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Learn to Scramble Courses | Snowdonia

 

Learning to scramble

 

Rock scrambling courses in Snowdonia

 

Scrambling the mountains of Wales

 

Scrambling above Idwal

 

 

Start Scrambling - Courses in North Wales

 

 

Scrambling in the GlydersThis scrambling course in the mountains of Snowdonia will give you the experience and skills to start scrambling independently. The course is ideal for those who already have hill walking experience and want to learn the technical scrambling skills needed to venture safely onto steeper, rocky terrain.

The ability to scramble confidently and safely in the mountains can add a lot of extra freedom and excitement to your days in the hills. This course will aim to give you those skills so that you can safely climb many of the classic grade 1 and 2 scrambles that abound both in Snowdonia, North Wales and the rest of the UK. It is an ideal starting point for those looking to climb routes such as Crib Goch on Snowdon and Bristly Ridge in the Glyders.

Scrambling in the mountains in North Wales is also a fantastic introduction to the world of alpine mountaineering - one of the crucial skills we can help you master is 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. This skill set, once learned, will hold you in good stead in most alpine mountaineering situations.

We try to carry out all our instruction in Snowdonia's mountains so that the learning process is as authentic as possible - from the first day you will be out in the mountains doing plenty of scrambling on North Wales classic ridges and gullys.

The course is most often based in the Ogwen Valley near Capel Curig because the mountains in this valley have an incredible concentration of classic scrambles based around Tryfan, the Glyders and Idwal Lake.

The emphasis of the course content can be placed exactly where you want it i.e. we can concentrate on doing lots of scrambling and the learning is done whilst doing some classic scrambles or the instruction can biased towards doing more intensive technical skills training on lower crags.

In addition we always try to pass across a complete understanding of scrambling in the mountains so we will also cover guidebook terminology, choosing a route, gauging its difficultly, route finding, mountaincraft, movement skills and choosing scrambling equipment. On the longer courses we also look at emergency procedures such as abseil retreats.

Scrambling on Cneifion AreteA course can last between one and four days; a one day course will give you a taste of the rope skills needed to stay safe on steep, rocky ground and can also act as a refresher if your mountain skills are a bit rusty. If you are looking to start scrambling independently from scratch then you will probably need 2 days or more; the subsequent days are crucial in reinforcing skills learnt previously and help make everything clearer and more automatic.

We provide all the technical climbing equipment that you will need; ropes, harnesses, climbing protection and helmets.

We really do try to construct every scrambling course around your individual needs and so there really is no firm itinerary because everybody's needs differ - simply contact us and we will work with you to provide a scrambling course that gives you exactly what you want.

We offer both private and open Learn to Scramble courses. Open courses allow you to join a group of people who want to learn the same skills on set dates - theses are listed on the Calendar page. We work hard to ensure that clients on open courses are well matched in ability and want the same results from the course.

Private courses allow us to offer courses that are even more customised and are held on a date of your choosing. Private course prices are set out in the price tab below together with some information on choosing scrambling equipment and using Rope Coils/Short Roping.

The following pages may also be useful: General Course Information and local accommodation options.

 

 

Short Roping, Rope Coils and Mountain Scrambling

 

Soloing Cneifon AreteThere are 4 main ways of using a rope when scrambling - confidence roping, short roping, pitching and moving together.

These techniques all tend to blend into each other and the actual rope techniques employed to climb a section of rock will depend on the difficulty of the terrain and the competence and experience of the climbers in the party.

These rope techniques are an extension of those used in alpine environments and provide climbers with a compromise between pitching the route (safe, but slow) with the speed of moving un-roped (fast, but potentially dangerous).

The most common technique used for scrambling is short roping because once mastered it is safe, fast and flexible. Short roping also has the advantage that because it divides the route into relatively small sections there is better communication, rope drag is minimised and there is less danger of the rope knocking down debris.

Short roping involves shortening the rope by wrapping coils of it around your body and then tying them off so that between 2m and 20m of rope connects the leader to the other members of the group.

