The Russian grading system is one of the oldest and also one of the very few which takes altitude into account. Personally I think this is were the other grading systems are bad. You may run up 5's and 6's at sea level, but over 7000 meters a pitch of 3 or even a scramble section can be an obstacle.
The basic grading factors are:
The technical difficulties of the crux sections of the route. Also their frequency.
The elevation of the peak and elevation of the critical areas of the route independent of their grade of difficulty.
The length of the route from base camp.
The average steepness of the route or/and traverse exposure.
The time required to climb the route.
In addition to the above mentioned factors there are further parameters which play a part in determining a route's grade:
Nature of the terrain.
Size, quantity and shape of holds, cracks, stances.
Clarity of the route line.
Climbing techniques required.
Use of specific aids.
Most rational, least dangerous and most practicable method of descent.
The technical grades are the following:
I (easy) - broad scree or snow ridges, broken rock ridges or snow/ice slopes at angles of up to 30°. Basic alpine equipment only.
II (simple) - snow and ice sections at an angle of up to 30° and rocks requiring moderate climbing skills. Basic alpine equipment only.
III (moderately difficult) - snow and ice sections at an angle of 35°-45°. Steep rock features with good and numerous holds, not requiring artificial aids - descent of such passages being done by free climbing or abseiling. Basic alpine equipment only, plus normal rock climbing gear.
IV (difficult) - with steep rock sections suitable for free climbing. Snow and ice slopes up to an angle of 55°. Climbing with a rucksack is still possible but arduous. Descent of difficulties is usually by abseil. Full alpine and rock equipment required.
V (very difficult) - steep rock with a limited number of holds often needing artificial aids. Snow and ice slopes of more than 50° and difficult corniced ridges. Full alpine and rock equipment required.
VI (exceptionally difficult) - vertical and overhanging rocks or with few holds, cracks, stances etc. requiring mainly aid climbing. Hard mixed climbing or steep ice pitches. Maximum alpine ability required.
The overall grade of a route is defined within a scale of 1 to 6, with subdivisions A and B, as follows:
1A - Any type of ascent which can be regarded as more than simple hiking. No lower limit of ascent in meters and no specified elevation is needed to qualify for this grade.
1B - Easy ascent of a peak between 2000-5000 m over rocks, with sections of snow and ice or mixed ground.
2A - Ascent of more than 500 m on a peak between 2000-6000 m or traverses at this height on rocks, snow or ice with rock pitches of up to II, and/or snow and ice sections of up to 100 m of II.
2B - Ascent of a peak between 2000-6000 m or traverses at this height on rock, snow and ice with short sections of grade III rock or ice. Some pitons for belaying.
3A - Ascent of a peak between 2500-6500 m or traverses at this height on rock, snow and ice. Route length up to 600 m with long passages of II on rock and ice.
3B - Ascent (600 m or longer) on a peak between 2500-6500 m or traverses at this height on rock, snow and ice. Difficulties might include rock pitches of 20-30 m or more and snow and ice sections of 200-300 m of difficulty III, or shorter passages of IV.
4A - Ascent (at least 600 m) on a peak between 2500-7000 m or traverses at this height. The route would include 20-50 m rock pitches of IV, or snow and ice sections of 200-300 m or more of IV. The route might take 6-8 hours or more and require pitons belays. Traverses of this grade would combine at least 5 routes of Grade 3B or combinations equivalent to this.
4B - Ascent (at least 600 m) on a peak between 2500-7000 m or traverses at this height with rock sections of 40-80 m of IV, or short passages of V, and snow and ice sections of 300-400 m or more of IV. The route would normally take 8-10 hours or more and require the insertion of 8-10 pitons or more for belaying. Traverses would include at least 2 routes of Grade 4A.
5A - Ascent (at least 600 m) on a peak between 3000-7500 m or traverses at this height. The route would have long rock sections of III-IV with some pitches of V, or snow and ice sections of 300-400 m or more of V. The route could take 10-15 hours or more and would require the insertion of 20-40 pitons or more for belaying. Traverses combine at least two routes of Grade 4B and 1 route of Grade 4A.
5B - Ascent (at least 700 m) on a peak between 3000-7500 m or traverses at this height. The route would have long sections of III-IV with pitches of up to 50 m of V and short sections of VI, or snow and ice sections of 600-800 m or more of V. The route would take 15-20 hours and require the insertion of 30-50 pitons or more for belaying. Traverses combine at least 2 routes of Grade 5A.
6A - Ascent (at least 800 m) on a peak over 3600 m or traverses at this height on rocks or mixed ground. Sustained difficulty with an average grade of IV-V and pitches of 20 m or more of VI. The route would take 40-50 hours and require the insertion of 100-150 pitons or more for belaying. Traverses combine at least 3 routes of Grade 5B.
6B - Ascent of at least 1000 m on a peak over 4500 m or traverses of this height. Sustained difficulty of pitches at or over grade V. The route would take more than 48 hours to complete. Insertion of more than 250 belaying points. Usually this grade is reserved for the highest and most difficult peaks or desperate routes on lower peaks. Extremely hard routes on peaks below 4500 m can sometimes qualify for 6B.
|Russian Grade||Alpine Grade||UIAA Grade|
|6B||ED3 and up||VII|
where you can look at other comparisons of grades.