Scrambling in the mountains

Scrambling Equipment for Climbing Mountain Routes


1. Scrambling Rope: A subject of much debate and really the decision comes down to personal choice. The key decision lies in choosing:

a. Rope type and thickness: The choice is between a 'Single' rope and a 'Half' rope.

Strictly speaking half ropes should not be used by themselves - they are designed to be used as pairs, however many scramblers use half ropes of diameter 8.5mm - 9.00 because of their lower price and weight. The key disadvantage of skinny half ropes is not that they will break in the event of a fall (although the chances of them being cut is higher than with a single rope), but that any fall is harder to hold. Always make sure that your rope and belay device are compatible.

Single ropes are designed to be used by themselves and are tested/certified accordingly. In the good old days single ropes were thick (10.5-11.0 mm) and heavy, but these days you can get single ropes with a diameter of 8.9 - 9.2mm. Maximum safety, but expect to pay a premium for these top end ropes.
10.0 mm single ropes are generally a lot cheaper, but you pay a slight weight penalty.

Dry ropes are always useful in the mountains - they don't absorb so much water, hence stay lighter, and dry faster.

b. Rope Length: Anything between 30m and 50m goes. The shorter the rope the lighter it is, however a short rope also limits your options both in terms of pitch length, but also more importantly in retreat. BelayingA 30m rope only allows a 15m abseil...

A 9mm x 30m half rope is probably the most common specification used for personal scrambling, based on the theory that it won't be used often and it minimises weight and cost. This can be used doubled up (folded in half) for leading pitches up to 15m, which is plenty for most scrambles.

However this does limit your ability to run together or retreat from longer pitches - thus for harder, more remote scrambles it is worth using a longer, fully rated single rope i.e. 40 or 50m of Mammut 8.9mm Serenity or 9.2mm Revelation rope is pretty much perfect.

We normally use 50m of 8.9mm Mammut Serenity (lovely, but expensive) or 10.0 Mammut Galaxy (good workhorse) ropes for our courses - both of which are dry treated, single ropes.

2. Climbing Harness: You can guarantee that you will need to put on your harness when standing on a tiny ledge in a horrible storm with cold, wet fingers - choose your harness accordingly.

The harness thus needs to be fully adjustable with either 'standard, buckled adjustable legs or with a 'Nappy' design. In general standard adjustable harnesses with fully padded waist and legs tend to cross over best into rock climbing, whilst 'Nappy' style harnesses with minimal padding are the easiest to put on and also work well for alpine mountaineering.

Examples of standard harnesses are the DMM Renegade or Petzl Calidris.
Examples of 'Nappy' harnesses are the DMM Super Couloir or the BD (Alpine) Bod.

3. Scrambling Equipment: Light and versatile is the order of the day.
a. You will need a belay device and HMS screwgate carabiner for each member of the party. The belay device / rope controller should work well with the ropes that you intend to use i.e. if you are using a skinny rope use a belay device that allows you to control/hold the rope in the event of a fall.

b. Two offset D screwgates are useful per each member of the party for attaching oneself./people to belays; the DMM Phantom screwgates are great for connecting chest coils because their small size keeps everything tight and in place.

c. Slings are a mainstay of scrambling protection - choose 2 or 3 x 60cm (4ft) dyneema slings and 2 or 3 x 120cm (8ft) dyneema slings for placing over spikes and around boulders. A single 240 sling can also be useful. Dyneema is thinner, lighter and less bulky than nylon and the material of choice for slings.

d. A small selection of rock protection is useful on harder scrambles. A minimum amount of gear might be DMM Wallnuts or Wild Country Rocks in sizes 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 plus a selection of larger hexcentric nuts - DMM Torque nuts 1-4 or WC Rockcentrics 7, 8, 9 and 10.

A larger rack would supplement the nuts with a set of DMM Offsets or fill in the gaps in any range of nuts that you have already bought.
Cams help protect those harder routes that can't b protected by nuts. A range of DMM 4 CU's or Wild Country Friends in sizes 1, 2 and 3 covers a lot of bases.

e. A few quickdraws (4-6) to extend the rock protection. A quickdraw is a flexible link comprising of 2 carabiners connected by a nylon or dyneema sling. Longer lengths are best (18cm to 25cm long).

f. Other scrambling equipment: A pair of prussic loops are always useful - 1.3m of 5mm or 1.4m of 6mm cord with the ends tied together into an open loop with a double fisherman's knot that allows you to protect abseils, ascend ropes and set up rescue systems.

A nut key per party for removing stuck nuts.

Copyright 2009.

Rock Climbing Company
H: +44 (0)1492 641430
M: +44 (0)7766980640


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