How we grade mountain and hill walks
There is no standard grading system for mountain walks. Different organisations may use some of the same words but their meanings can be different.
Broadly speaking, we use four grades for our full-day walks. These help members to judge whether a specific walk is suitable for them or whether it might take them out of their comfort zone. Our grades are:
- Easy: These are shorter walks, typically 9-11 miles or less, with ascent/descent less than or equal to approximately 2000 feet. They can take 4½-6 hours.
- Moderate: These walks are 11-14 miles, with ascent/descent of 2000 – 3500 feet without substantial technical difficulty. These generally take 7 hours or so.
- Hard: Walks in the range 14-18 miles, with ascent/descent of 3000 – 5000 feet, or less distance but more technical difficulty. Hard walks take around 8-9 hours.
- Challenging: Walks of 18-20 miles or more, with considerable ascent, usually more than 4000 feet and taking 9 hours or more.
These are rough categorizations. A walk of shorter or moderate distance but much more ascent can push the walk into the next category. Similarly, a shorter distance over rougher terrain and/or with less use of footpaths, or a walk involving scrambling can be more difficult than it might first appear on the basis of distance or ascent alone. Weather can turn even an easy walk into a challenging one!
If in doubt as to whether a specific walk would suitable for you, either contact the organiser shown for the relevant event or email us.
The grey area of scrambling
Scrambling is the grey area between walking and climbing. It’s basically easy rock climbing where you use your hands as well as your feet. Scrambling can quickly become serious if care is not taken with route-finding, with all mountaineering skills being needed!
Some of our usual walks may include very short sections of easy scrambling that will be within the abilities of almost everyone. Usually, just a few short steps while using a hand to hold the rock for balance or assistance.
Especially on weekends away from South Wales our mountain walks can include a sustained period of scrambling at one of the three main scrambling grades. However, this will be clear at the time and potential participants will have the opportunity to discuss what is involved with the event organiser and to decide for themselves whether this is within their abilities and comfort zone. We encourage all members to learn scrambling skills even if they do not intend to rock climb.
How we categorise rock climbing
Our rock climbing events are generally categorised as either traditional (‘trad’) or sport climbing.
Traditional climbing is just plain old climbing as it’s always been done – outdoors, most likely multi-pitch, involving route-finding and a bit of nous when it comes to placing gear and anchors. Within trad, the widely accepted two-part British Grading System is used to grade specific routes as described in guidebooks. This combines an adjectival grade description with a numeric technical grade to give an overall grade for the climb, taking into account various factors in addition to the pure technical difficulty of the moves. Here’s another explanation.
Sport climbing, which can be done indoors or outdoors focuses more on the physical aspects of the climb itself, using your muscles and often, pre-placed gear (pegs, bolts) on single pitch climbs. Sport climbs tend to be graded using the French technical grading system. You can use this conversion table to match technical grades with other grading systems around the world, including the British trad one.