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Scrambling Grades Explained

So you’re a walker with ambition and it’s time for you to leave the footpaths, get your hands on the rock and experience one of the UK’s fastest growing pastimes – scrambling. You’re ready for an adventure, but you don’t want to get in over your head so sensibly you want to pick a route that isn’t too hard, but isn’t too easy either. Good job all the scrambling routes you’ve found are graded on their difficulty! But what on earth do they mean?!

Maybe we can help?

Grade 1

Think of Grade 1 as a difficult walking route that needs your hands on the rock to help you make progress. It’s fun, but you’re never far away from easier ground which makes escape fairly straightforward. Most folk won’t use rope or technical scrambling gear at this grade, unless maybe they’re looking after someone who is really anxious, or perhaps their kids. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security though: there are plenty of Grade 1s out there that would have dire consequences in the event of a fall. Jacks Rake on Pavey Ark being a classic that you really don’t want to get wrong.

Grade 2

Think Grade 1 on steroids. Grade 2 will have steeper, more difficult and sustained (i.e., continuous) sections of scrambling than Grade 1 and escaping to nearby easy terrain will be more tricky and occasionally impossible. Often scramblers will use a rope on Grade 2 to protect the more difficult bits. Experienced scramblers may consider roping up for the whole route, switching between various ‘rope’ systems to keep things safe – these might be moving together, ‘leading’ short pitches, or full on rock climbing.

Techniques using the rope need professional input to get right as you don’t get a second chance when you make a mistake. Consider investing in some professional mountain training if you want to learn how to look after yourself on this terrain. Here’s a link to some courses.

Grade 3

Grade 3 = rock climbing. Grade 3 merges and overlaps with the easier rock climbing grades and the techniques needed to safeguard this sort of terrain are the same as those that you’ll see rock climbers using on the steeper mountain crags. Grade 3 will have sections that are steep and serious and most scramblers will use a rope and rock climbing gear to keep things safe. A technical scrambling course is definitely advised to make sure you have these skills dialled before committing to routes on your own.

Guided scrambling

Still confused? Unsure what grade you want to get on? A good idea is to have a day or two out of guided scrambling and let a professional Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor look after you on varying terrain. You can then get an idea of whether you want to learn the techniques for Grade 3 or whether you’re happy just making your walks more interesting by getting on the odd Grade 1.

Until next time…

See our future blog post for tips on what gear you’ll need at each grade! Have fun and stay safe!

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Association of Mountaineering Instructors