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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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Top Tips For Planning Your Lake District Challenge Event

Some of the UK’s finest countryside landscapes and the most rewarding challenges await keen explorers of the Lake District. But, to properly enjoy the outdoor adventure ahead of you, you’re going to want to firstly ensure that you’ve done the necessary planning.

A lack of supplies, little knowledge of the surroundings, or a poorly planned route can quickly turn a fun challenge into a stressful and tiring situation. Things can turn sour fast and to avoid a day bickering with your fellow hikers, it’s wise to spend some time working out  the finer details before you head out.

But where do you start if you’re a first timer to these types of challenges? We’ve put together some handy tips on planning lake district challenges, so you’ll have everything you need to enjoy a thrilling day on the peaks.

Identify the essentials

Everyone thinks they know what they need to bring with them on a Lake District challenge. Food, water, first aid kit, torch, and waterproofs all seem like essential items that you’re never going to forget to pack.

However, if you end up in a rush when packing, or an item slips under the radar, you could be left in a precarious position.

You’ll be best served to brainstorm the items you will need with your friends before the trip and make a detailed list. This will also give everyone the chance to show any less experienced folk the essential supplies they’ll need to bring if they won’t be familiar with what to take. All our lake district challenges come with a full comprehensive kit list.

Know what to wear

Don’t just throw on any old clothes and expect to complete the 10 peaks challenge or 24 peaks challenge. You’ll need to ensure that you wear clothes that comfortable, breathable and will keep you cool or warm depending on the season. This means no denim and no cotton as the material retains water and will be incredibly uncomfortable after a long day hiking.

The wrong shoes can also lead to sore feet and make any challenge much harder than it needs to be. Keep in mind the rough terrain that lies ahead of you and that unsuitable material can lead to every step becoming a nightmare. Comfortable walking boots are the key here – and make sure your that day 1 of your challenge isn’t the first time they’ve been on your feet!

Plan your route ahead of time

When planning a trip to Lake District, you’re going to want to acquire all the information about the technical complexity of the trail, the expected weather conditions, and an idea of how long the route will take you. Calculating the approximate time that you will need to walk the route will ensure you’re not left rushing to finish as the darkness settles in.

Take a look online at local blogs and forums to learn all about the route that you want to do. Lake District challenges are incredibly popular, so you’ll find plenty of people willing to discuss their experiences.

Check for GPS trails that you can upload to your phone as well as these can be extremely handy for beginners who can check their phone mid-hike for detailed information on where they are.. Beware though that using your phone for navigation is going to eat the battery so have a back-up or share the navigation between the group.

Know your limits

Whether it’s your first endurance challenge or you’re a seasoned hiker, it is essential to know your limits. You’ll be well and truly pushed to your as you journey through some of England’s most dramatic peaks.

Mountainous terrain is certainly not a walk in the park and you’ll be crossing rocky crags and moorlands that could be much more dangerous than you’d initially think.

Whether it be the peaks of Scafell Pike, Great Gable, or Helvellyn, it is crucial not to expect too much of yourself, especially if you’re a first-time challenger. Don’t bite off more that you can chew!

Plan to leave no trace

You’re walking in the mountains because of their beauty – keep them that was and take all your litter out with you. This includes toilet roll, banana skins and orange peel – it takes a lot longer to biodegrade that you think.

 

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Top reasons why you should take a mountaineering course

To some, mountaineering seems like a very unappealing idea – no surprise given the dizzying heights and unforgiving terrain that you’ll be faced with. However, to others, it’s those same challenges that make it utterly thrilling.

Mountaineering is an activity that takes time to master and requires technical skill and good fitness to head out safely; add the myriad of different types of specialist kit that you’ll need and the fact that each mountaineering day out can be completely different to the next, you can see that it can be tricky to know where to start on your mountaineering journey.

This is where a mountaineering training course will help you. Whether you’re a first-timer keen to learn the ropes (pun intended!), someone looking to take the next big step in mountain recreation, or an experienced climber looking to refresh and update your skills before your next big challenge, there will be a course right for you.

There are also plenty of mountaineering training courses available: worldwide to closer to home in – all in stunning mountain locations. Do you still need convincing on why you should take a mountaineering course? Well here’s some more good reasons.

