Hello and welcome! This is the first in a series of features on video games that have had a real world impact on me and has inspired me to try new things. Today, I’ll be looking at the Uncharted series of games and how they have inspired me to try new and adventurous activities such as scrambling!
It’s hard to play a globe-trotting action-adventure game such as Uncharted and not get a sense of wanderlust; a desire to get out there and have an adventure of your own!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Uncharted series, it is a series of games that has you playing as modern-day Indiana Jones-type adventurer; Nathan Drake; a treasure hunter with a smart mouth and a fast trigger finger. One of the joys of playing as Nathan (or Nate to his friends) is how effortlessly he is able to scale up/down/around any obstacle in his way. As a player, you look at the way he moves and wonder how incredible it would be to be able to do that in the real world! And while scaling epic rock faces in the rain or climbing the outside of temples is something that would terrify me in reality, this series has motivated me to try other things outside my comfort zone to try and capture that sense of excitement and adventure I see in Nate.
(Can you spot Nate and his extreme climbing skills?!)
Last October, I went for a trip in Snowdonia with some friends; Tom and Catherine. I’m a seasoned hiker already, but it wasn’t just hiking we were doing. Some of the routes chosen were what are termed ‘scrambling’ routes, half way between hiking and climbing. If you are a climber, you might be familiar with the numbered grades they use at indoor climbing centres, the easiest walls normally being Grade 3. If you wondered why you rarely see a Grade 1 or 2 climb at a climbing centre, it’s because those are usually reserved for scrambling routes. While that may not sound very impressive, just remember you’re not on a climbing wall with a rope any more. If you’re scrambling, you’re probably on a hill or mountainside with a backpack full of food, clothes and possibly shelter, with the potential for falling significant distances. Great care should be taken!
The routes we tackled were Grade 1 and 1+ routes and there were many times I yearned for the safety of a rope and harness and nice pre-set holds. Although many of the individual climbs we were doing weren’t that big, the fear of losing your footing and falling away from the stack you’re climbing out into a ravine were ever present as I ascended, usually following Tom and Catherine’s lead. However, like Uncharted, I was pleasantly surprised by how helpful some of the natural hand and foot holds were. I wasn’t confident to perform some of the stunts that Nate pulls in his adventures, but enough to keep going even when the challenge seemed insurmountable.
(Tom practicing for the route ahead!)
So, if you are a wannabe Nathan Drake yourself, but are worried about the consequences of the real life equivalent of pressing X at the wrong time, what do you need to do to be ready for your Scrambling adventure? I don’t claim to be a veteran scrambler, but as someone very interested in self-preservation, I can recommend these 4 basic steps before going on your own Scrambling adventure:
- Have your phone charged and emergency numbers on standby
It’s always sensible to hope for the best but plan for the worst, especially when it comes to outdoor adventuring. Should you be sensible and follow the other tips in this article, this should be unlikely, but being prepared for someone taking a fall and hurting themselves could make a massive difference should that happen, and if it does, you’ll want to get treated and evacuated as soon as possible.
You will need to call emergency services and ask for the Police, who will pass your information on to Mountain Rescue. They can come and assist you, by road if you’re accessible enough, or by helicopter if not. In the UK, calling 999 or 112 will get you through to emergency services. Do remember that Mountain Rescue is a small organisation that responds to anyone who needs them, so do not contact them unless it is an actual emergency so that you are not taking help away from people who really need it. My personal suggestion would be to buy a cheap, but durable phone, say an old nokia, as many smart phones drain battery very quickly in the cold. My iPhone shrivels up and dies at the very mention of the cold!
At the very least, it’s good to be able to keep in touch with people you know. Before you set out, it’s a good idea to let someone know where you’re planning on going and how long you’re planning on being out scrambling. They can act as an Emergency Point of Contact (EPOC). This EPOC could also provide transport to and from the start and end points of your route, in which case keeping in touch with them if your route changes or you take longer than expected would definitely help you out. Having this on the ground support will also mean that if, for whatever reason, you need to call emergency services but you can’t get through, your EPOC should know roughly where you are and can direct search and rescue teams to a rough area to look for you. However, I would say that you would need more than just having your friends at the end of a phone. Which brings me nicely onto step 2.
