Difficulty Rating System

Difficulty Rating and Skill Requirements Explained

Difficulty Rating System



Difficulty Ratings Explained

 

This document is intended to make the stated difficulty ratings of the various trips and courses more easily understandable. We state an overall difficulty rating, which summarizes the categories of movement skill, fitness level and technical skill.

If you consider all these ratings, you should get a good idea of what you are getting into. Please be aware that ratings for a trip/course are for good conditions in decent weather. Weather and conditions can change rapidly in the mountains and turn a moderate trip into a serious undertaking.

 

Overall Difficulty Ratings for our trips and courses

Easy

Moderate

Difficult

Very difficult

Extremely difficult

 

Backcountry skiing trips or courses

 

Skiing Skills

Easy: 30 degrees or less

Moderate: 31 to 38 degrees

Difficult: about 40 degrees

Very difficult: about 45 degrees

Extremely difficult: greater than 45 degrees

 

Fitness Level

Not very strenuous: up to 2000 feet of vertical gain; 8 kilometers of distance

Moderately strenuous: 2500 to 3500 feet of vertical gain; 12 kilometers of distance

Strenuous: 3500 to 4500 feet of vertical gain with a day pack for several days in a row

Very strenuous: 3500 to 4500 feet of vertical gain with an overnight pack for several days in a row or more than 4000 feet with a day pack at higher altitude for several days in a row Extremely strenuous: more than 5000 feet of vertical with an overnight pack for several days in a row

 

Technical Skills

Low: requires basic ski touring equipment and skills

Moderate: involves technical skinning or easy booting

High: requires complex transitions and easy glacier travel; involves some third-class sections

Very high: makes a strong transition into ski mountaineering that may require the use of an ice ax and crampons; involves some fourth-class sections, rappels, and moderate glacier travel

 

 

Rock climbing trips or courses

 

Rock Climbing Skills:

Easy: No prior rock climbing experience required

Moderate: Rock climbing to 5.7 difficulty 

Difficult: Rock climbing to 5.9 difficulty

Very difficult: Rock climbing to 5.10 difficulty and above

 

Fitness Level

Not very strenuous: up to 1000 feet of vertical gain for the approach and only a few pitches of climbing

Moderately strenuous: 2000 to 3000 feet of vertical gain for the approach followed by multiple pitches of climbing

Strenuous: more than 3000 feet of vertical gain for the approach, followed by a multi-pitch route

Very strenuous: more than 3000 feet of vertical gain for the approach, followed by a long multi-pitch route involving sustained climbing difficulty

 

Technical Skills required

Low: requires no prior rock climbing experience

Moderate: some prior rock climbing experience along with knowledge of tying in and belaying High: solid rock climbing experience, along with tying in, belaying, and anchor building skills in a sport climbing setting

Very high: solid rock climbing experience, along with tying in, belaying, gear placement, and anchor building skills in a traditional climbing setting

 

Rock climbing difficulty rating comparison

 

YDS
(United States)

British

French

UIAA

Saxon

Ewbank
(
AUSNZL)

Ewbank
South Africa

Nordic

Brazil

Tech

Adj

Finnish

SWE/NOR

3-4

1

M

1

I

I

1-2

1-2

1

1

I

5.0

 

 

 

 

 

3-4

3-4

 

 

I sup

5.1

2

 

2

II

II

5-6

5-6

2

2

II

5.2

 

D

 

 

 

7-8

7-8

 

 

II sup

5.3

3

 

3

III

III

8-9

8-9

3

3

 

5.4

 

VD

4a

IV

IV

10-11

10-11

4

4

III

5.5

4a

S

4b

IV+

V

11-12

11-12

 

 

III sup

5.6

4b

HS

4c

V

VI

13

13

5-

5-

IV

5.7

4c

VS

5a

V+

 

14-15

14-15

 

 

 

5.8

 

HVS

5b

VI-

VIIa

15-16

16

5

5

IV sup

5.9

5a

 

5c

VI

VIIb

17

17-18

5+

5+

V

5.10a

 

E1

6a

VI+

VIIc

18

19

6−

6-

VI

5.10b

5b

 

6a+

VII-

 

19

20

 

6

 

5.10c

 

E2

6b

VII

VIIIa

20

21

6

 

VI sup

5.10d

5c

 

6b+

VII+

VIIIb

 

22

 

6+

 

5.11a

 

E3

6c
6c+

 

VIIIc

21

 

6+

7-

7a

5.11b

 

 

VIII-

 

22

23

 

 

7b

5.11c

6a

E4

 

IXa

23

24

7−

7

7c

5.11d

 

 

7a

VIII

IXb

24

25

7

7+

 

5.12a

 

E5

7a+

VIII+

IXc

25

26

7+

 

8a

5.12b

 

 

7b

 

 

26

27

8−

8-

8b

5.12c

6b

E6

7b+

IX−

Xa

27

28

8

8

8c

5.12d

 

 

7c

IX

Xb

28

29

8+

 

9a

5.13a

 

E7

7c+

IX+

Xc

29

30

9−

8+

9b

5.13b

6c

 

8a

 

 

 

31

9

9-

9c

5.13c

 

E8

8a+

X−

XIa

30

32

9+

 

10a

5.13d

 

E9

8b

X

XIb

31

33

10−

9

10b

5.14a

7a

E10

8b+

X+

XIc

32

34

10

 

10c

5.14b

 

 

8c

 

 

33

35

10+

9+

11a

5.14c

7b

E11

8c+

XI−

 

