AskDefine | Define clamber

Dictionary Definition

clamber n : an awkward climb; "reaching the crest was a real clamber" v : climb awkwardly, as if by scrambling [syn: scramble, shin, shinny, skin, struggle, sputter]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. To climb something with some difficulty, or in a haphazard fashion.
    The children clambered over the jungle gym with reckless abandon.


Extensive Definition

This article is about climbing steep slopes. For other uses, see Scramble.
Scrambling (also known as alpine scrambling) is a method of ascending rocky faces and ridges. It is an ambiguous term that lies somewhere between hillwalking and rock climbing. It is often distinguished from hillwalking by defining a scramble as a route where hands must be used in the ascent. There is less to distinguish it from climbing, with many easy climbs sometimes referred to as difficult scrambles. A distinction can be made in defining any ascent where hands are used to hold body weight, rather than just for balance, as a climb.
The Mountaineers climbing organization defines scrambling as follows:
"Alpine Scrambles are off-trail trips, often on snow or rock, with a 'non-technical' summit as a destination. A non-technical summit is one that is reached without the need for certain types of climbing equipment (body harness, rope, protection hardware, etc), and not involving travel on extremely steep slopes or on glaciers. However, this can mean negotiating lower angle rock, traveling through talus and scree, crossing streams, fighting one's way through dense brush, and walking on snow-covered slopes."


Although ropes might be necessary on harder scrambles, sustained use of rope and belay probably counts as climbing; typically, the use of ropes in scrambling is limited to rappelling or for basic safety uses other than belays up a vertical face. Scrambles are typically assumed to have an exposure of no more than around 10 feet (3 meters), which is the greatest height easily survivable in a vertical fall.
While much of the enjoyment of scrambling depends on the freedom from technical apparatus, unroped scrambling in exposed situations is potentially one of the most dangerous of mountaineering activities. For this reason most guidebooks advise carrying a rope, especially on harder scrambles, which may be used for security on exposed sections, to assist less confident members of the party, or to facilitate retreat in case of difficulty. Above all, scramblers are advised to know their limits and to turn back before they get into difficulties.
Many of the world's mountaintops may be reached by walking or scrambling up their least-steep side. These routes are not always obvious, but mountaineering books generally mention them; they are often used as the safe and easy way to descend from a more difficult route.

Classification systems

In the U.S., scrambling is Class 3 in the Yosemite Decimal System of climb difficulties. In the British system it is Easy with some of the harder scrambles incorporating moves of Mod or even Diff standard.
Some guide books on scrambling may rate the routes as follows:
  • easy — generally, just off-trail hiking with minimal exposure (if at all) and perhaps a handhold or two. UIAA Class I.
  • moderate — handholds frequently needed, possible exposure, route finding skills helpful. UIAA Class II.
  • difficult — almost constant handholds, fall distance may be fatal, route finding skills needed, loose and downsloping rock. Less experienced parties may consider using a rope for short sections. YDS class 3, 4, and possibly 5.
In the UK, Scrambles are usually rated using Ashton's system of either Grade 1, 2, 3 or 3S (S for serious), with the grade being based around technical difficulty and exposure. The North Ridge of Tryfan in Snowdonia, or Striding Edge on Helvellyn in the Lake District, are classic Grade 1 scrambles. At the other end of the scale, Broad Stand on Sca Fell is usually considered Grade 3 or 3S. Note that some of the older Scottish guidebooks used a system of grades 1 to 5, leading to considerable confusion and variation over grades 1, 2 and 3 in Scotland.


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