Rock Climbing CompanyAssociation of Mountaineering Instructors

Advanced Scrambling Courses
in North Wales & Snowdonia

 

Classic scowdonia scrambles

 

Scrambling on Tryfan Bach

 

Scrambling on Tryfan

 

hard moves on milestone buttress on an advanced scrambling course

 

 

Grade 3 Scrambles in Snowdonia & North Wales

 

Italian hitch belay on a welsh scramble

The Advanced Scrambling course blurs the lines between scrambling, mountain skills and rock climbing and steals techniques from all 3 disciplines, because you need all round mountaineering skills to competently tackle hard, grade 3 scrambles.

 

Hard - grade 3 or 3S - scrambles are essentially moderate rock climbs, but they are better thought of as alpine mountaineering routes because the skills and techniques required to climb them are very much more adventurous than a simple rock climbing grade would suggest.

The routes are normally tackled with a bare minimum of equipment compared to the rack of hardware that a rock climber would carry, the length of the routes mean that the climbers need to move fast in conditions that may be far from perfect with protection that is very spaced. In essence to tackle the hard scrambles of North Wales and Snowdonia you need to be have a full and rounded set of mountain skills.

Grade 3 scrambles will involve pitches of basic rock climbing and knowing how to arrange roped protection for all members of the party is fairly mandatory. Scrambling at this level needs a solid knowledge of rope techniques in order to construct belays, arrange running protection and in extremis set up an abseil.

The course is for experienced hill walkers who have scrambled some of the easier classic routes, but who would like the skills and confidence to be independent and safe on classic mountaineering terrain. The content also crosses over to seamlessly incorporate alpine training.

We can offer instruction on a whole range of skills; choosing routes, understanding weather patterns, choosing equipment , movement techniques, indirect and direct belaying with and with out rope controllers, rope work, use climbing protection, methods of abseiling, systems for moving together / short roping and security on steep ground will all be covered as well as loads of other useful information.

We normally run this as a private course because this is an advanced course and your requirements are likely to be very specific - on a private course every aspect is customisable and we can build and pace the days around your needs.

There is a full course outline below and also a General Course information section.

 

 

Advanced Scrambling Course - Snowdonia

 

Scrambling in the GlydersThe main aim of this scrambling course is to give you the broad range of technical skills and techniques needed to climb the more adventurous scrambles on Britain's mountains.

We will concentrate on helping you to move safely and confidently over a variety of steep, rocky terrain and help build up your understanding of the techniques needed to stay safe in different situations.

A large part of scrambling safely is constantly evaluating the current situation and then making the correct decisions on the move in conditions that can vary hugely.

Thus you will need to know when to move from soloing to short roping to moving together to pitching sections of the route; each of these techniques involves different techniques and rope work. There is a lot to take in, but once mastered you will be able to swap between them smoothly and this will allow you to move quickly and in relative safety.

These skills can only be perfected with experience, but we will help accelerate this process and give you an appreciation of the benefits/ risks involved in each decision that you make.

On the longer courses we try to build up the difficulty of the days and the routes to correspond with your growing technical ability and awareness.

Above all scrambling is a superb introduction to mountaineering that allows you to move across exposed and challenging, yet remarkably beautiful terrain; it is also perfect training for your first alpine trips.  

The ability to climb these harder scramble will allow us to climb some of the best mountain routes that Snowdonia has to offer: Sentries Ridge on Mynydd Mawr, the Tryfan Bach Approach on Tryfan and Cneifion Arete in Idwal are all classics at this grade.

The course will normally try to cover:

  • Guidebook interpretation and assessing the inherent risk of scrambles: The current scrambling guides are not up to the standard of modern climbing guides and the route descriptions are often fairly ambiguous, so developing a solid 'mountain sense' is important. The difficulty of a route can also vary a lot depending on the conditions so understanding your limitations and escape options is important.
  • Route choice, route finding and navigation: Choosing routes that can be done in the current situations by all members of the party in the time available....plus getting to some of the more remote scramble requires good navigational skills.
  • Traveling light and fast: We will cover what to take on the longer routes so that you can stay comfortable, safe and dry, no matter what the weather or the route throws at you.
  • Belaying (Classic, Italian Hitch + belay devices): We will look at direct and indirect belays together with anchor selection
  • Running belays, moving together, short roping: Balancing safety and speed.
  • Protecting nervous partners on easier ground.
  • Abseiling/Retreating: Classic abseils and abseiling using rope controllers
  • Mountain weather patterns - reading the weather and timing the route.
  • Emergency procedures.

