photo: Garry Smith
East Arete, Cwm Idwal photo: Garry Smith

Scrambling in North Wales

Traditionally regarded as covering the ground between mountain walking and modern rock climbing, scrambling in North Wales has gone through somewhat of a renaissance in recent times. The classic Scrambles in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton has been usurped by the forward thinking North Wales Scrambles by Garry Smith. Whilst paying homage to the early explorers of the soaring faces and ridges of North Wales, Smith unashamedly turns scrambling into a philosophical approach to the mountains of North Wales. Yes, you can still view scrambling as that somewhat ill defined bit in between walking and climbing - but try realigning your approach to something akin to a zenlike oneness with being in the mountains and a whole vista of opportunities and experiences are revealed.

Anyway, back down on earth… The ‘gully era’ of rock climbing provided the vital stepping stone to exploring the vast open faces and buttresses that were to become the domain of the brave and skilful. Nowadays, many of those gullies and faces are regarded as scrambles, sections of straightforward climbing interspersed with steep walking terrain; where a good eye for a line, accompanied by a clear understanding of one’s own ability are essential assets. The very fact that scrambles often take natural lines of weakness, threading an often intricate way through imposing rock architecture, predisposes these routes to having their fair share of suspect rock, scree-covered ledges and the odd slippery slimy section thrown in for good measure. They vary in difficulty; from steep rocky walking, alternating with sections of very easy climbing on big holds, to serious and committing outings which may well involve challenging sections of climbing.

Scrambling should not be approached lightly (unless in search of the unbearable), combining the need for ultimately competent mountain skills together with agile movement on very steep ground. The penalty for error can be substantial.

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Top Scrambling Venues in North Wales

Pick of the Pops

Family & Fun

  • Moel Siabod - The Daer Ddu ridge on the south east side of the summit is a delightful grade 1 scramble and a great introduction to the game of scrambling, being a mostly friendly affair. The rock is superb dolerite: nicely featured, grippy and trustworthy. The route gives plenty of interest throughout its length and has a nice sense of exposure on its eastern side.

photo: Simon Panton

50 Shades of Great

  • The ‘North Ridge of Tryfan is one of the finest scrambles in Snowdonia. Once started, interest is maintained along the crest of this splendid mountain. The route is only grade 1 but should not be underestimated. There are plenty of options to vary the route; indeed each ascent is likely to following a different line, such is the network of possibilities.

Tryfan, North Ridge, © Garry Smith

Out There

  • Lliwedd in the Snowdon Range harbours the Alpine-like ‘Bilberry Terrace’. This superb but very challenging grade 3 outing is suitable only for experienced scramblers but offers access to some of the very finest mountaineering situations in the UK.

Kayakers sometimes do pedalism. Bilberry Terrace, © Garry Smith