Learn new skills

The technical skills you learn on a mountaineering course are vital to heading out into mountaineering terrain safely. Mountaineering courses will prepare you for the worst situations and being able to think back to those lessons will be invaluable for overcoming the challenges you will face as you push yourself in the mountains.

Inexperienced climbers forgoing proper training will be putting themselves at risk, so it’s safe to say that enrolling in a course will help to keep you and your group out of harm’s way.

Break out of your comfort zone

The fact that you’re reading this probably means that you love to challenge yourself and try new experiences. So, if you’re looking for the next exciting test of your abilities and want to try an extreme sport that will push you to your limits, a mountaineering course is a great place to start. You’ll love the feeling of pushing your limits, but within the safe environment created by our professional instructors.

Experience the great outdoors

Unplugging yourself from your everyday routine and taking the time to experience the great outdoors is something that everyone should do at least once in a while. Whether it be for a weekend, a full week, or even longer, mountaineering is a rare chance to get up close and personal with some breathtaking scenery that you won’t forget soon.

A course can also teach the basic techniques of movement on rock, snow, and ice and help beginners feel comfortable tackling all types of terrain. Once you’re out on your own, there is no telling where your next adventure will take you – a mountaineering training course is just the first step.

Reach new heights

The thrill of your first climb is like no other. The sense of achievement, the glorious views of an untouched landscape and the simple joy of being so high up, it will be a rush you’ll never forget.

Meet like minded individuals

When starting a hobby, it’s common to want friends or family to join you in sharing a new-found interest. Unfortunately, not everyone will be lucky enough to be able to bring another person onto the course and will rely on meeting friends along the way.

A fun challenge to take

Perhaps the best reason to take a mountaineering course is simply that it is tons of fun and prepares you for an adventure like no other.

People get so much value out of the experience of being trained, practising new skills, and demonstrating abilities in front of a seasoned professional. As you progress through the course, you’ll gain a sense of confidence and will be ready to put your knowledge to the test.

Mountaineering truly is a life-changing experience, and a course is your first step towards experiencing this.

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Rock Climbing Jargon Buster

Don’t know your trad from your sport? What about your cams from your hexes? Our A-Z of the most common climbing terms is a great place to start learning all that jargon!

Anchor

A point at the top of a climb where you can secure your ropes. This could be fixed bolts on a well used climb or a rope sling around a tree.

Beta

Useful inside knowledge about a route or problem. What are the moves like, what is the ‘gear’ like. Arguable spoils your ‘onsight’!

Crux

The hardest part of the route.

Disco-leg

The inevitable and uncontrollable shaking of your leg when you least want it (i.e. when you’re scared and it’s getting hard!). Top-tip – drop your heals – this can help.

Eliminate

A route or problem that doesn’t follow the most obvious line. Often found to weave their way between other routes.

Free climbing

No, not that thing without ropes. That’s ‘free soloing’. Free climbing is progressing up a route without pulling on anything other than the rock.

Gear

Generally refers to climbing equipment that is placed in the rock and offers protection in the event of a fall, or anchors the climber to the rock to enable them to look after their second as they climb. Can be ‘good gear’ or ‘bad gear’!

Headpoint

A ‘trad’ route that is lead after practicing first on a top rope. Often associated with hard trad projects, but headpointing works well even at the lower grades. Afterall, difficulty is relative.

In-situ

Gear that is semi-permanently in the rock. Think old pegs, or a piece of gear that another ascensionist has placed but then failed to retrieve. Always treat in-situ gear with caution and back it up as soon as possible.

Jug

Typically a climbers favourite feature. A jug a large and obvious hold that’s easy to use.

Karabiner

Sometimes spelt ‘carabiner’ – an oval, D-shaped or pear shaped piece of gear that is used as an attachment point between 2 pieces of equipment, ropes, climbers etc.

Lead a climb

To climb a route whilst taking the rope with you (i.e. it’s not already in place). Protection is found by placing and clipping ‘gear’ on the way.

Mantleshelf

A move that involves the climber having to get onto a ledge from below when there are no holds on the wall above to grab onto. Kind of like getting out of a swimming pool.

Nut

Sometimes called a ‘wire’ this is a passive piece of protection that’s attached to thin cable (aka wire) that sits in a crack of other feature and hopefully stays put. Called a nut as in the old days climbers actually used nuts from the local hardware store.