The amount of rope left between the climbers depends on the terrain and the techniques being adopted. At one extreme short roping merges with confidence roping so that on exposed, but non-serious terrain there is only 1m-2m of rope out whilst at the other extreme short roping almost becomes pitching i.e. hard, sustained sections of climbing may need up to 20m of rope out in conjunction with belays and leader placed protection.

Short roping can be employed when both ascending and descending. It is normally deployed on terrain that is exposed and where the consequences of a slip are not only serious but quite possible/probable. It is frequently used on routes where the party generally feel in control and safe, but where there are short, technical sections or the odd hard step that need protecting more closely – thus the party stay roped-up along the whole route, but adjust the amount of rope out and the protection techniques according to the relative difficulty of the terrain.

Short roping requires constant re-evaluation and needs good situational awareness plus an ability to change techniques quickly and safely. This is quite a skill and the ability to make the judgments about which technique to use and when only comes with practice. It is all about correctly matching the team’s ability with the section of route at hand and choosing an appropriate rope technique.

On easier terrain take chest coils so that there is 10-15m of rope between you and then take small, neat hand coils so that there is 2-3m of rope free between members of the party. There should not be too much rope in your hands – a good guide is that if you can not close your hand around the coil then you are holding too much rope. The most capable climber normally goes in front and the team move together at a speed which keeps the rope off the ground, but which does not restrict movement. It is vital that there is no slack in the system and that the hand coils are locked off to prevent any slip becoming a proper fall.

On more difficult terrain where you want some protection or where both hands are needed to make progress, but where all members of the team still feel confident that a fall is unlikely you need to use a different system. This involves dropping the hand coils and climbing simultaneously, placing runners in the rock as well as weaving the rope around natural spikes and blocks to give the team members protection.  It is recommended to have at least three pieces of protection as running belays on the rope at any one time and as the seconds remove a piece of protection the leader places another one. Once again all the climbers should move at the same speed and avoid any slack building up in the system.

On more difficult sections where a fall is quite possible then you will need to revert to pitching the route until easier terrain arrives. It may be necessary to extend the rope, but try not to have more than about 20-25m paid out between the climbers - treat these sections as mini-climbs by taking proper belays, placing runners as required and belaying as normal. Once again try to keep the pitch lengths short and utilise natural anchor points such as spikes and blocks – this will make communication easier, the rope will most likely run straighter and pitches can be done quickly and efficiently

All these techniques require each climbing partner to make judgments on the move and should be practiced in a safe learning environment before being used in the mountains for real.

Rope Coils for Scrambling

 

There are several ways to set up coils – soft lock or hard lock and high or low.

Soft locked coils are easier/faster to adjust for length, but there is serious risk of the coils tightening under load – this can be uncomfortable at best or but has also been known to impede breathing. Thus it is recommended to always use hard locked coils.

When short roping on glaciers high coils (sternum level) should be used as this high anchor point will help keep you upright if you fall into a crevasse, but in a scrambling situation low coils are best as it is easier to hold falls with the anchor point tied off low close to your waist.

There is more information on coils on the Rope Coils for Scrambling page.

 

 

 

Technical Scrambling Equipment

 

We are often asked what technical climbing equipment should be used when starting to scramble. The list below outlines some of the most common items that you will need and features to look for. It does not include general essentials such as a map and compass and opinions will differ on the "best" rack of equipment - but this is a reasonable starting point.

1. Scrambling Rope: This is the subject of much debate and really the decision of which rope is "right" comes down to personal choice. The key decision lies in choosing:

a. Rope type and thickness: There are two main categories of rope - static and dynamic. A scrambling rope should be dynamic i.e. it stretches when loaded like a fibre spring to absorb the energy of a fall.

The choice within dynamic ropes is then to choose between a 'Single' rope or a 'Half' rope. Strictly speaking half ropes should not be used by themselves - they are designed to be used as pairs, however many scramblers use half ropes of diameter 8.5mm - 9.00 because of their lower price and weight. The key disadvantage of skinny half ropes is not that they will break in the event of a fall, but that any fall is harder to hold. Always make sure that your rope and belay device/belay technique are compatible to each other.

There are 8.0mm scrambling ropes available, but I would avoid them as catching a fall is really hard with this diameter of rope unless you are equipped with a skinny rope belay device, are paying attention and are experienced at holding falls - too many ifs....