If appropriate clients may have an opportunity to lead scrambles/climbs up to about Diff standard (or scrambling Grade III).

The capable scrambler moves faster and more freely than a rock climber and it is that freedom of movement that makes long, sustained scrambles so much fun. The art of scrambling is about efficient rope work; being able to switch smoothly between soloing without a rope to moving together using a shortened rope, coils and natural runners for protection and then when necessary being able to pitch the short, hard sections.

We will do our very best to help you gain these skills.

 

 

 

Scrambling Information & Tips

 

Good route finding is imperative for safe day in the mountains. The route finding begins whilst at home with your guide books, maps and the web. These tools will give you a good overview of not only how to approach, find and climb the route, but also the location of escape routes, timings and objective dangers.

The grades of scrambling routes can change dramatically - a route that is quite amenable in dry conditions can be a slimy, horror show after a prolonged wet period. The guide books should provide information on this, but south facing routes will dry faster than north facing routes and buttresses will dry faster than gullies.

Scrambling in the Ogwen valleyWhilst approaching the scramble it is worth taking the time to locate obvious landmarks both on the rock route, on the approach and in the general mountain area. Take out the guide and locate the position of your route from a distance.

These observations can help you in several ways: once you start climbing the route your whole perspective changes and becomes very foreshortened plus it is often hard to see very far ahead. The landmarks that you noted earlier can help stay on route in highly featured terrain or if the visibility deteriorates. Then once you are on top and need to descend the information on the terrain you memorised earlier will give you valuable pointers and markers for the descent, especially i when descending in bad weather.

Locating the start of scrambling routes can be really hard - I remember finding the East Face of Tryfan very confusing when I first encountered it with lots of very similar gullies and grooves all very close to one another - Nor Nor Gully, Nor Nor Groove, Nor Nor Buttress etc. Take your time to correctly identify the start of the route - getting off route before you start is a good way to start an epic day. If you are in the general vicinity of the route and are looking for the exact starting point then look for signs of travel - small cairns and polished, clean rock are good identifiers.

Once on the route then always look ahead, move carefully and test holds before puling hard on them. Looking ahead is important to avoid getting into blind alleys that force you to retreat and for finding the easiest line of ascent. Moving steadily and carefully without jerking reduces the chances of slips, lets you focus on the ground ahead and pick a good line. Always test rock flakes or rock spikes before pulling on them to ensure they are solid - tap them (hard) with you hand and if they sound hollow or move then avoid using them.

if the way is blocked by an excessively hard section look for alternative routes and try to skirt around the difficulties. Scrambling routes often offer several different options - try to follow and use the most climbed lines of ascent; these are often identified by areas of worn rock - most popular scrambles will generally have some signs of previous travel, so if you are looking for the normal / easiest way then avoid  probing onto virgin ground with lots of vegetation.

It is best to only attempt tricky sections if you feel you can confidently back climb down because otherwise your options for retreat become a lot more limited – in general people find it easier climbing up rather than down.
 
Rain, wind and cold can totally transform a route and make it feel significantly harder

Scramblers working as a team can reduce the seriousness of a tricky step by careful spotting, grabbing and fielding. It should be emphasised that if a slip or fall is likely then it is time to rope up and protect the climbers by construction a belay and placing protection.

Spotting is when a climbers colleagues stand below the climber on a safe platform with the aim the stopping the climber from falling by keeping them pushed onto the wall or if they do fall, stopping them from going too far or hitting their head.

Once over a tricky section the first climber(s) can offer others advice and if need be can give support by grabbing a shoulder strap or jacket thus stopping any slip becoming a fall. The grabber should always be well braced and well balanced whilst other members of the team can help by holding the grabber in position.  

The grabber should avoid linking hands with the scrambler as this reduces their grip and balance and can result in both being pulled off.

When spotting becomes useless a rope can be invaluable; normally scramblers use 30m of 9mm dynamic rope..but things start getting complex now and are best not dealt with in a short article.

