HOW TO GET INTO SCRAMBLING

Tom Livingstone of Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre offers 10 essential tips that will get you climbing up the mountains of Snowdonia in no time

Illustration photo of HOW TO GET INTO SCRAMBLING

[1] LEAVE THE PATH
The best scrambles take you to unspoilt, remote places that you can't get to simply by walking. Exposed ridges and steps provide an enjoyable and manageable challenge. It's where you'll find quiet moments of solitude. Seek out the scrambles which take you to the areas you're not familiar with.

[2] LET'S DEFINE IT: USE YOUR HANDS
As a minimum, you have to use your hands for it to be 'scrambling'. Look carefully for the best, solid holds and keep the weight over your feet. Short sections of scrambling are best located between large ledges for admiring the view. As a rough maxim, make sure the exposure, scenery and positions outweigh the difficulty – once you seek out routes simply for their technical difficulty it becomes 'climbing'.

[3] CONSIDER YOUR FOOTWEAR
Long days of scrambling take their toll on your feet. Use approach shoes which you can lace tightly for easier scrambles. If you're tackling something challenging or want more support, try a lightweight pair of walking boots; they'll give you confidence and the best 'feel' on rock without being too cumbersome.

[4] PICK YOUR ROUTE
Before deciding what to take, consider where you're intending to go. The essence of scrambling is moving fluidly and efficiently in the mountains, while tackling some challenging terrain and travelling light. If you have a simple objective well within your ability and a fair forecast, you might only need a windproof jacket, basic first aid, map and compass, headtorch and mobile phone. Supplement this as the weather and route dictate, and consider a helmet, rope, small climbing rack, gloves and harness.

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[5] FIND THE EASY WAY
Remember that scrambles often follow ridges and can be fairly committing. Get the rope out if you need protection on a difficult section. Don't climb up anything that looks like it may lead to more trouble, and if you're in any doubt consider retracing your steps or retreating. Double-check though: there's often an easy way to every tricky step which is usually tucked just around the corner. Enjoy moving confidently over easy terrain before thinking about tougher routes.

[6] REMEMBER YOUR GUIDEBOOK
This is so obvious, but so often forgotten! How many people have arrived at the base of a scramble without a good guidebook? Thankfully, you should only have to experience this lesson once. a scrambling guidebook is invaluable and will give detailed information of the overview, approach, ascent and descent. Get it out as soon as you see the intended scramble to get a 'macro' view, before periodically checking it on the route. They are pocket-sized for a good reason.

[7] REVEL IN THE SITUATION
Look over the edge, trace the horizon and swim in the view of mountain lakes. Balance your way across the boulders and wave your toes in the wind. These beautiful, unspoilt places are one of the main reasons why I enjoy scrambling so much, so take your time and soak up the view. Remember to take plenty of photos but leave only footprints.

[8] HAVE PLENTY OF BACK-UP PLANS
Mountain weather is volatile and can often be the biggest challenge. Furthermore, you may decide the goal for the day is too hard or easy, and want to adjust your agenda, so have a variety of plans and be willing to change your goals. I always have a couple of options in mind and avoid being forced into a decision. You can always come back another time, and experience is the best answer when deciding whether to 'go for it' or switch to Plan B.

[9] LINK-UP
It's best to go scrambling with experienced friends, and a group can help the atmosphere and allow you to share the delights. It's also a good idea to combine scrambles from the valley floor to the summit – better than walking all that way! With imagination and some contouring it's possible to ridge-walk your way all the way to the top.

[10] DON'T FORGET TO CONSIDER THE DESCENT!
Finally, remember that reaching the summit means you're only halfway there. Consider the descent routes available and make sure you concentrate all the way home. Take it steady and yes, that contented smile on your face means it was deserved, and worth it!

SCRAMBLING GRADES

Grade 1
Every grade requires some rock climbing using hands and feet, but a classic grade 1 scramble is essentially an exposed walking route. Popular examples include the north ridge of Tryfan and Crib Goch in Snowdonia.

Grade 2
Moving up the scale, grade 2 scrambles 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 terrain.

Grade 3
These scrambles often appear in climbing guides as climbing routes graded Moderate – the easiest climbing grade – and should only be tackled by confident scramblers with experience. A grade 3 scramble should be viewed as a rock climb.

Head to pyb.cp.uk to book a scrambling course with Plas y Brenin's experts.