/ Scramble or climb?

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static266 - on 15 Apr 2019

It seems that the popularity of scrambling for scrambling's sake has led to routes like:

South Gully (M) on Tryfan is known more as a grade 3 scramble than a moderate rock climb. It features in the climber's club Ogwen guidebook (moderate/grade 3 - no stars), Cicerone's updated Scrambles in Snowdonia (grade 3 - one star) and Garry Smith's North Wales Scrambles(grade 3 - stars not used in this guide). 

AND

East Gully Arête (D) on Glyder Fach - Ogwen (difficult/grade 3 - no stars), Cicerone (grade 3 - three stars), Garry Smith (grade 3 - stars not used)

AND

Craig Fawr Rib (L.M.H.) (3) in Nantlle - Cwm Silyn (moderate - no stars), Cicerone (grade 3 - two stars)

Should UKC logbooks honour the grades and stars given in the definitive guidebooks which at times seem to detract the percieved quality of the route, or should the scrambling grades and stars given in the Cicerone guidebook be used? In my eyes a *** grade 3 scramble is going to get me to climb a route but a starless diff/mod may put many off.

Does anyone even care?! I'd like to hear what you have to think.

Post edited at 19:26
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alan moore - on 15 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

It's a good point.

1 star Moderates like Curved Ridge, Cniefion Rib and Cam Crag Ridge do seem to translate 3 star grade 3 scrambles.

You should create a bogus star/grade conversion chart and we could all argue about it until the end of time....

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ianstevens - on 15 Apr 2019
In reply to alan moore:

Maybe becasue such routes are great fun if you treat them as a scramble (i.e. no rope or backup rope to be used just in case) but dull as sin if you're expecting a climb (trad rack, ropes, etc)? That's how I always think about these things anyway.

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to ianstevens:

> Maybe becasue such routes are great fun if you treat them as a scramble (i.e. no rope or backup rope to be used just in case) but dull as sin if you're expecting a climb (trad rack, ropes, etc)? That's how I always think about these things anyway.

But it's all relative; one person's hard lead is going to be somebody else's fun scramble/solo whatever the difficulty. I hate the distinction between climbing and scrambling - it's all just climbing.

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ianstevens - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

I understand your point, but is moderate really considered climbing these days? You can do 95% of both curved ridge and cneifon arête without using your hands, and a running race even goes up the first one. 

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alan moore - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to ianstevens:

> I understand your point, but is moderate really considered climbing these days? 

I would say if it's moving over stone it's the same kind of fun and make no distinction.

As a rock starved Central Belter I did Stran Gill the other week (1 star moderate/ 3 star scramble) and enjoyed it in just the same way as would soloing a VS with rock shoes on.

Just being on rock is what it's all about for me at least.

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Mike505 on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

Maybe just do away with scrambling grades and expand the climbing grade range. On harder scarmbles they run side by side anyway. On top of that it would help unify the three scrambling grade systems, 1 - 3, 1 - 3s and 1 - 5.

Very Easy - Grade 1

Easy - Grade 2

Mod - Grade 3

Diff - Grade 3/3s

Post edited at 09:09
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Mike505 on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

As for the star ratings a lot of climbs easy or otherwise may feel more fun / worth doing when soloed. We're generally much more focused, in the zone and in a flow state when soloing. Can you imagine roping up for every rocky step when scrambling up Tryfan or Bristly ridge, it'd be naff!

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Milesy - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

You're missing a valuable point though -- rock climbing grades are usually of little interest to a hillwalker and general mountain goer. Grade 3 scramble makes more sense to someone who is used to going up by the paths and want to try something a big more challenging.

Curved Ridge will almost certainly be spoken of in by walkers in relation to how "harder" it is from their general walking outings, and spoken of by climbers on how "easier" it is from their usual climbing outings, and therefor there is total parity in the context it is used.

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C Witter on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

It seems to me that as scrambling is becoming more popular, guidebook writers are starting to subsume easier climbing terrain under the mantle of scrambling. As a guidebook writer, you want to present some really good mountaineering challenges, and longer easy climbs fit the bill. Meanwhile, trained in the gym and carrying a lot of protection, many rock climbers start on VDiffs, rather than on Diffs. Add to that the fact that many easier climbs that used to get Diff - e.g. in Menlove Edward's Welsh climbing guides - now get harder grades, and Diff becomes somewhat neglected.

