Words: Lucy Grewcock (Wild Guides Author)
Scrambling adds an extra element of excitement to any day in the mountains. More adventurous than walking but less technical than climbing, it involves using both your hands and feet to ascend. The level of difficulty can vary considerably, depending on the gradient and terrain – routes are classed from easy Grade 1 ascents, to technical to Grade 3s, which sometimes require ropes on the steepest sections.
Rocky Welsh landscapes offer perfect scrambling terrain. From classic routes in Snowdonia to exposed coastal crags and mysterious outcrops in the Shropshire Hills, there’s a huge variety to choose from, and many are accessible to beginners. If you’re an experienced hill walker with a head for heights, you should be fine on the easy routes I’ve picked out but always take care, select your line carefully, and don’t go up anything you can’t come back down.
Y Gribin & Y Lliwedd Horseshoe – Snowdonia
This stunning scramble from Glaslyn steers you away from the main Snowdon crowds and gives glorious views of the highest cliffs in Wales. To fully appreciate the 300m of sheer rock wall on this route, continue on via Y Lliwedd. There’s lots more to discover here if you stick around for a weekend, from quarry ruins and copper mines to waterfalls – to experience it all, stay a while in one of the excellent campsites near Snowdon’s base.
Devil’s Chair, Stiperstones – Shropshire Hills
The second highest hill in Shropshire, Stiperstones (536m/1,759ft) is crowned by jagged quartzite outcrops. One of the hill’s best crags is the dramatic multi-pinnacled summit tor of ‘Devil’s Chair’ – it’s great for scrambling and gives stunning views. Nipstone Rock is another good option, offering a nice easy climb above heather-cloaked slopes. When you get back down, head to the Bog Visitor Centre to tuck into tea and cake, and learn all about the local geology you’ve been scrambling on.
Garn Fawr, Strumble Head – North Pembrokeshire
A fun one for kids, it’s an easy scramble up to this Iron Age hillfort, which gives sensational sea views – so much so that it was used as a First World War lookout point. Once you reach the top, gaze over the coast and pick out your next adventure – from remote low-tide beaches and secret coves, there’s lots to explore. Stay locally at the wild Hillfort Tipis, which have views of your scrambling spot on Garn Fawr.
Daear Ddu, Moel Siabod – nr Betws-y-Coed
An isolated mountain that rises above Betws-y-Coed village, Moel Siabod (872m), is the highest peak in the Moelwynion range. From the summit, it’s said that you can see 13 of the 14 highest Welsh peaks without turning your head. The Daear Ddu scramble is a great way to reach the top. This easy route on the south-eastern ridge gives views of the soaring Glyders mountains. Stay nearby at one of the Landmark Trust’s renovated cottages in the remote upland hamlet Rhiwddion – with a wild setting, they’re the ultimate hideaway.
Scrambling takes you away from the busiest footpaths to explore beyond the beaten track. Well-known paths on the most popular Welsh peaks, like Snowdon and Tryfan, can get busy on weekends but if you wander off the main routes and scramble up instead, you can enjoy satisfying sections all to yourself.
As a beginner, it pays to be cautious. Pick dry, clear days for your first few scrambles, and don’t underestimate the power of the Welsh winds. A map, compass, snacks and waterproofs are essentials for every trip, and you may need a helmet, rope and harness if you’re progressing to Grades 2 and 3. I always prefer to go with a friend (it’s safer and more fun that way), and don’t forget a slice of something special, like a stack of Welsh cakes or a wedge of bara brith, for a celebratory treat at the top.
For more inspiration on wild adventures this Autumn take a look at Wild Guide Wales and Marches and other Wild Guides.
About the Author:
Lucy Grewcock - Travel Writer & Author
Lucy Grewcock is an award-winning travel writer and author of Wild Guide – Southern and Eastern England, which won ‘Travel Guide Book of the Year’ at the 2015 Travel Media Awards. She has worked on several other books in the Wild Guide series as a researcher and proofreader.