The best scrambles in the Lake District

The Best Scrambles in the Lake District

The best scrambles in the Lake District

What are The Best Scrambles in the Lake District? 

The Lake District isn't regarded as a scrambling Mecca like Snowdonia is - it's better known as a big hiking area. This is possibly because many of the scrambles have much bigger walk in's which feel quite committing and are not always the easiest to find - that only adds to the adventure though right? 

Some of the best scrambles in the Lake District are in fantastic settings with a big mountain feel. It arguably has some of the finest ridges to get up onto the highest peaks in England which creates a fantastic memorable mountain journey. 

In this blog we want to showcase 5 of the best scrambles in the Lake District which cover all grades of scrambling - so there should be something for everyone. They are also set on 5 different mountains so you can tick off a few Wainwrights along the way! 

Scrambling Grades 

Scrambles range in grade generally from 1 to 3 with 1 being the easiest and 3 being the hardest. Grade 1 scrambles generally do not require a rope and are easy to navigate where as grade 3 scrambles should be done using a rope and often require good route finding skills. 

For those unsure of the scrambling grades please see our blog on Scrambling Routes Explained blog.

Striding Edge - Helvellyn (Grade 1) 

Striding edge grade 1 scramble

Striding Edge is arguably one of the best ridge walks in the UK and is certainly a great introduction to scrambling. When combining Striding Edge with Swiral Edge it makes for one of the most fantastic scrambling days out and you get to summit the 3rd highest mountain in England - Helvellyn at 950m. 

Most people generally start in Glenridding and make their way up Striding Edge and go down Swirral Edge if doing a loop (which we highly recommend). However, we like to go up Swirral and down Striding as in our opinion - the approach is much more amenable to Swirral Edge but that could just be down to personal taste! Either way it's phenomenal! 

striding edge best scramble in the Lake District

It's not one to be taken for granted though as it has caught many an unsuspecting walker out as it's quite exposed in places. Due to the mountains popularity and indeed this route's popularity it sees a lot of traffic which inevitably means it's going to see more accidents. In bad weather or snowy conditions you also need to be careful on the summit of Helvellyn as it can often cornice on it's Western edge. 

Striding edge grade 1 scramble in the Lake District

The friendly thing about Striding Edge is you can choose to take it head on along the crest or if you a little nervous then you can take the lower paths on the side which are still exposed but not as scary. 

If you are new to scrambling then it's best to try Striding Edge on a good weather day with good visibility, low wind and no ice or snow. 

A full route description and map are available in the Cicerone Scrambles in the North Lakes book

Sharp Edge - Blencathra (Grade 1)

Sharp edge best scramble in the Lake District

This scramble certainly lives up to it's name and is well known for having a bad step. It's another ridge but narrower and shorter than striding edge and when you link it with Halls Fell Ridge it's another cracking scrambling day out - well half day that is as the route is only 5 miles long and takes approximately 4 hours to complete. 

Halls fell ridge Lake District

The views on the whole route are glorious and the exposure on Sharp Edge is exciting if a little short lived. It would probably be a serious contender for the best ridge walk in England if it was longer. You also get to summit what is known as the people's mountain - Blencathra, which has a famous saddleback shape. 

Sharp Edge has a couple of sections where you really need to take care:

- The Bad Step, which is a narrow down climb near the end of the ridge which has steep drops either side. It's an easy move but a slip could mean serious consequences.

The bad step on sharp edge Lake District

- The scramble up from the ridge to the summit of Blencathra. People often switch off on this section because they have done the scary razor sharp bit. It has caught many out because the rock is quite slippy even when dry and if you fall it's a long way down! 

Another important point to note about Sharp Edge as a whole is - in the words of Bon Jovi- it's slippery when wet! No - I mean seriously slippy....the rock is lethal in the rain and also if you are attempting it in winter make sure the snow is compacted and not likely to slide off. 

Don't let the above put you off though - it's a great route in good conditions and is a handy route to do when on the way in or out of the main Lakes areas as you park on the A66 to start.

A full route description and map is available in the Cicerone Scrambles in the North Lakes book 

Jack's Rake - Pavey Ark (Grade 1)

Jacks rake grade 1 scramble in Lake District

Photo courtesy of Joe Haythornthwaite

Jack's rake is another popular grade 1 scramble in the lakes but is a different proposition to the previous 2 ridges discussed. It has the exposure but only on one side and has a chimney which can scare inexperienced scramblers. 

To some it may feel slightly more secure than striding and sharp edge as you have the mountain hugging you on your right, however - you do have a scary steep drop off to the left! It feels like you are climbing up a sustained steep ramp for the most part. 

Jacks rake scramble in the Lake District

Photo courtesy of Ian Taylor

The route starts from New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in the beautiful Langdales and from there you make your way up to Stickle tarn which lies below Pavey Ark. You can easily pick out the route from the other side of the tarn but it is much harder to find the start once you get closer so keep your eye on it as you go around the tarn. 

