My name's Gear, Richard Gear - you have to think that my parents

were having a laugh eh, but what the heck, nobody's psychic.


The good news is that until you get onto serious grade 2 and 3

routes where you'll need a rope, harness and a small rack of climbing

protection, you can pretty much wear whatever you'd use for normal

mountain walking.

There are two areas though, where scrambling puts an extra

emphasis. One is footwear and the other is freedom of movement.


You'll need your normal mountain clothing including

including waterproof and windproof shell garments. The only

main difference is that freedom of movement is important.

You may need to reach high for handholds or make high


Look for trousers made from either a stretchy fabric like

PowerStretch or Lycra or with an articulated knee that

doesn't restrict your movement. Some fleece pants, like

Mountain Equipment's Ultrafleece pants and salopettes have a

stretch panel at the knee which works well.

Bear in mind that you'll probably be moving slower than

if you were walking, so you may need to dress warner than



There's no perfect solution for scrambling handwear. You'll get

the best feel and security from climbing with bare hands, but in

cooler weather it can be uncomfortable at best and painful at worst.

There are some modern, very expensive technical climbing gloves that

come close to a solution, but for most of us are overkill.

Thin windproof fleece gloves are ideal in terms of sensitivity,

but even the ones with grippy materials on aren't quite there. With

sustained use on rock, most will wear through worryingly and

expensively fast. One answser is to trash your gloves, then snip the

finger tips off for scrambling use. You'll need to seal the ends of

the fingers in some way and you'll get a reasonable compromise

between warmth and performance on the rock.

You could, of course, buy some fingerless woollen gloves for the

same effect, or even a pair of mitts with fold over ends.


There's no 'right answer' to the footwear question - it's

a matter of personal preference and, on easier routes, a

competent scrambler can get away with pretty much anything

within reason, though I don't recommend stilettoes... Here's

a run down of the options with the pros and cons:

2/3 Season Walking Boots Most bendy walking boots

will cope just fine with scrambling and have the advantage

of being comfortable for the walk-in and out. The main

limitation is lateral stiffness. To edge on holds they need

to have a degree of torsional rigidity or you'll have to

resort to more ingenious methods. On easier scrambles - most

grade ones - this won't matter since the holds are so big.

On 2s and 3s it's more of a problem.

Rigid Mountain Boots 4-season or alpine

mountaineering boots with a fully rigid sole should give you

no problems with edging and even toeing on even very small

holds and ledges. They tend though to be heavier and less

delicate than lighter footwear and can give disconcertingly

little fee for the rock. The modern, lightweight alpine

boot, like Scarpa's Freney, is a good compromise. Tend not

to be great for smearing and not as comfortable as walking

boots for approaches.

Approach Shoes Come in two varieties, the general

multi-activity shoe and stickier versions designed for

climbing use and featuring sticky rubber like those from

Five.Ten. General purpose shoes tend to have decent lateral

rigidity these days and apart from the lack of ankle

protection, which means they're not always ideal for foot

jams in rough cracks, perform pretty much like walking


Shoes using genuinely sticky rubber will perform more

like a rock shoe with better smearing ability than boots

and, if fitted closely, good sensitivity on the rock. Great

for slabbier route which call for smearing and well up to

easier stuff too.


Scrambling / Via Ferrata Boots Not a lot of these about,

the Scarpa Mescalito being probably the best known with a

stiff mid-sole and sticky rubber where it counts, Garmont's

new Ferrata boot, which also comes in a fully stiff shoe

version, also looks to have come from the same mould and

looks like a modern version of the Kletterschue. These are

ideal for harder scramblers and cheating on grade ones,

they'll also handle long, mid-grade climbing routes and are

comfortable for walking as well. Disadvantages? The stickier

the rubber, the more likely it is to wear rapidly with use

which is presumably why Scarpa replaced their original full

Megabite rubber sole with an updated version which has a

sticky toes section but otherwise standard rubber. The best

solution but do you scramble often and hard enough to

justify the outlay?

Flip Flops Frequently sighted on classic routes

like Crib Goch and Striding Edge during the summer season,

the classic flip flop slip-on sandal is ideal for hard rock

work and psyching out fellow scramblers. Not particularly

good at either edging or smearing, it makes up for these

shortcomnings and others with superior performance on the

beach. Highly rec. er, not.

Pacs for scrambling


There's no such thing as a specialist scrambling sac, but a small

day sac should do fine, unless you're going to be hauling ropes and

gear around. The three main points are to make sure it's narrow

enough not to prevent you from squeezing through small gaps, ideally

it should have an effective compression system for stability and, for

the same reason, a waist strap to stop it swinging around.

If, on harder routes, you intend to climb without a sac and haul

it up after you, you'll need to look at one of the more abrasion

resistant sacs on the market, and, of course make sure it has a haul

loop. The three brands with a good reputation for toughness when

dragged over rough rock are MacPac, Mountain Equipment and niche

Sheffield brand Pod.

Packs for scrambling

One of the reasons scrambling is disporportionately

dangerous is that few scramblers wear helmets. It's a

personal choice of course, but on harder routes and in

mountain situations where there's a danger of falling rock

or climbers. A personal choice, but definitely worth

considering and pretty much essential on harder mountain


When the going gets technical

On harder scrambles or even on easier routes in poor conditions or

with beginners, you may need to pack a rope and a basic rack plus

harness. I'd go for a light half rope - you not going to be falling

off are you? - and use it doubled if you hit a particularly stiff


A light alpine harness is ideal, as you shouldn't be swinging

around in it and a pared-down rack with a few rocks, some hexes and a

selection of long slings for lassooing spikes should be adequate for

most scrambles.

Miscellaneous stuff

• If you're soloing but may want to haul a sac up

after you, a length of accessory cord is much lighter but

just as effective as a rope. Don't forget to clip the pack

in first though. Thanks to Mike D for that one.

• If you think you might need a rope for just a

short step, consider carrying a cut down half rope to save


• Try to use a non-greasy sun cream, there's nowt

worse than Ambre Solaire and sweaty fingers on hot


• Erm. If you have any other suggestions why not add

them to this forum thread. I don't know everything you