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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.
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.
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: fs.fed.us/r6
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