In our last post we explained how scrambles are graded. We talked about how most people, at grades 2 and above, would consider using a rope to help protect tricky sections of the scramble. So, what scrambling rack and technical kit do we need to enable this? Lets have a look…
First things first though. Kit is all good, but it’s going to be challenging, if not pretty dangerous, heading out onto your nearest graded scramble with no idea on how to use all the shiny new gear that you’ve bought. So consider getting some decent professional advice and learn how to do things properly. See here for more info on that one: Scrambling courses & mountaineering courses
Okay, on with the kit chat, but with a caveat: ask a load of Mountaineering & Climbing Instructors what kit they’d take on a Grade 2/3 scramble and we guarantee that you’ll get a load of different answers – it’s all very personal and depends on many factors such as the route itself, your knowledge of it, your own ability, your partner’s ability and the weather! But here’s our opinion as a starting point.
Firstly it needs to be a dynamic ‘single’ or ‘triple’ rated rope so that it absorbs the force of a fall and is designed to work on its own – i.e., not paired up with another rope. You want a rope that isn’t too fat as the fatter they are, the heavier they are, but at the same time isn’t so skinny that it’s hard to get a good grip on it with gloved hands. We use a 9.1mm rope a lot and find it a nice middle ground. We’d not go fatter than 10mm and no skinnier than 9mm.
Length-wise, the longer the rope, the heavier it is and scrambling is all about moving efficiently and quickly through the mountains; more weight = slower progress. However, you also want a rope that is long enough to ‘run out’ the tricky pitches on the route and that is long enough to abseil on should you have an abseil descent or if you have to escape the route. We go for about 40m when we’re guiding 2 clients (i.e., there are 3 of us on the rope), but for scrambling just as a pair a 30-35m rope would be ideal.
Finally, a dry-treated rope is going to absorb less water on rainy days and mean that your rope doesn’t get super heavy and saturated. A nice additional feature, but not essential.
Like we said above, scrambling is about moving quickly so we’re looking to keep the weight down. Ideally, most of your anchors on the route are going to consist of slings around big blocks or maybe ‘direct’ using just the rope, so you definitely don’t need a full rock climbing rack.
Sometimes though you will need to be placing trad ‘gear’, either to build a belay and safeguard your second, or to protect a pitch as you climb it, so it’s worthwhile having some with you. Even if the route is well within your limit things can change quickly if it starts raining and the rock becomes slippy, so the ability to be able to place some gear and keep things safe is a nice option to have.
Here’s what we’d take as a scrambling rack on a Grade 2/3 route that we’ve not been on before (i.e., we don’t have any prior knowledge or ‘beta’ of the gear needed for the route):
- Nuts/wires: roughly ½ a set from DMM Wallnut size ‘4’ upwards. So maybe take sizes 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 & 11. The mid-sizes (4-7) tend to get placed a lot in the Lakes and Snowdonia so it’s worth having those at least.
- Cams: 3 medium-ish sizes, e.g., DMM Dragons size 1, 2, 3 (purple, green & red), or save the cash and take a couple of mid-sized DMM Torque nuts or hexes.
- Quick-draws x 4 with extendable slings (make your own out of a 60cm sling & 2 wiregates)
- Slings: 5 x 120cm on lightweight screwgates
- Screwgates: 1 x Boa + 3 screwgates per person
- 2 x prusiks on a lightweight screwgate
- Belay plate on an HMS carabiner
If you’re buying a harness just for scrambling, then ‘light-is-right’ here. You’re not going to have loads of gear to carry so you don’t need trillions of loops and a sturdy, supportive waist belt. Neither are you doing to be hanging around in mid air while you ‘work’ a route. Your harness will mostly be used to keep yourself safe at a belay, occasionally belay your partner and is there as a last line of defence if you do fall off, which on broken scrambling type terrain with loads of big ledges to land on, is a bad idea! If you do plan on getting into rock climbing as well then look for something a bit more suited to multiple disciplines and accept its a few grams heavier.
Wear one. Simple. Again, light wins but you need to accept that a lot of modern lightweight helmets are almost single use in their design. i.e., if it takes a significant knock, you’re probably going to find it’s damaged to the point that it’s only worthy of the bin. Heavier, plastic shells are more robust.
So that’s that. Your technical kit sorted. If this all made loads of sense to you then great, head on out and enjoy your adventures. If it all sounded a bit alien then why not come and let us take you through all these nuances and teach you how to use your new kit on our bespoke Technical Scrambling courses. Or join us for a day or two of Guided Scrambling and see how this all comes together in the real world, while we enjoy a classic technical scrambling route.
See you out there. Next time we’ll chat about clothing, boots and rucksacks to get you ready for the rock.