BelayingSingle ropes are designed to be used by themselves and are tested/certified accordingly. In the good old days single ropes were thick (10.5-11.0 mm) and heavy, but these days you can get single ropes with a diameter of 8.9 - 9.2mm. Maximum safety, but expect to pay a premium for these cutting edge ropes.

10.0 mm single ropes are generally a lot cheaper, but you pay a weight penalty.

Dry ropes are always useful in the mountains - they don't absorb so much water, hence stay lighter, and dry faster. Plus wet nylon fibres are weaker (10-15%) than dry ones - stack the odds in your favour.

b. Rope Length: Anything between 30m and 50m goes. The shorter the rope the lighter it is, however a short rope also limits your options both in terms of pitch length, but also more importantly in retreat. A 30m rope only allows a 15m abseil...

A 9mm x 30m half rope is probably the most common specification used for personal scrambling, based on the theory that it won't be used often and it minimises weight and cost. This can be used doubled up (folded in half) for leading pitches up to 15m, which is plenty for most scrambles. However this does limit your ability to run together or retreat from longer pitches - thus for harder, more remote scrambles it is worth using a longer, fully rated single rope i.e. 40 or 50m of Mammut 8.9mm Serenity or 9.2mm Revelation rope is pretty much perfect.

We normally use 50m of 8.9mm Mammut Serenity (lovely, but expensive) or 10.0 Mammut Galaxy ( good workhorse) ropes for our courses - both of which are dry treated, single ropes.

2. Climbing Harness: You can guarantee that you will need to put on your harness when standing on a tiny ledge in a horrible storm with cold, wet fingers - choose your harness accordingly.

The harness thus needs to be fully adjustable with either 'standard, buckled adjustable legs' or with a 'Nappy' design. In general standard adjustable harnesses with fully padded waist and legs tend to cross over best into rock climbing, whilst 'Nappy' style harnesses with minimal padding are the easiest to put on and also work well for alpine mountaineering. Nappy harnesses are normally also lighter and dry faster/retain less water.

Examples of standard harnesses are the DMM Renegade or Petzl Calidris.

Examples of 'Nappy' harnesses are the DMM Super Couloir or the BD (Alpine) Bod. The DMM Super Couloir is pretty much perfect.

3. Scrambling Equipment: Light and versatile is the order of the day.

a. You will need a belay device and HMS screwgate carabiners for each member of the party. The belay device / rope controller should work well with the ropes that you intend to use i.e. if you are using a skinny rope use a belay device that allows you to control/hold the rope in the event of a fall. HMS carabiners with a round cross section are great for scrambling because they work best with the Italian / Munter friction hitch and thus allow you more options for belaying/retreating.

b. Two offset D screwgates are useful per each member of the party for attaching oneself./people to belays; the DMM Phantom screwgates are great for locking off chest coils because their small size keeps everything tight and in place. Plus a large offset HMS to act a central anchor point - the DMM Boa is hard to beat here because it has a massive internal working area and is very light.

c. Slings form the mainstay of scrambling protection - choose 2 or 3 x 60cm (4ft) dyneema slings and 3 or 4 x 120cm (8ft) dyneema slings for placing over spikes and around boulders. A single 240 sling can also be useful for looping over large boulders. Dyneema is thinner, lighter and less bulky than nylon and the material of choice for slings. Skinny dyneema (8mm - 10mm wide) works beautifully here, but wider 11mm slings will last longer.

d. A small selection of rock protection is useful on harder scrambles. The core protection you will be using are called nuts or wires - these are aluminium chocks of various sizes that are threaded on steel cable or dyneema slings. These are then wedged into cracks or constrictions to create anchors. A minimum amount of gear might be DMM Wallnuts or Wild Country Rocks in sizes 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 plus a selection of larger hexcentric nuts - DMM Torque nuts 1- 4 or WC Rockcentrics 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

A larger rack would supplement the nuts with a set of DMM Offsets or fill in the gaps in any range of nuts that you have already bought.

