too early. Especially if you’re new to scrambling, it’s important to take it slow and think carefully about your route. 

Go with a professional 

Having the knowledge and experience of a guide with you when scrambling will make you feel at ease and give you the confidence to push yourself, especially if it’s your first time climbing. Snowdonia is the perfect scrambling location and Carla, just one of our fantastic guides, has an Introduction to Rock Scrambling course available in this ideal spot. She has fantastic knowledge of the local area and is a qualified mountain leader, so you’ll no doubt have a fantastic day. Click here to read more about Carla’s course in Snowdonia.