A dictionary definition of rock scrambling could sound like.“a method of ascending rocky faces and ridges”, and that is pretty much it! It is not climbing; when vertical and overhanging faces are ascended, but instead scrambling can range from easily negotiated rocky terrain to full-on step and slabby rock faces.
The basics: Basic equipment would be a good sturdy pair of boots with a good sole (such as the Grisport Everest), waterproofs and warm clothes, map and compass, first aid kit and a rucksack. For those who are regular and confident hill walkers who wish to begin scrambling, I would recommend trying something like Raven’s Crag, Yewdale (near Coniston, Lake District) which is an easy grade one with many areas where one can rest or back-off.
Another recommendation is go with other people who are experienced and always scramble in at least pair’s. There are also plenty of instruction/guided programs to join for a safe introduction, these are advertised in the walking / outdoor magazines.
It is important to mention here that scrambling is broken down into four different grades: one to four, with one being the easiest, and four the hardest, and there is a big difference between a grade one and a four. However, grading is quite subjective. When the grade is decided the scramble is undertaken in dry, summer and ‘ideal’ conditions, and the weather conditions alone can easily change a grade one scramble into a grade two or even three.
A grade one scramble is a fairly straight-forward scramble, but even these should be treated with respect.
Jack’s Rake, for example, in Great Langdale is a classic Lakeland grade one scramble, yet it seems every year people fall off, with terrible consequences. Some grade one scrambles, such as Striding Edge on Helvellyn, are technically fairly straight forward, but are very exposed.
A grade two is a bit more serious and it is recommend that a rope and some protection is carried, as well as knowledge of when and how to use it!
For a straight forward grade two I would recommend taking climbing protection such as, about half a dozen nuts and quick-draws, karibinars, lots of slings and a 50 metre rope. (Remember: if tying the rope around your waist, a big fall will still break your ribs!)
Grades three is are harder still and definitely requires a rope, climbing protection and a harness. Grade four scrambles are like grade threes, plus some more! These definitely require experience and confidence.
Most of the best Lake District hill days (and nights!) I have ever had have been scrambling, whether it is a gloriously sunny day on Helvellyn’s Striding Edge, an extremely wet day on Jack’s Rake or a cold night on Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle.
Finally, when to wear a helmet? I wear my helmet on a grade one, and so should you.
MM- Head to the Hills