What Does Scramble Mean in Hiking: Managing Terrain Safely

by Nomad | Last Updated:  June 30, 2020

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Sometimes you need to scramble when you hike and many people will do this without understanding the reasons to be cautious in these attempts. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attempt it, just more that it should always be weighed good and bad as to making the attempt and being successful.

What does scramble mean in hiking? Scrambling is about when the hike reaches a point where you need to climb up a steep embankment or similar large incline where you need to start using your hands to assist in keeping your balance. This typically involves using both feet and arms to manage your balance, both up and downward in travel.

Now that you understand what scrambling is, let’s jump into the reasons why it can be valuable to speeding your trip and how to take better care and safety into your approach. Now we can dive into what does scramble mean in hiking terms.

What is Scrambling?

Wikipedia and Google define it as making your way quickly or awkwardly up a steep gradient or over rough ground by using one’s hands as well as one’s feet.

If you need your hands to make headway, you’re scrambling.

Basically as soon as you convert from hiking to needing your hands to support your movement you have converted to scrambling. When you see this developing you should stop and take the whole part in your head and break it down, you want to make sure you understand a limitation or issue before it occurs.

Is Scrambling Dangerous?

Inherently humans tend to be at a disadvantage when they are required to use all 4 appendages to maintain control as they have the least practice in this style of movement. Most times when you move from leg only travel into needing all four limbs this can lead to issues if you don’t have experience and skill in them before attempting.

Hiking up a steep rock wall - What Does Scramble Mean in Hiking

Why Choose To Scramble?

In many cases, the reason that a scramble is chosen is that it is the best route forward and isn’t a large danger to yourself or others. In many cases a scramble could save hours of hiking up and down terrain, this is a major reason why people will choose to scramble.

Tips On Preparing To Scramble

Now we will cover preparing yourself to scramble safely and effectively.

Hiking up the rocky peak of a mountain - What Does Scramble Mean in Hiking

Benefits To Scrambling

While it may be cause for caution scrambling does have many benefits that will help you make your way faster and more efficiently. These include better management of your personal enjoyment and excitement, many times the reason you are on a trek into the unknown is exactly what you need.

Drawbacks to Scrambling

Like the reasons to take the chance and make the scramble you do take risks that can be severe overall if not played out correctly. There are many issues that can happen, the worst of which are things like falls, or accidentally breaking something.

Final Thoughts on What Does Scrambling Mean to a Hiker

By no means am I a scrambling expert but I do wish that everyone knows the ins and outs to scramble safely. I love the challenge and thankfully I am not scared or nervous in heights, but this is something that you should try to know about yourself before you are on the trail and need to use these skills.

Hopefully, you learned some useful or at least helpful information today which will help you on your next big hike, this comes in particularly helpful in places like the PCT where you climb passes sometimes which are steep or towards the end of the AT where you have numerous climbs where you need to maintain your focus to be safe and the CDT.

Nice to meet you, my trail name is Nomad the founder of Nomad Hiker and I love being outdoors and exploring nature! I now want to help spread that love through information back out to everyone to help them feel the same excitement with the world that I feel while in the back country. My current goals are to thru hike all the trails in the greater Texas region and to show everyone it is easily achievable at any age!