April 27, 2016 Boro

How to grade a trek?

How to grade a trek?

It’s important to make an accurate assessment of the level of difficulty of a route in advance, to ensure that it is within your current capabilities and be equipped. The grade of a trek can tell about it in brief .But “Easy” and “Difficult” are relative terms. These quality measures, to grade trekking trails, need to take quantitative approach to standardize our information. So that, all of us remain on same page, when we say ‘Easy’ or ‘Strenuous’.

It is also important to convey précised information when it’s going to be used by others and results can reach till death.

Rocky Feet tried to set up a standard logical system on basis of the German (Bergsteiger Magazine) system of grading hiking routes. It states that any hiking or scrambling tour can be rated by four relatively distinct aspects:

1. Endurance.
2. Power.
3. Psyche.
4. Orientation.

 

The Grading System 

For all mountain routes (hiking, scrambling), which are easier than climbs of difficulty UIAA III (or AD)**, either marked or not marked, we are recommending the following description standard:

0. General data:
– Start altitude: Consider the altitude of  last motorable point .
– Summit altitude: Max or Highest Altitude
– Prevailing exposition: Region of trail and atmospheric condition
– Trail: Rock, snow, etc. (for example: 1 h through woods and grass slopes, 3h rock, 3h snow/ice)
– Protection: Whether the is route marked or not, protected or not, help of local guide is required or not
– Gear & Risk: Any further description, i.e types of danger/risk, gear, water, etc.

1. Endurance (ascent) means physical load and stamina. It depends primarily on altitude difference, but not exclusively (as you can have distance to overcome or ups and downs). Absolute altitude is also important (like hiking from 500m to 1500m is not the same as from 4000m to 4500m).

Measures: Elevation, time

2. Power means physical ability to overcome the hardest details of the route. It depends upon the amount of hardest difficulties. Short routes can demand little overall effort (#1), but can be very hard, with great difficulties, requiring power. If the route is protected (via ferrata, equipped with pegs, hooks, steel ropes), this lowers the difficulties of hardest details.

Measure:
1 – no difficulties: only walking, even if steep.
2 – easy: steep steps, some pulling with hands, slope /snow up to 40deg.
3 – medium: easy climbing (UIAA -I), medium hard trail, slope /snow up to 45 deg.
4 – hard: easy climbing (UIAA -II), hard path, slope /snow up to 50 deg.
5 – very hard: harder climbing details (UIAA >II), very hard path, slope /snow >50 deg.

3. Psyche means how much the route is exposed, how much depth tolerance it requires, how objectively dangerous it is. Is belaying needed and can it be effective?

Measure:
1 – no difficulties: you could go ‘blind’ (path or road is easy, broad)
2 – easy: some care needed, you already feel depth
3 – medium: depth rising, but in normal conditions belaying not needed
4 – hard: exposed, mistake very likely fatal, belaying recommended
5 – very hard: belay properly! Even though, objective danger exists

4. Orientation means how hard it is to find the route course, providing the visibility is good. If there’s no path or on glaciers, fog almost automatically means degree 5.

Measure:
1 – no difficulties: road, good path or a weaker one, but marked good
2 – easy: some care needed, still good trail, or if marked, some care is needed
3 – medium: poorly marked or very weak trail; consider general situation (terrain)
4 – hard: constant orientation skill needed, don’t go in fog, use compass & GPS
5 – very hard: hard job even with orientation devices, expert escort recommended

 

A special thanks to Vid Pogachnik for his article enplaning and translating the main German system to English.

 

NOTE:

**UIAA III (or AD):

The UIAA grading system is mostly used for short rock routes in Western Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. On long routes it is often used in the Alps and Himalaya. Using Roman numerals, it was originally intended to run from I (easiest) to VI (hardest), but as with all other grading systems, improvements to climbing standards have led to the system being open-ended after the grade VII was accepted in 1977. An optional + or − may be used to further differentiate difficulty. As of 2004, the hardest climbs are XII

 

Overall scale

Die Alpen magazine, No. 4/2002, pages 41-43 brought a new Swiss (Swiss Alpine Club) scale which was later adopted also in other Alpine countries, known as The Swiss (SAC) Hiking Scale. It combines the above aspects into a overall 6 grade scale. The scale can be to a certain point related to the UIAA climbing scale (UIAA degrees I and II match closely to the difficulty levels T5 and T6) and to the Alpine scale (Alpine F is close to T5 and PD/AD is close to T6). Even if the Swiss Hiking Scale is simple and well defined, all the distinct aspects of a hiking tour are combined and information is not differentiated. One would still want to know whether the difficulty of a tour is in the orientation, psyche or power.

On a similar way, keeping all merits and demerits of (SAC) Hiking Scale in mind we tried creating a simplistic and easy digesting overall scale for our use with the 4 criteria combined. Let’s say it- RFTGS (Rocky Feet Trek Grade scale)

We here by request all users to go through this grading scale before to grade their trek route, is going to be shared.

 

Rocky Feet Trek Grade Scale:

GradeTerrainEndurance  MeasuresPathFitness & Technical Requirements
EasyPower: 1 – no difficulties: only walking, even if steep.

Psyche : 1 – no difficulties: you could go ‘blind’ (path or road is easy, broad)  OR
2 – easy: some care needed, you already feel depth

Terrain flat or moderately inclined no danger of falling.

