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Grading Hiking Routes
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Grading Hiking Routes

 
Grading Hiking Routes

Page Type: Fact Sheet

Object Title: Grading Hiking Routes

 

Page By: Vid Pogachnik

Created/Edited: Apr 10, 2006 / Sep 13, 2010

Object ID: 187254

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Intro

In SPv1 there was a thread which I started about the German (Bergsteiger Magazine) system of grading hiking routes. Some members started to use it, as it is clear, simple and systematic. 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, I am recommending the following description standard:

0. General data:
- Start altitude
- Summit (end) altitude
- Prevailing exposition (S, N, E, W, SE, SW, NW, NW)
- Type: rock, snow, etc. (for example: 1 h through woods and grassy slopes, 3h rock, 3h snow/ice)
- Protection: is the route marked or not, protected or not
- Gear & remark: any further description, i.e.: types of danger, gear, water, etc.

1. Endurance (ascent) means physical load, endurance. It depends primarily on altitude difference, but not exclusively (you can have distance to overcome or ups and downs). Absolute altitude is also important (500m from 1000m to 1500m are not the same as from 4000m to 4500m).

Measures: elevation, time (I think this is better than a scale from 1 to 5.)

2. Power means physical ability to overcome the hardest details of the route. It depends of 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 (ferratas, 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, snow up to 40 deg.
3 – medium: easy climbing (I), medium hard ferrattas, snow up to 45 deg.
4 – hard: easy climbing (II), hard ferrattas, snow up to 50 deg.
5 – very hard: harder climbing details (>II), very hard ferrattas, 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

We could also use the overall scale – the 4 criteria combined: 1 – very easy, 2 – easy, 3 – medium, 4 – hard, 5 – very hard.

Example

Tofana di Rozes, Ferrata Lipella: Overall: hard (big elevation, considerably hard and exposed).

0. General: 2083m to 3225m, exposition W, marked, protected rock route. Battery mandatory!
1. Effort: 1200m, 5h
2. Power: 4 – hard,
3. Psyche: 4 – hard,
4. Orientation: 1 – no difficulties.

The Swiss (SAC) Hiking 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. It combines the above aspects into a 6 grade scale, as defined below.

Link: http://www.romankoch.ch/alpinismus/wanderskala.htm

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 (leaving effort a bit aside).

In German (original)


 Weg/GeländeAnforderungen
T1WandernWeg gut gebahnt und markiert, Gelände flach oder leicht geneigt, keine Absturzgefahr.Keine. Auch mit Sportschuhen geeignet. Orientierung problemlos, in der Regel auch ohne Karte möglich.
T2BergwandernWeg mit durchgehender Trasse, in der Regel markiert, Gelände teilweise steil, Absturzgefahr nicht ausgeschlossen. Etwas Trittsicherheit, Trekkingschuhe sind empfehlungswert, elementares Orientierungsvermögen.
T3Anspruchsvolles BergwandernWeg am Boden nicht unbedingt sichtbar, ausgesetzte Stellen können mit Seilen oder Ketten gesichert sein, eventuell braucht man die Hände für das Gleichgewicht, meistens markiert, zum Teil exponierte Stellen mit Absturzgefahr, Geröllflächen, weglose Schrofen.

Gute Trittsicherheit. Gute Trekkingschuhe, durchschnittliches Orientierungsvermögen, elementare alpine Erfahrung.

T4AlpinwandernWegspur nicht zwingend vorhanden, an gewissen Stellen braucht es die Hände zum Vorwärtskommen, Gelände bereits recht exponiert, heikle Grashalden, Schrofen, einfache Firnfelder und apere Gletscherpassagen.Vertrautheit mit exponiertem Gelände. Stabile Trekkingschuhe. Gewisse Geländebeurteilung und gutes Orientierungsvermögen, alpine Erfahrung, bei Wettersturz kann ein Rückzug schwierig werden.
T5Anspruchsvolles AlpinwandernOft weglos, einzelne einfache Kletterstellen, exponiertes und anspruchsvolles Gelände, steile Schrofen, Gletscher und Firnfelder mit Ausrutschgefahr.Bergschuhe, sichere Geländebeurteilung und sehr gutes Orientierungsvermögen, gute Alpinerfahrung, elementare Kenntnisse im Umgang mit Seil und Pickel.
T6Schwieriges AlpinwandernMeist weglos, Kletterstellen bis II UIAA, meist nicht markiert, häufig sehr exponiert, heikles Schrofengelände, Gletscher mit erhöhter Ausrutschgefahr.Ausgezeichnetes Orientierungsvermögen, ausgereifte Alpinerfahrung und Vertrautheit im Umgang mit alpintechnischen Hilfsmitteln.

