The overall seriousness of the complete route based on all factors of the final approach, ascent and descent including length, altitude, danger, commitment, and technical difficulty. This system originated with UIAA Roman numerals; it is now generally seen with French letters and is increasingly being used worldwide.
F: Facile/easy. Rock scrambling or easy snow slopes; some glacier travel; often climbed ropeless except on glaciers.
PD: Peu Difficile/a little difficult. Some technical climbing and complicated glaciers.
AD: Assez Difficile/fairly hard. Steep climbing or long snow/ice slopes above 50 degrees; for experienced alpine climbers only.
D: Difficile/difficult. Sustained hard rock and/or ice or snow; fairly serious stuff.
TD: Tres Difficile/very difficult. Long, serious, remote, and highly technical.
ED: Extremement Difficile/extremely difficult. The most serious climbs with the most continuous difficulties. Increasing levels of difficuly indicated by ED1, ED2, etc.
- scramble is essentially an exposed walking route, and very popular examples include the north ridge of Tryfan and Crib Goch in Snowdonia.
- scrambles will usually include sections where a nervous scrambler would want a rope to protect them, and the person in front (the leader) must feel confident moving over exposed yet relatively easy climbing terrain.
- scrambles often appear in climbing guides as ‘Moderately’ graded climbing routes (the easiest climbing grade), and should only be tackled by the confident.
- V Difficult terrain, glaciers, rock scrambling, up to class III climbing grade. High mountain knowledge required. Risk for serious injury or death. Need for autonomy in difficult mountain conditions and complete self-reliance in all conditions.
- IV difficult, steep terrain, rocky, hard snow, some scrambling and use of ropes. High mountain knowledge required. Risk for serious injury or death. Need for autonomy in difficult mountain conditions.
- III difficult terrain (rocky, potential snow, off-trail) Some easy scrambling required. Good knowledge of risks in middle to high mountain environments. High risk of injury. Need for autonomy in difficult mountain conditions.
- II easy terrain, no scrambling required. Some rocky or mountainous sections. Some hiking (“randonée”) or low mountain knowledge required. Risk of more serious injuries and need for self-reliance in a low mountain environment (knowledge of evacuation protocols in case of an accident, navigational skills in case of bad weather, knowledge of how to prepare for and deal with bad weather conditions)
- I easy terrain, no scrambling required. Smooth trails, in the valley (outdoors) or low mountain. low risk or risk of minor injuries.
These routes require considerable dry tooling (modern ice tools used on bare rock) and are climbed in crampons; actual ice is optional but some ice is usually involved.
M1-3: Easy. Low angle; usually no tools.
M4: Slabby to vertical with some technical dry tooling.
M5: Some sustained vertical dry tooling.
M6: Vertical to overhanging with difficult dry tooling.
M7: Overhanging; powerful and technical dry tooling; less than 10m of hard climbing.
M8: Some nearly horizontal overhangs requiring very powerful and technical dry tooling; bouldery or longer cruxes than M7.
M9: Either continuously vertical or slightly overhanging with marginal or technical holds, or a juggy roof of 2 to 3 body lengths.
M10: At least 10 meters of horizontal rock or 30 meters of overhanging dry tooling with powerful moves and no rests.
M11: A ropelength of overhanging gymnastic climbing, or up to 15 meters of roof.
M12: M11 with bouldery, dynamic moves and tenuous technical holds.
Ice and Alpine Ice Grades:
Ice climbing ratings are highly variable by region and are still evolving. The following descriptions approximate the average systems. The WI acronym implies seasonal ice; AI is often substituted for year-around Alpine Ice and may be easier than a WI grade with the same number. Canadians often drop the WI symbol and hyphenate the technical grade after the Canadian commitment grade’s Roman numeral (example: II-5).
WI1: Low angle ice; no tools required.
WI2: Consistent 60 degree ice with possible bulges; good protection.
WI3: Sustained 70 degree with possible long bulges of 80-90 degrees; reasonable rests and good stances for placing screws.
WI4: Continuous 80 degree ice fairly long sections of 90 degree ice broken up by occasional rests.
WI5: Long and strenuous, with a ropelength of 85-90 degrees ice offering few good rests; or a shorter pitch of thin or bad ice with protection that’s difficult to place.
WI6: A full ropelength of near-90 degree ice with no rests, or a shorter pitch even more tenuous than WI 5.Highly technical.
WI7: As above, but on thin poorly bonded ice or long, overhanging poorly adhered columns. Protection is impossible or very difficult to place and of dubious quality.
WI8: Under discussion.
An overall grade reflecting the remote, cold, stormy nature of Alaskan climbing. Rarely applied outside Alaska.
1: Easy glacier route.
2: Not technical, but exposed to knife-edged ridges, weather, and altitude.
3:Moderate to hard, including some technical climbing.
4: Hard to difficult.
5: Difficult, with sustained climbing, high commitment, and few bivouac sites.
6: Sustained hard climbing over thousands of vertical feet; high commitment.
The overall grade factors in UIAA technical ratings (the Roman numerals).
1B: Some easy roped climbing.
2A: Several pitches of easy roped climbing.
2B: Some II+ and III climbing on a multipitch route.
3A: Contains 1-1.5 pitches of III climbing on a multi-pitch route.
3B: One or two pitches of III+/IV climbing on a full-day route.
4A: A full day route with IV+ climbing.
4B: Several pitches of IV+ or some V+ climbing.
5A: Contains several pitches of V climbing on a 1- to 3-day route.
5B: Two-plus days with some VI+ climbing.
6A and 6B: Multi-day routes with considerable VI or harder climbing.