Scrambling Skills (May 2021)

Scrambling is an unusual activity that enters the realms of climbing but without the security of fixed belays and formal ropework. What’s more, a lack of confidence and practice always makes the first scramble of the year a scary experience. Lockdown resulted in a complete lack of any mountain experience for over 7 months this year but Ben, our instructor, quickly got us going and happy to be back putting hand to rock. The ground soon became steep enough to require great caution, and the loose rock gave added realism to the training. We learned how to find solid belays, tie knots and manage ropes, and give both protection and confidence to all members of the scrambling party. Ben helped us tackle a wide variety of situations, ranging from having ropes, harnesses and slings, right through to those times when all you have is a confidence rope and you need to abseil down very steep ground. He was truly an excellent instructor – we all learned a huge amount and thoroughly enjoyed the day. His pièce de résistance was a demonstration of dry tooling using two antlers!

  • Report by Andrew

We were all excited by the idea of learning or refreshing the skill of Scrambling. Ben Gibson, our instructor from Mountaineering Scotland met us at the Glen Clova hotel car park and we drove a few additional miles to get close to the corrie.

The first objective was to progress along the corrie among the rocks while keeping in mind the ABC memo: Agility, Balance, and Coordination. Easy to say – more difficult to apply specially on the wet crag… but we all did well (I suppose, as nobody really fell) and tried to help each other – like when Berenice rode a crag ;-).

Then things started to get serious – the rope-work session. At this stage, if we were still dry that didn’t last – under a howling weather, not easy to find a stable position to put our harness… We had a lesson about rope knots – try to find our favourite method for the clove hitch. Then came the practice. If a hiker was around here, he could have heard some “That’s me” and “Ready for belay” shouted into the wind.

Final part, abseiling ! We tried different methods, South African abseil included (without harness)…not my favourite method, but useful to know. On our way down, Ben found out that deer antlers could do an excellent job as ice axes. Finally, after 6 hours we did 6.45 km, 393 m elevation gain, shouted X times “That’s me” and slept well that night. Scrambling was a very good discovery for me – different from what I was used to with sport climbing – I loved it and wait to practice it again.

Thank you Ben for keeping us safe while learning scrambling skills – Berenice for the organisation of that day and everybody for being so enthusiastic despite not easy weather conditions ! Let’s do it again !

  • Report by Gaëlle