Onsight

To climb a route with no falls, no pulling on gear, no resting and no prior knowledge of it – i.e. no ‘beta’ and no practicing. Some argue that even looking at a guidebook description ‘blows the onsight’. We really don’t care!

Pitch

A section of the climb. Can be short, long or be the whole route (i.e. single-pitch). A multi-pitch climb is a series of many pitches, one on top of the other.

Quickdraw

2 karabiners connected by a sling or dogbone (think stiff piece of nylon webbing). Used mainly to connect gear to the rope when leading.

Redpoint

Like a ‘headpoint’ but for the sport climbers.

Sandbag

A route that is harder than the grade suggests – “wow, that was a total sandbag”. To sandbag someone is to encourage them to get on a route of said grade, knowing it’s actually much harder and they’re going to struggle. Cruel, but sometimes amusing!

Trad Climbing

Short for ‘traditional’. Routes that are climbed using protection/gear that is placed in the rock and then removed by the second climber. Nothing is left and the rock isn’t damaged.

Undercut

A hold that is used by grabbing it from underneath and usually pulling upwards.

Volume

A temporary feature on an indoor climbing wall that you have to climb around or over – i.e not a hold that’s actually part of the route, more the ‘shape’ of the actual wall.

Whipper

To take a big fall – hopefully one that gets caught by your belayer!

X (as a climbing grading)

Used in the US as part of the Yosemite Decimal System, this refers to a climb that little or no protection (aka gear). A fall on a climb like this could mean serious injury, if not death.

Yosemite Decimal System

A walking, trekking, scrambling and climbing grading system developed in Yosemite and used mainly in the USA. Rock climbing starts at 5.0 (‘5th class terrain’) and is open ended, with climbs recorded up to 5.15 (i.e. really really really really hard!).

Zipper

When your gear ‘un-zips’ from the wall as you fall. Not good. In fact really flippin’ dangerous and a bad place to be!

 

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Top Mental Health Benefits of Rock Climbing

Rock climbing can undoubtedly be a daunting activity, especially for those who are new to the sport and even the most experienced climbers can find routes and problems that will challenge them, as how difficult you find something is often relative to how much experience you have. Rock climbing is physically demanding for sure, but it also requires you to problem solve and focus your mind, so you’ll quickly find that you are exercising your brain, not just your body and that this ‘brain exercise’ is great for your overall mental health.

Many people (us included) champion rock climbing as a great stress reliever and being super beneficial to your mental health – here are our top mental health benefits of rock climbing:

Strengthen your mind and body connection

As mentioned, climbing is mentally demanding, not just physical. When climbing you’re constantly confronted with challenges and puzzles to solve and they will require both your mind and body to work in unison in order to overcome them.

Building a strong mind and body connection is really key to maintaining good mental health. Rock climbing teaches you how to listen to your mind and body and teaches you to make quick calculated decisions, whilst also feeling safe doing so.

Learn how to overcome fear

For many people the fear of heights holds them back from trying out rock climbing. Plus, even if you’ve not previously had a fear of heights, climbing a high wall is a completely new experience and can easily bring it on.

By learning how to master your fear (through trust, communication and patience) and understanding you are safe, you’ll realise that your fears are just emotions.

When you climb your body also releases hormones including dopamine (which rewards you) and serotonin (which makes you happy). This is your body naturally assisting you to overcome your fears.

Regular climbing is a great stress reliever

We completely understand if climbing doesn’t exactly sound relaxing. However, this is probably the most powerful mental health benefit of climbing.

That’s not to say climbing is easy, it’s precisely the opposite. But the more you expose yourself to the stresses of climbing the more your mind learns to not let small stresses bother you, both on the wall in your day to day life.

Climbing also focuses the mind so while you’re up there, working out the next move, your brain doesn’t have the capacity to think about the stresses of work – you’re just focused on one thing – climbing.

Learn to be patient

Becoming a skilled climber takes a lot of patience and routes or problems that are hard for you will take time to master.

In theory rocking climbing isn’t a complicated sport, you slip in your harness and start climbing, right? In reality climbing takes a lot of time and patience both to build your muscle strength and also to learn the right techniques and body positions.

Everything in life that’s worth doing takes time and you can apply your new found patience to all parts of everyday life.

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