2) Don’t go it alone.
I most certainly would not have done all that I did if it wasn’t for the fact that I was out there with Tom and Catherine; two very capable and outdoorsy friends who already have a decent amount of scrambling experience and who I literally trust with my life.
As we started out, I was mostly following their example and their advice. Seeing them climb ahead not only gave me confidence, but also showed me safe ways in which I could tackle these climbs. This was particularly important when we were close to sheer drops and I wanted to avoid making any mistakes.
If you go bouldering at your local climbing centre, you may be familiar with the practice of ‘spotting’ where you help a fellow climber out by standing behind them, hands ready to support them. Spotting can be very helpful when scrambling, though obviously the spotter has more risks to be aware of when supporting fellow scramblers near sheer drops. Sometimes, scramblers also make use of ropes for security, though care should be taken as ineffective use of rope combined with careless scrambling could turn one person’s fall into your entire party’s fall.
Even if you are a seasoned scrambler, it still makes sense to bring a buddy or two just in case events happen that lead to injury. On your own, injuries may prevent you from using your phone and calling for assistance either due to physical disability or lack of consciousness. Having someone with you who has a phone and knows basic first aid is something that can make a massive difference should circumstances deteriorate during your scramble. Not only can they tend to your injuries and call for assistance, they can also keep you warm and supported as help is on its way and the more people you have, the more visible you will be to any Mountain Rescue helicopters.
3) Get a guide book
It might go against the idea of having an ‘uncharted’ adventure, but knowing that routes we’re attempting have not only been achieved by others before, but also been recognised by a community of pro scramblers can make a big difference to your physical and mental security. Part of the reason I felt able to accomplish the scrambling routes we faced was because they weren’t just random routes we had decided to do on a whim. Most of what we did were pre-set routes that Tom had looked up in North Wales Scrambles by Gary Smith.
Knowing where you are and what route you are on will also help if you need to contact Mountain Rescue as you can more accurately direct them to your location.
That isn’t to say you have to stick religiously to the prescribed routes, however, when you do go off the routes, you must accept the risks that come with that. During our scramble up Y Gribin, we were comparing the route set out in the guidebook with a route we could see that took us up more directly to the ridgeline near Glyder Fach and decided we wanted to go that way instead.
Now at this juncture, I would like to be very clear that even though we could see our own scrambling route that we could use, we were taking a risk by going off the prescribed route. If you were to do something similar, you would have to be prepared for the possibility that your new route turns out to be more dangerous than you anticipated and you would need to have an exit strategy to return to your original route. And remember, it’s often easier to go up than it is to go down!
4) Bring a good adventure pack
You will probably notice that Nathan Drake is usually devoid of any kind of backpack in the Uncharted games, mostly because having him sit down to eat and drink the required amount to fuel his adrenaline packed adventures would jar with the roller coaster pace of the game. However, it is very important that you don’t defer responsibility for looking after yourself solely to other people. What you pack can make a huge difference to your scrambling experience.
Firstly, you are about to do some strenuous physical activity, even if you are doing a short route, and so you’ll need to make sure you’re eating enough food and drinking enough water to sustain yourself. Making sure you’re eating enough will also reduce the risk of hypothermia, a risk that increases the higher you get.
Making sure you’ve got appropriate clothing will also help as you climb higher into colder areas. You need enough waterproof kit and warm layers to make sure you’re going to stay warm and dry. Having spare clothes will also help if you are caught in an unexpected deluge of rain or if you accidently step in a bog that drenches your boots and socks. Not only will hiking or scrambling in wet clothes be a miserable experience but it will also be potentially dangerous, increasing your risk of hypothermia.
On top of that, a few mountain essentials include a well-stocked first aid kit, map and compass, and torch, just in case your scrambling experience accidently extends into nightfall.
That’s about it from me. Remember this is meant to be a signpost for things to consider before your first scrambling trip rather than a comprehensive list. The next step will be to seek out experienced scramblers and research these things yourself. A very comprehensive guide on mountain safety can be found here at: