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Trad gear for UK scrambling

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 Wire 06 Jan 2022

I primarily climb in a gym, the few times I do get outside I are usually for sport climbing. I am interested in doing some grade 3 scrambles in North Wales and Skye... What are some essential bits of kit I should think about before heading up to these places?

In reply to Wire:

Personally I would take :

  • 30m rope
  • 1x 240 sling with locking crab
  • 2x 120 slings with locking crabs
  • 4x 60cm sling tripled on crabs
  • Half set of nuts
  • 3-4 hexes/cams
  • Maillon and prussik in case of screwing up and needing bail via abseil

If it was a route I hadn't done before. If I knew the terrain well I'd just take the bare minimum, or solo if the conditions are good.

Post edited at 12:15
1
 Mark Haward 06 Jan 2022
In reply to Wire:

This may help:

https://www.jbmountainskills.co.uk/post/advanced-scrambling-rack

Also, on his website there is loads more information you may find useful

Mark.

 Steve Woollard 06 Jan 2022
In reply to midgen:

My only comment would be to take a 40m on Skye for the abseils

In reply to Wire:

I've written about this here: https://www.straightupadventures.co.uk/scramblingkit but essentially very similar kit to what has already been suggested.

I agree that 40m is a better length to take scrambling unless you know you'll only need a short length for a pitch or maximum 15m abseil. 

In reply to Steve Woollard:

Indeed, check your guide books and make sure your rope is long enough if there are abseils! I was on the ridge last week, but was just puntering around the grade 2 stuff. Reminds me I need to keep an eye out for a 40 before before I head back up there later in the year. I use a 30 simply because I chopped a 60 that wasn't getting used to, half for indoors and half for scrambling.

 Howard J 06 Jan 2022
In reply to Wire:

Don't underestimate scrambling, you can often find yourself above a considerable drop on greasy or dubious rock, with little or no gear. Skye in particular can be very serious, but Wales offers plenty of opportunities for it to go wrong. If you are primarily a indoor or sports climber you may have the climbing skills, but is your head prepared for that kind of situation?

I try to keep the rack to a minimum, since most of the time the rope will be in the rucksack so its dead weight, but it will depend on the route.  Usually I'll keep pitches quite short when scrambling, but most will be soloed or moving together Alpine-style. Slings can double as quickdraws and are more versatile.  A helmet is essential, and I take a long piece of tat (and a knife) which can also be used as a sling, and prusiks in case you have to bale.

To start with it might be advisable to take more gear rather than less, and to start out on easier scrambles, until you have a feel for it. With more experience you should be able to reduce the rack. It's a fine balance between carrying a load of metal around all day which you hardly use and having enough to stay safe when it matters.  

As well as gear, it would be useful to acquire some mountaineering skills such as direct belaying and moving together.

2
 Jon Stewart 06 Jan 2022
In reply to Howard J:

> Don't underestimate scrambling, you can often find yourself above a considerable drop on greasy or dubious rock, with little or no gear

Absolutely! I've onsight soloed up to E2/3 on nice clean dry rock, but I frequently find myself fighting for survival on hard gill scrambles in the Lakes.

 jezb1 06 Jan 2022
In reply to Mark Haward:

> This may help:

> Also, on his website there is loads more information you may find useful

> Mark.

Thanks for the mention Mark!

 GrahamD 06 Jan 2022
In reply to Wire:

First, you need to get a scrambling (or easy Alpine) mindset - it's not pitched climbing unless you want to be spending nights out ! Essentially you are looking to solo most of it.  Unless I know I'm abseiling, I personally wouldn't bother with a harness and the rope normally stays in the bag.  Some abseil tat, slings and maybe a couple of cams.  That way a lightweight hiking bag is all you need to carry.

6
In reply to Wire:

Scrambling is easy unless you want to protect it. Then it gets harder than traditional climbing in many ways. Me and my wife wanted to safely scramble routes in Lochaber where we live and we eventually got a guide to teach us and we progressed from single pitch trad to multi pitch trad and then finally, after we got confident leading trad, we progressed onto protecting scrambles in various ways to make movement efficient and safe. 

It might sound odd but without learning the trad, a lot of the ropework might have been confusing (i.e. learning why, not how), gear for protection would have been hard to spot without the practice on trad, movement skills on rock wouldn't have been as 'ingrained' so that movement on consequential ground wouldn't have been quite as confident. 

So you can either approach from the bottom and work your way up the grades and get your confidence in soloing rock, or approach from the top and learn to lead harder routes and gain a knowledge of how to protect harder scrambles. 

I don't think there's a right way or a wrong way but I like the confidence of carrying a rope and knowing what to do with it if you feel you need it.

In reply to timparkin:

Agreed. It is possible to move together roped up on a scramble quickly and efficiently- I remember doing the clogwyn y person arête with my brother and keeping up with an unroped party even though we were placing gear. 