Anwendungs- und Interpretationshinweise

Die Touren im Bereich des Berg- und Alpinwanderns werden jeweils unter der Annahme günstiger Verhältnisse bewertet, also bei guter Witterung und Sicht, trockenem Gelände, geeigneter Schnee- und Firnbedeckung usw. Unter bewanderbaren Gletschern versteht die Wanderskala folgendes: Gletscher und Firnfelder, die im Sommer bei normalen Verhältnissen soweit ausgeapert werden, dass Spalten sicher erkennbar sind und ohne Spaltensturzgefahr umgangen werden können. Unter diesen Vorrausetzungen ist eine Hochtourenausrüstung nicht erforderlich. Es versteht sich aber von selbst, dass auf solchen Touren bei ungünstigen Verhältnissen eine elementare Ausrüstung, wie Anseilmaterial oder Steigeisen, und Kenntnisse über deren Anwendung erforderlich sein kann.

Ein ernstes und immer wieder zu heiklen Situationen führendes Missverständnis ist die Annahme, dass Wandern dort aufhört, wo die Hochtourenskala einsetzt. In Wirklichkeit ist eine Alpinwanderung im oberen Schwierigkeitsbereich von T5 und T6 in aller Regel bedeutend anspruchsvoller als beispielsweise eine Hochtour mit der Bewertung L. Ein wesentlicher Unterschied zur leichten Hochtour liegt darin, dass im Schwierigkeitsbereich von T5 und T6 selten oder nie mit Seil oder sonstigen Hilfsmitteln gesichert werden kann und deshalb das entsprechende Gelände absolut beherrscht werden muss, was ein hohes technisches wie auch psychisches Niveau erfordert. Typische Beispiele dazu sind extrem steile Grashänge, wegloses Schrofengelände mit schlechtem Fels oder sehr exponiertes Gratpassagen. Auf Grund der unterschiedlichen Merkmale einer typischen Hochtour und einer typischen Extremwanderung lässt sich ein Vergleich kaum anstellen, doch kann man davon ausgehen, dass eine Route mit T6 vergleichbare Anforderungen stellt wie eine Hochtour im Bereich von WS bis ZS.

English translation (please advise better expressions)


 Path/Terrain Requirements
T1HikingPath well beaten and marked, terrain flat or moderately inclined, no danger of falling.None. Suitable also for sport shoes. Orienting without problem, in principle also without a map.
T2Mountain hikingA continuous path, generally marked, terrain in sections steep, danger of falling not excluded.Requires a safe step. Trekking shoes recommended. Basic orientation skills required.
T3Challenging hikingTrail not necessarilly visible, exposed passages can be protected with cables, to maintain equilibrium one eventually needs hands, usually marked, a danger of falling on exposed passages, gravel slopes, pathless rock slopes.A very safe step. Good trekking shoes. Orientation skills required constantly. Elementary alpine experiences.
T4Alpine hikingTrail 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.Experiences with exposed terrain. Stable trekking shoes. Ability of terrain assessment. Good orientation abilities. Alpine experiences. If weather deteriorates, escape can become difficult.
T5Sophisticated alpine hikingPathless, exposed and difficult terrain, on some places easy climbing sections, steep scramble terrain, snow fields or bare glacier passages where there's danger of sliding.

Mountaineering shoes. Reliable assessment of terrain. Very good orientation abilities. A lot of alpine experiences. Easy climbing skills. Elementary skills of handling with rope and ice pick.

T6Difficult alpine hikingPathless, not marked, very exposed and difficult terrain. Climbing passages up to UIAA degree II. Tricky, steep rocky terrain, glacier with a higher danger of sliding.Excellent orientation abilities, mature alpine experiences and mastering of handling with alpine gear.

Application and notes for interpretation

Each mountain and alpine hiking tour must be evaluated under the assumption of good conditions, so in good weather and visibility, dry terrain, good snow and glaciers conditions etc. Under glaciers which can be hiked, the scale understands the following: glaciers and snow fields, which are in summer under normal conditions so much processed (barren) that crevasses are reliably seen and can be detoured without falling in. Under these pre-requirements a gear for high mountaineering is not required. But it is self undersdtood that on such tours in bad conditions elementary gear, like the one for roping or crampons, together with skills how to apply it, may be required.

A serious misunderstanding, leading again and again to tricky situations, is the belief that hiking stops where begins the Alpine scale begins. In reality, an alpine hike in the upper range of difficulty of T5 and T6 is usually significantly more demanding than for example an Alpine tour with the rating F. A major difference from an easy Alpine tour is that in hikes of T5 and T6 difficulty rarely or never a protection with rope or other gear can be assured, so such a terrain must be perfectly mastered, which requires a high technical as well as psychological level. Typical examples are extremely steep grassy slopes, pathless steep slopes with bad rock or very exposed ridge passages. Due to the different characteristics a typical Alpine tour and a typical extreme hike can hardly be compared, but one can assume that a hiking route of T6 poses similar requirements as an Alpine tour in the range between PD and AD.

Note

This hiking scale should be distinguished from the scale for ferratas. ferratas are not necessarilly harder, but there is a higher exposition involved. Protection devices in ferratas are intended not only to offer protection, but also to advance up the wall. However easy ferratas are by all means safer than hikes in the range between T4 and T6. Due to different nature of hiking and ferrata tours a direct comparaison can not be made.

Images

On the East ridge of Monte...