Rock scrambling grades

Definition of rock-scrambling grades used in Scotland

Rock scrambling is where hillwalking ends and ends where rock-climbing begins - exhilarating, great fun and where a real sense of achievement is earned. Our favourites are in Torridon, on Ben Nevis's North Face and Carn Mor Dearg arête, An Teallach and the Aonach Eagach.

Rock-scrambling grades

Noel Williams, author of many acclaimed guidebooks, gives the description of rock-scrambling as "progress which is too exciting to be just hillwalking, but not difficult enough to be genuine rock-climbing". Below are definitions of rock-scrambling grades in dry, summer conditions as defined by the SMC in their "Skye Scrambles" guidebook.

Grade 1 : easy rock-scrambles

"This grade of scramble will be fairly straightforward for most experienced hillwalkers. It may be necessary to use the hands occasionally for progress, but the holds will normally be large and the exposure will not be too daunting." The use of a rope is not expected.

Grade 2 : moderate rock-scrambles

"This grade of scramble will require the hands to be used for more sustained sections. The exposure will be significant, and retreat may be quite difficult." Route finding will also be more tricky than Grade 1. For people with the necessary experience, the use of a rope is not usually expected.

Grade 3 : advanced rock-scrambles

"This type of scramble may involve making moves on steep rock in very exposed situations. All but experienced climbers might prefer the protection of a rope in some places. Occasional moves of Moderate rock climbing standard may be encountered. The ability to abseil may be useful if a retreat has to be made." Grade 3 rock-scrambles are effectively 'Moderate Climbs' - most mountain guides will treat them as such using ropes and relevant climbing gear.

Examples of different rock-scrambling grades

Below is a list of fine Grade 1 and Grade 2 rock-scrambles that are on the way to popular peaks in Scotland, the Lake District and Snowdonia. It is by no means a definitive list, just some routes that myself or friends know and like !

Grade 1 rock-scrambles

Beinn Alligin, the Horns of Alligin
Beinn Eighe, the Black Carls

Lurg Mhor, east top
Forcan Ridge, bypassing the 'bad step'
Beinn Fhada, west ridge (Kintail)
Mullach Fraoch-choire (Cluanie)

Ben Nevis, Ledge Route avoiding initial slab
Ben Nevis, Carn Mor Dearg arête
Mamores, Devil's Ridge
Mamores, An Garbhanach
Mamores, Am Bodach east shoulder
Bidean nam Bian, Gearr Aonach zig-zags
Stob Ghabhar, Aonach Eagach
Ben Alder, Short Leachas
Ben Alder, Long Leachas
Beinn a'Bheithir, School House Ridge

Cairngorm, Fiacaill Ridge path
Sgor an Lochain Uaine, North East Ridge

Ben Cruachan, east ridge incl 'bad step'
Lawers, An Stuc east ridge
Stuc a'Chroin, north-east buttress direct

Cuillin, Sgurr Dearg from the Memorial Hut
Cuillin, Sgurr nan Eag
Blaven (variations on main 'tourist route')

Other Islands
Rum, Ainshival
Arran, Cir Mhor (east ridge, avoiding difficulties)

North Ridge, Tryfan
Bristly Ridge, Glyder Fach
Crib Goch, Snowdon
Llech Ddu Spur, Carnedd Dafydd
Moel Siabod, South Ridge (probably grade ½)

Lake District
Striding Edge on Helvellyn
Jack's Rake, Pavey Ark
Brown Cove Crags, Helvellyn
Sharp Edge, Blencathra
Halls Fell Ridge, Blencathra
Long Crag, Coniston

Grade 2 rock-scrambles

An Teallach, classic traverse avoiding direct pitch on Corrag Buidhe
Liathach, Am Fasarinen Pinnacles
Stac Pollaidh
Suilven, east ridge

Forcan Ridge, direct route including 'bad step'

Ben Nevis, Ledge Route including initial slab
Aonach Eagach

Cairngorm, Fiacaill Ridge direct

Cuillin, Am Basteir (east ridge)
Cuillin, Sgurr Mhic Choinnch
Cuillin, Sgurr Dubh Mor
Cuillin, Sgurr Alasdair, south-east ridge

Cwm Uchaf Horseshoe
Tryfan, East Face
Y Garn, South East Ridge
Llechog Ridge on Snowdon North


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