Is Scrambling Safer Than Rock Climbing?

Scrambling is a complex mix of rock climbing and walking, when ascending a scrambling route you will sometimes be using rock climbing skills and other times walking on grassy ledges and footpaths. Some scrambles require no rope work skills at all but other harder scrambles will demand the use of ropes to stay safe. The most important skill needed for scrambling is judgement and experience. Scrambling is often viewed as safer than climbing as the terrain you tackle whilst scrambling is easy and you are unlikely to fall off. Unfortunately, scrambling can be just a serious as rock climbing and in some cases a fall could have serious consequences.

There are around 10 million visitors to Snowdonia each year and many of these will scramble there way to the top of Snowdon via Crib Goch, a classic grade one scramble and there will also be many visitors that will try harder scrambles on the Gylders or Carneddau mountain ranges. Looking at the statistics from the mountain rescue teams in Snowdonia we can see that people are just as likely to be hurt in scrambling accidents as they are in rock climbing. In 2011 there were 100 people involved in scrambling incidents compared to 67 in rock climbing, although it is only fair to point out that that there were 763 hill walking accidents in 2011 too. As there are many more people who go walking compared to scrambling, I would expect the hill walking incidents to be far greater. It is very interesting to see that the percentage of fatalities is around 3% for rock climbing, scrambling and hill walking. This means that there is little difference between climbing and scrambling in terms of seriousness. What does this all mean for people who want to go scrambling?

My advice would be the same whether you are going scrambling, hill walking or rock climbing. Do not under estimate what you are doing! All the mountain activities can have serious consequences yet all of them can be done safety if you know what you are doing. I would strongly recommend learning some basic rock climbing skills such as belaying and using natural anchors to find ways to attaching the rope to the mountainside. Other tips would be to check the weather forecast and make sure you are wearing the appropriate clothing for the conditions. Make sure you carry a mobile phone and let someone know where you are going. Scramble with someone, you can’t hold your own rope and your partner would be able to get help if you run into trouble. Make sure you can read a map and use a compass; it is too east to take a wrong turn and end up in a dangerous area.

A summery of my advice could be expressed with a simple sentence: “Don’t underestimate the mountains, they can be a dangerous place, make sure you have all the skills and equipment needed before heading up the where the Eyries fly.”

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