Trail Magazine and BMC team up to create a series of short films about classic UK scrambles.
Britain's Mountain Challenges
Tryfan and Bristly Ridge
In this video, Trail magazine's Dan Aspel takes on one of Snowdonia's most popular scrambling routes: a climb up Tryfan's northern shoulder followed by an ascent of Bristly Ridge to the summit of Glyder Fach. There are few scrambling routes in Britain that deliver quite like this classic link up. The scrambling is sustained, with numerous incredible situations en route.
Tryfan North is the easier of the two scrambles, coming in at a solid grade one. However, the beauty of the north ridge is that you never do it the same way twice. The possibilities are almost endless. Meanwhile, Bristly Ridge, whilst still a grade one scramble, is slightly more committing with sections the up the technicality slightly. Nevertheless, this is a route that is practicable by any adventurous hillwalker, as long as conditions allow. In winter conditions it becomes a much more serious proposition, particularly Bristly Ridge.
In this video they look at one of the most dramatic ways up Snowdon – the knife-edge arête of Crib Goch. One of the must-do mountain routes of the UK, there is an almost fantastical magic to a travese of the red ridge. With Snowdon's most dramatic aspect as your backdrop, you traverse the spine of the arete feeling like you have been transported into some great adventure tale.
While only ranked as a Grade 1 scramble, this extremely exposed approach to Wales' highest mountain is notoriously treacherous in wet or windy conditions, making benign conditions a must for any first-time attempt. Mountain rescue are often called out to help those who become crag-fast on the crux of the ridge. This is usually due to the exposure for those who are not used to big drops on either side. However, in reality the technical difficulties are few. It's best avoided in winter unless you're an experienced winter mountaineer with the relevant skills and tools at your disposal.
The Llech Ddu Spur
Dan Aspel tackles a superb grade one scramble in the Snowdonian Carneddau - often cited as Wales' Cairngorms. Tucked away on the north side of Carnedd Dafydd, The Llech Ddu Spur is a gloriously aesthetic and adventurous route that leads to the fourth highest peak in Wales. Its greatest asset? The isolation from the Snowdonia honeypots. Solitude is probable. There's even the change of running into the wild horses that roam here.
The ridge itself is less technical than a Tryfan or a Crib Goch, so makes for a good introduction to scrambles in North Wales. However, it is far more remote than many of the regional classics, requiring a good deal of legwork to get to the action. This may well be a blessing as the ascent itself has a tangible wild feeling to it. You truly feel as though you are isolated from civilisation, out on your own. And isn't this what great mountain days are made of?
Sharp Edge is probably The Lake District's most notorious scramble. Beautifully situated above the effortlessly charming Scales Tarn, it is the superior way to the summit of Blencathra, arguably England's finest mountain. Whilst not as long as Hall's Fell Ridge – Blencathra's other ridge scramble – Sharp Edge is the more airy, the more exciting, the more dangerous.
So how does it compared to other Lakeland classic – Striding Edge on Helvellyn. Well it is slightly more technical and like Striding Edge, it has claimed its toll down the years in terms of accidents and even fatalities. After all, when a gully below its crest becomes known as "The Usual Gully" to Mountain Rescue, you realise Sharp Edge is not a place for the faint hearted. A notorious bad step of polished rock is particularly treacherous when wet, so care must be taken on this section of the ridge.
What can I say about Helvellyn's Striding Edge that has not been said countless times already down the years. A narrow ridge of rock that stretches a full kilometre to the summit of one of England's grandest mountains, it is probably the British mountain route that transcends hillwalking more than any other. People who have never set foot on a mountain will have probably heard of Striding Edge.
How challenging is Striding Edge? In truth, thrilling though it may be, it is one of the easier scrambles featured here and should be on the bucket list of everyone from these shores. After all, it leads to the summit of Helvellyn, third highest mountain in England and an absolute belter of a viewpoint for the rest of the Lakes. If you haven't totally exhausted your reserves of awe on the ascent, descend via neighbouring Swirral Edge to complete one of the most stunning rounds found in England.
Great Langdale is a dramatic region of the Lake District where a clutch of distinctive, craggy peaks bristle on a serated skyline. On a recent visit here, I remarked that the whole place feels more like North Wales than Lakeland. In the middle of all of this, lies the gorgeous Stickle Tarn, backed by a grand cliff called Pavey Ark. Slanting diagonally up across this cliff is one of the Lake District's classic scambles, Jack's Rake.
The Rake is a popular introduction to this kind of scrambling, almost gully-like as it rises across the face of Pavey Ark. From its foot it looks mightily intimidating, which adds to the feeling of satisfaction of a succesful ascent. It is never overly exposed, the drop to the left is always counter-balanced by the rock wall on the right. Once on the summit of Pavey Ark, Wainwright bagging has never been easier, with so many summits within a short ramble.
Threading the Needle
Great Gable is arguably the Lake District's finest mountain. Striking in appearance from all angles, it is definitely the region's most visually arresting peak. The views from its summit are easily some of the finest in England. Nestled in the heart of the Western Fells, with the nearby Scafells flexing their muscles, this is true Cumbrian mountain territory of the finest vintage.
Seen as a squat pyramid from the shores of Wast Water, the crags that form an important part of Gable's visual appeal are The Great Napes - a labyrinth of fine scrambling routes. It is here that Napes Needle can be found, an impressive (if slightly phallic) spear of rock where early climbing pioneers would practise their trade. Threading The Needle is a grade two scramble that traverses beneath this landmark of rock climbing history, with a tricky downclimb to negotiate once that needle has been threaded.
Glencoe's Aonach Eagach ridge is considered the narrowest mountain ridge on Britain's mainland. A mountaineering classic in winter, in summer it is a glorious and sustained grade two scramble that has few equals on these shores. The views that surround this route are increible, with the Bidean's hulking mass close at hand and the Mamores and Ben Nevis to the north. But it is the traverse of its jagged pinaccles and narrow walkways that make the Aonach Eagach a truly World class experience.
It is the lack of escape options once on the ridge that give the Aonach Eagach its grade two status. There are no bypass paths here. Once you are on the ridge, you are on the ridge. The most technically challenging – and hair-raising – section is the Crazy Pinnacles: three small rock towers that have to be circumnavigated with yawning drops below.
The Aonach Eagach
Ben Nevis has few equals in Britain. As well as being the highest mountain on our shores, it also contains some of the most fearsome mountain routes on its incomparible north face. The spectacle of the Ben's north face is one of the finest sights to be found in the Highlands of Scotland. However, this is the domain of the climber rather than the hillwalker.
The finest hikers' route to the summit of Ben Nevis is unquestionably The CMD Arete. It is infinitely prefereable to the tourist route. However, this is a long mountain day with over 1500 metres of ascent and descent. But it's worth it. A narrow ridge of broken shattered boulders, that is an absolute pleasure on which to tread, sweeps up to The Ben, with sumptous views to the dark and majestic north face, a sight that is completely lost to those ascending the tourist route.