Best scrambles in the Lake District - jacks rake

Photo courtesy of Peer Lawther

Once you have found the base of the route the holds are very positive all the way up and the whole route is easy to navigate once on it. The most tricky move on the route is a chimney which you have to bridge up. It's best not to avoid the bridging move as if you go around it on the left you end up on very insecure grassy ground which is where a lot of accidents have happened in the past. 

Jack's Rake is another route which should be left for a dry, good weather day as it can be lethal in the wet. You would also miss out on the fantastic views that can be had all the way up and on the summit if doing it in the clag.

 A full route description and map is available in the Cicerone Scrambles in the Lake District South book

Cam Crag Ridge - Rosthwaite Fell (Grade 2) 

Cam Crag Ridge is a hidden classic in a beautiful spot in the Langstrath Valley which lies between Bessyboot and Glaramara. 

The scramble itself is great quality with lots of options depending on how much actual climbing you want to do. It's made up of short buttresses and steps which pack a punch with the quality of moves on excellent rock. 

The route starts off at a Small Car Park in Stonethwaite Village and takes you up past the Langstrath Country Inn (perfect for a pint on the way back!). A bit further along the path you reach Blackmoss Pot which is great for a cooling down in on a hot day! At this point you should be able to see Cam Crag on the right high up. 

Once on the ridge you can't go wrong and it's delightful scrambling all the way up. If you want more exposure then stay right or if you want an easier time stay left. 

From the top you can either go straight back down or extend the day and summit Glaramara. 

Christian Rouse's video shows the route off very well:

A full route description and map is available in the Cicerone Scrambles in the North Lakes book 

Pinnacle Ridge - St Sunday Crag (Grade 3) 

Pinnacle ridge scramble in the Lake District

Pinnacle Ridge is an absolutely awesome scramble which is one my favourite routes in the whole of the UK. It has a proper alpine ridge feel about it and has lots of different interesting moves along with a fantastic photo opportunity on the pinnacles (always important!) 

The hardest bit about this scramble is trying to find it! You start from Patterdale and walk along Grisedale until you go past a house with Elmhow Plantation beyond. Once you get past the plantation and go through the gate you take a left up the hillside. The easiest way is to follow the stream all the way up until the ground starts to level out. Here start to go right along the bank for a while and keep an eye out for the gullies and ridges on the left. You will also end up walking over scree fans - the 3rd scree fan is the one you need to look out for and it should be in line with a bridge down in the distance on the right crossing the beck. Zig zag up the scree fan and you should end up at the base of the route which is set next to a deep gully. 

Pinnacle ridge grade 3 scramble in the Lake District

Once you have found the route it's absolutely glorious scrambling all the way up - the rock is good and there are positive hand and footholds all the way up. The crux is a corner of rock which leads up to the famous pinnacles. It's a steep climb out of the corner where a rope and protection make it much safer. 

Best scramble in the Lake District - pinnacle ridge

Once out on top you can make your way over the pinnacles which make an awesome photo and are really airy! 

The down climb off them is a little tricky so take care but there are good hand and foot holds to use. Once down it's a much more leisurely scramble up to the top of the route which if you turn right you will eventually summit St Sunday Crag. Sit and admire the views over Helvellyn and Dollywaggon Pike before descending down the easy main path back to Patterdale. 

 A full route description and map is available in the Cicerone Scrambles in the North Lakes book.

WHAT KIT DO YOU NEED FOR GRADE 3 SCRAMBLING?

For grade 2-3 scrambles we would recommend you have the following kit:

Helmet

Harness

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 

Headtorch

- Prusik 

We stock all of these items on our amazon store here

RECOMMENDED SCRAMBLING 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.

RECOMMENDED SCRAMBLING BOOKS

Scrambles in the Lake District North by Cicerone (Covers Sharp Edge and Cam Crag Ridge)  

Scrambles in the Lake District south cicerone book

Scrambles in the Lake District South by Cicerone (covers striding edge, Jack's Rake and Pinnacle Ridge)

Lake District Harvey map 

Lake District Harvey Map - It’s vital you don’t just rely on books to navigate the mountains- always carry a map. The books will only cover the specific route you are doing and if you end up off that route then you need to be able to find your way off the mountain. We like Harvey maps the best as they have the crags in much higher detail which is easier for scrambling and climbing. 

We hope this blog gives you the inspiration to get out and try the routes. As ever please do contact us with any questions- we would love to hear from you. 

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy anything through them we will get a small referral fee and you will be supporting us and our blog at no extra cost to you. Disclaimer: Mountaineering, climbing, hill walking and scrambling can all be activities with a risk of personal injury or death. Anyone partaking in such activities need to be aware of the risks and responsible for their own actions. 


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