With any activity there is an element of risk and the potential for injury. Scrambling is the middle ground between hill walking and climbing. There are plenty of fabulous mountains with scramble routes in the UK. Depending on your level of experience, some of these might need extra care and even some rope skills to give you protection. For example, the Aonach Eagach ridge in Scotland is only a Grade 2 scramble, but the exposure on some sections is such that you might be glad of a rope. The Cyfrwy arête on Cadair Idris and the Clogwyny arête on Snowdon in North Wales are both Grade 3 and do need protection. Always wear gloves - even in summer - to prevent rope burns, but the most likely injuries are twisted or torn ankle ligaments and bruising from falls.
The most likely injuries are twisted or torn ankle ligaments and bruising from falls
Well-fitting boots with good ankle support can help to prevent injuries. If you do sprain your ankle, what you are doing is tearing any one of the number of ligaments around your ankle. Ligaments are strong inelastic fibres, which hold your bones together. Injury to your ligaments occurs when your ankle becomes twisted beyond its normal range of movement - if you catch your foot in a hole, or a loose rock throws you off balance - fibres within the ligament tear, and weaken the joint. And there is one other thing ... it hurts. If the sprain is bad enough, it may cause bleeding into the joint. So the symptoms of a sprain include swelling, tenderness, bruising around the joint and pain.
First aid for sprains starts with cooling the joint, preferably with ice, but if you are out in the hills it's unlikely that you'll have an ice pack to hand so you'll need to find an alternative method to cool the area as much as possible - such as plunging your whole foot into a river or mountain stream.
Sit down and raise your sprained ankle onto a rock to help reduce the swelling. Do not take your boot off - the swelling will make it impossible to put on again and it is easier to hobble off the mountain with your feet protected. Your boot will also give a certain amount of compression, which will help to reduce internal bleeding and inflammation.
Once off the mountain apply ice and a compression bandage to the ankle. You may need to use crutches to help keep your weight off your ankle for a few days until the pain is reduced. Then aim to walk and keep your ankle joint mobile - this stimulates the nerve endings and helps restore a full range of movement. Most sprains recover in two to three weeks but it may be longer if there has been a lot of bleeding into the tissues.
You can help the recovery process from the inside.
You can help the recovery process from the inside. As soon as possible after the accident, take arnica - a homeopathic remedy - to help disperse bruising (include it as part of your first aid kit). Arnica is available from chemists or health food shops. Increase your fruit intake too, especially oranges, grapefruit and kiwi fruit (blackcurrants, strawberries and gooseberries when in season). These are particularly rich in vitamin C, which is involved in the repair of the connective tissue within the torn ligament.
A bruise is simply damage to blood vessels, where the blood they usually contain leaks out into the surrounding tissue. In time, the vessels will be repaired and the change in colour from purple to yellowish is due to the debris being cleared internally from the bruised area. To speed up this process, take arnica tablets or gently smear arnica ointment onto the affected area. Again, eat foods that provide vitamin C such as those above and green peppers, fresh tomatoes, new potatoes, salad vegetables and freshly squeezed orange juice (not made from concentrate).