But, reading the Gary Smith guide to Snowdonia scrambles, it seems the he is trying to define scrambling as a basically unroped activity. Whereas Steve Ashton often recommends a rope for scrambles (cf. for example, the write ups of the Wrinkled Tower in the two guides). Smith's approach has a kind of logic and appeal, but is itself in contrast with the approach of many organisations - from the BMC to Plas y Brenin - which try to teach 'scrambling techniques' involving a rope, helmet and a fairly significant rack.

Then there is the complicating factor of Alpinism: is scrambling seen as an activity very much particular to the playgrounds of the UK (Snowdonia, Scotland and, to a lesser extent, the Lakes) or is it merely a sub-activity of mountaineering - and a good place for Alpine prep?

Lots of different issues inform these questions, besides that of difficulty!

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Ramblin dave - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Milesy:

> You're missing a valuable point though -- rock climbing grades are usually of little interest to a hillwalker and general mountain goer. Grade 3 scramble makes more sense to someone who is used to going up by the paths and want to try something a big more challenging.

I think this might be why the star ratings are different as well - with a scrambling head on, you look for routes with atmosphere and a sense of adventure and you aren't too worried about the actual climbing, whereas from a climber's point of view you care a lot more about whether there are good stretches of interesting moves for the given grade.

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Ramblin dave - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

Amphitheatre Buttress is another one where this comes up. There's always a faction that argues that it's crap, because in essence it's a polished pitch of VDiff with a long walk in and a load of unnecessary scrambling at either end. Whereas the opposing view is that it's fantastic, because the long walk and the remote location and the varied scrambling up a big buttress and the polished pitch of VDiff all contribute to its quality as a day out.

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to ianstevens:

> I understand your point, but is moderate really considered climbing these days? 

Eh? Yes, of course it is. What about it isn't? The very fact that anyone feels the need to ask the question precisely illustrates my point about making an unnecessary distinction between climbing and scrambling.

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Mike505:

> Maybe just do away with scrambling grades and expand the climbing grade range. 

Yes, it is the separate grading system which has promoted this nonsense, creating an unhealthy "them and us" feeling about so called "scrambling".

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C Witter on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

I think you're putting the cart before the horse, there. You may as well argue that bouldering grades have created an unnecessary division between boulderers and climbers.

Post edited at 17:12
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static266 - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

I'm not sure I see a massive "them and us" difference between scrambling and climbing. How many people with lots of experience of grade 1-3 scrambles, particularly harder routes, do not also have some experience of diff and vdiff rock climbs?

I do both, but I wonder whether UKC logbooks for some routes would be better off using the scrambling grade and stars to stop these climbing routes (frequently described as scrambles) being destined for obscurity? New scrambling guidebooks are probably the only thing keeping some routes in the public eye as select rock climbing guides don't tend to mention them.

Maybe the style used in the Ogwen guidebook is better in the long term as it preserves the history of the route (mod/sg3).

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to C Witter:

> I think you're putting the cart before the horse, there. You may as well argue that bouldering grades have created an unnecessary division between boulderers and climbers.

They probably have.

I actually wonder whether scrambling grades are little more than an invention to help sell scrambling guide books.

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

> New scrambling guidebooks are probably the only thing keeping some routes in the public eye as select rock climbing guides don't tend to mention them.

Possibly, but, if so, it's a shame the term  scrambling is used. What would be wrong with "Selected Climbs In The Lower Grades In Snowdonia".

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C Witter on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

There's a Jon Sparks et al. book with a similar title already: Scrambles and Easy Climbs in Snowdonia. There's no shame in the term 'scrambling' being used, because it refers to a distinct tradition. It's a bit like saying that 'fell running' and 'trail running' should be called the same thing, or that 'rock climbing' is a nonsense, and we should just go with 'mountaineering'.

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Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2019
In reply to C Witter:

>  It's a bit like saying that 'fell running' and 'trail running' should be called the same thing.

They probably should. Isn't the term "trail running" just a marketing invention to sell shoes anyway?

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Dogwatch - on 17 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

>  What would be wrong with "Selected Climbs In The Lower Grades In Snowdonia".

It would be wrong because they are scrambles. It's a description of a certain kind of British mountain activity with a long  tradition in its own right.

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Doug on 17 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

In France 'le trailing' seems to mean fell running much of the time,

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Robert Durran - on 17 Apr 2019
In reply to Dogwatch:

> It would be wrong because they are scrambles. It's a description of a certain kind of British mountain activity with a long  tradition in its own right.

