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Five best UK ridge walks

TOP UK SUMMER SCRAMBLES

Test your mettle with five of the finest ridge walks Britain has to offer


Looking to up the ante and take your hillwalking to the next level this summer? Why not try our top five classic UK scrambles. All the routes listed below are Grade 1, meaning that in good conditions they can be safely tackled without a rope and harness. (Although grit, determination and a good head for heights are an absolute must.)

 

So what are you waiting for? Grab your pack, walking boots and a slab of Kendal Mint Cake and go have yourself an adventure!

Snowdon via Crib Goch, Snowdonia

Top UK Summer scrambles 2

Sure, you could take the Pyg track – slowly rising, and mostly paved, the path leading to the summit of Snowdon. Maybe call into the visitor centre at the top for tea and cakes. Hell, why don’t you pick up one of the lovely certificates they do there while you're at it – proof that you conquered Britain’s second highest mountain – then saunter back down for a shower and an early pub dinner. That would be fine. No one would judge you for that. Or, you could get up early and tackle the knife-edge Crib Goch-Crib y Ddysgl ridge-line, and make a memory that will last a lifetime. It's a long and tough day out, but the payoff is huge. Beware though, there’s some serious exposure along the arête, so be sure to check the forecast before setting out and don’t attempt it if conditions are bad.

 

Directions: Start from the carpark at Pen-y-pass. Follow the Pyg track until the path forks right at Bwlch y Moch. Then it’s up and over and hold on to your hat. Descend via the Pyg track.

 

Recommended map: OL17 - Snowdon

 

Time: Six hours

 

Fear factor: 5/5

Hellvelyn via Striding Edge, The Lake District

Top UK Summer Scrambles 3

Without a doubt the best Grade 1 scramble in the lake district, and arguably the UK's most famous ramble. Despite its exposed nature, the route requires little in the way of technical ability, so it’s perfect for those looking to give scrambling a go for the first time. And being able to tick England’s highest mountain off the list is a big plus for any self-respecting hill walker.

 

The ridge itself offers dramatic, and largely un-interrupted views of the surrounding countryside from an elevation of 2,788ft, with a series of rocky steps giving way to steep scree slopes on either side. In good weather, and so long as you have a good head for heights, following the crest is easy enough, even for a novice walker. The crux move – a seven-metre down climb on a rock tower known as ‘The Chimney’ – may present difficulties for the uninitiated, but if you don’t fancy it there’s a handy path that skirts around to the left.

 

Combine with Swirral Edge on descent for a full day out.

 

Directions: From Patterdale, follow signs for ‘Hole-in-the-wall’ – a stile marking the start of the ascent. Then begin the thigh-busting climb towards the ridge. Follow the crest until the line meets Helvelyn and bag the summit, descending via a well-worn path.

 

Recommended map: OL5 – The English Lakes, North-eastern Area

 

Time: Five hours

 

Fear factor: 3/5

Tryfan’s North Ridge, Snowdonia

Top UK Summer Scrambles 5

There aren’t many mountains in Britain more distinctive than Tryfan. This colossal rock-fin of a mountain strikes out into the Ogwen Vally; its long, reptilian spine forming an intimidating silhouette against the sky. Of the many routes to its summit, the North Ridge is by far the most famous, and the most popular – due in part to its close proximity to the A5 road. It’s a line that just screams ‘climb me’ - and many do. So if you want to beat the crowds you’ll need to start out early.

 

The summit is famous for two giant rocks named Adam and Eve – three metres high and 1.2 metres apart. Legend has it that those who manage to make the jump between them gain the “Freedom of Tryfan”… whatever that is. Just be sure not to try it on a rainy day when the rock is wet and slippery.

 

Directions: Park in the A5 layby (or the National Trust carpark) and make your way to the base of the mountain: you can’t miss it. Follow the path left of Milestone Buttress and up towards a large boulder field. Turn right up towards the boulders and scramble up scree slopes towards a steep rock step. Climb over the step and follow a series of quartz slab up onto the crest of the ridge.

 

Recommended map: OL17 - Snowdon

 

Time: Five hours

 

Fear factor: 4/5

Ben Nevis via the Carn Mor Dearg Arête, West Highlands

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A breathtaking aerial walkway connecting The Ben to its neighbouring peak and quite simply the best way to scale Britain’s highest mountain without a rope and harness. Of the 110,000 people who summit Nevis each year most will take the tourist path, so the arête is your best chance to enjoy the scenery without the crowds and without the selfie-sticks. Although the ridge narrows right down to just a couple of feet at points, there’s little in the way of serious exposure, and there’s always an alternative line to take below the crest if you want to keep well clear of the edge. Don’t be mistaken though, this is a big day out and a head torch is a must in case you find yourself descending in the dark. But the sense of personal satisfaction, and if you’re lucky enough to be up there on a clear day the views, make it well worth the effort.

 

Directions: Park in the North Face carpark. Start along the track into the trees and, when the path bends left, bear right. At the next fork, go right again. Once clear of the forest you’ll be able to see the arête sweeping around and then up the North-East face of Nevis. Munro baggers will want to take in the peaks of Carn Beag Dearg, Carn Dearg Meachonach and Carn Mor Dearg, which requires leaving the path early and cutting across country steeply upwards. Alternatively, follow the path into the valley and make a beeline for the start of the ridge. Descend from the summit of Nevis via the tourist path. 

 

Recommended map: OS 392 – Ben Nevis & Fort William

 

Time: Eight hours

 

Fear factor: 2/5

Nantlle Ridge, Snowdonia

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Situated close to Snowdonia’s North-West boundary, away from the bulk of the park’s crowd-pulling 3000-footers, Nantlle Ridge offers walkers a rare sense of peace and quiet with unspoiled seaward facing views. The long, grassy arête, punctuated by short scrambly sections, is on a line that links no fewer than five peaks together with a combined height gain of 925m – so there’s a big day out to be had for intrepid ramblers. But because none of the summits are over 700m, they’re likely to remain in condition when the likes of Snowdon and Tryfan are swimming in cloud; making this a good route choice for grey days.

 

Directions: Park in the Rhyd Ddu carpark. Cross the road and take a sharp left. Walk to the base of Y Garn (the first mountain you come to) and take the steep slope to its summit via a well defined path. Follow the ridge line in a southerly direction, taking in Trum y Dysgl and the auxiliary peaks of Mynydd Tal and Mynydd Tal y Mignedd. From here you can turn right along the cliff wall, drop down into Cwm Pennant and then follow the route back North East to the starting point, or alternatively you can continue that extra kilometre or so to Craig Cwm Silyn before retracing your steps.

 

Recommended map: OL17 - Snowdon

 

Time: Six hours

 

Fear factor: 3/5


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