 

 

Rock Climbing Helmets

 

Climbing helmets used to be heavy, unventilated and sit too high on the head – so nobody wore them. Times change and helmets are now sleek, light, ventilated and widely accepted as being as essential to a climber’s safety as a rope and harness.

There has never been as much choice as there is today, but the key factor is that the helmet you choose must suit your head shape and size. There is no real alternative to trying on a selection of helmets in a good store and seeing which fits best – once adjusted securely on your head try to make it move out of position; if it slips backwards or is easily knocked askew then look at another model. If you are planning to climb alpine/winter routes then remember to also try the helmet whilst wearing your beanie or balaclava.

The construction of a helmet is the main factor that determines its overall performance and intended end use. There are 3 main types of helmet construction:

1.Traditional - Hard Shell Helmets.
           
These helmets have an internal webbing cradle holds the hard, stiff shell away from the head. In an impact the cradle webbing stretches, absorbing a lot of the energy of the impact whilst the shell also absorbs energy by deforming.  This style of helmet often has the best top impact and penetration resistance plus they are generally durable and rugged. The downside of this design is normally a bit of extra weight, mediocre side impact performance and a helmet that sits higher on the head. These features make them popular for those who give their helmet a lot of abuse (group users) and for those whose main source of danger is likely to be falling debris -  alpine/ice climbers and mountaineers.


2. EPS – Expanded Polystyrene Foam

Climbing helmet design evolved when climbing companies followed the cycling industry by building helmets with shells made from in-molded polystyrene.

These helmets are often 40% lighter than traditional shell/cradle helmets, sit lower on the head (i.e. you bump your head less on the rock) and have improved side impact resistance. They generally offer significantly poorer top impact performance, but most importantly are less durable. One bit impact and they should be retired.

These features make them excellent for general rock climbing in less remote environments where the emphasis is protecting the user in a fall rather than on-going protection against rock fall.

3.Hybrids: Plastic shells with shock absorbing inserts

Many of today’s most popular helmets meld design ideas from both of the previous styles to give climbers a feature set that most find very attractive – these helmets tend to be more durable than the EPS style and lighter/more versatile than the traditional design.

These helmets are versatile and will cover the vast variety of situations that climbers will find themselves in bearing in mind that they do compromise on some aspects of protection.

  1. Petzl Elios

http://www.petzl.com/en/outdoor/mountaineering-and-climbing-helmets/elios

The Elios is justifiably popular because it handles most climbing duties really well. It is a perfect example of the new generation of hybrid helmets that combine a slim profile, light weight (350g/12 oz) and durability with reasonable all round protection.

The cradle on this helmet is very good; the rear dial allows easy adjustment, the cradle system cleverly moves in several planes to allow a multitude of fitting options and the chin strap buckle is well positioned and easy to operate even with gloves.

The ABS shell and impact-absorbing closed cell foam liner provide enough protection to pass both the CE and the harsher UIAA tests, but a bit more bit more top impact energy absorption and slightly stiffer/ better padded side panels would be nice, however these weaknesses affect virtually all helmets of this style.

The shell is well-ventilated, has clips for a headlamp and it can also be fitted with a visor for when ice climbing - features that further increase its versatility.

Petzl also have a helmet called the Altius, which has increased ventilation and a mesh cradle liner, but the Elios sits a bit lower and still seem to be more popular.

The helmet comes in two sizes with the smaller (size 1) version adjusting down smaller enough for most children.

Overall this is a class leading, all round helmet that works well in all climbing environments – rock, ice and alpine.

  1. Petzl Meteor 3

http://www.petzl.com/en/outdoor/mountaineering-and-climbing-helmets/meteor-iii

Petzl Meteor 3The Meteor 3 is the benchmark for in-molded polystyrene helmets and is a great choice for all round rock climbing. The beauty of this helmet is that it provides pretty good protection against all types of impact whilst being exceedingly light and unobtrusive.

It replaces the original Meteor which was the very first EPS climbing helmet and the new version improves on the original classic in several key areas. It weighs a minute 235 g (8.3oz), it has very good ventilation, it performs better than its predecessor in safety tests and the cradle system is very versatile and comfortable.

