Scrambling Hiking

Scrambling hiking is a type of outdoor activity that falls between hiking and rock climbing. It involves traversing steep or rocky terrain where the use of hands is necessary for balance and progression. Unlike traditional hiking, scrambling often requires more technical skills, such as route finding, basic rock climbing techniques, and a comfort level with exposure and heights.

Scrambling routes can vary in difficulty, ranging from easy, where hands are used minimally, to more challenging and exposed routes that demand greater climbing skills. Scrambling typically takes place in mountainous or rocky areas, where hikers navigate through gullies, ridges, or steep slopes, often following a specific route or line.

It’s important for scramblers to assess their abilities, have a good understanding of the terrain, and use appropriate safety equipment like helmets and climbing harnesses when necessary. As scrambling involves a higher level of risk compared to regular hiking, it is recommended to have prior experience in hiking and basic rock climbing techniques, or to undertake guided scrambles with experienced leaders until the necessary skills are acquired.

scrambling hiking

Scrambling hiking preparations

Scrambling hiking offers a thrilling way to explore rugged landscapes, pushing the boundaries between hiking and rock climbing. As you navigate steep slopes, rocky terrain, and exposed ridges, it’s essential to prepare yourself adequately for this adventurous activity. In this blog post, we will guide you through essential steps to help you prepare for scrambling hiking and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

  • Assess Your Fitness and Skills: Scrambling hiking requires a higher level of physical fitness and technical skills than regular hiking. Start by assessing your current fitness level and work on improving your endurance, strength, and flexibility. Engage in regular cardio exercises, such as hiking, running, or cycling, and incorporate strength training to build the muscles necessary for climbing and balance.
  • Gain Hiking and Climbing Experience: Before attempting scrambling hikes, it’s advisable to have experience in both hiking and basic rock climbing. Regular hiking will help you build endurance, navigation skills, and familiarity with outdoor environments. Consider taking introductory rock climbing courses or guided climbs to develop basic climbing techniques, including using ropes, belaying, and ascending steep slopes.
  • Research and Select Suitable Routes: Research and select scrambling routes that match your skill level and comfort with exposure. Study guidebooks, online resources, and trip reports to gain insights into the difficulty, terrain, and potential hazards of the routes. Start with easier routes and gradually progress to more challenging ones as your skills and confidence grow.
  • Equip Yourself Properly: Invest in appropriate gear to enhance your safety and comfort during scrambling hikes. Some essential items include a sturdy climbing helmet to protect your head from falling rocks or accidental impacts, climbing harness for added security on exposed sections, and a rope for challenging sections where protection may be needed. Carry a first aid kit, navigation tools, extra layers, and sufficient food and water for longer outings. Additionally, wear appropriate footwear with good traction and ankle support to navigate rocky terrain.
  • Practice Basic Scrambling Techniques: Familiarize yourself with basic scrambling techniques to navigate challenging sections safely. Learn how to use handholds and footholds effectively, maintain balance, and make deliberate and controlled movements. Practice on easier rock faces or attend scrambling workshops to gain hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced climbers.
  • Develop Route-Finding Skills: Route finding is a critical skill in scrambling hiking, as trails may be less defined or nonexistent. Learn to read topographic maps and use a compass to navigate through unfamiliar terrain. Pay attention to visual cues, such as distinctive landmarks or prominent features, to stay on track and avoid getting lost.
  • Join a Scrambling Group or Find a Partner: Consider joining local hiking or mountaineering clubs that organize scrambling trips or find a reliable hiking partner. Having companions with similar interests and experience levels not only adds to the enjoyment but also enhances safety during challenging climbs.

Conclusion: Scrambling is one of many hiking types, but it offers a unique blend of adventure and exploration, but proper preparation is essential to ensure a safe and rewarding experience. By assessing your fitness and skills, gaining hiking and climbing experience, researching routes, equipping yourself properly, practicing scrambling techniques, developing route-finding skills, and finding companions, you’ll be well on your way to conquering the heights with confidence. Embrace the challenges, respect the mountains, and enjoy the breathtaking views that await you on your scrambling adventures. Happy hiking!

scrambling hiking

Difference between scrambling and climbing

Scrambling and climbing are both outdoor activities that involve ascending steep terrain, but they differ in terms of technicality, equipment, and overall difficulty. Here are the key differences between scrambling and climbing:

Technicality and Difficulty

Scrambling: Scrambling falls between hiking and climbing in terms of technical difficulty. It involves traversing steep or rocky terrain where the use of hands for balance and progression is necessary. Scrambling routes can range from easy, with minimal hand usage, to more challenging and exposed routes that demand greater climbing skills. Scrambling typically requires less technical expertise than climbing.

Climbing: Climbing, on the other hand, is a more specialized and technical activity that involves ascending vertical or near-vertical rock faces using ropes, harnesses, and specific climbing techniques. It requires a higher level of skill, strength, and proficiency in using equipment such as carabiners, harnesses, and protective devices. Climbing routes are typically graded based on their difficulty, with higher grades indicating more challenging climbs.


Scrambling: Scrambling generally requires minimal specialized equipment. A climbing helmet is advisable to protect against falling rocks or impacts, but the use of ropes and harnesses is not typically required unless the scrambling terrain includes exposed or technical sections where protection may be necessary. Sturdy hiking boots with good traction are essential, and depending on the difficulty of the scramble, some climbers may choose to carry a rope for added safety.

Climbing: Climbing necessitates specific equipment designed for protection, including ropes, harnesses, carabiners, and protective devices like cams or nuts. Climbers rely on this equipment for safety, belaying, and protection against falls. Specialized climbing shoes with sticky rubber soles are used to provide maximum grip on rock surfaces. Additional gear such as helmets, climbing harnesses, and specialized clothing are also common in climbing.


Scrambling: Scrambling often serves as a means to reach a summit, complete a loop hike, or explore rugged terrain. The focus is more on the journey and the adventure of navigating challenging landscapes while enjoying the natural surroundings. Scrambling may be incorporated into longer hikes or mountaineering objectives.

Climbing: Climbing, particularly rock climbing, is often pursued as the primary activity. The objective is to ascend a specific rock face or route, pushing personal limits, and focusing on technical skills, problem-solving, and achieving climbing goals. Climbing can take place both outdoors on natural rock formations and indoors on artificial climbing walls.

In summary, scrambling is a less technical and more accessible activity that involves using hands for balance and progression on steep terrain. It falls between hiking and climbing in terms of difficulty. Climbing, on the other hand, is a specialized activity that requires technical skills, specific equipment, and a higher level of expertise to ascend vertical or near-vertical rock faces.

Frequently Asked Questions for Backpacking Hiking

Q: Is scrambling safe?

A: Scrambling, like any outdoor activity, carries inherent risks. However, with proper preparation, skill development, and adherence to safety practices, scrambling can be done safely. Assessing the route, using appropriate protective equipment, being mindful of weather conditions, and having experience or guidance are crucial factors in minimizing risks and ensuring a safe scrambling experience.

Q: What are the best shoe types for scrambling?

A: The best type of shoes for scrambling are approach shoes. These shoes offer a combination of hiking and climbing features, with sticky rubber soles for excellent traction, durable construction to withstand rugged terrain, and a supportive design that allows for precise foot placement and stability on both rocky surfaces and trails.







''The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.''