Scrambling – ideas, classic routes and how to get started safely

8 minute read

"Scrambling offers the perfect combination of continuous movement and unfettered climbing in a mountain environment" so says John Fleetwood, one of Britain's most accomplished runners and climbers. This page focusses on routes, ideas, expert opinion and guidance for all types of scrambles. Scrambling is a very basic activity that offers adventure, physical activity and mental concentration, and marks the transition from hill walking into climbing, with the use of rope recommended for more difficult grades. It comes with risks – YOU MUST NOT FALL OFF...

Scrambling and climbing grades

Extract from Scrambles in the Lake District (two volumes) by John Fleetwood

Grading is inherently subjective but gives a guide as to the difficulty of the route. Minus (-) and plus (+) notations are used to augment the 1–3 grades to add further granularity. Rock climbing grades are used for routes commonly climbed as roped rock climbs. Climbers’ scrambles are identified in the Summary of routes and scrambles table and Appendix A. These are scrambles that are only suitable for scramblers with climbing experience and should be treated as rock climbs. Where alternatives exist, the grade for the alternative is given in brackets. The grades apply to ascents in good dry conditions. Wet rock, particularly on the crags, can increase the grade considerably or render a scramble extremely hazardous.

1: A straightforward scramble, with little or no route-finding difficulty. The described route takes the most interesting line, which can usually be varied or even avoided at will. Generally, the exposure is not significant, but even so, great care must be taken to avoid a slip.

2: Contains longer and more difficult stretches of scrambling, and a rope may be useful for ensuring safety for inexperienced or nervous scramblers. Although individual sections of the scramble can usually be avoided, these sections may be inescapable once the scramble is underway. Some skill in route finding is required to follow the described line.

3: A more serious proposition, only to be undertaken by competent parties. Escape is difficult. A rope is advisable for safety on exposed passages and for some pitches of easy rock climbing. The routes require a steady leader with the ability to judge how the rest of the party are coping with the situations, and a rope should be used wherever the safety of an individual is in doubt.

3S: A particularly serious outing, often involving poor rock or vegetation, and may include steep pitches of rock climbing. Recommended only for experienced, competent climbers who will almost certainly use a rope on key pitches. Escape is difficult.

M: Moderate rock climb

D: Difficult rock climb

VD: Very Difficult rock climb

The Lake District

Lake district wild scrambling on Horn Crag


A scrambling section on the Cuillin ridge


Peak District

1016 FC

Scrambles in the Dark Peak

Easy summer scrambles and winter climbs


Guidebook to 41 graded scrambles in the Dark Peak and Roaches areas of the Peak District, most of which can be done year round. Includes areas such as Kinder Scout, the Wilderness Gullies and Bleaklow, and features both classic (Wilderness Gully East and Wildboar Clough) and lesser known routes. Link routes, variants and extensions also described.

More information

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A chat with the authors of Scrambles in the Dark Peak

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Another new scrambling route in the Peak District

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Trevor Clarke Mbe Leading Across To The Left

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Scrambles in Europe and further afield...

The shark’s fin ridge of the Pointe de Leche

Similar activities and mountain adventures

If you enjoy scrambling then you may be interested in our 'Mountain Adventures' guidebooks to Chamonix, Innsbruck and the Maurienne, all of which include a selection of scrambles and climbs, as well as walks, via ferrata mountain biking and cycling routes. Then there's always canyoning, for those who like to descend and keep cool in the water!

Via ferratas and canyoning

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