But it takes a fair amount of practice, and it’s also very  possible to move slowly and inefficiently. I also remember a scramble in the Cuillin with three of us moving together on half ropes. Or, actually mostly not moving. Sheer incompetence, and thank god the mist was in and no one saw the sorry spectacle…

fortunately it was easy ground and the ropes were not actually needed; that level of ineptitude on serious ground or bad weather  wouldn’t have been funny.

mileage doing easy rock climbs can build confidence with the rope work in more controlled circumstances, and reduce the likelihood of getting involved in the sort of nonsense described above…

Post edited at 23:33
 C Witter 07 Jan 2022
In reply to Wire:

Decent footwear, maps and compasses, scrambling guidebooks, head torch, an emergency group shelter...!

2
 GCO 07 Jan 2022
In reply to Wire:

All of the above.

But I tend to take a complete set of wires rather than half. They weigh so little and take up next to no room in your sack yet they can be so useful.

 PaulJepson 07 Jan 2022
In reply to Wire:

If you're buying kit with this soul purpose in mind, I'd recommend Wild Country Superlite Offsets. They kind of fulfil the same role of half a set of nuts and are much more versatile with their placement options. At 185 grams for a set, they weigh as much as a sandwich. 

If you already have a set of nuts or aspirations to climb trad, you may prefer to get a set of nuts instead. 

1
 stubbed 07 Jan 2022
In reply to Wire:

Hello, as others have said, if you don't have a lot of trad experience you'd be better to do grade 1 scrambles to get the mileage in. They can be exposed enough

In reply to timparkin:

Scrambling is easy unless you want to protect it. Then it gets harder than traditional climbing in many ways.

This puts it more clearly than I’ve seen before. The progression you describe through roped climbing techniques and *then* scrambling is excellent advice.

 Howard J 07 Jan 2022
In reply to Wire:

Scrambling is in a strange middle ground. Is it difficult walking or easy climbing? As a non-climbing walker I pushed into a few Grade 1 scrambles which I found adventurous enough, but for the harder scrambling grades I'm glad to have trad climbing experience. Indoor/sports climbing may give you the skills to make the moves, but scrambling is mostly soloing, on easy but still dangerous ground.  When the rope is used you need trad skills to place gear, or you might be moving together. On top of that you need general mountaineering and navigation skills.

Thinking about it, it's closest to Alpinism without the glaciers.

In reply to Wire:

There's lots of sensible advice in the thread. The right gear is essential, but only part of the equation: skills and judgement are needed too, it's a very different skill set from climbing indoors or on bolts.

It's worth re-emphasising that grade 3 scrambles are essentially mountaineering, great fun but potentially pretty serious stuff even if every individual move is a lot easier than you'll be used to in the wall.

To do that safely and competently requires a decent grounding in rope/trad climbing skills, plus hill skills, plus some alpine-esque judgement calls (when is it best to pitch, which bits might you safely solo, does that rock look/feel loose etc).

While some folk come to harder scrambling via hillwalking with little or no climbing background, and others might start out trad climbing on smaller crags before progressing (or regressing) to big mountain scrambles, the ideal route would arguably be to do a combination of both walking and trad:

- Brush up the leading/rope work/gear placing/belay building skills on easy trad routes.

- Go for long days out on the hills, to get a feel for mountain terrain, navigation, what effect the weather can have etc. Also, don't underestimate the importance of stamina and hill fitness: it's not a climbing wall, and the physical demands are quite different.

- Build in some easier (but no less enjoyable) grade 1 hillwalker's scrambles. Stuff that's routinely done with no ropes. This will give you a better feel for mountain crag route finding, crappy terrain, exposure etc than climbing at the wall or on a sport crag. You'll have a lot of fun too.

- Only then think about bringing it all together on some harder scrambles.

Here's a load of relevant content from UKHillwalking and UKClimbing :

A beginner's guide to scrambling: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/skills/series/scrambling/a_beginners_guide_to_scrambling-13677

25 tips for safer scrambling without ropes: https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/skills/series/scrambling/25_tips_for_safer_without_ropes-8745

Britain's Best Grade 1 scrambles: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/destinations/britains_best_grade_1_scrambles-7637

Britain's Best grade 2 scrambles: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/features/britains_best_grade_2_scrambles-9609

Scrambling and climbing safely and efficiently: https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/skills/series/montane_alpine_preparation/scrambling+climbing_safely_and_efficiently-13836

Racking up for an Alpine scramble (the same goes for a Welsh or Cumbrian one) https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/skills/series/montane_alpine_preparation/racking_up_for_an_alpine_scramble-13867

Scrambling with a partner https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/skills/series/arc'teryx_alpine_academy/scrambling_with_a_partner-9647

Our ongoing Classic Scramble series: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/destinations/classic_scramble_-_cam_crag_ridge-11013 

In reply to Wire:

The thing about scrambling....  while you are on the correct route and it is dry and sunny it is all smiles and just a scramble. As soon as it is damp (and all the 3 stars scrambles have polished footholds in crucial places) there may be a few "interesting" moves. And if you go off route, then you might end up vertical gardening (vegetable holds) and making belay anchors from big tufts of grass

So it is immensely rewarding and fun but not to be taken lightly.

Don't think... I can boulder Vwhatever and grade 3 scramble is easier than VB so it's guaranteed to be an easy day out. Go out an enjoy it, just be sensibly cautious at first


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