34

36

11−

 

11b

5.14d

 

 

9a

XI

 

35

37

11

 

11c

5.15a

 

 

9a+

XI+

 

36

38

 

 

12a

5.15b

 

 

9b

XI+/XII−

 

37

39

 

 

12b

5.15c

 

 

9b+

XII-

 

38

40

 

 

12c

 

 

Mountaineering trips or courses

 

Mountaineering Skills

Easy: No prior rock climbing, glacier travel or ice climbing experience required

Moderate: Rock climbing in exposed 4th class or easy fifth class terrain in mountaineering boots, glacier travel in crevassed terrain 

Difficult: Rock climbing in exposed 4th class up to mid fifth class terrain in mountaineering boots. The route could involve substantial time on the front points of the crampons with some moderately steep ice climbing. Some of the movement can be on rock with crampons on in exposed terrain. Some previous ice climbing experience recommended.

Very difficult: Rock climbing in exposed 4th class up to 5.8 class terrain in mountaineering boots. The route could involve substantial time on the front points of the crampons with some steep ice climbing. Some of the movement can be on rock with crampons on in exposed terrain. Prior ice climbing experience highly recommended.

 

Fitness Level

Moderately strenuous: 2500 to 3500 feet of vertical gain with a one day alpine climbing pack

Strenuous: up to 3500 feet of vertical gain with a one day or overnight alpine climbing pack Very strenuous: 3500 feet or more of vertical gain with a one day or overnight alpine climbing pack

Extremely strenuous: 5000 feet or more of vertical gain with a one day or overnight alpine climbing pack

 

Technical Skills required

Low: requires no prior rock climbing, glacier travel or ice climbing experience

Moderate: some prior rock climbing and or glacier travel experience along with knowledge of tying in and belaying

High: solid rock climbing experience, ice climbing and glacier travel experience, as well as experience with camping in a remote setting

Very high: solid rock climbing experience, along with tying in, belaying, gear placement and anchor building skills in a traditional climbing setting

 

Alpine Climbing Rating Systems

 

There are several systems in current use to grade mountain climbs. Alpine mountaineering routes are usually graded based on all of their different aspects, as they can be very diverse. Thus, a mountain route may be graded 5.6 (rock difficulty), A2 (aid difficulty), WI3 (ice climbing difficulty), M5 * (mixed climbing difficulty), 70 degrees (steepness), 4000 ft (length), VI (commitment level), and many other factors.

 

National Climbing Classification System for Alpine Climbs

 

Grade I

Normally requires several hours; can be of any difficulty. Short, relatively safe route; little belaying needed; not remote; with an easy descent.

Grade II

Requires half a day; any technical difficulty.

About 4-6 hours of climbing; usually some belayed pitches; skill in route finding and hazard recognition required; descent maybe involve rappels or technical climbing; few objective hazards.

Grade III

Requires a day to do the technical portion; any technical difficulty.  A longer route, requiring most of a day; extensive belaying; possibly remote or difficult to retreat from; tricky descent.

Grade IV

Requires a full day for the technical portion; the hardest pitch is usually no less than 5.7 (in the YDS rating).

 A long day with much technical terrain; requires very good skills, experience, and fitness; complex descent; some objective hazards.

Grade V

Requires a day and a half; the hardest pitch is usually 5.8 or harder. A long, committing route, sustained and often remote; retreat difficult; potential for significant objective hazards.

Grade VI

A multiday excursion with difficult free climbing and/or aid climbing

 

 

International French Adjectival System (IFAS)[edit]

In contrast to the French numerical system (described earlier), the French adjectival alpine system evaluates the overall difficulty of a route, taking into consideration the length, difficulty, exposure and commitment-level of the route (i.e., how hard it may be to retreat). The overall grade combines altitude; length and difficulty of approach and descent; number of difficult pitches and how sustained they are; exposure; and quality of rock, snow and ice. These are, in increasing order:[19]

  • Ffacile (easy). Straightforward, possibly a glacial approach, snow and ice will often be at an easy angle.
  • PDpeu difficile (slightly difficult). Routes may be longer at altitude, with snow and ice slopes up to 45 degrees. Glaciers are more complex, scrambling is harder, climbing may require some belaying, descent may involve rappelling. More objective hazards.
  • ADassez difficile (fairly difficult). Fairly hard, snow and ice at an angle of 45-65 degrees, rock climbing up to UIAA grade III, but not sustained, belayed climbing in addition to a large amount of exposed but easier terrain. Significant objective hazard.
  • Ddifficile (difficult). Hard, more serious with rock climbing at IV and V, snow and ice slopes at 50-70 degrees. Routes may be long and sustained or harder but shorter. Serious objective hazards.
  • TDtrès difficile (very difficult). Very hard, routes at this grades are serious undertakings with high level of objective danger. Sustained snow and ice at an angle of 65-80 degrees, rock climbing at grade V and VI with possible aid, very long sections of hard climbing.
  • ED1/2/3/4extrêmement difficile (extremely difficult). Extremely hard, exceptional objective danger, vertical ice slopes and rock climbing up to VI to VIII, with possible aid pitches.
  • ABOAbominablement difficile (abominable) Difficulty and danger at their limit.

Often a + (pronounced Sup for supérieur) or a − (pronounced Inf for inférieur) is placed after the grade to indicate if a particular climb is at the lower or upper end of that grade (e.g., a climb slightly harder than "PD+" might be "AD−").