HELP: Guidebook - Grades for rock


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Difficulties on rock

The free climbing grade evaluates the difficulties of the hardest rock move or pitch on a rock climb. This website uses the standard French grade, which is split into the following grades (ranked in order of increasing difficulty):

3a 3b 3c
4a 4b 4c
5a 5a+ 5b 5b+ 5c 5c+
6a 6a+ 6b 6b+ 6c 6c+
7a 7a+ 7b 7b+ 7c 7c+
8a 8a+ 8b 8b+ 8c 8c+
9a 9a+ 9b

The grade is given for a redpoint ascent, on lead, using the easiest method. It doesn't take into account the difficulty of finding the easiest method. If placing the quickdraws increases the difficulty significantly, it is presumed they are pre-placed. On self-protected routes, protection is not considered preplaced ("pink point").

In the description of a route (numerical data or texts), the grade per pitch as well as the grade of an individual move, is given on the same scale.

The obligatory grade of a climb is given on the same scale as the free climbing grade. It indicates the highest grade that cannot be avoided by using a point of aid (for exemple "french-freeing").

Other grading systems exist. You can compare them to the French system on the American Alpine Journal's website (available in PDF here: ).

The alpine grade

The alpine grade of a climb incorporates the highest difficulties likely to be encountered as well as how sustained these might be. It also takes into account the overall duration of a route or climb. This is explained in detailed in a specific article.

For alpine climbs, either on rock or snow/ice and mixed terrain, we follow the standard alpine grading system:

F = Facile (Easy):
A straight forward route, possibly including a glacier approach with simple scrambling. Snow or ice slopes will be at angles of less than 35° allowing the climber to walk up them.
PD- PD PD+ = Peu Difficile (Somewhat difficult):
Routes harder than grade F with more complex glacier routes, harder scrambling and objective dangers. Routes may also be longer and at altitude. Snow and ice slopes with angles of up 35 - 45° may be encountered.
AD- AD AD+ = Assez Difficile (Fairly difficult):
More significant slopes of snow and ice with angles of up to 40 - 55°. Rock climbing up to UIAA Grade III may also be encountered but unlikely to be sustained.
D- D D+ = Difficile (Difficult):
- A more serious undertaking with possibility of rock climbing at around UIAA Grade IV or V and snow and ice slopes at angles of up to 50 - 70°.
TD- TD TD+ = Tres Difficile (Very difficult):
Significant and sustained snow and ice slopes at angles of up to 65 - 80° are likely to be encountered. Hard rock climbing a possibility at UIAA Grades V or VI with some aid routes also a possibility. Routes at this grade are a serious undertaking with high levels of objective danger.
ED- ED ED+ = Extremement Difficile (Extremely difficult):
Extremely hard routes with vertical ice slopes likely and rock climbing at UIAA Grades VI to VIII. Aid pitches are a possibility with exceptional objective danger.
ED4 and beyond = Climbs harder than ED+ and other abominalities:

Commitment grade

Alpine rock climbs and multi-pitch rock climbs on lowland cliffs are also given a commitment grade. The commitment grade is a way to evaluate the level of danger an alpinist would be exposed to should a problem arise. It takes numerous criteria into account and is subjective. Among the main criteria are distance to civilization (hut, valley, etc...), the possibility and difficulty of retreating, elevation, ...

I: The route is short and covered fast. It is possible to turn back at any moment. Rescuers can rapidly be alerted and can assist in all weather conditions.

II: The route is not so short (4h or so). It is possible to turn back at any moment. Rescuers can be alerted pretty quickly.

III: The route takes most of a day and may not be visible from civilisation. Retreat is possible but may be more complicated. In case of bad weather, rescuers may have difficulties in assisting climbers.

IV: The route takes a full day to complete. The route is long and is generally not visible from civilization. Retreat is tricky and a point of no return may be encountered. In case of bad weather, the route may be hazardous and rescuers might not be able to assist.

V: The route is very long and requires between 12 and 24h hours of effort. Access is difficult. Retreat is tricky from the start. turning back rapidly becomes impossible. Options for retreat are few and difficult. In case of bad weather or any other problem, alpinists will have to rely on themselves only.

VI: The route is long and may requires several days. Approach is also long and tricky, the route is totally isolated. Once committed, it is not possible to retreat or turn back. Retreat options are hard climbs in themselves. Climbers must be completely self-sufficient in the level of difficulty.

Global rating

The global rating first evaluates the maximum difficulties encountered and the continuity of difficulties. It also takes elevation and duration into account. Scale goes from F (easy) to ED (extremely difficult). The last grade is open: ED- or ED1, ED or ED2, ED+ or ED3, then ED4, ED5, ED6...

Associated waypoints

Associated routes

Associated articles

Associated books

Associated xreports


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