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Outdoor Term of the Week: Scree [PICS]

David Albeck

Nobody likes hiking in scree, unless you’re skiing it. What’s scree, you ask? Read on, my friends. 

Scree makes hiking difficult and can double trekking time. This week’s Outdoor Term of the Week will teach you what scree is, how it is formed, and how to maximize hiking mountains of it.

SEE MORE: Outdoor Term of the Week: Cairn

Scree is basically broken rock fragments. Hikers will run into these tiny rocks when hiking above the treeline, where the elevation is so high that trees and plants can’t survive. Scree is basically broken up parts of talus, which are large boulders created by landslides. The moisture heating and freezing that occurs in the mountains break the rock apart and then send them downhill.

Scree trails are normally long traverses that you have to be careful on. Unless you are scree skiing, which is when a hiker just kind of runs down a scree slope, creating a tiny rock landslide that you can ride down the hill. It’s a rock avalanche! Make sure the rocks are small enough and watch your step. If you trip over a bigger piece of scree, it may be a rough ride down, not to mention the mini rock-slide that follows. Many outdoorsmen will discourage screeing.



Scree is like heavier sand and when you are hiking through it, it can double the walking time and tire you out faster. Maintain an easy pace when hiking across mountains of rock marbles and make sure to watch your step. If you knock rocks off the trail, it could turn into a small landslide and injure someone below. Scree hillsides will also deter you from hiking in sandals; make sure you have good hiking boots. Your toes will thank you.

When you are hiking up these loose rock mountainsides, dig your toes in and when hiking down, dig your heels in. Also, take switchbacks often.


Now you can impress your backcountry crew with your hiking lingo.

“Who’s ready to hike some scree?”


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Outdoor Term of the Week: Scree [PICS]