What is Scrambling in Hiking – A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking

At some point in your hiking journey, you might have heard the term “scrambling.” This brings up an interesting question: what is scrambling in hiking?

You typically use your feet to for forward movement when you hike. What if you reach a point on steep terrain where you have to use both your feet and your hands? This is known as scrambling, the activity of using your hands and feet to climb up steeper and tougher terrain.

Scrambling is a helpful technique and a topic of interest for many mountaineers. If you’re just getting started with hiking this technique might come in handy at some point during your adventures.

What is Scrambling in Hiking?

If you love nature and like to keep yourself in shape with physical activities, hiking may be the best fit. It’s a fantastic way to explore different terrains while working up a sweat and breathing in some fresh air.

If you are just getting started with hiking, you might come across various terminologies that sound unfamiliar. One of these strange new hiking terms is “scrambling.”

Scrambling is a technique used in hiking that requires you to use your hands and feet to get around steep or rocky terrain. It typically falls between hiking and rock climbing on the difficulty scale. Scrambling often involves navigating loose rock, steep inclines, and exposed ridges. 

The routes for scrambling may not be as well defined or maintained as traditional hiking trails. They tend to be more natural and may require route-finding skills. You could be required to use your hands to climb over obstacles.

Scrambling is done with or without using ropes or other climbing equipment. It’s also common for scramblers to wear helmets to protect themselves from falling rocks or other hazards. 

The level of difficulty of scrambling can vary greatly depending on the terrain and route. Some scrambling routes are relatively easy, while others are more challenging. More complicated paths require more technical scrambling skills and experience. 

Due to the nature of scrambling, it’s important to have good physical fitness and proper gear. A hiker will need navigation skills and knowledge of the area before trying a scramble.

It’s easy to confuse scrambling with rock climbing. There is a difference between these two techniques, however. 

Rock climbing requires you to pull yourself up with your arms. Scrambling is more about balancing yourself. When you scramble, you ascend in a crawl position to add grip.

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) has compiled a great video for beginners to understand the required movements of scrambling. You can also watch the video explaining everything about scrambling on the Chase Mountains channel.

Types of Scrambling

man walking on rock

Scrambling is classified into four main categories based on difficulty levels: Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, and Class 4. These levels are made up of two factors:

  • The difficulty of the terrain
  • The damage and consequences after falling 

Let’s explore each type in detail.

Class 1

Class 1 scrambling is the easiest form of scrambling. It involves hiking on well-defined trails with occasional use of the hands for balance. There is little danger of falling, and a slip or misstep would not result in injury.

Class 2

This level is one step harder than Class 1. Class 2 means you have to use your hands and feet to climb up the rock formations. You should be careful with level 2 because if you fall, you’ll hurt yourself. A fall might end up breaking some parts of your body. 

This is where you start having fun with a pinch of adrenaline.

Class 3

Now you need a rope. Class 3 is where you sense danger and start fighting your fears.

It’s a longer and more difficult scramble that involves climbing on steep and rocky terrain with exposure to heights. This is where you should carefully consider the consequences. A fall from this level could result in serious injury or death.

Class 3 scrambling demands good quality gear and a little bit of rock climbing training. You also need your physical fitness to help you through.

This is where your fears start taking over. Not everyone is confident enough to look down, so it’s important to have a strong mentality.

Class 4

Class 4 scrambling is not for the faint of heart. Only a competent scrambler with previous experience should try this. Class 4 is the most dangerous and challenging form of scrambling where the angel of death waits for you at the door.

This level isn’t recommended without years of experience in scrambling. You also need nerves of steel, good-quality gear, and excellent navigation skills. A little slip may lead you six feet under. 

Even if you are willing to give a shot at class 4, make sure you get an adequate amount of training first.

Essential Gear and Safety Measures

Scrambling requires a different set of gear and safety measures than regular hiking. The gear for scrambling includes a helmet, gloves, a rope, and proper hiking boots. A first aid kit and emergency supplies are critical items to have with you. 

When scrambling, it is important to stay aware of your surroundings and the conditions of the trail. Be sure to stay hydrated and take breaks when needed. Don’t get too excited, know your limits, and don’t try to scramble beyond your skill level.

Training and Preparation

Scrambling demands great physical strength. Not including Class 1, it’s not recommended to try scrambling without any training. You need grip and endurance in your arms and legs. Good coordination and balance can also help you greatly.

Mental preparation for scrambling includes learning to stay calm and focused in challenging situations. It is also important to be prepared for the unexpected and have a plan in case of an emergency.

Proper pacing and hydration are also crucial for a successful scramble. You should maintain a steady pace and take breaks when needed. Be sure to keep up with your water intake for a comfortable scramble.

If you are scrambling in hot weather, you should add electrolytes to your fluid. You’ll want to do this to make sure you don’t dehydrate. 

Keep in mind that scrambling makes it easy to go up, but it’s difficult to come back down. So you should only move forward if you can have a safe descent.

Bottom Line

Now that we’ve explained this in detail, what is scrambling in hiking? We realize now that scrambling is part hike, part mountain climbing. We know now that it requires strength, agility, and technical skills. 

Before heading out for scrambling, you must be well-prepared and aware of the risks involved. With the right preparation and safety precautions, scrambling can be a fun and rewarding experience.

So, if you’re looking for a new challenge, why not give scrambling a try? Just make sure you’re thoroughly prepared and have the right gear. With proper knowledge and skills, you can enjoy your scrambling experience.

If you’re fond of adventure and want to try more things, you should check out more sports to feed your thrill. You might like skydiving and snowboarding. Or, if you trust your balance, you can try slacklining.