Scrambling Grades Explained - A Guide to British Scramble Grades
What are the Different Scrambling Grades?
Grade 1 Scrambles
Are usually an exposed walking route which shouldn’t require the use of a rope. Don’t let the grade fool you though- Crib Goch is a grade 1 and virtually every weekend you hear of crag fast people stuck on it due to the amount of exposure on offer.
Generally the route finding is easy on a grade 1 scramble although there are some notorious grade 1 scrambles that are very difficult e.g. Llech Ddu Spur in Snowdonia.
Wet or windy conditions on a grade 1 scramble can seriously affect the difficulty level e.g. you don’t want to be on an exposed ridge in high winds.
Popular grade 1 scrambles include:
- Striding Edge in the Lake District
- Sharp Edge in the Lake District
- Crib Goch in Snowdonia
- Tryfan (North Ridge) in Snowdonia
Above: Crib Goch in Snowdonia
See our blog on the best grade 1 scrambles in Snowdonia here.
Grade 2 Scrambles
Will require more use of the hands and will probably have more exposure. The scrambling sections are generally longer and require more climbing skills than a grade 1.
Route finding can be more tricky than grade 1 scrambles and care needs to be taken not to stray into rock climbing territory where a rope and protection would be essential.
A rope is advised to tackle grade 2 scrambles although more experienced parties may do the routes without.
Popular grade 2 scrambles include:
- Pinnacle Ridge in Snowdonia
- Aonach Eagach in Glencoe
Above: Pinnacle Ridge in Snowdonia
Grade 3 Scrambles
These are usually low graded rock climbs (mod or diff) and do require the use of a rope in several sections. These should only be tackled by experienced scramblers with rope skills and they will also require route finding experience.
Generally escape routes are difficult and may require abseiling knowledge and it can be easy to stray onto difficult rock climbing territory if you come off the route.
Popular grade 3 scrambles include:
Cneifion Arete in Snowdonia
Dolmen Ridge in Snowdonia
Pinnacle Ridge in the Lake District
Above: Cneifion Arete in Snowdonia
Grade 4 Scrambles
This is a new grade and certainly isn’t in any of the books we use for scrambling. It tends not to be used in UK scrambling grading however we have included it in case you do come across any online.
Basically grade 4 scrambles are rock climbs and should only be taken on by experienced scramblers with rock climbing skills. Escape on these routes will be extremely difficult and most likely would need to be done by abseil.
Mid Grade Scrambles + or - Grades
In some books you may also see a + or a – used after the grade. The plus means that the scramble is at the top of it’s given grade and a minus means it’s at bottom end of it’s grade. This is a useful grading system to use for people working up the levels as it allows you to try the next grade up at it’s easiest level.
Remember: There is no shame in using a rope and gear on scrambles- don’t ever feel pressured into doing a route without the right gear because your mates are or you haven’t had training. It’s better to do it safely and be able to enjoy a pint at the pub at the end of the day rather than have an epic or get into a potentially dangerous situation because you didn’t have the skills.
Scrambling in Winter Conditions
Attempting any scrambles in winter is a completely different ball game to summer. Easy ridge walking can become a gnarly alpine experience requiring the use of an ice axe and crampons at the very least.
Above: Crib Goch in winter conditions
A lot of grade 1 scrambles will require the use of a rope, unless it's a straight forward ridge walk, and potentially some ice tool and gear experience to stay safe- particularly if there are vertical sections of scrambling on the route.
What Kit do you Need for Scrambling
For grade 2-3 scrambles we would recommend you have the following kit:
- Approach shoes with a sticky sole and good edges
- 30-60m rope depending on where you are scrambling. We tend to use a 30m to reduce weight and just do shorter pitches,
- Nuts and hex set as a minimum
- 2-3 smaller cams (not essential but do come in useful and you will end up using these if you progress to rock climbing)
- A selection of slings (for pinnacles and flakes) 4 x 60cm, 3 x 120cm and 1 x 240cm
- 5 carabiners
- 3 BOA HMS carabiners
- Belay plate
- Nut key
Rock Climbing Essential skills & Techniques- Specifically written for mountain training, this book goes through scrambling and rope work skills you need to know to progress through the grades.
Winter Skills: Again, written for mountain training this will go through the skills you need to go out scrambling in winter.
Recommended Scrambling & Climbing Courses
If you are new to scrambling then we thoroughly recommend you taking a scrambling course with a professional first. It will give you the preparation needed to get out onto the mountains safely and have a great day out. We have used the following companies for scrambling and climbing courses and highly recommend them both:
Beyond The Edge: Run specific scrambling courses in Snowdonia which are absolutely fantastic. They have enabled us to go out and be completely independent on all scrambling grades and got us started with trad climbing. Chris and Alex are very generous with their time and give you all the encouragement you need to get out on the mountains, have a good time and be safe.
Leading Edge: Run a variety of rock climbing and scrambling courses. We have been on specific tailored climbing courses with them to enable us to push our trad climbing grade and can’t recommend them enough. They are also based in Snowdonia and you can often bump into Cath or Sam at the Siabod café before and after days out. Sam is an inspirational teacher and is highly regarded in the outdoor industry.
We hope this blog gives you the inspiration to get out and try scrambling. As ever please do contact us with any questions- we would love to hear from you.
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