It involves trekking to altitudes of between 2,000m/6,500ft and 3,500m/11,500ft; it is relatively easy walking up to 3-4 hrs/8-10km per day, with the occasional longer walk. Trek days not more than 4 days.Orientation :1 – no difficulties: road, good path or a weaker one, but marked good OR
2 – easy: some care needed, still good trail, or if marked, some care is needed
These treks can be enjoyed by anyone who leads a reasonably active life.

No as such technicalities involved. Suitable also for sport shoes.

 

ModeratePower: 1 – no difficulties: you could go ‘blind’ (path or road is easy, broad) OR
2 – easy: some care needed, you already feel depth

Psyche: 1 – no difficulties: you could go ‘blind’ (path or road is easy, broad) OR
2 – easy: some care needed, you already feel depth

A continuous path, generally marked, terrain in sections steep, danger of falling not excluded.

It involves some longer walks, and easy to moderate trekking to altitudes between 2,000m/6,500ft and 3,500m/11,500ft for up to 6 hrs/12-15km a day.Orientation:

1 – no difficulties: road, good path or a weaker one, but marked goodOR
2 – easy: some care needed, still good trail, or if marked, some care is needed.

Some previous hill-walking experience is desirable. Requires a safe step. Trekking shoes recommended. Basic orientation skills required.
StrenuousPower: 2 – easy: steep steps, some pulling with hands, slope /snow up to 40deg. OR
3 – medium: easy climbing (UIAA -I), medium hard trail, slope /snow up to 45 deg.

Psyche: 2 – easy: some care needed, you already feel depthOR
3 – medium: depth rising, but in normal conditions belaying not needed

Trail not necessarily visible, exposed passages can be protected with cables, to maintain equilibrium one eventually needs hands, a danger of falling on exposed passages, gravel slopes, pathless rock slopes.

It involves moderate trekking to altitudes of 3,000m/10,000ft to 4,000m/13,000ft for up to 8 hrs/12-20km per day, sometimes including excursions or pass crossings up to 5,000m/16,500ft.

 

Orientation:

2 – easy: some care needed, still good trail, or if marked, some care is needed OR
3 – medium: poorly marked or very weak trail.

A very safe step. Good trekking shoes. Orientation skills required constantly. Elementary alpine experiences. Some pre-trek training is advisable. Hill walking experience, a reasonably fit body and good stamina are essential for these kinds of treks.
DifficultPower: 3 – medium: easy climbing (UIAA -I), medium hard trail, slope /snow up to 45 deg.OR
4 – hard: easy climbing (UIAA -II), hard path, slope /snow up to 50 deg.

Psyche: 3 – medium: depth rising, but in normal conditions belaying not needed OR
4 – hard: exposed, mistake very likely fatal, belaying recommended

Trail not present, on some places hands are needed to advance, terrain already quite exposed, tricky grassy slopes, steep rocky slopes, easy snow slopes or bare glacier passages.

These are generally longer and more strenuous (long ascents/descents, steep gradients, rough ground).

It involves strenuous trekking to altitudes predominantly above 4,000m/13,000ft with excursions and pass crossings of between 5,000m/16,500ft and 6,000m/19,200ft. (minimum 1/3weeks)Orientation:

3 – medium: poorly marked or very weak trail; consider general situation (terrain) OR
4 – hard: constant orientation skill needed, don’t go in fog, use compass & GPS

You need to be very fit for these treks, capable of carrying a backpack, possess a fair degree of stamina and familiar with mountain walking. Pre-trek training
is essential. Experiences with exposed terrain. Stable trekking shoes. Ability of terrain assessment. Good orientation abilities. Alpine experiences. If weather deteriorates, escape can become difficult.
Climbing Power: 4 – hard: easy climbing (UIAA -II), hard path, slope /snow up to 50 deg. OR
5 – very hard: harder climbing details (UIAA >II), very hard path, slope /snow >50 deg.

Psyche: 4 – hard: exposed, mistake very likely fatal, belaying recommended OR
5 – very hard: belay properly! Even though, objective danger exists

Pathless, very exposed and difficult terrain, on some places climbing sections, steep scramble terrain, snow fields or bare glacier passages where there’s  higher danger of sliding

 

Climbs mostly are non-technical. The altitude would be predominantly above 4,000m/13,000ft with quite a few nights above 5,000m/16,000ft.

 

Orientation:

4 – hard: constant orientation skill needed, don’t go in fog, use compass & GPS
5 – very hard: hard job even with orientation devices, expert escort recommended

Requires a high level of fitness and experience walking on screed, snow, ice and packed snow. There will be ice axes, crampons, and in some cases, ropes used. Mountaineering shoes. Reliable assessment of terrain.

Excellent orientation abilities, mature alpine experiences and mastering of handling with alpine gear.

 

 

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About the Author

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Boro Now it is more than a decade I am exploring Himalaya and other landscapes of the subcontinents. I don't leave a single chance of adventure that comes on my way and allows me to stay closer to mother nature. I played with air, earth, and water. But climbing up through the high white mountain is my favorite one. I am curious about almost everything and anything that passes by my travel . And I keep studying about them. I am passionate and shy too on my venture with photography. It is a way, I express myself. I enjoy my role as an Exploration Leader at RockyFeet and thankful to be a part of Himalayan Conservation Actions of the society.

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