"Scrambling" might be an activity (doing climbs which you find technically easy without a rope -  ie simple soloing), but what I really object to is the labelling of some climbs as (mere) scrambles. They are all just climbs of various difficulties.

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purplemonkeyelephant - on 17 Apr 2019
In reply to Mike505:

If we all just used the YDS with a more graduated descriptor for protectability, wouldn't that solve it? 

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Steve Ashton - on 18 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

The aim of the original Scrambles in Snowdonia guidebook was to find a home for routes in that fuzzy middle ground between hill walking (no hands) and rock climbing (fully roped ascents). Bristly Ridge, Crib Goch etc were already well frequented, whereas other, largely undocumented, routes of similar quality and difficulty were hardly used. At the other end of the scale, several atmospheric Mods - deemed too easy as 'proper' rock climbs - had been sidelined.

Being primarily a climber, it never occurred to me to use rope and gear while checking  existing routes and exploring new ones. In the draft introduction to the guide, I even advocated soloing as the best way to enjoy these scrambles (a provocative suggestion wisely cut by the editor). If you're going to gear up with ropes, rack and helmet, I thought, why not just do a 'proper' rock climb? For me, the delight came from moving fast - solo or alpine style - over exposed but relatively easy terrain, and explained how a zero or one-star Easy/Mod rock route could become a two or three-star scramble. As others have remarked, if you pitched your way up Tryfan's North Ridge, it would be pretty tedious.

That said, attitudes have changed. Back then (1979), it was quite common to go scrambling while wearing mountain boots and carrying a full pack as preparation for an alpine season. The recent update to Scrambles in Snowdonia (by Rachel Crolla and Carl McKeating), better reflects current attitudes.  

Incidentally, I never hesitated before introducing a bespoke - if basic - grading system for scrambles. At one extreme, it enabled (previously ungraded) adventurous walks to join the spectrum, while at the other, there seemed little point retaining historic Easy or Moderate grades for rock routes that had become neglected or were used merely as descent routes.

In the end, though, it's all rock and heather. The lines existed long before they were named, graded or written up in guidebooks. 

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Greenbanks - on 18 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

Maybe its an age thing? My 'scrambles' of 50 years ago are now verging on my 'climbs'.

Tempus fugit etc.

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PaulScramble - on 24 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

My view is that scrambling is a climbey bit during a walk. If you walk only to get to a climb, then it's a walk-in to a climb. 

Post edited at 19:44
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Robert Durran - on 24 Apr 2019
In reply to PaulScramble:

> My view is that scrambling is a climbey bit during a walk. If you walk only to get to a climb, then it's a walk-in to a climb. I always use a rope. I am impressed by free climbers, but I don't respect them.

You don't seem to know what free climbing is either.

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Trangia on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

It was all scrambling to Whymper. He even wrote a book about it.

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Offwidth - on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

You have spotted some examples of climbing elitism. I'd always go with the scrambling classifications if that is the major way the line is climbed and with the higher star ratings as climbers are often idiotically sniffy about really good scrambles. Where scrambling ends and climbling starts doesn't always occur at the same grade: for me a scramble could contain severe standard (4a) technical spottable moves from a safe ledge and yet some sustained and exposed routes given mod (like Crescent Climb on Pavey) are most certainly not scrambles... in that, I find soloing a lower grade climb (something I do a lot) feels very different to me from soloing a tricky scramble with the same nominal climbing grade.

The thread will I'm sure attract more elitism. As another example that someone already brought up... Amplitheatre Buttress to me is a long climb of sustained quality Diff interest with a grassy walk in the middle and an optional scrambling bypass of some fun but bold climbing on the pinnacles.

One of the great things about climbing is there will always be real challenge available however good you are. I've watched many a climber celebrate a roped ascent of a mod or diff as a major acheivement for them in the same way as others gain satisfaction from ascents of hard extremes. Steve seemed to really got this in his classic 100 guidebooks where even the mods had a 'derring-do' write up....something too many other guidebook authors ought to emulate.

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Robert Durran - on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> You have spotted some examples of climbing elitism. I'd always go with the scrambling classifications if that is the major way the line is climbed and with the higher star ratings as climbers are often idiotically sniffy about really good scrambles.

I think the elitism results from the separate classifications - the idea that something is "only a scramble" or he/she is "only a scrambler".  It seems to me much less elitist to call it all climbing and call us all climbers and have it all under the same classification system.