Camming devices (cams) are a bit of a luxury when scrambling, but can help protect those harder routes that can't be protected by nuts. A range of DMM 4 CU's or WC Friends in sizes 1, 2 and 3 or 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5 cover a lot of bases. Black Diamond Camalots in sizes 0.75, 1 and 2 are also a good option.

e. A few quickdraws to extend the rock protection and act as a link to the rope. A quickdraw is a flexible link comprising of 2 carabiners connected by a nylon or dyneema sling. Longer lengths are best (18cm to 25cm long) because they create less rope drag and are less likely to inadvertently dislodge any protection that you have placed.

f. Other scrambling equipment: A pair of prussic loops are always useful - 1.3m of 5mm or 1.4m of 6mm cord with the ends tied together into an open loop with a double fisherman's knot that allows you to protect abseils, ascend ropes and set up rescue systems. The key thing here is knowing how to use them.

g. A nut key per party for removing stuck nuts.

3. Helmets.

There is a section on choosing helmets on the Advanced Scrambling Course page below the main text. This covers the different types of climbing helmet available and a few recommended models.

Plus there is more equipment information on the Climbing Tips page.

4. Liquid

Don't forget the importance of liquid in promoting morale and endurance - bring plenty of isotonic energy drinks on warm summer days and hot, sweet drinks for cold days (sugared hot cinnamon tea, ginger tea and hot chocolate work for me!)

 

 

Mountain Scrambling Instructor

 

Silvia FitzpatrickThe scrambling courses are normally run by Silvia Fitzpatrick. Silvia is a full member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI) and the Mountain Leaders Training Association. When Silvia is already booked then we have several local MIA instructors who we know and trust to run good courses.

Scrambling is often one of the hardest skills to pick up when you come to it as an experienced rock climber - as a climber you are used to a regular routine of always using the rope and pitching the entire route. Scrambling is a lot more fluid - one moment you will be soloing, then you quickly get the ropes out to short rope past a difficult section, then revert to soloing for a little bit further before bringing out the ropes again to pitch the last part of the route. It is much more akin to alpine mountaineering than rock climbing.

Silvia's alpine climbing experience in the mountains of Patagonia and the European Alps - she made the first female ascent of Cerro Fitzroy in Patagonia and climbed the North Face of the Eiger with Ed Drummond for a television programme - meant that learning these skills came quickly.

Silvia really enjoys the scrambling experience of moving fast and light in the mountains and this enthusiasm helps makes our scrambling courses not just informative, but fun and involving.

 

 

Private Course 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
Learn to Scramble in Snowdonia
1 Day Scrambling Course
1:1
£160
£160
1:2
£180
£90
1:3
£180
£60
2 Day Scrambling Course
1:1
£320
£320
1:2
£340
£170
1:3
£360
£120
3 Day Scrambling Course
1:1
£470
£470
1:2
£500
£250
1:3
£510
£170
4 Day Scrambling Course
1:1
£600
£600
1:2
£650
£325
1:3
£675
£225

 

Online Booking Form

Booking Details + Conditions

Equipment provided us: We'll provide all the technical equipment needed for the Learn to Scramble course including scrambling ropes, climbing hardware and a helmet and harness for each client.

What you need to provide: You will need to provide suitable warm clothing for the time of year always remembering that the weather in the mountains can be cold, wet and windy even in the height of summer - so bring waterproof top and bottoms, warm synthetic clothing ( thermals plus a fleecy/pile mid layer ). Don't forget your hat, gloves and spare socks either.

The best footwear for scrambling is stiff walking boots i.e. boots that 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.

You will also need a rucksack (30 - 40 litre capacity) and food and drink for the day. A hot drink in a thermos is always welcome on a cold day, whilst plenty of cold energy drink helps you cope with the physical nature of scrambling on hot summer days.

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

Ratios and course sizes: The ideal ratio for a Learn to Scramble course is 2 or 3 clients to 1 instructor. We can offer individual instruction, but this does limit our ability to teach some topics effectively i.e. when an instructor is teaching the client how to belay, it is best if there is a third person scrambling on the end of the rope for it to be a realistic exercise.

The course dates, venues and content of all of our mountain scrambling courses are by arrangement and totally customisable.

 

 

 

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