For many scramblers the primary piece of scrambling protection is the rope itself. Using this the leader can provide some security for themselves by zig-zagging it through the rocky terrain. In this way the rope may halt a fall by catching on a spike or outcrop, plus increase friction if the second weights the rope. Unfortunately, in practice, this method can often only give the impression of security, and lures the climbers into a dangerous sense of security.
A much more sound method for safety is to use shoulder length slings (60cm) draped over spikes or wrapped around blocks, and clipped into the rope to provide a running belay. These can be purchased either sewn or tied (16mm tube tape). Of the pre-sewn variety, the best by far are made from 12mm-wide Dyneema. These are featherweight, thin and have excellent resistance to cutting if loaded over edges. Tied slings have two 'plus points'; they are cheaper (a good point if you end up leaving them behind as abseil anchors), and they can be untied in order to go around trees, chockstones etc. However, in practice the pre-sewn slings are well worth the extra expense.
Scrambling hardware is pretty much the same as that used by rock climbers, except that due to the scrambler's need for increased speed and low weight, only a small amount will be carried. This small 'skeletal' rack must still allow the leader to maximise protection possibilities when they appear, so the hardware selection should be simple but span as wide a size range as possible. Below are the main components of this selection.
Nuts - These are cheap, light and easy to place and remove. The standard range goes from size 1 (4 mm) to size 10 (3 cm). They can either be threaded with wire (known as 'wires') or cord, usually Dyneema, Spectre or Gemini - all of which are stronger than steel. The cord-slung nuts are lighter than their wire cousins and as they are more flexible, they are more resistant to being dislodged by the movement of the rope. Unfortunately, they are also more expensive. Wires are easier to place out of reach, due to the stiffness of the wire, but they are more prone to 'walking' out of placements for the same reason. All wires should be located with a good tug in order to limit the possibility of them loosening. If they prove hard to remove and you don't have a nut removing tool, use a karabiner to tap them out.
Large nuts - Hexs and Rockcentrics expand your nutting selection into cracks that are too large for regular nuts. These are light for their size, and their clever design allows you to place any one into variously sized cracks. Of these devices the Rockcentric rules supreme, as they are super light and have a pre-sewn 12mm Dyneema sling attached.
Camming devices - Cams have revolutionised climbing over the last twenty years, and they range from the size of your finger tip to as big as your head. For scrambling, they offer the possibility of having a single unit that covers a broad size range. Unfortunately they are also heavy compared to nuts and are extremely expensive.
Andy Kirkpatrick is recognised as a world authority on equipment and technique, a knowledge built up on some of the hardest big walls and faces in the world. Andy's expertise is big wall climbing and winter expeditions. He has scaled Yosemite's El Captan, one of the hardest walls in America, over 24 times. As well as being a successful climber, writer and speaker, Andy also works in film and TV as a stunt safety advisor.
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