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What’s the difference between Scrambling, Climbing and Mountaineering?

These three terms are frequently used in online hiking forums and adventure blogs but before you set off on your trip it’s important to know the difference.

Scrambling

Scrambling is generally hiking up steep terrain but involving the use of your hands.

It covers the middle ground between walking and climbing and is graded from 1 to 3.

A classic grade 1 scramble is essentially an exposed walking route, whereas grade 3 scrambling might appear in climbing guides as ‘moderately’ graded climbing routes and use rope for some sections.

There is a popular misconception that scrambling is the less dangerous version of rock climbing but in fact it can be more so, particularly in the higher grades, as people attempt it with less protection or assistance.

Some basic scrambling:

More advanced scrambling using ropes:

Climbing

Climbing is an activity that involves constant use of both feet and hands to ascend vertical terrain like cliffs, rock and ice faces and mountain ridges.

It involves significant upper body strength as on tough climbs there may be times where your body-weight is held only through your arms and hands.

Mountaineering

Mountaineering (often referred to as ‘Alpinism’ in Europe) is the climbing of a mountain – regardless of the trip length.

It is more physically demanding than hiking and is usually climbing quickly without any support from sherpas or porters.

For the untrained, mountaineering is a dangerous pastime but for mountaineers, part of its very attraction is the risk.

It requires skill, knowledge of the mountain and specialist equipment.

Mountaineers are sometimes regarded as reckless or even irresponsible for risking their lives.

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