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Offwidth - on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

I wish it were just that.. yet the same attitudes happen with lower grade rock climbs. Its weird how nature made extremes much better than sub extremes .. just look at all the stars ;-).  I think its more about different types of climbers the ego and grade driven and those who look to bypass ego and enjoy any climbing from pushing hard to stuff that's just fun for them.

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d_b on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

Scrambler: Soloist in big boots and rucsac.

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Offwidth - on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to d_b:

I always nearly always scramble in approach shoes and sometimes in climbing shoes in a dry spell; quite often without a rucksack. I often climb in approach shoes as well.

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d_b on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Well, the point I intended to make was that it is real climbing with max penalty points for cockups rather than "here come the fashion police".

I mostly favour use approach shoes these days too, although mine aren't waterproof so whenever it rains I go back to the B2s.

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Offwidth - on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to d_b:

Fair enough. I do think escapability and good rests around the tricky bits is part of what makes a scramble...generally less prang potential with a mistake...ropes only needed on small sections etc. It not just about risk... serious scambles often take loose terrain with more objective risk.

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C Witter on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to Steve Ashton:

> In the draft introduction to the guide, I even advocated soloing as the best way to enjoy these scrambles (a provocative suggestion wisely cut by the editor). If you're going to gear up with ropes, rack and helmet, I thought, why not just do a 'proper' rock climb? For me, the delight came from moving fast - solo or alpine style - over exposed but relatively easy terrain...

A welcome and interesting corrective to what I wrote above!

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Northern Star on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

Whether I approach something as a scramble or a climb depends on how my mindset has been influenced by whatever guidebook I was reading at the time.  If a route is in a scrambling guidebook then I'll probably attempt it as a scramble (taking a rope as backup for grade 3 stuff) with the aim to move solo and quickly for as much of the terrain as possible, only bringing out the rope if strictly necessary.  I soloed the Tryfan Bach arete last week - it was great.

Yet I have also done Tryfan Bach arete as a roped climb on several occasions.  I enjoyed both equally.  The solo scramble for the feeling of fluid movement on good quality rock.  The roped climb for the multitude of good quality gear placements I could make, and the much greater time spent on the route allowing views and situation to be taken in. 

The quality of a route does not really change regardless of whether it is scrambled or climbed with a rope and any stars in guidebooks are the opinion of the guidebook writer only.

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Misha - on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to static266:

As the saying goes, climbing begins at VS / E1 / E5 / whatever grade you can climb fairly comfortably, probably a couple of grades below your best lead. 

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Iain Thow - on 26 Apr 2019
In reply to Ramblin dave:

  • > I think this might be why the star ratings are different as well - with a scrambling head on, you look for routes with atmosphere and a sense of adventure and you aren't too worried about the actual climbing, whereas from a climber's point of view you care a lot more about whether there are good stretches of interesting moves for the given grade.

    Spot on, and with a scrambling head you barely notice short bits of walking as you're past them in a couple of minutes, whereas the same place would be a right faff with belays. Also some factors that are a plus when you're scrambling (escapability, lots of route choice) are minuses when thinking of it as a climb.

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Iain Thow - on 26 Apr 2019
In reply to C Witter:

I think if you're grading something on the assumption that you're using a rope and runners then it's a climb and should get a climbing grade.

FWIW the criteria Noel and I used for the SMC guides was that a move or two of Mod or Diff just above a big ledge was fine on a Grade 3, but if the same move was "up in the air" (even by a good runner) then we graded it Mod or Diff. This implies that 3S ("serious" 3) is redundant, so we gave all the 3S routes from Noel's Cicerone guide Mod (or in a couple of cases Diff, and once VDiff).

The boundary for when you need a rope obviously varies hugely between individuals, but in my experience most agile hillwalkers with a head for heights are ok soloing Grade 2 (I always carry a rope at that grade with clients but hardly ever end up using it) but Grade 3 is usually too much, while most climbers are happy soloing Mods but not Diffs.

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PaulScramble - on 28 Apr 2019
In reply to Robert Durran:

It's life or death, so it it isn't rational.

> You don't seem to know what free climbing is either.

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teh_mark on 28 Apr 2019
In reply to PaulScramble:

Mostly only if you're really shit at placing gear.

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Robert Durran - on 28 Apr 2019
In reply to PaulScramble:

> It's life or death, so it it isn't rational.

I thought not.

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