/ Scramble or climb?

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static266 - on 15 Apr 2019

It seems that the popularity of scrambling for scrambling's sake has led to routes like:

South Gully (M) on Tryfan is known more as a grade 3 scramble than a moderate rock climb. It features in the climber's club Ogwen guidebook (moderate/grade 3 - no stars), Cicerone's updated Scrambles in Snowdonia (grade 3 - one star) and Garry Smith's North Wales Scrambles(grade 3 - stars not used in this guide). 

AND

East Gully Arête (D) on Glyder Fach - Ogwen (difficult/grade 3 - no stars), Cicerone (grade 3 - three stars), Garry Smith (grade 3 - stars not used)

AND

Craig Fawr Rib (L.M.H.) (3) in Nantlle - Cwm Silyn (moderate - no stars), Cicerone (grade 3 - two stars)

Should UKC logbooks honour the grades and stars given in the definitive guidebooks which at times seem to detract the percieved quality of the route, or should the scrambling grades and stars given in the Cicerone guidebook be used? In my eyes a *** grade 3 scramble is going to get me to climb a route but a starless diff/mod may put many off.

Does anyone even care?! I'd like to hear what you have to think.

Post edited at 19:26
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alan moore - on 15 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

It's a good point.

1 star Moderates like Curved Ridge, Cniefion Rib and Cam Crag Ridge do seem to translate 3 star grade 3 scrambles.

You should create a bogus star/grade conversion chart and we could all argue about it until the end of time....

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ianstevens - on 15 Apr 2019
In reply to alan moore:

Maybe becasue such routes are great fun if you treat them as a scramble (i.e. no rope or backup rope to be used just in case) but dull as sin if you're expecting a climb (trad rack, ropes, etc)? That's how I always think about these things anyway.

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to ianstevens:

> Maybe becasue such routes are great fun if you treat them as a scramble (i.e. no rope or backup rope to be used just in case) but dull as sin if you're expecting a climb (trad rack, ropes, etc)? That's how I always think about these things anyway.

But it's all relative; one person's hard lead is going to be somebody else's fun scramble/solo whatever the difficulty. I hate the distinction between climbing and scrambling - it's all just climbing.

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ianstevens - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

I understand your point, but is moderate really considered climbing these days? You can do 95% of both curved ridge and cneifon arête without using your hands, and a running race even goes up the first one. 

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alan moore - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to ianstevens:

> I understand your point, but is moderate really considered climbing these days? 

I would say if it's moving over stone it's the same kind of fun and make no distinction.

As a rock starved Central Belter I did Stran Gill the other week (1 star moderate/ 3 star scramble) and enjoyed it in just the same way as would soloing a VS with rock shoes on.

Just being on rock is what it's all about for me at least.

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Mike505 on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

Maybe just do away with scrambling grades and expand the climbing grade range. On harder scarmbles they run side by side anyway. On top of that it would help unify the three scrambling grade systems, 1 - 3, 1 - 3s and 1 - 5.

Very Easy - Grade 1

Easy - Grade 2

Mod - Grade 3

Diff - Grade 3/3s

Post edited at 09:09
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Mike505 on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

As for the star ratings a lot of climbs easy or otherwise may feel more fun / worth doing when soloed. We're generally much more focused, in the zone and in a flow state when soloing. Can you imagine roping up for every rocky step when scrambling up Tryfan or Bristly ridge, it'd be naff!

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Milesy - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

You're missing a valuable point though -- rock climbing grades are usually of little interest to a hillwalker and general mountain goer. Grade 3 scramble makes more sense to someone who is used to going up by the paths and want to try something a big more challenging.

Curved Ridge will almost certainly be spoken of in by walkers in relation to how "harder" it is from their general walking outings, and spoken of by climbers on how "easier" it is from their usual climbing outings, and therefor there is total parity in the context it is used.

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C Witter on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

It seems to me that as scrambling is becoming more popular, guidebook writers are starting to subsume easier climbing terrain under the mantle of scrambling. As a guidebook writer, you want to present some really good mountaineering challenges, and longer easy climbs fit the bill. Meanwhile, trained in the gym and carrying a lot of protection, many rock climbers start on VDiffs, rather than on Diffs. Add to that the fact that many easier climbs that used to get Diff - e.g. in Menlove Edward's Welsh climbing guides - now get harder grades, and Diff becomes somewhat neglected.

But, reading the Gary Smith guide to Snowdonia scrambles, it seems the he is trying to define scrambling as a basically unroped activity. Whereas Steve Ashton often recommends a rope for scrambles (cf. for example, the write ups of the Wrinkled Tower in the two guides). Smith's approach has a kind of logic and appeal, but is itself in contrast with the approach of many organisations - from the BMC to Plas y Brenin - which try to teach 'scrambling techniques' involving a rope, helmet and a fairly significant rack.

Then there is the complicating factor of Alpinism: is scrambling seen as an activity very much particular to the playgrounds of the UK (Snowdonia, Scotland and, to a lesser extent, the Lakes) or is it merely a sub-activity of mountaineering - and a good place for Alpine prep?

Lots of different issues inform these questions, besides that of difficulty!

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Ramblin dave - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Milesy:

> You're missing a valuable point though -- rock climbing grades are usually of little interest to a hillwalker and general mountain goer. Grade 3 scramble makes more sense to someone who is used to going up by the paths and want to try something a big more challenging.

I think this might be why the star ratings are different as well - with a scrambling head on, you look for routes with atmosphere and a sense of adventure and you aren't too worried about the actual climbing, whereas from a climber's point of view you care a lot more about whether there are good stretches of interesting moves for the given grade.