EPS helmets are more bulky than other styles, but for its class the Meteor 3 is well proportioned and relatively sleek

The headlamp clips are easily accessible and the helmet can be fitted with a visor for ice climbing, although the large, open ventilation holes could make it a bit cold for winter use.

This is a one-size-fits-all helmet and the sizing does not really go small enough for children, but for most adults seems to fit well. EPS helmets are fragile, but if you are happy to accept this generic disadvantage then the Meteor 3 is a supremely light and comfortable helmet that you will almost forget you are wearing.

  1. Petzl Ecrin Roc

http://www.petzl.com/en/outdoor/mountaineering-and-climbing-helmets/ecrin-roc

A classic climbing lid that has set the standard for mountaineering helmets for many years.

Classic welsh ScramblesThe reasons for this are that it is incredibly durable and can withstand the harsh conditions and rough treatment that is often meted out in the mountains. In addition the tough, buttressed polycarbonate shell and internal webbing cradle offers great protection against rock fall and has a ventilation system that works well in summer, but can also be blocked up in winter.

The cradle system uses two side mounted, wheeled adjusters to fine tune the fit and these work well. The helmet only comes in a single size, but it is provided with extra foam padding so that users with smaller heads can get a customized fit.

The Ecrin Roc has 4 old style headlamp clips that work well on all styles of torch.

This is not a fashionable helmet, it is not light and it sit relatively high on the head – but if you go into the mountains, climb in remote places and generally give your helmet a hard time then there is very little to match it.

  1. Wild Country 360

http://www.wildcountry.co.uk/Products/2009Helmets1/360Helmet/

A newcomer to the market, but one that has  good specifications and the initial feedback seems to be good.

The helmet takes the hybrid design, but then works on improving it’s major weakness – lack lustre impact and penetration performance. The 360 does this by increasing the amount of expanded polystyrene padding inside the helmet and in particular extending it down the sides of the helmet.

The impressive part of this is that the helmet still comes in at only 360g and also has a quite slim profile.

The 360 has good headlamp clips and a reasonable cradle system, but the reason it does not beat the Petzl Elios is that the overall fit is not as good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pricing and Booking

Prices. A list of all prices are found below and all prices include VAT.

Type of Course
Length of Course
Instructor - Climber Ratio
Cost per group
Cost per person
Advanced Scrambling in Snowdonia
1 Day Advanced Scrambling Course
1:1
£170
£170
1:2
£180
£90
2 Day Advanced Scrambling Course
1:1
£320
£320
1:2
£340
£170
3 Day Advanced Scrambling Course
1:1
£460
£460
1:2
£500
£250
4 Day Advanced Scrambling Course
1:1
£600
£600
1:2
£650
£325

 

Complete an Online Booking Form

Booking Details and Conditions

Equipment provided by us: The Rock Climbing Company will provide all the hardware and equipment needed for the Advanced Scrambling course - this includes ropes, climbing equipment and a helmet and harness for each member of the course.

We are lucky enough to own a very extensive rack of climbing equipment that you are welcome to use - this is a really useful way of deciding which kit you prefer.

What you need to bring: Scrambling in the mountains of North Wales will often see see you encountering rain and sun on the same day so it is always best to play safe and bring plenty of suitable warm clothing and a full set of waterproofs (top and trousers). Don't forget your hat and gloves. because even in summer it can be cold on the summits.

Good footwear is crucial on harder scrambles and it is best if your boots are rated as being 3 - 4 season and have stiff soles. This type of footwear makes standing on small rock edges much easier and more secure. A lot of scramblers use sticky soled approach shoes - these do make the scrambling easier, but are susceptible to becoming wet on the walking sections.

Reinforced gloves are often useful for the longer courses as the course involves a lot of rope handling and this can help protect your hands.

You will also need a rucksack (30 - 40 litre capacity) and food and drink for the day.

There is a list of equipment that we recommend for courses on the Equipment for Courses page.

What is not included: Prices do not include, transport, accommodation, meals or personal insurance.

Ratios and course sizes: The Advanced Scrambling course is best taught at a ratio of 1 or 2 clients to 1 instructor. It is possible to take 3 people, but everything slows down a lot.

 

 

 

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