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Backpacker Magazine – November 2011

Ultimate Adventure Handbook: Climb to Heart-Pumping Heights

Scramble a class 3 route and claim your own private peak.

by: Kelly Bastone

Learning curve (+++*) Even nontechnical climbing requires agility and balance. And good judgment: Going up is easier than going down, which is when novices often get in trouble. 

*(+) = Low effort, low risk  (+++++) = Get a lesson and life insurance

» Climb on firm ridgelines rather than in brushy drainages or across loose, exposed rock.

» Avoid scrambling directly above or below others, since any rocks dislodged could pummel those below. Climb on a diagonal instead, or stay close together so falling rock can’t gain dangerous speed.

» Step into holds as you might climb a ladder, ascending with your legs rather than pulling yourself up by your arms. Move only one limb at a time, and rest your weight primarily on your feet. 

» “Maintain continuous balance rather than lurching and jerking,” says Randy Nelson, instructor for The Mountaineers in Seattle. To that end, he evaluates rock size as he goes: Softball-size stones often roll underfoot, potentially spraining ankles, but big boulders on steep slopes can be insecure, too (and even more dangerous). “The TV-set size tends to be more stable,” he says.

» When descending, choose handholds that are waist-high or lower, so you can step down comfortably to lower footholds. Don’t hurry: Secure each hold before you make another move.


Top spots
» Washington Nelson likes 8,726-foot Robinson Mountain, in the Pasayten Wilderness. The southeast ridge is a classic scramble route, with views spanning the entire North Cascades. Contact:  

» Colorado Climb to a cloudlike perch atop 14,015-foot Wetterhorn Peak. The standard route up the southeast ridge includes 600 vertical feet of steep scrambling. Contact: (970) 874-6600 

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