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Ramblin dave - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

Amphitheatre Buttress is another one where this comes up. There's always a faction that argues that it's crap, because in essence it's a polished pitch of VDiff with a long walk in and a load of unnecessary scrambling at either end. Whereas the opposing view is that it's fantastic, because the long walk and the remote location and the varied scrambling up a big buttress and the polished pitch of VDiff all contribute to its quality as a day out.

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to ianstevens:

> I understand your point, but is moderate really considered climbing these days? 

Eh? Yes, of course it is. What about it isn't? The very fact that anyone feels the need to ask the question precisely illustrates my point about making an unnecessary distinction between climbing and scrambling.

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Mike505:

> Maybe just do away with scrambling grades and expand the climbing grade range. 

Yes, it is the separate grading system which has promoted this nonsense, creating an unhealthy "them and us" feeling about so called "scrambling".

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C Witter on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

I think you're putting the cart before the horse, there. You may as well argue that bouldering grades have created an unnecessary division between boulderers and climbers.

Post edited at 17:12
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static266 - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

I'm not sure I see a massive "them and us" difference between scrambling and climbing. How many people with lots of experience of grade 1-3 scrambles, particularly harder routes, do not also have some experience of diff and vdiff rock climbs?

I do both, but I wonder whether UKC logbooks for some routes would be better off using the scrambling grade and stars to stop these climbing routes (frequently described as scrambles) being destined for obscurity? New scrambling guidebooks are probably the only thing keeping some routes in the public eye as select rock climbing guides don't tend to mention them.

Maybe the style used in the Ogwen guidebook is better in the long term as it preserves the history of the route (mod/sg3).

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to C Witter:

> I think you're putting the cart before the horse, there. You may as well argue that bouldering grades have created an unnecessary division between boulderers and climbers.

They probably have.

I actually wonder whether scrambling grades are little more than an invention to help sell scrambling guide books.

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

> New scrambling guidebooks are probably the only thing keeping some routes in the public eye as select rock climbing guides don't tend to mention them.

Possibly, but, if so, it's a shame the term  scrambling is used. What would be wrong with "Selected Climbs In The Lower Grades In Snowdonia".

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C Witter on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

There's a Jon Sparks et al. book with a similar title already: Scrambles and Easy Climbs in Snowdonia. There's no shame in the term 'scrambling' being used, because it refers to a distinct tradition. It's a bit like saying that 'fell running' and 'trail running' should be called the same thing, or that 'rock climbing' is a nonsense, and we should just go with 'mountaineering'.

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to C Witter:

>  It's a bit like saying that 'fell running' and 'trail running' should be called the same thing.

They probably should. Isn't the term "trail running" just a marketing invention to sell shoes anyway?

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Dogwatch - on 17 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

>  What would be wrong with "Selected Climbs In The Lower Grades In Snowdonia".

It would be wrong because they are scrambles. It's a description of a certain kind of British mountain activity with a long  tradition in its own right.

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Doug on 17 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

In France 'le trailing' seems to mean fell running much of the time,

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Robert Durran - on 17 Apr 2019
In reply to Dogwatch:

> It would be wrong because they are scrambles. It's a description of a certain kind of British mountain activity with a long  tradition in its own right.

"Scrambling" might be an activity (doing climbs which you find technically easy without a rope -  ie simple soloing), but what I really object to is the labelling of some climbs as (mere) scrambles. They are all just climbs of various difficulties.

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purplemonkeyelephant - on 17 Apr 2019
In reply to Mike505:

If we all just used the YDS with a more graduated descriptor for protectability, wouldn't that solve it? 

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Steve Ashton - on 10:24 Thu
In reply to static266:

The aim of the original Scrambles in Snowdonia guidebook was to find a home for routes in that fuzzy middle ground between hill walking (no hands) and rock climbing (fully roped ascents). Bristly Ridge, Crib Goch etc were already well frequented, whereas other, largely undocumented, routes of similar quality and difficulty were hardly used. At the other end of the scale, several atmospheric Mods - deemed too easy as 'proper' rock climbs - had been sidelined.

Being primarily a climber, it never occurred to me to use rope and gear while checking  existing routes and exploring new ones. In the draft introduction to the guide, I even advocated soloing as the best way to enjoy these scrambles (a provocative suggestion wisely cut by the editor). If you're going to gear up with ropes, rack and helmet, I thought, why not just do a 'proper' rock climb? For me, the delight came from moving fast - solo or alpine style - over exposed but relatively easy terrain, and explained how a zero or one-star Easy/Mod rock route could become a two or three-star scramble. As others have remarked, if you pitched your way up Tryfan's North Ridge, it would be pretty tedious.

That said, attitudes have changed. Back then (1979), it was quite common to go scrambling while wearing mountain boots and carrying a full pack as preparation for an alpine season. The recent update to Scrambles in Snowdonia (by Rachel Crolla and Carl McKeating), better reflects current attitudes.  

Incidentally, I never hesitated before introducing a bespoke - if basic - grading system for scrambles. At one extreme, it enabled (previously ungraded) adventurous walks to join the spectrum, while at the other, there seemed little point retaining historic Easy or Moderate grades for rock routes that had become neglected or were used merely as descent routes.

In the end, though, it's all rock and heather. The lines existed long before they were named, graded or written up in guidebooks. 

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Greenbanks - on 10:58 Thu
In reply to static266:

Maybe its an age thing? My 'scrambles' of 50 years ago are now verging on my 'climbs'.

Tempus fugit etc.

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