What is Scrambling?

Often times when reading trail descriptions, you’ll come across this word, “scrambling”. If you’re a beginner hiker, this word may seem a little foreign. I mean, how does someone scramble? Well, it can be a little hard to describe. It’s a very fine line between hiking and climbing but once you find yourself doing it, you’ll instantly realize that you’re scrambling.

In the most basic terms, if you’re hiking on a trail and it becomes so steep that you need to use your hands, then you’re scrambling.

Typically, you are not in a “climbing” situation where you are literally dangling from a rock with nothing below you. Instead, it’s more like, you may need to reach above in order to grab onto to a tree root, a rock or even just part of the mountain, to help lift yourself up along the trail.

So, depending on your size and physical capabilities you may or may not have to scramble on a trail.

For example, a taller person may need no help at all. They might come to a section where they just have to lift their leg up higher, in order to get over a big boulder along the trail.  While a shorter person may need an extra boost up from planting or moving their hands somewhere along the boulder and use more upper body strength to get themselves up.

At times, scrambling can be pretty simple and other times, it can be difficult. But typically the more difficult trails in the Phoenix area, have scrambling areas.

For example, on Yates to Two Bit, the scrambling section is very small, so much that a tall person might not even need to scramble. However, on the other hand a more difficult trail like Echo Canyon on Camelback has a lot of scrambling sections for likely every one of all shapes and sizes.

The fun thing about scrambling, is that it’s up to the hiker to figure out their own best approach for getting up there. It adds a deeper level of adventure when you have to make your own decision for how to reach the top of that mountain.

Have you ever scrambled before? If so, do you love it or hate it?


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